Trust is everything in parenting. Do your teens trust you? Can you trust your teenaged kids? Do you trust that God is using the ups and downs of life as transformative experiences? Building trust takes work. It is even harder work to rebuild trust when it is broken. But if you want to maintain relationship and honest communication with your kids—or with any significant relationship—trust is essential.
Asking teens good questions
One of the things we did very early with our kids was to use a coach approach whenever we could. Simply put—we used listening and asking questions versus telling. Of course, a parent must tell their child not to touch the hot stove or they can be seriously injured, but on other occasions, if the situation warranted, we tried to apply coaching principles.
The result was that our kids knew that we would listen and take their thoughts into consideration— that we trusted them. This led to some very interesting conversations during their teenage years.
Get your teens involved in decision-making
Due to the location of our home we had three viable high school options within a 7 minute drive (10 minutes if we were in traffic). Early on in the decision-making process we decided each school was viable, had solid academics and comparable extra-curricular activities. I imagine these are the primary priorities most parents consider when considering a public school.
We agreed that this was a decision the kids would make. We were deliberate, discerning and prayed for wisdom along the way.
Weigh the options together
We had good, healthy and sometimes tense conversations about what school the kids wanted to attend.
I liked the newest campus because it had all the bells and whistles that a new school in 2010 should have. Gina liked another school in particular because they offered the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. However, the kids preferred the largest school of the three: it offered the most dual enrollment courses, had the most Advanced Placement (AP) offerings and they had an amazing principal who was the founding leader with a stellar record. I discovered that dual enrollment credits transfer directly over to college which could save up to a year of tuition (I really appreciated their logic). It wasn’t the most attractive of the three options but it was not in any way deficient – so we went with this option.
Conversations with Purpose
How can I establish high trust?
There were 3 key coaching strategies we employed to move from causal interactions into conversations with purpose.
1. Build a trusting environment
Empathy is a key component to building trust. It conveys that you feel what the other is feeling. Teens feel safer to share when you demonstrate that they are seen and understood on an emotional level.
2. Adopt a coaching process
Resist the instinct to impose your priorities as the most valuable factor. Instead, making their agenda your agenda shows them that you understand this is their life and you support their goals. Help them clarify the next best step that will move them in the direction they want to go.
3. Engage with your teen
Help them tap into their intrinsic motivation. Get excited with them and celebrate as they press into their dreams and passions.
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