Building Trust with Teen Daughters

Building Trust with Teen Daughters


The one thing teenagers want more than anything is FREEDOM . If you are a parent of a teenager, you definitely understand the struggle between protecting your teen and giving her freedom. Before your adolescent can have freedom, she has to BUILD YOUR TRUST. Often, teenagers view trust and freedom as the same thing, but they need to realize trust and freedom are not the same. When a teenager is asking for trust, she really means freedom. It is important to make the distinction between these two important aspects of relationships. Balancing limits, freedom, and opportunities to build trust is difficult for most parents. Due to the frustration this balance can create, there are those parents who blindly trust their teen even though the teen does not deserved it.  When an adolescent has not learned how to be trustworthy, she may use her freedom in an immature way.  Those parents who are fearful of giving their adolescent freedom may be on the opposite side of the spectrum: they do not give their teenager any freedom. This approach can lead to broken rules and dishonesty. How do you adequately balance limits, freedom, and opportunities to build trust?

Can I Trust My Teen?

Savannah, your 16 year old, just got her license to drive. She asks if she can drive two of her friends to a movie, and she promises to come home right after she drops her friends off. As her parent, you are thinking this is a good opportunity to build trust with your daughter. You remember she has completed all her homework assignments this week, and she has been responsible in her driving. As a result of her responsibility this week, Savannah is allowed to go to the movie with her friends. About an hour after Savannah leaves, you receive a call from a couple who is a friend of you and your spouse. The friend wants to let you know she saw Savannah with a boy at the mall. This friend was concerned because she saw Savannah kissing this boy.

How would you handle this situation? Is Savannah trustworthy?

Trustworthiness is…

  • Keeping your word. If you say you are going to do something, follow through.
  • Honesty. Choosing to be truthful even when it could get you in trouble.
  • Even if you do not agree with someone, you treat him/her how you would like to be treated. When you get loud and gruff with your teen, this does not lead to her identifying what she did wrong. It will actually motivate your teen to focus on your poor behavior rather than her own.
  • Accepting Limits. Respecting the limits or boundaries set in a relationship because you understand their importance in building trust.
  • Acknowledging your mistakes. We all make mistakes. Admitting to these mistakes and taking responsibility for them is what makes someone trustworthy.

How Can I Help My Teen Build Trust?

The following are from John Townsend’s book Boundaries with Teens.  This is a great resource for building healthy boundaries with your teenager.

Stay informed about your teen’s life.

If you do not know your teen, how do you know you can trust her? It is important as a parent to stay informed about your teen’s academics, extracurricular activities, and social life. Without this information, it is easier for your teen to be deceptive. When you do not have information about her life, your teen will find it easier to be dishonest. While your teen may appear to dislike your involvement in her life, in actuality, she wants you to be interested in her activities, hobbies, and achievements. Therefore, make it a priority to be informed about your teen!

Communicate that your love is unconditional, but freedom is not free.

Your love should not be based on your adolescent’s actions or ability levels. The love you have for your daughter should be unconditional: you will always love her. Communicating your love is unconditional is just as important as feeling unconditional love. Your adolescent must be told and shown your love is not based on anything she can do. It a free gift you happily give to her.

On the other hand, freedom has to be earned. As we all know, freedom comes at a price and your teen has to learn this concept. It is better she learn it from you than the police. In order to earn freedom, your adolescent must learn how to build your trust. Trust leads to freedom.  Communicate with your adolescent how being trustworthy in a certain activity will lead to freedom.

Give your teen opportunities to build trust.

Your teenager cannot build trust without the opportunity of failure. Yes, I said FAILURE! Success as well as failure in these opportunities will provide learning opportunities for your teen. After all, no one is perfect. Failures are tough but not final. This is an important lesson. As a parent, you need to provide limits where your teen has a choice to make; if she makes a responsible choice she earns freedom, if the decision is an irresponsible choice she loses freedom.  Opportunities to build trust can be everyday tasks or specific boundaries set by a parent in order to help the teen learn to make a responsible choice. For example, when a teen starts on her homework at night without being asked this builds trust through your teen being responsible for daily tasks. If your teen is given the opportunity to go to her high school’s football game and she arrives home at her curfew time, this is a specific boundary you set as a parent that is helping your teen build trust.

Give leniency for confession and consequences for deception.

Everyone makes mistakes; no one is perfect. Surely, you can remember a time when you did not follow your parents’ rules. For this reason, it is important to let your adolescent know when she does make a mistake, it is better for her to tell you about it than to hide it. While there should be a consequence for the mistake, make sure it is less severe than if she lied to you about the mistake. This provides another way for you to encourage your teen to be honest no matter the circumstance.

Make time for your relationship with your teen.

With all this talk about trust, freedom, and limits, it can make a parent sound like the bad guy. While it is important to set boundaries and enforce consequences, you have to make sure you make time to build a relationship with your teen. It is important that you do not see your role as becoming her friend because you are her parent. Always make sure you thoroughly talk with your teen about boundaries and consequences. Make sure to praise her when she is responsible and trustworthy. When you do have discussions with your teen about trust, freedom, and boundaries make sure you listen to your teen. This helps your teen feel understood and develops a closer bond between yourself and your teen. Even if your teen does make a mistake, make time to have a discussion about the incident where both you and your teen have a chance to discuss what happened. It is important your teen feel heard and understood. Teens and parents both know that hearing and understanding don’t have to involve agreeing.


In the previous example about Savannah, how would you handle the situation?

  • First of all, you would need to give her an opportunity to explain what happened. After she has been given a chance to explain herself, you would need to discuss what she did that broke the limits you set on the activity.
  • Next, you would need to explain to her the need for her to rebuild your trust and the consequences of her actions would be a reduction in her freedom.
  • At this point she may be upset, and it would be important to give her a chance to express herself and try to understand how she is feeling. Reflect back to her what she shared with you and express your unconditional love for her.
  • Thoroughly discuss the limits around her freedom and the opportunities she will have to build trust.
  • Lastly, do not distance yourself from Savannah, but continue to build the relationship despite the mistake.

Reference: Townsend, J. (2006). Boundaries with teens: When to say yes how to say no. Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan.

If you or someone you know is struggling with parenting a teenager, please contact The Relationship Center. We have professionals who know how to help.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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How to Talk With Your Teen About Dating

Teen DatingIt happens so fast; one day you’re raising a toddler and the next a teenager. Raising a teenager can be overwhelming, especially when they want to start dating; I am sure you can remember your own teenage years as well as your first date.

It may feel daunting to think about how to bring up the topic of dating with your teenager.  The following guidelines will make this conversation a little easier.

1. Develop a Game Plan

The hardest part about talking with your teen about dating is having a plan. Before you have a conversation with your teen about dating, it is important to develop an idea of what you want to tell them. A good plan includes:

  • Meeting with the teen’s other parents and/or stepparents. Discuss the topic of dating and the following items:
    • Decide on a place, date, and time for the meeting. This should be a date and time that the other parent(s) can also attend.
    • The purpose of dating and how he/she can please God through his/her relationships.
    • Clear rules of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable when dating. It is important for all parents to be on the same page with these.
    • Clear consequences for what happens when the rules are broken. It will be important for you to uphold these consequences.

Make sure to include time for your teen to discuss his/her thoughts, opinions, and feelings about what you have talked about.

2. Set Boundaries

Boundaries are extremely important in any relationship, especially in dating relationships. Cloud and Townsend (2000), who have written many books on boundaries, describe them as a “property line; where you end and the other person begins” (p. 28). It is important for you as a parent to model and teach your teen boundaries (Townsend, 2006).

Boundaries can often be confused with rules. While similar, they still have many differences. Boundaries define your interactions with others and can also provide protection against those who would take advantage of you. While you may have a few rules that define your boundaries, the purpose of rules are more to define appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.

It is possible for your teen to break one of your rules for dating, but still respect your boundaries. For example, your teen may have been out past his/her curfew which is breaking your rules. In this situation, he/she can still respect your boundaries if he/she is able to treat you respectfully when admitting to the wrong and hearing the consequences. Here are some differences between rules and boundaries (Cloud & Townsend, 1992):



Define you

Set limits on behavior

For protection

For control

Include feelings, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, choices, values, limits

Right and Wrong

Developed by individual

Developed by self or others


3. Develop an atmosphere of openness

When I say openness, I am not saying that anything goes in regard to your teen dating. The point here is to set up an atmosphere for your talk with your teen about dating so that it is open and safe. It is also beneficial to set up a relationship with your teen that is open where they feel comfortable to ask questions and share their opinions. Thoughts and opinions are not the same as actions, teens will often have ideas on things that make us cringe, but they may not act on these, instead choosing to honor their parents’ will.

When setting up a place and time to talk with your teen:

  • Make sure you have enough time to have a thorough conversation.
  • The place should be somewhere you can have a private conversation.
  • Let your teen know you will be talking about this topic so they can prepare their ideas and opinions.
  • It is important to have the other parent(s) involved in this conversation.

4. Listen and understand your teen’s thoughts and opinions

While you are the parent and have the last say, it is extremely important you allow your teen to have a turn to talk and discuss his/her thoughts, opinions, and emotions. Along the same lines, it is important that you communicate that you are open to listening to future thoughts and feelings about dating.

As a parent you may want to hear back verbatim what you said to your teen when they speak to you, but it is important to resist this urge. When your teen discusses his/her thoughts and opinions, your objective is to try to fully understand your teen’s thoughts and feelings and communicate this to him/her.

An important question to ask your teen and to discuss with them is why do you want to date? (Rainey, Raniey, Rainey, & Rainey, 2002). This question will give you information on your teen’s motivation for wanting to date, what they hope to get out of dating, and what your teen sees as the purpose for dating (Rainey et al., 2002).

This can also open the discussion of how you as a parent define dating and its purpose. It can also open the conversation on how to glorify God in your teen’s dating relationships. A few more questions to ask are:

  • What do you think is appropriate and not appropriate when dating?
  • How can you please God in your dating relationships?
  • Where will you go for your dates? What do you plan to do on your dates?
  • What do you think about the rules we have established for dating?
  • What do you think the consequences should be if you break the rules?

5. Allow opportunities for your teen to build trust

When your child becomes a teen, it can be difficult to know how much to trust them. It can be even more difficult when he/she starts dating. It is understandable to be less trusting of your teen when they start dating due to not knowing how responsible he/she can be around the opposite sex (Rainey et al., 2002).

If your teen has no opportunities to show you as a parent that you can trust them, they may become resentful and want to rebel against your rules. When I use the word opportunities, it does not necessarily mean letting your teen date at a young age. There are many ways that you can give your teen opportunities to build your trust. The following examples may be helpful:

  • Give your teen weekly responsibilities around the house. These can help your teen show you he/she can be responsible when you give him/her a task.
  • Set a curfew with your teen. If he/she respects this time, then you may be able to discuss extending the curfew. If he/she does not respect it, then you will need to discuss the consequences.
  • Discuss with your teen the expectation that he/she will inform you of his/her whereabouts when spending time with friends. Also, discuss with him/her how this can help you build trust.
  • Allow your teen to spend time with friends and members of the opposite sex under your supervision. Let your teen know that if he/she can act respectful and responsible toward members of the opposite sex this shows you that you can trust him/her (Rainey et al., 2002).  For example, volunteer to chaperone a youth group or school activity.

We are teaching our child stewardship. To those who steward what they have well, more is given, to those who do not, less.

Where does God come in to play?

This is a question that is asked all the time by Christian parents that would like their children to honor God in their dating relationships. This is an important question for parents and teens to think about and discuss. As the parent, where was God in your dating relationship? What would you change and keep the same?

For your teen, what do they believe the Bible says about dating and purity? As the parent, it is important for you to listen to your teen’s thoughts and seek Godly counsel in helping them fully understand how he/she can please God in his/her dating relationships. There is a passage in boundaries with teens that is helpful to review. One Bible verse that I find helpful is:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)

Guarding of your heart in a dating relationship is extremely important and is a great topic to discuss with your teen in relation to dating (Ethridge & Arterburn, 2004). Having an open discussion with your teen about this topic will continue to provide an open environment for the discussion of dating. Please see the Recommended Reading list for more ideas about advice on this topic.

If you are struggling to talk with your teen about dating or other adolescent issues, please contact The Relationship Center. We have professionals who can help.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

The post How to Talk With Your Teen About Dating first appeared on MyCounselor.Online.

Recommended Reading

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2000). Boundaries in dating: How healthly choices grow healthy relationships. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Ethridge, S., & Arterburn, S. (2004). Every young woman’s battle: Guarding your mind, heart, and body in a sex-saturated world. Colorado Springs: Waterbook Press.

Townsend, J. (2006). Boundaries with teens: When to say yes how to say no. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (1992). Boundaries: When to say yes how to say no to take control of your life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2000). Boundaries in dating: How healthly choices grow healthy relationships. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Ethridge, S., & Arterburn, S. (2004). Every young woman’s battle: Guarding your mind, heart, and body in a sex-saturated world. Colorado Springs: Waterbook Press.

Harris, J. (2003). I kissed dating goodbye. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books.

Rainey, D., Rainey, B., Rainey, S., & Rainey, R. (2002). So you’re about to be a teenager: Godly advice for preteens on friends, love, sex, faith and other life issues. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Townsend, J. (2006). Boundaries with teens: When to say yes how to say no. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.