Question: My teenager often complains that my husband and I don't trust him. He usually says that when he wants to do something that we object to. What should our response be?
Answer: Children are adept at throwing parents off balance when moments of confrontation occur. One of the most effective tools of adolescents is the one you are hearing. Mom and Dad typically begin backpedaling and explaining, "No, dear, it's not that we don't trust you being out so late, it's just that we ... ," and then they run out of words. They're on the defensive and the initiative shifts to the other side.
Parents in that situation need to remind their kids that trust is divisible. In other words, their kids are trusted in some situations but not others. It's not an all-or-nothing proposition. Referring again to the business world, many of us are authorized to spend our company's money from a designated account but are not allowed access to the entire corporate treasury. Trust in that case is specifically limited. Likewise, we might be authorized to spend perhaps five thousand for supplies or equipment, but anything more than that amount requires the signature of a supervisor. It's not that the bosses fear that the company will be cheated. Rather, good business experience has taught that trust should be given for specific circumstances and purposes. It's called a "grant of authority." Applying that idea now to teenagers, they can expect to be granted permission to do some things but not others. As they handle privileges in a trustworthy manner, they will be given more latitude. The point is you as a parent shouldn't be sucker punched by your kids when they claim falsely that they are being mistreated. I suggest that you not take the bait.Book: Bringing Up Boys
By Dr. James Dobson