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Trusting Your Teenager to Follow Rules: Tips On Rules And Expectations

Dear Your Teen:

My 14-year-old son knows the rules. He can’t go over to someone’s house for a party or group gathering if the parents aren’t home. One night, my son asked me if he could go to a friend’s house with a few other kids. I told him to check with his friend to confirm that her parents would be home. He claimed that they would be. I also told him that it is his responsibility to call me if he arrives at the get-together and the parents are not home. Should I trust my son, or should I call the parents in advance and confirm that they intend to be home?


I have a mantra that I tell all the kids with whom I work: “When your parents aren’t anxious, life is beautiful.” I refer to this mantra because in this situation, your anxiety is likely to get the best of you and your son.

Laying Out the Rules While Still Trusting Teenagers

This is a good opportunity to sit down with your son and define the rules more clearly. Let him know your concerns. You may even want to re-write the rule on the spot. While the intent of the rule is good, how you or he will go about determining whether parents will be present is vague. It also puts a lot of responsibility on your son to blow the whistle on an unchaperoned get-together, which is difficult when peer opinion means so much.

Consider taking the pressure off of him by letting him know that you will monitor these situations. Explain that whenever he goes somewhere, you might check around. He may at first take offense at your “lack of trust.” But let him know that your job is to ensure his safety. You can trust him and monitor his whereabouts, either from afar. You can call other kids’ parents to corroborate stories, or up close by taking a drive past the home. If the situation is as he says, then everyone wins.

Not checking out? He can blame his hasty exit on your check-up. If the idea of your drive-by monitoring upsets him, offer your alternative to monitor from afar and leave the choice up to him. He’ll feel somewhat empowered, and at the same time, it will relieve your anxiety. This is a good idea plan for building trust between parent and child.

Jennifer Powell-Lunder is the author of Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent’s Guide to Becoming Bilingual and creator of

Read Your Teen’s book review of Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent’s Guide to Becoming Bilingual.

Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of Teenage as a Second Language.

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