There comes a time in every responsible young butterfly’s life when the butterfly might want to flit away to try some new things. You know, basic life-things. Getting-older-n-wiser things. New horizons like…shopping with your friends without an adult. Going to a movie alone. Taking a day trip, going to a party and staying out late, getting a job and spending your money how you like, or visiting your older sister at college by yourself.
All reasonable experiences for any growing person! All important markers on your path to Becoming Your Own Self! And great news: The responsible young butterfly is you…but look, in front of you—what’s that standing in your way?
Oh, yes—it’s your parents. Or guardians. When you ask to be allowed to try one of these new experiences, the answer from these people who claim to love you is a resounding NO.
Why are they trying to keep your beautiful wings trapped in a glass jar? Why aren’t you allowed to do things that a lot of your friends are allowed to do? Why don’t your parents trust you?
Hello and welcome to my teenage life. My parents were extremely late to catch the trust-train. In fact, they were several years behind most of my friends’ parents when it came to me being allowed to do almost anything. And I was not a classic “bad” kid! I sang in the church choir. I tried in school. I didn’t kick puppies, and I had no history of breaking into my friends’ parents’ liquor cabinets. It didn’t matter to my parents—I was a “child,” and therefore I had no reasoning, logic, or street smarts. I had to work extra-hard just to be allowed to do normal, growing-up things, like learn to drive, hang out with friends past 11 PM, or go out where any male human might be. Uggggh.
It can be SO frustrating to be the one whose parents won’t let her do anything; you feel like you’re ready and able to be trusted, and the right age to do something, and you also feel like your parents just don’t see you. HOW UNREASONABLE, but: Your parents and guardians are (usually) trying to help you and do right by you, my babes. There are so many reasons why they might say “no” to a new experience for you. They’ve lived in this bad ol’ world a long time and they know that terrible things (and “terrible things”) can happen to teenage girls. They might even have a recent memory of you doing something not-so-responsible, which could make it hard for them to trust you again.
You’re ready, you say? You’ve changed and/or you’re a mature, different, responsible human now? Alright, then, let’s talk strategy, butterfly. You need to either be trustworthy or appear trustworthy to parental eyes. Here are a few strategies to do both.
1. Follow your words with your actions.
This is a big item when it comes to parents gauging whether they can trust you. In parent-eyes, a trustworthy person follows through on her words; she does what she says she is going to do. If you say you’re going to be home at 11, be home at 11. Not 11:15, not 11:30 with a good excuse. If you say you’re going to pick up your little brother at soccer, pick him up. On time. Don’t be 20 minutes late and get a text from your mom that says, “Where r u, Kyle is waiting!” She needs to know she can rely on you! If you say you need to use the computer for school, don’t be on Facebook when your dad walks past you. If you suddenly start really paying attention to doing what you tell your parents you’re going to do, you will be amazed at how quickly they start to think of you as someone they can count on.
2. Answer your phone.
This one is hard, because who wants to talk to their parents when they’re out with their friends? A little goes a long way, person-who-wants-her-parents-to-trust-her! If your parent or guardian calls you—ANSWER IT! If they text you about something—literally anything!—text them back. It can be one word, it can be an emoji, it does not matter. Just text them back, and not hours later. If they bought you that phone, they probably did it so that they could be in contact with you in case of emergency. They want to know you’re on the other end of the line, and that they can reach you if they need you. Treat that text or call from your guardians as your #1 DO NOT IGNORE and watch the strict rules in your life magically start to loosen up a bit.
3. Start suddenly doing the stuff your parents have asked you to do a million times.
Are you supposed to be cleaning the cat-litter box or emptying the dishwasher every day…but you kiiiind of let it slide a lot? Might I humbly suggest: doing it. Without saying anything. Starting immediately. Don’t trumpet your good deeds around the house, like, “Ohh look at meeee!!!! Hey I AM DOING MY CHORES OVER HERE!” No. You are old enough to not need a gold star every time you do the things you are already supposed to be doing at home. Get yourself up without anyone having to come holler at you. Make that bed. Offer to help with dinner at some point. YOUR PARENTS WILL NOTICE. Hoo boy, will they notice! If you’ve never really done it before, you being quietly responsible and diligent about your normal chores will be both shocking and deeply pleasing to your parents. They will look at you emptying that dishwasher and think, My god, she used to whine about doing that so much. Look at her now, emptying the dishwasher without me even asking her—or her asking ME for anything in return! She’s really growing up. I must be doing an OK job, here.
4. Protect your privacy.
If your parents are the distrustful or easily alarmed type, don’t give them anything—anything!—to find that could in any way freak them out about what you’re up to.
- Erase your browser history. We’ve talked about this.
- Change every single one of your computer passwords to something complicated and unguessable. “MrFluffers1234” is not a good password if your cat’s name is Mr. Fluffers.
- If you’re using Facebook, make it so you have to approve every single thing that gets posted about you on Facebook. No one is going to tag you doing something that might alarm your guardians.
- If you need to hide something (I’m not asking questions here), hide it well. Your closet is not a good spot. Your dresser is not a good spot. The “April 1994” file folder for tax receipts in a molding box in the basement is a good spot, especially if things are stacked on top of the box. Go for obscure and hard-to-get-to for all your hiding needs.
It is possible to get your parents to trust you, Rooks. Let them see that you can be counted on to behave like a rational adult, even if it involves a little stealth action, and hey—one day very soon, they might treat you like one! ♦