Trust Issues

How to Deal With Teen Trust Issues

Let go of your fear, advises the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. You might fear that your teen will not make sound decisions and end up hurt or in trouble. Your teen might fear that you will try to control his life and leave him without any freedom. By allowing your fears to control you, you both lose trust in one another. Let go of your fears by discussing what you expect out of one another. For example, if your teen feels you won't let him have the freedom to make his own decisions, chances are he won’t trust you enough to help when he needs it. You need to make your expectations and the consequences for his bad choices clear and stick to them to help build trust.

Create an action plan, advises the Aspen Education Group. If you tell your teen that you will trust her when she starts behaving like someone her age should, you aren’t telling her anything. Instead, you should be specific about what will cause you to trust her again, such as meeting curfew, earning good grades, eschewing drugs and alcohol, and not breaking any rules.

Ignore pressure to trust your teen when you know you cannot, advises the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. For example, if your teen asks whether she can go to an unsupervised party at her college friend’s apartment, do not let her play the trust card and pressure you into letting her go. Be frank about not trusting her to be in a circumstance where no adults are watching out for her safety, where drugs and alcohol might be present and where several opportunities exist for her to be taken advantage of. Explain to her that this is an example of the kind of trust issue that you are not willing to test.

List of Behaviors That Establish Trust Between a Child & Teacher

Teacher Language

Teachers spend much of their day talking to students. The tone and language they use can have a critical effect on student trust levels. For trust to develop between the student and teacher, teachers need to use clear, genuine, respectful and nonjudgmental language consistently, according to the Responsive Classroom website. Teachers should also express when they appreciate a child's behavior or work, so the child knows the teacher appreciates him. Teachers should use meaningful feedback to make children feel that they are cared for, according to the American Psychological Association.

Teacher Accountability

A teacher needs to be accountable to his students to develop trust, according to That means returning work when you say you will, keeping track of classroom concerns and handling them and following-through on promises. Everyone makes mistakes, but a teacher who routinely loses assignments or doesn't follow-through on promised rewards won't gain the trust of a child.


Honesty is more of a two-way street in building trust between students and teachers, says author and teacher Rafe Esquith at Esquith says students need to be honest with him about mistakes such as missing homework or breaking classroom materials, otherwise the trust between them is broken. Teachers and students need to tell each other the truth, even when they make mistakes, to create trust.


When you think of people you trust, strangers probably aren't on the list. It is usually easier to trust someone once we know them, even if they have a job that implies trust, such as doctor or teacher. To establish trust between a teacher and a child, they should spend time getting to know each other as people, recommends the American Psychological Association. Teachers should share stories about themselves with students, maybe mentioning how they loved a particular book as a kid or how they learned their multiplication facts. Students should have the opportunity to share about themselves, maybe through weekly show and tell or naming a student of the week.

How to Establish Trust in Teens

Communicate with your teen. According to experts with the Aspen Education Group, sit down and talk openly with your teen to discuss what your expectations of trust are. You need to vocalize what you expect your teen to do to build your trust, and you need to let your teen provide you with the same information. Opening the lines of communication will help your family become open-minded and accepting to establishing trust in your relationships.

Speak to the good. To create trust in a relationship, you need to speak to the good when it comes to disciplining your teen. Rather than simply telling her "no," "you can’t do that, stop that," "don’t" or "that’s wrong" -- you need to use positives. According to the Aspen Education Center, help your teen understand how to establish trust by using positives. For example, instead of making a long list of acts she cannot do, provide her with examples of things she can do to gain your trust, such as performing well in school and behaving respectfully at home.

Give your teen positive reinforcement. When he feels his good deeds and behavior are being recognized, he is more likely to feel he is doing his part to establish trust. To do this, focus more on recognizing his good behavior than pointing out his negative behavior. For example, say thank you when he puts the dishes away or tell him you’re proud of him for making good grades this semester.

Model the behavior you would like your teen to exhibit. This means you must maintain honesty so your teen can trust you. Don't lie to your teen. For example, if you called your teen's teacher to find out how she’s behaving in school, be honest with your teen. Don’t make up excuses such as telling your daughter you ran into her teacher at the supermarket and he mentioned your daughter was doing well in class. If her teacher mentions your call, she’ll know you were lying and begin to think that trust is not something the two of you can establish.


Work hard to do your part in establishing trust with your teen. It takes two to establish trust.

How to Motivate a Teen Who Is Not Trusting

Display respect for the teen while still emphasizing the importance of achievement, taking into consideration the teen’s personal goals and desires. Social worker James Lehman of Empowering Parents suggests motivating teens by focusing on their wants and goals. He suggests that if a teen’s goal is to get a car, parents might broach conversations about motivation in terms of what behaviors the teenager will need to display before he can get that car.

Show a caring attitude. In his book “The Good Enough Teen,” child psychologist Brad Sachs explains that when teens say things such as “you do not love me,” they may actually be articulating fear that their parents do not understand them. To foster trust and motivate a teen, parents can address these insecurities by demonstrating a caring attitude and genuine interest in the teen’s needs and feelings. Further, by setting realistic expectations of the child and accepting his failures as well as successes, parents can foster both trust and motivation.

Use positive reinforcement for appropriate, motivated behaviors, which can be vital to building trust with teens, states Megan Vivo of Aspen Education Group. She explains that building trust can take time and might be marked with setbacks. “Ups and downs are all important parts of the process, and even small failures can result in stronger bonds,” says Vivo. Thus, praising a teen’s efforts, even if they are minimal, can go a long way in rebuilding trust and fostering motivation.

Pick your battles and roll with resistance. From a developmental perspective, it is normal for teens to test limits. Sometimes, this involves being argumentative with parents and authority figures. When trying to motivate a teen who is not trusting, engaging with the teen in arguments and power struggles often does little good to either build trust or motivate the child. Given this, parents may want to pick their battles carefully and “roll with resistance,” explains David Maxfield, author of “Influencer: The Power to Change Anything.” “If your daughter takes a position on one side, don’t rise to the bait and take the other side,” states Maxfield. “That would turn your conversation into an argument. Instead, roll with her resistance -- reflect back what she has said.” Such techniques validate the teen’s perspective and may encourage her to consider other perspectives.


If you are unable to communicate with your teen without arguing, family counseling can be a good step in rebuilding the parent-child relationship.