How to Get Your Parents' Trust Back

The Long Process of Regaining Your Parents' Trust

A troubled teenager.
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Trust is a funny thing. For the most part, it is freely given, but once it is lost, regaining it can be costly both emotionally and physically. Rebuilding trust once it has been damaged or lost is no easy task. It is not easy for the people who have been let down, and it is certainly not easy (nor should it be) for the person who damaged it. When you factor in things like; respect, authority figures, love and disappointment, the struggle to rebuild can be even harder.

How Long Does it Take to Rebuild Trust?

If you have destroyed a lifetime worth of trust, and it is going to take time and sacrifice on your part to earn it back. As the "trust breaker," you don't get to set the timeline for fixing things. The chances are that they will come to trust you again, but it won't be on your terms.

Are Your Parents Justified in Losing of Trust?

What did you do to lose your parents' trust? Are they justified?  When deciding if they are justified you need to take a big step back to look at what happened. Did you break rules you knew existed? Did you do something they specifically asked you not to? Did you lie, cheat or steal? Did you commit a crime? Did you harm another person or yourself? Did you do something you knew would disappoint or embarrass them? If you were a parent, would you be mad? If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," all you can do is wait for them to hand you an olive branch.

You have to sit back and do everything you can think of to show them you are sorry and that you won't risk losing their trust again should they see fit to give it back to you. In short, you have to bend over backward to be a better more trustworthy you.

Are Your Parents Overreacting to Your Asserting Independence?

Are they overreacting? Is what you did something that would better fall into the category of "value differences"? Is the core of the current problem that you and your parents disagree over a fundamental issue like having sex, maintaining privacy or going to college? Is what "lost their trust" actually you asserting your independence? Be honest here! It is not asserting independence to skip school, sneak out on a date, run away from home, or shoplift.

Asserting independence would be more along the lines of saying, "College isn't for me!" over and over and then acting on it when the time came. If the issue at hand here is something you and your parents have come to heads over in the past with the only problem being that you stopped talking and started doing, maybe it would be worth it to revisit the issue. You can't make them trust you, you can't even make them understand, but you can make your feelings known and in doing so, you may feel a little better.

Parental Emotions at Work in Loss of Trust

When trust is lost, there are a variety of emotions to face in gaining it back. You will have to be prepared to deal with your parents; anger, resentment, disappointment, frustration and hurt. You will also have to address their legitimate feelings of being disrespected, of being taken for granted, and of being used.

What most parents can't handle is a child who tells them one thing and then does another. They tend to be able to handle a child who openly disagrees with them better than one who lies and makes them believe they are being listened to, when in fact, they are not. The disappointment factor is much lower when your child makes their differing views known, and disappointment is a key component of lost trust.

Getting Back on the Trust Track

To get things back on track with your parents the first thing you need to do is stop trying to control the healing process. You need to accept their anger and fighting them on it is not accepting it.

Even asking to go to a friend's house before they have made it clear that they are ready to deal with you again is forcing the issue. It is a passive-aggressive way of saying, "Are you over it yet?" That is only going to make matter worse. When they are ready to give you back your freedom, which automatically comes with a small degree of trust, they'll let you know. Until then in regards to being "stuck at home all the time", you have to accept that part of what is going on is punishment, and any truly remorseful person accepts their punishment without question.

Keep Doing Everything to Get Their Trust Back

You say you have done everything to get back their trust, and that is a good start. Keep doing "everything" and don't stop even when they don't seem to be responding the way you want them to. They are the injured party here and that they are under no obligation to accept your gestures of good will. They don't even have to factor in your suddenly good behavior when deciding what to do next.  Your parents have no faith in you right now and no reason to believe you won't soon return to the type of behavior you showed before.

Talking to Your Parents With Remorse, Not Self-Pity

When you tell your parents how you feel, make sure you are showing remorse for losing their trust, not anger or self-pity that your freedom has been curtailed. Do not resort to threats of, "you're not giving me any reason to be good" or say stupid things like, "you are making me have no choice but to sneak around." Those type of sentiments will not help your case.

Instead, tell them you know you screwed up and did a bad thing. Let them know that you are sorry and that you will do whatever it takes to fix things. Tell them that you are feeling in limbo because they have not given you any indication about what they need from you in order to even try to trust you again.

Then sit back and be prepared to listen to a bunch of stuff you won't like hearing. Don't get defensive and don't turn things in to a fight about how "unfair" or "unreasonable" they are being. You damaged the trust here and you are the one who needs to deal with the fallout. Don't expect them to rush to closure in order to make you happier. You can't force trust. You could make it disappear forever.