The 5 Needs Kids Want Parents to Fill

#3 -- Independence/Being Trusted

Isn’t being trusted important to you?  We all desire to be trusted — so do teens.

In my past two posts, we looked at the first 2 of the 5 needs kids want parents to fill: love, affection, and a happy home life and rules/boundaries. Now we will look at the third on their needs list:  independence/being trusted.

Independence is a major theme of the teen years. What we may see as rebellion really isn’t; rather, it is part of every person’s natural struggle for an independent identity. Forming a separate ego identity is THE central developmental task for teens.

Hard as it may be, we must let our minds rule over our emotions. We know what’s going on in those years. Our children are answering for themselves some of life’s BIG questions: Who am I? What life-style should I adopt? What rules will I live by? What attitude will I choose?

The answers to these are forged in the crucible of life, which means it is a struggle involving the competing forces and values they find in their families, peers, school, church, and the pop culture. They will ultimately emerge with their sense of identity, conformity, authority, and responsibility.

Want to help your teen in this process?  Say yes to your teen as often as possible. Think about majoring on the majors before you say no. It means taking change in stride.

Recognize and appreciate the developing independence of your teens. It means honoring the teens’ personal search for values and convictions.

I like Newton’s Law as a principle for parenting: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In short, if I do not respond so strongly to everything my teen does, my teen won’t counter so often or with such gusto. As a dad, we have the responsibility to de-escalate rather than escalate confrontations.

On this road to independence, teens also long to be trusted. They deeply resent not being trusted. Trustworthiness is not something you can give your teen.

But you can provide opportunities to be trusted—starting as early as possible. Most kids will go overboard to earn their parent’s trust.

Children also pick up on attitudes of distrust and suspicion. They’ll think, Okay, if that’s the way Dad thinks I am, I might as well be that way.

So the bottom line is trust them to make their own decisions — as often as possible.

The 5 Needs Kids Want Parents to Fill

#2 - Rules/Boundaries (really)

Kids want rules/boundaries!

Are you surprised?  “Not my kids” you may be thinking.  Read on.

In my last post, we began our look at the first of the 5 needs kids want parents to fill: love, affection, and a happy home life. Now we will look at the second on their needs list:  rules/boundaries.

Yes, teens and basically all kids want rules and boundaries set by their parents.

The experts who work with teens make this clear. Dr. Ross Campbell says: “I have heard so many teenagers say that their parents do not love them because they are not strict or firm enough.” Dr. Lawrence Bauman says: “I have never—repeat, never—found a kid to tell me that he didn’t want any rules at all.”

Why do teens want rules? Because during those years filled with trial and error and embarrassment, they need family standards that establish the boundaries to operate within—a zone of operation, if you will, that provides security and protection.

The key point that needs to be emphasized with regard to teens is that flexibility beats rigidity in rule making and boundary setting. That does not mean you aren’t serious about the rules or you don’t enforce them. That means you take into account changing circumstances, especially as your kids get older.

When setting rules about drug use or sexual activity, remember that kids often want an out—to be able to say, “Yeah, my parents don’t allow this.” This won’t always be true or always work. But at least give them the opportunity to have some of these “outs” available when needed.

Would love to hear of any examples of rules/boundaries you set that work well with your kids.

Next post we’ll look at the third need: independence/being trusted