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Trustworthiness

​​​​​​Trust is very important to teenagers, and trustworthiness is necessary for meaningful, long-lasting relationships. There are two components of trust. The first is  to trust, or to have confidence that others will do the right thing. The second is  to be trustworthy, or to demonstrate through our words and actions that others can trust us.

It is our job as parents to teach our children the value of trust and the advantages that stem from trusting and being trusted. Being trustworthy fosters strong and lasting relationships. Being untrustworthy destroys relationships. Parents must show teenagers it feels good to be trusted. They also must show teenagers it feels bad to not be trusted.

Parents should teach teenagers that four specific qualities –  integrityhonestyreliability and  loyalty – create trust. 

Integrity:  Integrity is moral wholeness, which is demonstrated by consistency of thoughts, words and deeds (“walking the walk”). Parents need to prepare teenagers for situations in which they will be pressured to abandon their beliefs in order to please themselves or their peers. Having integrity means maintaining our highest values even when faced with criticism or embarrassment. It is  the willingness to do the right thing even when it costs more than you want to pay

A second component of integrity is having the moral courage to accept failure or defeat without losing hope. Disappointment is part of life. How we handle it says a lot about our integrity.

Honesty: Honesty involves what we  say and what we  do. Three aspects of honest communication are  truthfulnesssincerity and  candor.

  1. Truthfulness: Honest people are truthful. Intent is important in establishing truth. Willfully misrepresenting the facts is untruthful.  Being wrong about the facts is not; that’s a mistake. Furthermore, not all lies are unethical. An example would be “white lies” told in order to spare someone’s feelings.

    But parents should stress that all forms of dishonesty can damage trust. Some well-intentioned lies can deprive people of the important information they need to see their world more clearly. Untruthfulness has a ripple effect. When lies break trust, the person being lied to may wonder what other lies have been told.
  2. Sincerity: Sincerity is the genuineness of purpose that prevents all acts of deception (i.e., half-truths, deliberate omissions). Parents should teach teenagers that it is as wrong to deceive as it is to outright lie.
  3. Candor: Candor is the most advanced aspect of honesty and involves the obligation to volunteer needed information. Teenagers need to know that they are obligated to reveal things that those who trust them ought to know or would want to know for their own good.

Reliability: Trustworthy people keep their word, honor their commitments, pay their debts and return what they borrow. Parents need to help teenagers learn how to decide whether they can keep a promise before they make one. 

Parents, in turn, must be clear in what they promise their teenagers. Teenagers often translate statements  of possibility as  promises. Kids hear what they want to hear. When parenting, clearly state what you will or will not do, and make certain you and your teen hear and understand the same message. Ask your teen to repeat what he or she heard you say. If he or she misunderstands or misinterprets what you said, immediately restate your position.

Loyalty: Loyalty is standing with and behind someone in need. Loyal friends share both triumphs and trauma, and offer honest, constructive feedback delivered in a kind and tactful manner. Parents need to teach teenagers to choose their loyalties carefully; teenagers should support their friends without compromising their integrity and reputation.

Parents can reinforce trustworthiness by modeling it and clearly conveying their expectations regarding trustworthy behavior. If your teen falters, it is your job to give an appropriate consequence. But you s​​hould also praise your teen for using trustworthy behaviors. Every day provides opportunities to reinforce your child’s merits of trustworthiness.

For more information on this topic, look in Parenting to Build Character in Your Teen.

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