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How to Rebuild Trust With Your Teen

You’ve been hurt. Your teen has lied, disrespected, or distanced himself from you—even gone against the values you hold dear. And you’re not alone. Parents reach out to me all the time, wondering how they can possibly rebuild trust with a teen who has disappointed them so many times. It’s exhausting, painful, and totally predictable.

You should expect that your teen will disappoint you. Jeremiah 17:5 says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh, and whose heart turns away from the LORD.” So, I don’t trust teens. Instead, I trust they’re going to make mistakes, poor choices, and bad decisions. That’s what I trust. In this article, I’ll tell you what you can do to rebuild your relationship and train up your teen to maturity.

Step Back and Refocus on What’s Really Important

You were chosen by God to have the children you have. God placed you in your teen’s life to help him mature. So, step back and remember the critical role you play in your teen’s development. You’re training your teen about how to make good decisions and that training comes from negative experiences and consequences, as well as good choices and rewards. Parenting is about creating a relationship that gives you a platform to speak into their lives.

Your wisdom and influence are important at all times in your teen’s life––the ups and the downs. It’s a relationship that is meant for a lifetime, and it is worth working on. So no matter how your teen is behaving, remember your teen is a precious son or daughter of God. Resist the urge to distance yourself when they break your trust. Instead, embrace these challenging times as an opportunity to guide them towards maturity, through experience.

Begin Treating Your Teen With Respect Again

Many parents get angry when their teens don’t behave the way they hoped they would. Respecting someone who has broken your trust, is hard. But respecting your teen doesn’t have to wait until you’ve fixed the trust issue. Respecting your teen doesn’t mean you agree or condone their inappropriate behavior. Instead, respecting your teen communicates that you love and value your teen, no matter what. Your teen is more likely to open up to you, to trust you, and to offer respect in return if you respect him first. So don’t let your teen’s choices change how you feel. Giving your teen love and respect when they don’t deserve it is called grace. It’s how God treats all his kids!

Focus on Rebuilding the Relationship

Stop focusing solely on correcting your teen’s behavior and focus on rebuilding your relationship! No one is perfect. It may sound strange, but I want teens to make mistakes when they are with me, because it’s an opportunity for me to help them grow. So when it happens, be ready to talk. Remember it’s not a lecture. To build up the relationship you will need to listen, even when your teen says things you don’t like.

Make time to have regular conversations. Look for ways to do things together. Take your teen out to eat or on a walk. Listen to your teen, and then respond without judgment or bitterness. Talk about the broken trust and be honest about your hurt feelings. Don’t avoid the problem, instead ask about your teen about what’s motivating his behavior. Find out about her feelings and what’s behind her lack of trust in you too. Then be ready to give a second chance. Take the long view. Most importantly, communicate your love. No matter what, keep loving your teen!


Hey moms and dads … there is a risk to letting your teens make decisions in their life. The risk of them making choices might just include times when they don’t use their best judgment. But they are learning how to make decisions, and you must allow them to do it—even though they make mistakes. They blow it and they disappoint you. But courage is getting back up in the saddle and giving them another opportunity to exercise their decision-making muscles, so that they may begin to see the need for wisdom and good judgment. It means that you have to give them another chance to blow it again, for the sake of the lessons to come. Let them make choices, be responsible for their decisions, and trust that the process will develop a sense of maturity. That only comes with a parent who’s willing to rebuild trust with their teen.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.