Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

My parents expect me to be in at a certain time every night, and then they grill me about where I’ve been and what I’ve done. Sometimes they even check to see if I was lying! I know they’re supposed to teach me and guide me, but I feel like an accused criminal! How can I get them to ease up?

New Era:

It may seem as if you and your parents don’t agree on anything having to do with rules and curfews. But you actually do share some common ground. For example, you and your parents probably agree that close control is needed for little children. (They shouldn’t permit your three-year-old brother to play in the middle of a busy street, right?)

You also probably agree that parental control is not appropriate for independent adult children. (They wouldn’t try to stop your married 33-year-old brother from staying out late, right?)

So the challenge is to resolve the cases between ages 3 and 33. For example, what is right for you at your age.

Well, what is right? Should you be in at 10:30 or at 1:30? Are you ready for single dating or not? Should you be able to use the family car?

It all depends, doesn’t it? If you’re always completely honest; if you’re doing well in school; if you use the car responsibly; if you’re completely reliable; if you live gospel standards; if your friends are good kids—then you deserve your parents’ trust and, with it, increased freedom.

On the other hand, if you’ve deceived your parents; if you’ve cut classes at school and have poor grades; if you drive like a kamikaze pilot; if your best friend has a criminal record; if you can’t be relied on—well, it’s not surprising that you find yourself at the end of a pretty short leash.

There are other factors, of course. Maybe your parents are extra wary because your older sister gave them fits. Maybe you’re their oldest child, and they’re being extra careful with you, their first teen. (That often happens.) Maybe your parents are remembering problems they had as teens—and are trying to spare you the pain by being extra strict.

Whatever the reasons, the bottom line is: They’re strict because they love you and want to protect you from dangers and temptations. Being loved isn’t the worst thing that could happen to you, is it?

Now, what’s to be done to encourage them to “ease up”? Some suggestions:

  • Obey your curfew. That’s the only way to ever get it extended.

  • Let your parents know in advance where you’re going to be, and then be there. If you do, they will have less reason to check up on you.

  • Tell your parents voluntarily about your night’s activities before they ask. This will diminish their urge to grill you about them.

  • Drive the car safely and carefully (even when no one is watching), and your parents will be more likely to grant you driving privileges.

  • Work hard at school, and your parents will be more inclined to give you some time to have fun after school.

  • Choose friends with high standards, and your parents will feel better about seeing you go places with them.

And there’s always communication. If you talk to your parents like an adult, they’ll probably talk to you as an adult! Why not sit down with them, and just say, “Dad and Mom, I want very much to please you, and I’m trying hard to be a good kid. I’m honest, decent, hard working, good looking, and incredibly humble. Don’t you think I’ve earned more trust than I’m getting?”

Then work calmly with them to negotiate a reasonable curfew and fair rules based on your good behavior.

Maybe it will work. In most cases, it actually does work. Your parents really want to believe in you. They want to trust you. They want to see you making the kind of good choices that will lead you toward a happy, successful life. If you give them reason to treat you as a responsible person, they probably will do exactly that.

And if you still feel they’re unreasonable, try to remember that they give you rules because they love you. They aren’t perfect, and specific curfew hours aren’t revealed in the Doctrine and Covenants. They’re doing the best they can with the wisdom and knowledge and inspiration they have. Keep being trustworthy, and eventually you will earn more trust.

For further advice, read “Getting Along with Parents” and “Declaring Your Independence” in the March 1990 New Era.

Readers:

That’s exactly how it used to be with me. If I wanted to go out, they would put me through the third degree before I could do anything. I would always argue and get real upset at them, and it would always end up in a shouting match. Then I decided to try something. Before I made any definite plans, I would ask them if they objected to whatever it was I wanted to do. I’d tell them who I would be with and where I would be.

Then if I changed plans and went somewhere else, I’d call. Pretty soon they didn’t seem so unreasonable. They trust me and my choice of friends and places to go now. People are right; parents do just want what’s best for you!

Jeremy Eccles, 16 Upland, California

A friend of mine was in your kind of situation once. He also felt that he wasn’t trusted. He was getting blamed for things he never did and for going places he never went. He decided that if he was to get blamed for it that he might as well do it, but that was wrong. It only made matters worse!

If I were you I would want to prove my parents wrong. Let them check up on you. Show them you have nothing to hide or to be ashamed of. If you do have something to hide, then you should think twice before making the same mistake again. Best of luck.

Delonni Matthews, 17 Roy, Utah

Whenever I go out anywhere I try to let my parents know where I’m going and what time I will be back. If I’m at a friend’s house I also try to leave a telephone number just in case I might be needed at home. Also, if I’m going to be late I phone my parents to let them know. Sometimes my dad gives me a hard time about where I’ve been, but I find that if I just tell him he stops worrying about it. I think to let your parents know where you’re going to be and when you’re going to be home is just good manners, and it stops your parents’ worrying about where you are.

Philip Shaftoe, 22 London, England

I had the same problem recently. As soon as I turned 17 I felt I was entitled to stay out as late as I wanted and did not need to bother with calling in or anything. A few fights with my dad over this and I decided calling wasn’t so bad. Also, I sat down and we agreed on times for each night of the week, earlier on weekdays than on Fridays and Saturdays. As far as the “grilling” is concerned, just be sure to tell them where you are going in advance. Then they can ask “How was the dance?” or movie or whatever, instead of “Where have you been?”

The main thing is to establish some credibility with them first by being responsible. Then, as you see some trust develop, ask for a change in the curfew.

Dave Wallentine, 18 Meridian, Idaho

It seems to me that you might have done something wrong in the first place to break your parents’ trust. If you feel that they don’t think you’re responsible, confront them with your feelings. Tell them that you’d like to start with a clean slate. Begin with being home on time (or even a little early) for the curfew they set for you. Be sure to fulfill your other responsibilities and keep your grades up. After a little while your parents should see the progress you’re making and ease up. Always do what you’ve told them you were going to do, and everything else will fall into place.

Austin Rich, 17 San Antonio, Texas

Think of it this way: Would you seriously trust yourself if you were in your parents’ place?

It may not be easy to really talk to your parents, but maybe you ought to try it. Trust me, it works!

Cheryl Bowers, 16 Gilmer, Texas

I think the first question that should be answered is, have you given them a reason NOT to trust you? You need to earn their trust. If you feel that there is no reason for them not to trust you, then you should talk to them about it. Let them know your feelings, but make sure you talk to them in a mature, adult fashion. Remember they love you and they are trying to do what’s best for you.

Jeri Pearson, 17 Royal City, Washington

Your parents are not perfect. They are learning and growing as parents just as much as you are as a child. They love you, and so it’s only natural for them to want to make sure you are staying on the straight and narrow path.

However, with love must come trust, and trust does not come free. It must be earned. If you are living the standards set by your parents and being totally honest with them, you have nothing to fear. In time you will earn your parents’ trust and confidence.

Elder John E. Moyer, 19 Michigan Dearborn Mission

As a teenager I often wondered about the rules my parents set for me to follow. Now that I am a parent I understand a little more. I am naturally interested in what my son does, who he is with, and where he is. I care about the children he plays with because I want him to be uplifted by them. I want to know these things so that, hopefully, I can spare him some problems or help him through them—not because I don’t trust him.

I knew several young people as I grew up whose parents didn’t set rules for them to follow. Although they would never admit it, I know that, more often than not, they wished their parents would set up some guidelines for them.

Honestly ask yourself if you have ever done anything to cause your parents to distrust you. If you have, change your habits, make new friends, and regain your parents’ trust! If you haven’t, be patient with them and remember that they aren’t perfect yet either! Communicate your trust and love for them, and you will probably find that they really do trust you and love you.

Ann Jensen, 25 Cincinnati, Ohio

First of all, ask your parents if you could talk to them. If they agree (which they probably will), tell them how you feel. Then discuss the curfew with them. Curfews aren’t the greatest things in the world, but they are a fact of life, and we’ve got to live with them.

Remember that your parents love you.

Chris Williams, 16 Pinconning, Michigan

Your parents may not trust you because you have done things that have destroyed their trust. It will take a dedicated effort to rebuild it.

If your parents see you can be responsible and you don’t do anything that would cause them to be concerned, they may loosen restrictions.

Maybe you could explain to them how you feel and ask them for a trial period. Show them that you can take care of yourself, but don’t abuse the freedom they give you.

Amy Morris, 17 St. George, Utah

I’m 18, and I have lived away from home for almost a year, and until I moved away from my parents’ discipline I didn’t realize how important it was that they loved me enough to give me a curfew and check up on me. Because I have to make my own decisions now, I’m really glad I had their discipline. It’s so hard to feel like your parents don’t trust you, but by doing what they say (without a fight), hopefully you’ll gain enough respect and trust from them that they’ll ease up on you. Just hang in there and pray a lot for strength. You’ll make it.

Jill Anderson, 18 West Valley City, Utah

I have the same problem and am working at a solution. For the next month I am keeping a notebook of all the responsible things I do day by day—doing my chores and coming in on time. At the end of the month I will show my parents this and then ask for more freedom. If I can prove to them that I’m responsible I may have an easier time.

James Tracy, 17 San Antonio, Texas

[photo] Photography by Craig J. Moyer