Developing an E.A.R for trust |

Developing an E.A.R for trust

Evan Zislis
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Trust is earned through predictably-reliable action over time. When it comes to parents and teenagers, anyone can create lasting relationships on the basis of trust with a little opportunity and a little patience.

Monica is sixteen years old and wants to spend more time with her friends over the weekend. With a new driver’s license and a new group of friends from school, it’s easy to understand Monica’s wishes. Mom and Dad would like to see Monica help out around the house, pull her grades up, and have a sit-down meal with the family more often. Reading in the local newspaper about teenage substance abuse has them concerned about wild parties around town.

With seemingly opposing goals, Monica and her parents could conceivably disagree on how to move forward, especially considering everyone’s desire for immediate outcomes. But with a little opportunity and a little patience, both Monica and her parents can get most of what they want over time.

Monica’s father gently invites Monica to a friendly negotiation to discuss some of the requests she has recently made. After everyone agrees that raising voices, making accusations and arguing is strictly prohibited from the discussion, both Monica and her parents agree to use a simple acronym to guide their conversation (E.A.R.) empathy, acceptance and respect. That is to say, all agree to first listen to what the others have to say ” using empathy to help them understand, accept where they are in their circumstances, and respect each other enough to remain engaged in a way that promotes developing the relationship. After all, developing the relationship is the most important aspect of the negotiations.

Monica’s parents acknowledge Monica’s wishes are understandable and mostly attainable if she is able to compromise with her parents’ requests. Mom and Dad suggest a four-month trial period where Monica is given an opportunity to prove that she is trustworthy and responsible. They are willing to extend her curfew during Friday and Saturday nights to 10:29 p.m. as long as her grades continue to improve and she is willing to help clean up from dinner during the week. They allow her use of the family car periodically as long as she can prove her sobriety over time through curfew check ins and random drug testing. Monica understands these are opportunities for her to demonstrate herself as a responsible young adult with good judgment. She knows over time, her parents will grow to trust her and allow her more freedom.

After six months, Monica’s grades have improved, she spends more time helping her family clean up after dinner, and she has been able to demonstrate her consistent sobriety and good judgment by checking in at curfew and taking random drug tests. When Monica asks for a later curfew, they are willing to extend it one hour for special occasions because they have grown to trust her over time.

To learn more about negotiating with your teenager, call YouthZone at 945-9300 or visit us online at

Evan Zislis is the YouthZone Division Manager (Aspen-Carbondale)

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