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August 7, 2022
"Love, then becomes a container, not for control or power over - but for the empowerment of the true self."
-- Charlyne Gelt, Ph.D., (PSY22909), M.F.T.

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How to Trust Your Teen: An Interview with Psychologist Charlyne Gelt Ph.D

published on Associated Content

Does there always seem to be a power struggle between you and your teen? Do you find that the relationship between you and your teen is more of a controlling one rather than a trusting relationship? If you answered "yes" you're not alone. Many parents have similar experiences. To help understand what type of impact control versus trust can have on the relationship with your teen and what you can do to create feelings of trust, I have interviewed psychologist Charlyne Gelt Ph.D.

Tell me a little bit about yourself
"I received a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in California. I am currently a clinical psychologist in private practice in Encino, California. I work with adolescents, parents and families. This means that I work with stages of development across the lifespan: growing up, adult/child relationships, the search for independence v dependency, leaving home, empty nest, and of course the marital and parental dynamics within the family unit."

Why is it difficult for some parents to trust rather than control their teen?
"Trust is a two way street. There are few easy guidelines that offer structure and boundaries for parenting. Parents repeat early models or gravitate towards opposing perspectives. For example, if parental trust did not exist in a parent's teens years, it may raise its feared, loathsome head again in another generation of teen. Teens live within a family system. That system either teaches belonging, and inclusion or exclusion. Lack of inclusion breeds anger, resentment, and misbehavior. These outbursts of misbehavior result in cycling of further parental control and lack of trust."

"In our fast-paced technological society, wants and needs often get confused and parents get caught up focusing on achievement and the acquisition of material goods rather than the child's emotional stability. Fewer parents are home tending the emotional needs of their developing family. The result is erosion of parental figures that offer teens a sense of identity and self-worth. Things are used to control behavior. The teen's primary need is to belong within the family. Things aren't appropriate substitutes for belonging. They offer little feedback to the teen's value within the family. Without that sense of belonging, the emotionally hungry child becomes a teen needing immediate gratification that grows into a psuedo-mature adult without a sense of identity. The divine, true self is drowned in a "sea of things," led astray by the pied piper god of material goods."

What type of impact can a controlling parent have on their relationship with their teen?
"This is a struggle to win power over another. There is no winner when arguments are based on hurt and a sense of inadequacy. It is an ineffective role model that reinforces helplessness, violence, and even bullying. These are top dog, under dog positions leading to acting-in or acting-out behaviors: discouragement, withdrawal, and lack of real communication, or resentment, angry outbursts, drugs, and even addictions. Mutual respect, reciprocity, and cooperation, not competition, gives the teen the emotional attention he/she needs."

What can a parent do to better trust their teen rather than control their teen?
"Love may be given unconditionally but children and teens need to earn trust. Teach the teen through parental example, how to manifest his/her own potential. Spend life-time helping the teen validate his/her own sense of self worth through encouragement. "I am proud of you," sets a silent controlling tone because the teen learns he/she must meet parental expectations to be loved. Love then is conditional. They feel judged by what they do and what they achieved, rather than who they are. When parental needs are left unmet, it also breeds discouragement and anger. The teen silently learns his/her value is only as an extension of the parent. However, "You must be proud of yourself" encourages the teen's actions, builds sense of self-worth, and earns trust within the family."

What last advice do you have for a parent who tends to control their teen rather than trust their teen?
"Are you, as a parent, feeling inadequate in this arena? Perhaps you are you a parent who needs to understand the value and security of appropriate boundaries v control? Boundaries offer your teen needed structure that defines you from me: physical, emotional, and even mental. It allows the teen to explore his/her own thinking, and define a self within the family structure without having to rebel. Please look at your boundaries and your need to control versus the teens need to belong and feel trusted. Then look cooperatively for ways to build that trust together."