SparkNotes Blog

How to Convince Your Parents That You Are Responsible

As the great Will Smith opined, parents just don’t understand. Still, parents tend to control your life—or at least the purse strings, which in turn controls your life. Parents want a variety of things from us, but they mostly want to trust us.

Easier said than done.

Still, there are a few ways to get your parents to think you’re a responsible almost-adult who can do things, such as things with money, or things that are important to you. You do so by instilling confidence in them.

Step 1. Don’t argue with them. Parents can be super annoying, but have you noticed that adults, other than those on reality shows, don’t do much fighting or yelling? That’s because they know how to pick their battles. Take a page from a mature adult, and even when you want to scream YOU’RE WRONG YOU’RE WRONG YOU’RE WRONG, just don’t.

Step 2. Don’t remind them they can’t actually control you. One of our favorite teenage comebacks was a combination of “make me” and “you can’t make me.” A challenge. A threat. A completely stupid waste of time. True, now that you’re pretty much the same size, your mom can’t literally drag you to the dentist or your little brother’s baseball game. But you’re just going to “make” her punish you further if you resist the little things she asks you to do. And that’s going to “make” your life a lot worse.

Step 3. Do something adult-y and unexpected. Pick up after a party. Offer to grab fresh bread from the grocery store. Ask your dad how his day was. These are all things that normal adults do, but teenagers seem to forget sometimes.

Step 4. Listen. If your mom is totally stressing about some really boring-sounding work project, or your little sister is really excited for some book (or math?) presentation at school tomorrow—ask about it the next day. Following up and showing you care can be kind of time-consuming, but it’s a perfectly nice and adult thing to do.

Step 5. Follow their rules. For a while, at least. If your dad wants to impose a curfew, go along with it. When you show them that you can come home by 11 p.m. and nothing bad happens, chances are they’ll extend it to midnight or eventually remove it altogether. You just have to earn your parents’ trust first.

Trust me, I started out with no curfew because I was a pretty good kid. Then I started staying out until 3 a.m. and totally lost my parents’ trust. And then I got a midnight curfew. And it sucked.

Step 6. Keep your cool. Parents don’t always have your best interests in mind, and sometimes they’re completely unreasonable. When this happens, try to stay as calm as possible. Do whatever works for you—take a deep breath before talking, count to 5, whatever—and try to rationally state your point of view.

“YOU’RE BEING SOOO UNFAIR” is a lot less convincing than “I thought I would make it home in time for dinner. Megan asked me for a ride, and she gave me a ride last week, so I wanted to help her out. I should have called and I will call next time.”

Step 7. Keep your promises. Adults aren’t great at this either, but try as hard as you can to keep your promises. That means: don’t drop out of things your parents have to explain, definitely do call next time you’re going to be late for dinner, and figure out what day you’re supposed to take the SATs. Simply do whatever you promised your parents you would do. It might not be easy, but it is simple.

What do you do to earn your parents’ trust? What have you done to lose it?