How I’m Building Trust with My Teenage Daughters

Navigating a sustained connection with my teenage girls is proving to be more challenging than I anticipated! I am being led to dig a little deeper into my understanding of relationships, boundaries and communication — all areas I have formally and casually studied. In this messy time, I have felt a wide range of emotions and make sense of it all by telling myself things from “this is a natural part of their development and the evolution of our relationship” to “I am doing something completely wrong.” In short, I have often found myself bewildered, but I do find comfort in knowing that I am not alone as I learn that this is a common experience of mothers of teenage girls.

I have been reading Brené Brown’s new book, “Braving the Wilderness,” and in these powerful pages, she references a concept from her previous work: BRAVING as an acronym for building trust. It hit me: Have I been intentional about building trust with my children? Realizing that trust is foundational for authentic connection and that I have applied this to relationships with others, I was struck by the possible meaningful application of BRAVING to my girls.

BOUNDARIES – You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no. I respect that their friends are providing safe space for sharing and do not expect that they share the same level of information with me.

RELIABILITY – You do what you say you’ll do. This means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so you don’t overpromise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities. “I realize that you have asked me a few times for some new socks and leggings. I am not able to get those today, but I can go Friday.” (Then I make that a priority for Friday!)

ACCOUNTABILITY – You own your mistakes, apologize and make amends. “It was wrong of me to assume that you weren’t telling me the truth; I should have asked more probing questions to more fully understand what was going on.”

VAULT – You don’t share information about experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept and that you’re not sharing any information about other people that should be confidential. I try not to share confidential information that one daughter told me with another daughter.

INTEGRITY – You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them. “As you know, one of my values is authentic connection. I am concerned about the amount of time you are spending in your room and the impact that this is having on our connection. Can we talk more about this?”

NONJUDGMENT – I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment. “Please be thoughtful about what you are choosing to wear on Thanksgiving, and please consider that this is a special occasion with extended family. Do you have something to wear that you feel comfortable with?”

GENEROSITY – You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others. “I appreciate that you have so much energy and enthusiasm for spending time with friends.”

According to Brené’s research, these are fundamental aspects of building and maintaining trust with others — trust is built in small moments, over time. As I’ve assessed these concepts and looked honestly at how I am doing in building trust, I’ve discovered that I certainly have some work to do, and I am inspired to help these young adults learn the importance of building trust and cultivating authentic connections with others.

Interested in registering your middle-school girl for our Heart & Sole program? Contact your local council today! Or, if you want to form an even closer bond with your daughters, volunteer as a coach.

Love what you read? Sign up to receive our emails! Get tips, advice, inspiration
and remarkable stories of women and girls fueling their limitless potential.
* Required