Trust: noun - reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence. (www.dictionary.reference.com)
It is our job to teach our children independence. We need that independence to go hand in hand with trust. We need to trust that our children will act within the set of boundaries that we have defined for them. We need to trust that our children will tell us the truth to the best of their ability when they are young and absolutely as they get older. We cannot let them go if we cannot trust them. How can we instill our relationship with them with trust and have them understand the simultaneous fragility and strength of a trusting relationship? First and above all else, we need to be trustworthy.
Am I intentionally teaching trust? A checklist:
- Keep every promise. Never make a promise if there is a chance of not keeping it.
- Keep their secrets unless someone is going to be harmed. No matter how cute you may find what they’ve told you, you breech their trust by sharing with friends and family.
- If you have to share a secret because someone will be harmed, tell them and explain. Don't just breach their confidence.
- Tell the truth. The truth always comes out – from your answer to “Is there really a tooth fairy?” to situations in your home. Statements may need to be age appropriate but they should also be true.
- Do what you say. Saying one thing but doing another sends confusing messages and shows that our statements have no meaning.
- Be emotionally steady, calm and predictable. If children can’t trust your reactions, they learn to be leery of everyone and to be less than forthcoming with you.
- Be a model of trustworthiness in your other relationships. Your children watch everything you do. Let them see you being a trustworthy person.
- Do not post about them on social media without asking their permission. Babies have no choice but children older than that do. So what if your 3 year old exerts some power and says no to your request? There was a time when social media didn’t exist and people didn’t know our every move. Don’t invade their privacy without permission.
- Don’t just say, “Trust me” in the face of their fears and frustration. If they are afraid or mad and you are ignoring that, they actually don’t have reason to trust you. Don’t disregard what they are feeling. Give an explanation as to why you may have a solution to the problem that is making them feel emotional.
- The consequences for acting in a less than trustworthy manner need to make sense. The consequences need to be a result of their action. If a child breaks something and lies about it, explain that you are disappointed and that you will be watching more carefully now. Perhaps the child won’t be allowed in a certain room out of your sight for a short time. If older children lie about where they’ve been, it would be appropriate to allow less independence for a short time. Time out, loss of property and other random punishments that don’t tie into “the crime” teach them nothing.
- Congratulate them when they are trustworthy. Praising the right behavior guides their actions.
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