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How to Trust Your Children

Blog

How to Trust Your Children

Rebecca Brown Wright

parent and child - trust

"Just trust me!"

If only it were that simple. We all know how easily trust can be broken in relationships. When it comes to the parent/child relationship, us parents have a hard time stepping back and trusting our children to make the right decisions.

After all, wasn't it just yesterday that you walked in and caught your little dear pushing a chair over to the counter so she could reach a cookie? And didn't you hear a distinct smack just moments ago, but your child is swearing he didn't hit his brother?

It's natural for parents to struggle with trusting their children. Yet, children need our trust from the get-go.

Children resist with all their might when they think we are against them—when we criticize, blame, threaten, lecture—when they don’t trust that we understand and accept them. To find their way, they need to trust us to trust them.
— Bonnie Harris, Connective Parenting

They know the rules, but they're also growing and developing and learning who they are. Breaking the rules sometimes becomes part of the process of growing up. How, then, can we let our kids grow and flourish into who they're meant to become... if we can't always trust them?

Practice Trusting

father child - trust

Listening to your child goes a long way. Just listen when they try to tell you something. This will clue you into their rhythms and communication styles. You'll be able to easily sense sincerity. But the bigger benefit from listening? Your child will want to talk to you. She'll want to tell you the truth -- because she'll know you're there to listen.

Be Realistic

When your child lies -- and it's going to happen -- don't freak out and worry that this means he's going to end up in jail for the rest of his life. Trust is a process. Your child will have to break a little trust here and there, and then gain from the experience of earning it back. Be patient and realistic when trust is broken.

Don't Take it Personally

Remember -- our kids are learning. If your child tells a lie, it doesn't mean you're a bad parent. Separate your worth from your child's behavior. You'll be able to handle the situation with a lot more clarity that way.

Have Discussions About Trust

Just like we teach about stranger danger, inappropriate touching, drugs, and bullying, we should be having rotating discussions about trust. Honesty is something that needs to be taught, and you can teach that calmly when it's simply a regular part of your family's dialogue.

Take a Breather

When you discover your child has broken trust, the worst thing you can do is blow up and start issuing punishments. This will only make your child fear you and withdraw from any knowledge you have to impart.

Instead, you need to take a step back and think about how you're going to handle the situation. Say, "I'm disappointed that you were dishonest with me. I need to take a minute and think about how to handle the situation. I would like you to think about how serious it is that you broke my trust." Then step away for a short time to cool off. When you come back, speak calmly.

Give a Fair Consequence

If your consequence is unfairly harsh, your child will be resentful towards you and will learn nothing. Find a consequence that teaches, rather than simply punishes. 

Make Amends

Your child needs the opportunity to make amends once a trust has been broken. For example, if something was damaged, he should pay for repairs. You can help your child make a clear plan to avoid the same mistake again. He can apologize to whoever has been wronged.

Give Hope

It's important to make clear to your child that it's going to be difficult for you to trust her in the future. But don't say definitive things like, "I'll never be able to trust you again." What's the point in your child trying, if you've already said there's no hope? Instead, say, "It's going to be hard for me to trust you after this, but I know that as you do X, Y, and Z, my trust will grow again. I'm looking forward to that, and I know you can do it."

Teach Your Child How to Be Trustworthy

What does it take to be trustworthy? Your child may not know or understand this. Some things that indicate a person is trustworthy are:

  • Following through on promises
  • Finishing jobs
  • Continuing to do what was promised, even when he'd rather do something else
  • Not over-promising
  • Avoiding being pressured by friends
  • Being aware of distractions

These are sophisticated skills your child will develop over time, but you can help her by setting her up for success.

Brili helps parents teach responsibility and independence through a routines system children actually want to do. You can expect your child to begin her routines, and then take a step back while Brili guides her to completion. When you're used to hounding your child to get dressed, brush teeth, get homework done, and more, it can be difficult to take a step back and trust her to do it on her own.

With Brili, she'll get the prompts she needs to remember –and eventually learn– her daily responsibilities. Those same prompts and real-time monitoring can also remind you to check in to see everything is getting done so you can gradually build trust and avoid potentially stressful last-minute surprises.

Not only will she feel good about her accomplishments, she'll be learning how to follow through -- and you'll have more reason to trust her.