“One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. ‘Oh, no,’ I said, ‘Disneyland burned down.’ He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.” – Jack Handey
My children trust me. While the quote above is funny, it’s a prime example of what not to do as a responsible parent. It matters to me that when I say “don’t move,” they freeze instantly… not because it’s absolutely hilarious when they’re running mid-stride, but because it might save their lives one day when some car comes careening through a parking lot. It matters to me that my kids don’t have to be anxious or wonder if I’ll be on time when I tell them I’ll pick them up from school. Most importantly, it matters that when I discipline them they understand it’s because I love them more than life itself. My children are responsive to me because they trust me.
If you’re new to the whole parenting game, here are 3 Do’s and 3 Don’ts – Six simple things I do to win my children’s complete trust. Some are easy, some are difficult, but all are important!
Things NOT to do:
1. Never make promises that you don’t intend to keep. Keeping promises are a matter of life and death to a child’s soul. Don’t ever assume they’re mature enough to understand why you had to change your mind. They may learn to adjust to the disappointment, but their ability to take you at your word will erode quickly. I know life happens and we will all eventually fail, but don’t let it be because you couldn’t be bothered or because convenience demanded it.
2. Never let them see you ignore wrong-doing. If you have multiple children, never ever let them see you allow injustice in your home. Parents, if little Suzy ever hits you or breaks something that doesn’t belong to her out of frustration, every sibling in the house is watching to see what happens next. If you choose to let it go unaddressed, those watching may have difficulties learning to expect you to defend them if they ever feel threatened or wronged.
3. Never speak negatively of the other parent. I can’t stress this one enough. For all intents and purposes, parents, you are your children’s foundation – their rock. Even if you are single, unless your ex is abusive or unhealthy to be around, don’t let the young ones hear you speak ill of their other parent. It may reflect more poorly on you than you realize. From a young age, your children are engineered to see you as one governing force rather than two separate people. Any weakness you expose in your mate could easily become a mark against parenthood in general.
Things TO Do:
1. Apologize when you are wrong. Whenever I realize that I’ve been wrong, I confess it to them. Every. Single. Time. Treat them like an adult in that regard. It doesn’t weaken their opinion of you. It reinforces the understanding that you are self-correcting and a safe person to be around. Most of the time they won’t appear to even care that you made a mistake, but they’ll take note that you’re honest with them and that they matter enough to address it.
2. Listen to them, even if what they’re saying is trivial: This quote says it all, “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” – Catherine M. Wallace
3. Most importantly, create boundaries and train your children to live within them. The fastest way to lose a child’s trust is to not establish your expectations and show them that you do it because you love them. Being indifferent to your kids’ behavior tends to communicate that you are indifferent to their safety. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that children long to be corrected and given boundaries. It inevitably gives them a sense of stability and freedom and they will learn to love instruction. Most of the time, children push boundaries not because they want more than they have, but because they need to know your reaction will be one that governs and protects rather than one that turns them over to lawlessness.
Let me know what you think in the comments below! Have you learned any techniques that could help others that are reading? Have you ever broken your children’s trust? How did it happen?
TL; DR – Be consistent, be just, be gentle, be humble, listen to them and always give your child safe boundaries to roam free in. Doing these things will establish a foundation of trust that won’t be easily shaken.