How to build a trusting relationship with your children
What is trust and why is it important?
Oxford Languages defines trust as a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” Trust is the foundation upon which all healthy relationships are built. It is a key enabler for parents, teachers, and mentors to bridge the communication gap and give our children a voice. With time, a trusting relationship instills confidence, opens the lines of communication, and creates a safe place for our children. Though it may seem complex, it is achievable. You can build a trusting relationship with your child(ren)!
Example of trust gone right
Last year, my family and I celebrated my oldest daughter’s birthday at a trampoline park. My wife and I love trampoline parks because they are fun for the entire family, and we are not on the hook for the after-party cleanup! During this trip, my son–who is enamored by ninja warriors–decided to take on the Warped Wall obstacle. For those who do not know what a Warped Wall is, it is “much like the famous half-pipe used for extreme sport competitions, the Warped Wall is a curved platform used as the last obstacle in Ninja Warrior courses. This obstacle is the most challenging – being that to successfully climb this smooth ramp, a running start would be ideal.”
At the trampoline park, there is a unique method to dismount the Warped Wall obstacle; you must slide down a vertical pole approximately three feet away. I observed several children successfully navigate the obstacle only to become intimidated by the distance between the Warped Wall and the dismount pole. My son soon became one of those children.
After a couple of tries, my son successfully made it to the top! There was only one problem; he too had underestimated the distance between the Warped Wall and the dismount pole. I instinctively told him, “alright son, grab that pole and slide down.” I completely overlooked the fact that he was clearly stuck–afraid he would injure himself if he attempted to come down. I tried numerous ways to coach him on how to safely dismount to no avail. After about two minutes of rough parenting, I finally said, “just jump! I will catch you.”
Surprisingly, he was more receptive to this idea. “Are you sure?” He responded. “Yes. Trust me.” I reaffirmed. He finally grabbed the pole and safely dismounted.
In retrospect, I probably said over one hundred words in that long two minutes, but “trust me” were the only two words I needed. My son’s trust in me caused his fears to subside and his confidence to increase. The powerful trust that encouraged my son to safely dismount was not built at that moment, but it was critical to that moment. Here are things I have implemented in my home to help build a trusting relationship that enables moments like these:
Five Tips To Build a Trusting Relationship:
Be who you are, not who you think others want you to be. On one hand, you do not want to broadcast every intricate detail of your personal and professional life. On the other hand, you do not want to give the perception that you are perfect. If you give that perception, you will inevitably build a tower of high expectations on a foundation of false hopes. Then, when you make a mistake, that foundation will shift and cause the tower to collapse. Be comfortable with the person in the mirror–that is who your children want/need you to be.
You need to have clear, open, and frequent communication with your children. They should never be surprised by your expectations or thoughts about them. Be completely honest by telling them how their unique skills and characteristics contribute to your household’s or classroom’s success. Do not be afraid to show emotion as you lather them in positive affirmations, and do your best to limit or completely eliminate your negative emotions while correcting them. Being transparent exposes your true motives, so let your children know you have their best interests at heart and prove it through your consistent actions. Remember, children are always watching; thus, they are consistently assessing whether your actions align with your words. This can be summarized by the old adage, “more is caught than taught.”
According to Oxford Languages, integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” The key word is honesty. You should strive for your actions to be consistently honest and your decisions to be morally sound regardless of the circumstance. Again, your children are always watching! You cannot convince your children that you are truly authentic and transparent when your actions wreak of dishonesty and deceit. They would accurately assume your lack of integrity perforates every single aspect of your life–including your relationship with them. Be honest, make morally sound decisions, and consistently demonstrate integrity.
Here’s a general rule of thumb: whatever you do, follow through. Follow through on your promises, rewards, and discipline. Be organized, maintain structure, and be consistent with who you are (authentic), what you do (transparent), and how you do it (integrity). Be physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually present for your children. Always remember this: empty promises lead to shallow and untrustworthy relationships.
Some say, “knowledge is power,” but I believe applied knowledge is power! Nobody wants to follow a clueless leader, so we have to be continuous learners who simultaneously apply what we learn. Our children are counting on us to constantly learn more and refine our parenting and mentoring skills. Learn, grow, and lead.
Remembering and applying these five tips will undoubtedly enhance your relationship with your children and restore the power to those two words we discussed earlier: “trust me.”