Trust is developed not earned

One of the more difficult concepts when raising children is the concept of trusting our children. It doesn’t really come easy, does it? We’ve had to do everything for our children from infancy, we had to trust our own judgement and we all know how under developed a child’s ability to think rationally is. We have all done the “Have you brushed your teeth? Come here let me check” mantra. We have to do it, because they are still learning, easily distracted and some kids just really hate doing certain tasks, like brushing teeth. So we as parents have to check them.

Photo credit: Kwhame Photography

The problem is, that our children start with a deficit of trust from parents, at least that is how they experience and view it. We do not take them at their word from the get go. I am fully aware that there is the belief that trust is earned and not just given, and we want our children to earn our trust. Well what if today we challenged that belief? What if from today you give trust to your child from the get go? No, I am not saying don’t check up on things as they learn how to do certain tasks, what I am saying is, always give them the benefit of trust until proven otherwise.

“Oh, but that is not how life works.” I hear you say. However it is how life works in reality. Think about it in these adult terms: You are looking for a job. You send your CV to a company. The person who reads your CV has to trust that what you wrote on your CV is in fact correct. For them to actually want to do a check on your qualifications and experience, they first had to trust the information you gave them. They do the checks – well some do, some don’t, you never know – if you were truthful, the checks will confirm their trust in the information you gave them is correct. Now you finally earned some more trust. However it started with you trusting that they will look at your CV and them trusting the information given. That small step of trust sets the foundation to earn further trust.

Trust is usually shown in the small things we do. If we feel the need to check up on our children to see if they followed through on something then either we thrust responsibility upon them before they were ready, or, we have unresolved trust issues of our own. Yes, I said it!

The last mentioned, heralds the need for deep introspection, it goes to how you were raised. Did your parents patiently show through how they treated you that they trust you or was your childhood littered with phrases like, “Let me check” or “Ï trust you, but not your friends or the outside world”. The problem with these phrases, as innocent as they may seem, is it always reflects back to the idea that you are not trustworthy and the mistakes you have made count against you. “Let me check” says: I do not take you by your word, you have let me down before, so why should I believe you now? I don’t trust your ability to be honest, thorough or capable. I know, when they are young, they experiment with lies and boundaries, and it never stops until the day we die. I also know they need support while spreading their wings, developing their independence and decision making skills. Starting from the foundation of trust, it is easier to guide them and help them manage the journey.

“I trust you, but…” the ‘but’ nullifies the trust and the belief that you are trusted. If you don’t trust my friends, then you don’t trust my ability to make valuable friends and build positive relationships. If you don’t trust the world, then you don’t trust that I will be able to care for myself in this world. That means you feel I cannot be trusted to make good choices when you are not around. This typically happens in the teenage years. Yes, I know, we don’t really trust the world or that weird friend our kid brought home. Our child’s ability to make good choices is not fully developed yet, so of course the trust is difficult.

They are our kids and we mean well. We want to set them up for success. How do we encourage independence, honesty and good decision making, if we do not set up boundaries and check up on them?

Trust, like connection works with a bank account. When baby is born, we don’t need to earn their trust. They trust implicitly that we will meet their needs. They trust us to listen to them and protect them and love them. We trust them too, to let us know when they need something, whether by cooing, looking at us, making small gestures or even crying. The relationship starts with trust.

In infancy our relationship with our children either deposits trust into the account or withdraws trust from the trust account. Every time baby signals their need and we respond, it deposits not just connection but trust into the bank. When we miss a cue, we withdraw from both accounts. In infancy, a healthy relationship between parent and child creates a positive relational bank account in connection and trust.

After infancy, we withdraw often from this bank account. When baby starts to walk and explore, but instead of trusting them to be able to learn how to trust their own body, we keep telling them how to do it. We keep on stepping in and thereby interfering in the learning curve. The more we helicopter their movements – I am not saying let them tumble down head first down a flight of stairs – the more we create a deficit in the bank of trust. There is a difference between standing close by and waiting to catch them when they fall, and providing supportive commentary like “I see your hands need a place to hold onto” and holding on to their bodies as they try to manage climbing down the stairs. In the first scenario, we trust that they will find a safe way to climb the stairs, while we show them they can trust us to catch them if they stumble or fall. But with the second scenario we hinder them learning to trust their own bodies and skills. Do they fall and get hurt, yes they do, however allowing them to fall and get hurt their brain learns how their bodies feel when off balance. They learn to trust themselves.

At certain ages we hand over specific reigns of responsibility to our children. We stop brushing their teeth and they start doing it themselves. We stop feeding them and they start feeding themselves. There is still a learning curve involved here. Yes, you have been brushing your child’s teeth for 2 years, we would hope they have learned by now how to do it properly. They did not! They learn through doing. For the next two to three years, brush teeth side by side, prompting the next place or step in the routine. Eventually, you will brush side by side and you will see them brushing every tooth the way they learned how to. Now you can slowly extract yourself from their tooth brushing process. You remind them that it is time to brush teeth and send them off to do so. How do you know if they did it? Initially you can walk with them to the bathroom and see them off at the sink. Over time, you see them off at the door and finally you reach the point where you don’t walk with them. It is a gradual process and you can follow your child’s lead, they will show you and tell you to let them be, when they are ready. Never ask them to show you if they brushed their teeth. You will soon enough discover if they did not. That goodbye hug or kiss will tell you if they did not. Don’t scold them when you smell the stinky breath. Just hug and whisper, “I can smell your teeth are not brushed, quickly go and do it please.” and leave it there. If there is no time or the situation does not allow for going back and brushing, when they are younger than 8, have some breath freshener with you, just to help them out until there is time to brush teeth. If they are older, natural consequences is the way to go.

Brushing teeth is just a small example of how to maintain and build on the trust relationship. We need to apply this to all things they do, learn and have a responsibility for.

Steps for checking whilst keeping the trust relationship in the positive:

1 – Do it for the child

2 – Let the child do it with you

3 – Slowly step aside and give them space to do it on their own

4 – Be their back up, remember they are still learning this thing called responsibility – You are always a team

5 – Ask if they did what they needed to do, believe their answers

6 – If they did not do what they needed to do, and it isn’t life threatening, let them live out the consequences of their actions

7 – NEVER SAY – Let me check.

8 – If they have not taken proper responsibility for something go back one step and support them without condemnation i.e. let’s brush our teeth together today. That way you give them support without stating that you don’t trust them.

There is no incentive for a child to be honest if we constantly check up on them after they have stated that they have completed a task. There is only incentive for honesty if they get positive reinforcement and support when they make mistakes. Protecting our children from the consequences of their choices and actions while they are still learning responsibility, teaches them nothing. Punishing them for not doing what they said they did, will just increase the likelihood that they will rather do it behind our backs and develop better skills at being sneaky.

You can have a conversation about honesty and trust with your child. Have these conversations when you are calm and not angry. You can say things like “I am feeling disappointed that you did not brush your teeth like you said you did. Honesty and trust is important for us to be able to function as a family. I want to be able to trust you. So let us find a solution together to get your teeth brushed in the morning.”

This invites your child into a conversation and it will be a clear indicator of whether you have thrust a responsibility onto your child, before they were ready to bear it. Remember, each child is different and even though there are all these guidelines of at what age a child ‘should’ be able to take proper responsibility for a task, not every child will be ready at that age and your child is not failing if they need support for a little bit longer than others.

C3 Parenting believes in setting parents and children up for success. We offer parenting courses and workshops. Click here to find out more

Like and follow us on Facebook Click here

 8,488 total views

I want my child to back chat and here is why you should too…

Often I see parents feeling undone by their children talking back, or back chatting, as it is called. It is tiring and frustrating and it feels like you are speaking to a wall. It makes us as parents feel like we are surely failing and that our kids are out to get us, like they don’t care in the slightest what we say. They tell us what they want, that they will and they cry. It can be very overwhelming if we as parents focus on getting the point across and then engage in a power struggle.

I want my children to backchat, I want them to challenge everything I say. I want them to dissect and find the loopholes in a struggle of ideas, I want them to share what they are thinking. In short I want them to learn to think and how to negotiate. I want them to develop their integrity and exercise their choices and ability to change their minds when they have access to new information.

The reality is our kids mirror what they see. So the way we engage with them back chatting teaches them how to deal with differences in opinion and how to engage with it. If we do not hear them out and listen to what they have to say or share how they think and why they think the way they do, especially when they are young, how will they ever be able to trust us to hear them when they are teenagers?

Children are deep thinkers, yet they don’t think like adults do, because their brains are still developing. Their thought process may be flawed, but more often than not they just need guidance and time to process what is being said. By engaging their back chatting and allowing them to share their thoughts, ideas and even disagreement, we create the space for our children to develop the skills to trust their own voice and instincts and rely on this well into adulthood.

The benefits for allowing and engaging back chatting, far outweighs the perceived rudeness and frustration. We usually become frustrated because of our own triggers (Learn how to recognise and handle your own triggers in Course 1 – Conscious, Creative, Connected Parenting click here for more information).

Most adults are raised with the idea that children’s voices or needs are secondary to those of the adults. We are raised to believe that the adult is always right, that the adult’s perspective is the only one that matters and that the adult has the monopoly on knowledge. But most of all we are taught that the adult can override and control anyone who is viewed as their inferior.

Many parents have asked me, but aren’t I then raising my child to be rude? No you are not. You are raising a child who will be able to manage adulthood with the right set of skills, as adulthood is all about negotiation, reflection, changing opinions when new information is presented and the ability to apply critical thinking to find creative solutions.

Benefits of back chatting:

1 – As a parent I learn where my child’s perspective lies and it opens up understanding of their point of view. This places us as parents in the position to know what and how our kids are thinking and where their reasoning skills are.

2 – Having an open discussion about what they think, opens up the opportunity to add value & understanding to their thoughts and for us as parents to reassess our point of view. It creates a relationship of trust, something parents and children really need to be able to rely on come the teenage years. It also teaches the child that their perspective is not only valued but also valid and respected.

3 – Humans have an innate desire to be heard and understood. By listening attentively to their perspectives and ideas, it navigates the emotional connection between ideas, needs and wants.

4 – It teaches their brains that they can change their opinion if they are presented with new information, without their integrity coming into question.

5 – It teaches them to become adults who will be open to learn and creatively problem solve within personal relationships and work relationships.

6 – It teaches them to be open to different perspectives and to be consciously aware that not everybody thinks the same way they do.

7 – It teaches them negotiation skills and the understanding, that in life any relationship is a two way street.

8 – It teaches them to internalise what they are being taught and police themselves, which develops independence and fosters a mind-set of good decision making.

How do you manage and engage back chatting productively

1 – Be sure you know why you are saying no or placing a boundary. Be sure that it is rational as you will have to explain your own thought process to you your child. “Because I said so” is never a good enough answer. It signals that you, yourself don’t really know why you are saying no and is thus just trying to control instead of guide.

2 – When the child is young, be ready for tears and possible screaming from their side. They are still very much emotionally regulated and not guided by rationality. Allow them to express their disappointment and work through their emotions.

3 – Keep the boundary while acknowledging their emotions and frustrations.

4 – When they have calmed down, ask for their input on the situation or boundary. Kids younger than 7 sometimes struggle with the blanket question “Why” so be specific. I.e.: “You said that you don’t want to clean your room. Is it because you did not want to do it by yourself, or that you prefer the mess?” A younger child may struggle to articulate how they feel or why, so try to break it down for them to understand. They will immediately be able to pinpoint why they don’t want to do something or why a boundary feels wrong, when they hear the wrong explanation come from the parent.

5 – Be open to their suggestions and contributions and be ready and open to change the decision when you have a better understanding of how they think – I have found that stating things like “I like the way you think.” opens our children up for conversation. Never tell a child that they did not or cannot think. They do and they can think, give them the space to develop those skills.

The conversation can then lead to one of five possible directions:

A – The parent asks for time to think about what the child has said and promises to get back them – in this situation the boundary stays intact until the parent has had time to think and process their feedback and how it affects the initial boundary.

B – With the new knowledge the boundary gets adjusted immediately – Be gracious about it, ie “Wow I like the way you thought about this. Let’s see if we can do it your way and see how it goes.” (There are many ways to get to the answer or solution, allowing our kids to try out their own is the best teacher they can have.)

C – The parent offers more information on the boundary, the information is accepted and they talk together about the best way the boundary can be implemented.

D – The child is not open or willing to accept new information. Parent accepts the viewpoint but keeps the boundary as is. The child will be upset and that is okay.

E – The child initially rejects the new information, takes time to think and then engages you on the boundary again.

6 – If it is a hard and fast boundary that cannot be moved, keep the boundary, while engaging with the content of their thoughts. Helping them to add new information to their thought process, without expecting them to immediately accept what you said. Be compassionate and allow them time to process the new information.

7 – If the tone of voice during this process is not acceptable, address it with kindness after they have processed their emotions. Engage with them on how to better engage with the process in future.

8 – Always be open to discussing the boundary again and again. A child who keeps coming back about a specific boundary is busy consolidating the information they have received, or they feel that they have not been heard and understood. So keep on talking it through even if you are tired of the discussion. We want our kids to internalise boundaries and tasks. We don’t want to police them, we want them to be able to govern themselves.

9 – Be honest and clear. Double check that you understand what your child is trying to communicate.

Throughout this process there are very specific don’ts.

The don’ts of back chatting:

1 – Never say, because I said so. It is a power play and it draws a line in the sand. It creates a combative situation and power struggle. It becomes a missed learning opportunity.

2 – Never tell a child that their thinking is wrong. Rather compliment their thinking and add more information with phrases like: “Have you thought about this? And add what you want them to take into consideration.

3 – Never tell a child that their emotions are insignificant and that they are not allowed to feel upset about a boundary. We all have negative feelings and are allowed to feel the way we do.

4 – Don’t rush to conclusions.

5 – Don’t be afraid of rethinking your own perspective.

6 – Don’t be afraid of apologising if you misunderstood.

In conclusion, back chatting is the early developmental stages of learning how to negotiate and problem solve. This process will only truly work if you as the parent are ready to be open for debate and apply proper communication skills.

Feel free to comment or ask more questions down below or follow us on Facebook. We also offer parenting courses and workshops where we offer more detail on this topic Click here for more information.

 1,170 total views