7 Simple Ways to Build Trust With Your Child
I believe there are two major components to building trust: communication and consistency. Children will learn to trust us based on what we repeatedly communicate to them through both our words and actions, so it is important to start thinking about what our actions are saying as early as possible. Creating a relationship based on trust with your child will help them feel more safe, secure, confident, and loved–and what mother doesn’t want that for her child?! If you are unsure of how you can start to build trust with your child, you are in the right place!
Do What You Say
One of the first things that come to mind when I hear the word “trust” is communication in relationships. Trusting someone means clear and honest communication. You can’t be lying, keeping secrets, or contradicting yourself when you are trying to build trust in a relationship, and even the littlest of humans learn from these kinds of interactions. Here are some ways that you can use honest communication to build trust with your child:
Keep Your Promises
This is probably the most obvious way to build trust with your child. They will certainly remember when you promise something and then don’t follow through–even if you yourself have forgotten all about it. Make it a point to only tell your child you are going to do something that you actually plan to do, and be clear about it. Vague statements (in your mind) can hold a lot of weight for your child. Write it down if you have to. If something comes up to prevent you from keeping your word, just be honest with your child about it. They will learn an important lesson in trust either way!
Follow Through With Discipline
This may seem contradictory, but let it be a lesson that the process of building trust isn’t always going to feel warm and fuzzy. Sometimes, it is going to look like you being the parent when your child doesn’t like it. That is good. Your child may not understand it at the time, but this is a gift that they will carry into adulthood. When your child knows that they can trust you to follow through on your word, no matter how much they push you or test you, they end up feeling secure in the relationship. As they grow older and look back on their childhood, they will be able to see this as a clear sign of your love and appreciate that you cared enough to follow through even when it was difficult (and they will probably wonder how you did it when they have children of their own).
Walk the Talk
Communication isn’t always verbal. That is why the famous quote, “Do as I say, not as I do,” holds so much contradiction. Children are going to learn more about whether or not they can trust you by watching your behaviors. If they repeatedly hear you telling them something, but see you doing the opposite, they are not going to be sure what they should believe. Model good behavior. Show your child that they can trust what you are telling them to do by doing it yourself. When your words match your actions, you will be able to build trust with your child because they won’t be constantly questioning which part of you to believe. We are currently working on our language over here. I have toned it down a TON the last few years–I used to curse like a sailor. As I grew closer in my relationship with God, I have gotten a lot better, but still struggle from time to time. At my dismay, my toddler has started picking up on some of my frustrated banter. Now we are both working on our language together, because I can’t tell him that those aren’t nice words while I myself still use them. That either shows him that A) I don’t follow my own rules, or B) I purposely choose words that aren’t nice to use. I don’t want him believing either of those things to be true, so I am choosing to build trust by making sure my words and actions are aligned.
Another great way to build trust with your child is through consistency. This is important for children from when they are born until they are ready to go off on their own. Your child will learn exactly what to expect from you and they will know the roles each of you are supposed to play. They can trust that you are the parent and that you are always there taking care of them and meeting their needs (and as they grow, they will be confident they can do those things themselves).
I’m sure that one of the first things you read as a pregnant woman was how important it was to get your newborn on a schedule (LOL). This is somewhat the direction I am going, but not to an extreme. Introducing a general routine with your child helps build trust because they learn that they can expect certain things from you each day. They know that you will pray with them in the morning and read a book with them before bed, and consistency makes even those little things very powerful. For older children, maybe it is making them a snack after school, or reviewing their homework… Whatever you choose, it is a daily sign that you are committed and they can trust that you are in this together. Showing up for the little things allows them to trust that you will show up for the big things, too.
Implement Relevant Consequences
This is something that I struggle with sometimes, especially in the terrible two phase of life. Allowing for natural consequences, or creating consequences, that are relevant to your child’s behavior is going to help you build trust with your child because there is an element of predictability there. An example of a relevant consequence is something like removing a toy your child won’t stop throwing, or separating your child if they are biting or hitting , rather than taking away their screen time or dessert for those same behaviors. This can be really hard when you are in the moment and can’t think of relevant consequences for the behavior, or your child isn’t responding to any of the consequences you attempt to implement. Don’t be too hard on yourself! I really like the book No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury for help in this area. Even though the consequences themselves may be different and not necessarily “predictable” in every circumstance, and your child may not even be aware of this trust building dynamic, it eliminates the confusion that comes with random consequences. Your child will not have to wonder whether your actions are related to theirs or not when it is clear that the two actions are related. They will also come to learn that if they do xyz, this is what happens, every time. That consistency is something they can trust.
Clear and specific boundaries teach children which behaviors are appropriate and which are not. This helps them learn about their roles (within their families as well as in other areas of life), and allows them to understand what their responsibilities are in relation to yours as the parent. Boundaries allow your child to trust that you will fulfill your responsibilities as the parent and step in when the situation is too much for the child to appropriately deal with on his/her own. Being consistent in enforcing these boundaries (i.e. “you are the child and this is where the line is between your responsibilities and mine”) also helps build trust in the same way that following trough with discipline does, as mentioned above.
Love Them Consistently
I was recently engaged in a conversation about children saying “I hate you” in a Facebook thread. My son picked this up from one of his friends and has been trying to get some attention by repeating it even though we are clear that we don’t like it (and we do not say it ourselves). It is important to me that I respond with “I love you.” Offering some alternate phrases to help him express his feelings is helpful as well, but for the context I’m going with here we will choose “I love you.” Our children go through many phases throughout their lives where they feel the need to test our unconditional love. They uses phrases like “I hate you” to ask deeper questions: Will you hate me if I hate you? Do you still love me even when I act out or hurt your feelings? Use these opportunities to build trust with your child by saying (and showing) that your love is not going away!
Ways You Already Build Trust With Your Child
If you are reading this and thinking that you are seriously failing as a mom, please, don’t! Every single day you are doing little things that build trust with your child. Simply by taking care of them daily–feeding them, bathing them, brushing their teeth and hair, etc.–they are learning that you are committed to them and that they can depend on you. Just showing up on a daily basis and doing the things that we moms do is having an amazing impact on your relationship with your child. Way to go mommy!! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, so drop a comment below or shoot me an email!