Watching kids grow older is bittersweet at almost every turn for mothers. We love the “newborn scrunch,” but we’re so happy when they sleep through the night. We’re sad when they begin to walk, but happy that means they’ll be out of diapers in a year or two. Moms are thrilled when children can help do things like bring small items from another room or feed themselves without food spilling all over the place. But that makes us sad at the same time because we realize our babies aren’t babies anymore. Yes, motherhood is the land of contradictions! But it’s also the most rewarding thing in the world. We get to birth little humans and teach them to put good out into the world. Getting to that place is more than what many of us could have ever imagined. Being able to build trust, from child to parent and parent to child, is a big part of that. Now, no one can teach you how to do that with your young child. It’s something you learn and experience step by step.
Trust And Your Little Ones
One of the most important life lessons I’ve taught my sons is the importance of trust in our relationship. Teaching young kids what trust is can be a bit of a challenge, but it is necessary nonetheless. Trust lessons for us began with a mantra I call “more manners, more freedom.” My sons first learned the value of manners and being kind, both inside and outside our home, as toddlers. They also quickly learned the rewarding results of independence and freedom that follow, if they exhibited said manners and kindness. The ulterior reward, the boys learned as they grew, was a stronger confidence in them, which deepened their sense of pride and self-esteem. Trust, a by-product of showing manners and goodwill toward others, became a building block upon which we all began developing a strong relationship with each other.
Trust And The World
Wanting to build trust with my kids is one thing. The reality of building trust with them in this wacky world we live in is something altogether different! And therein lies one of the hardest parts about trust when it comes to young kids. We parents know how crazy everything is outside of the homes we raise our children in. Kids most likely have no clue about the real dangers that lie ahead of them. There’s oftentimes a huge disconnect between what we know the world to be and what our children want it to be: harmless and carefree. My young sons, for the life of me, could not understand why I did not allow them to roam around the streets of Venice Beach as freely as they did when we traveled to Spain. Walking ahead of me, to them, was the same thing in both places. I knew it certainly was not.
Trust will undoubtedly mean there will be difficult conversations, both for the kids and us parents. I never want to instill fear in my kids. Ever. But I do want them to be aware of the not-nice people and situations that exist throughout the world we live in. Going to a public bathroom may seem like an ordinary thing to my boys. But when I know they could encounter predators or drug paraphernalia with such a simple visit, it becomes something more. I wish I knew the right way to define the exact line between sheltering our kids and teaching them some of the harsh realities of our world. That answer will vary by situation and parental relationship. But, it will most certainly require a foundation of trust for everyone involved.
The Trust Tree
One way that I’ve been able to build trust with my kids is a concept we call the Trust Tree. It’s a verbal test/commitment used to allow my sons to perform an activity and, if done successfully, build trust with me that grows like a tree. It’s simple but effective!
Recently at one of our favorite staycation resorts, my oldest son quietly announced to me, “Trust tree.” That was my cue to listen to his proposition, set some parameters around the request, and, if granted, see if he followed through with all that I asked. He asked if he could go the lobby by himself to get something in particular. I asked him how long he thought it would take him and reviewed some of our family safety rules. Once I got satisfactory answers from him, I let him go to the lobby to retrieve the item. He came back in less time than he anticipated, and he followed the set rules. He obtained what he went to get, and he honored the parameters. But he also earned more of my trust and showed maturity. It was a small act, really. But bigger opportunities will arise for him to build trust, and I will know I can trust him to do the right thing based on the trust tree he has grown with me!
But Can Mom Trust Herself?
The final piece of this trust puzzle—and we moms will deal with this—is knowing how to build a trust tree for and within ourselves. There are so many lessons we parents want to instill in our kids. It will literally take a lifetime to know if we did it right. As much as possible we want to believe we raised confident, intelligent, aware, cautious and brave humans who will make significant contributions to the world with integrity and compassion. All of those ideals start with and are rooted in…trust. Know that you are doing your best with your little ones when you are intentional with how you build trust with them. Their future will prove the same, so start growing your trust tree with them—and yourself—today.