Last updated on 2nd August, 2019 by Dr Shivangi
Long back I wrote about why children distrust their parents. I narrated the story of my friend who was unable to trust her mother. But, recently I realised this was not only my mate’s problem.
Many teens today complain of the same issue. Distrust in parent child relationship is now becoming common; the reasons remain the same as I detailed in the previous post.
Seeing the gravity of the issue, I was motivated to write this post to guide parents on how to build trust with their children.
Here’s what you will learn in this post:
Why is trust important in a parent child relationship?
Indeed, trust is the foundation of any relationship, but trust in a parent child relationship lays the groundwork for trust in other relationships.
If a child can’t trust his/her parents, he/she won’t be able to trust other people as well. The society for him would be an unsafe place and people would be someone to be feared of.
Such a child will grow up to be an anxious and a fearful person.
So, remembering this importance of trust in parent-child relationship, let’s see what STEPS you need to take to build it.
How to build trust with your child? (8 Easy Steps)
1. Listen to your child
‘Listening’ to your child is not mere ‘hearing’, but understanding what he wants to say. What is the underlying message he wants to convey with his words/actions.
The parenting coach, Jennifer Costa says in her book, “The Conscious Parent’s Guide to Positive Discipline”:
Practice engaged listening when you are with your child – minimise distractions, make eye contact, and give your child full attention. Even if you set aside what you are doing and look at your child, you might not be fully engaged. Check if your mind is focused on what he/she is saying OR still planning, scheduling, remembering, and worrying about your tasks.
I remember when I was a kid. Every day after school, I would share the things that happened at school, good or bad with my Mom. Sometimes I even repeated the things.
But my mother ALWAYS listened to me patiently, understanding my excitement for sharing with her.
Similarly, if your child says ”I hate you”, don’t feel bad or angry. Try to understand which behaviour of yours might have hurted him.So, understand the message behind your kid’s words. This makes him believe that you LISTEN to him and encourages him to speak up. Click To Tweet
2. Validate child’s feelings/needs
Take your listening even deeper by anticipating your child’s feelings and needs from his verbal/non verbal cues.
For example, if a toddler throws a tantrum at a store because he is really hungry, validate his need. Instead of lashing out in anger or punishing him, focus on feeding him and calming down.
This gives out a message to your child: “My parents understand my needs and fulfil them”, and thus, he feels secured.
3. Respond, not react
Children will always ask for help with something or the other. To build trust, answer their requests to the best of your ability.
For example, if a child asks for help with his/her homework, offer as far as you can.
Say: “I know this part seems difficult for you. Let’s work together to make it simpler.”
Don’t say: “You can’t even do this much on your own”
Also, respond to their emotional statements with validation and support.
For example, even if your 11-year-old child is afraid of the dark, say, “I can see why you’d be afraid of the dark. Let’s figure out a way to help you with that.
Avoid statements like, “Oh, monsters aren’t real. You’re being afraid for no reason.”
In such a way, the child feels heard. He understands that negative feelings are normal and he can ask for help when he feels overwhelmed.
4. Keep your promises
First, don’t promise what you can’t fulfil. And once you promise your child, follow through. This holds true not only for the promises, but also the consequences/rules you make to maintain discipline at home.
If your child fails to follow a particular discipline, and you have decided upon a consequence, stay firm on it; otherwise it sends a wrong message to your child.Fulfilling your promises assures the child that parents do what they say, and he also learns the importance of keeping his words. Click To Tweet
5. Tell the truth
Parents are the role models for children. Your child will copy what you do. If you want your child to always speak the truth, get into the habit yourself. Avoid telling white lies to them.
Kids can match your verbal and non verbal communication and find out if something is fishy. So, even if there’s something you don’t wish them to know, say “It’s something not to be told to kids.” Don’t hide it with white lies.
Seeing your habit, children learn the importance of speaking the truth.
6. Establish consistency and routine
Wondering how consistency and routine affects trust?
Well, when a child can trust things happening in a certain order, he feels relaxed and stays out of fight-or-flight mode.
Changes are a part of child’s life. He grows from a baby to a toddler to young one to a teenager. Every day he learns something new. But, when a change is expected and more familiar to the child, he is more likely to cope with it beautifully.
Like when the child knows when he will get food, what is the sleeping time, when to go to school, etc, he feels relaxed and safe.
Unpredictable changes leave the child feeling anxious and less able to cope with the changes.
Dr Laura Markham explains this in why kids need routines.
Therefore, establish a routine and consistency in doing things to keep your child relaxed and feeling safe.
7. Admit your shortcomings
No parent is perfect, nor there is a need to be. But, the problem occurs when you try to hide your mistakes and speak lies to your child.
Consequently, he will learn to do the same. He will also hide his mistakes from you. And this will encourage him to commit same mistakes over and over again.
So, be open and admit your mistakes and shortcomings in front of children. This gives children the confidence to admit their own and not feel shameful or awkward if mistakes happen.
8. Trust your child
Last but not the least, trust your child and his capabilities. Because what you give will return back. If you raise questions over him or his capabilities, he will do the same.
Trust is always mutual. If you can’t trust your child, you can’t expect him to trust you.
Final words on how to build trust with children
Trust building in any relationship takes time. Parent-child relationship is no exception.
But, following these steps on how to build trust with your child, you can be sure that you have made the right beginning towards building trust in your relationship.
Hope you build an ever-lasting trust with your child that never gets shattered!
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