Professionals who work with kids have noticed that there are very big behavioral differences between kids whose parents trust them and kids whose parents don’t. And when parents don’t trust their child, that child tends to have lower self-esteem, be more hesitant, avoid taking responsibility or performing difficult tasks, he always looks for external validation and, in general, tends to develop oppositional behaviors through which he will try to manifest himself. Whereas, when parents trust their child, the child becomes more independent, makes better decisions and has higher self as esteem and a better emotional balance.
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Taking into consideration all of the above, we can safely assume that a parent’s trust in the child is one of the most important aspects of education. Moreover, I’d go even further as to add that a parent’s trust in his child could successfully replace dozens of parenting books that deliver tips on to make yourself heard. When you trust your child, the educational process is easier and the child grows happier and more confident, and this is the most important benefit.
How a lack of trust in your child looks like
Before showing you the steps that parents can take in order to regain their trust in their children, let’s just stop for a second and look at the way this lack of trust manifests itself in your relationship. And we’ll do that because I’ve met parents who, while firmly stating their trust in their child, later proved, through their actions, words and beliefs that in fact they had none. For example, one father was shocked to discover that, when he told his 4 year-old son – who was painting – to be careful not to make a mess of the paint on the table and the walls, he actually showed a lack of trust in his son. It was his fear of mess that made him warn his son, while the boy was simply painting quietly. And this fear came from the lack of trust in the fact that the boy could actually undertake something without any trouble.
Some parents don’t even trust that the child understand any of what he’s told. Some don’t trust that the child will eventually do what his parents ask of him. And then there are the numerous parents who don’t trust their child’s intrinsic value. Or, in other words, don’t believe that “anything will come of him” unless he’s being pushed, forced, changed into something that he doesn’t want to be.
It looks quite clear, theoretically. But what is there to be done? For example, a mother told us, after becoming aware that she doesn’t trust her 3-year-old child to put her own shoes on: “Ok, so then I trust the child. But what happens if I do trust her, and she still won’t put her shoes on all by herself?” As you can see, a lack of trust can even be hidden behind a rational decision to trust the child.
6 steps towards trusting your child
The good news is that once this lack of trust in your child has been identified – as it will not only influence your relationship with your child, but his individuality, and his future – it’s within your power to change things.
Here is a 6-step strategy towards replacing your distrust with trust. That way, your relationship will move to a completely new level, offering your child the chance to grow happy and confident.
On page 2 of this article you can read all the steps you need to follow in order to really start trusting your child
A strategy for gaining (back) trust in your child
Step 1. Becoming aware of the problem
You need a problem before you can come up with a solution. Dig deep inside; think of different situations and answer honestly to these questions:
- Do I really trust my child?
- Do I actually believe that he understands the things I say?
- Do I trust that he will eventually do what I asked of him?
- Do I trust his instincts?
- Do I believe that he’s capable of finding good solutions and making the best decisions for himself?
- Do I trust that years from now my child will grow into a valuable adult because of his qualities, and not necessarily because of his education?
- Do I trust that he will make the best choices?
If you answered “No” to most questions, then take into consideration that your trust and openness are equally relevant when it comes to his homework and eating habits, two issues that generate a lot of tensions between parents and children.
Step 2. Your trust in yourself
Someone with a lack of self-trust won’t know how to trust others, their child included. It’s important to mention, though, that you can’t be equally confident in all aspects of your life. For example, I trust myself when it comes to the fact that I speak three foreign languages, I trust myself as a parent, when it comes to writing this article, because these are things I practiced and honed, that I invested time and effort in. But I won’t actually trust myself with baking a cake, because so far I’ve had two or three previous unsuccessful experiences in that department.
Trust comes from experience. There must be areas where you feel like you can trust yourself. Maybe at your job, a certain hobby, or simply talking to people. As you can see, it all comes down to experience, to practicing something every single day, until you feel like you’ve learned it properly, until you feel like you can do it with your eyes closed. So, we can talk about the confidence of being a good parent. Knowing that there is no such thing as a parenting school, no classes or universities that can teach us how to be parents, just think of all the good things you’ve done for your child, of all the nice things that have happened since you’ve started having children. And take into account the fact that even when it comes to the times and decisions you’ve regretted later, you made the best you could at the time, with the resources you had. Obviously, if you had been less tired, stressed, calmer, more patient and involved, you would have made other decisions, and things would have gone down differently. So you can allow yourself to think that you are a good parent, who trusts his instincts, by simply noticing the good things you’ve already done as a parent.
Step 3. Long term vision
Allow yourself a few minutes to imagine how you want your child and your relationship with him to develop in the long run. What qualities would you like your child to have? Do you want him to be confident, brave, take responsibility, and to be honest ? Do you want him to be capable of making the best decisions for himself? You know you won’t be able to be there for him forever, telling him what to do. You know you won’t be able to control him forever. Through a long-term vision exercise, you will clearly see the continuity of the educational process. You will see that your actions today have long-term effects in the end.
On the last page of this article, you can read about all the other steps that will help you trust your child more and you will know exactly how to show it.
Step 4. What does the child see?
Now, let’s play a little imagination game. Most of the parents who played this game during our coaching sessions told me they gained a better understanding of their child. So, for a few moments just close your eyes and imagine that you are in your kid’s shoes, that you’re his age, wear his clothes, talk the way he does, act like him. And, from this perspective, take a good long look at your parent (you): what he does, what he says, how he says it, what message it sends, how it makes you feel. Then, after exploring this landscape from your child’s perspective, try to understand whether what you communicate through your words and behaviors is proof of trust and if it will educate, in the long run, all the qualities you wish to see in your child years from now.
Step 5. Replacing distrust with trust
Initially, this will only happen in your head. Think of a fight with your child, where you didn’t think he’d do something, you got mad and things got out of hand. You know that you didn’t trust your child then. Just for one second, rewind the film and imagine that same situation with one minor difference: add some trust in your child (that he gets it, that he’d do what was needed, that he’s a valuable person, capable of deciding for himself). And notice how your behavior would change and his, as a consequence.
Step 6. How your trust in your child is perceived from outside
Now that you know how your trust in your child can make a difference in his behavior (because your different attitude sends a different message and your behavior is completely different from when you don’t trust the child), please answer the following questions:
- What would I do differently, if I trusted the child?
- What would the child see when I trusted him?
- What message would I be sending if I trusted him?
- What would I gain in the long run if I trusted him?
You already know that trust is a long-term investment. And now, after answering these questions, you know what you’re getting when you make it. And how you’ll practically implement this new found trust.
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