As a parent, it is important for us to build trust with our children very early on. It is common to hear parents say “It goes by so fast” and it’s true. My daughters are not only getting taller (than me) but are growing into their own little individuals. It is amazing to see the change. It is subtle but every so often I have to double take either because they express themselves in a way I could never have imagined or the way they look is different. Every year a couple of months before their birthdays I notice a shift in their physical and non-physical growth. It is quite surreal sometimes. In a recent session with parents on teaching financial literacy to children at home, one parent brought up the issue of trust. She wanted to know how to ensure that her children trust her enough to come to her and talk to her about their issues, financial or otherwise. Using examples from my own experience I gave her what I considered to be my top five ways to build trust with children.
My top five ways for building trust are listening, honesty, practicing what I preach, being consistent and following through. Listening is a really an underrated skill. I think many of us will do well to listen twice as much as we speak (I remind myself of this often). Most of us know what our child is about to say and there is a natural tendency to either we cut them off before they can finish or finish their sentence for them. I have been guilty of this, but I have worked on making a conscious effort, to just keep quiet and listen all the way to the end. Only then I can really hear the whole story. Usually listening all the way to the end really gives me an insight into how their mind perceives the situation. More often than not we do not see the situation in the same way. It is really important for us as parents to listen to what our children have to say. This allows us to connect and understand our children and serves as the foundation for trust. They feel heard and it is more likely that they will continue to come to us when the need arises.
Honesty is another way to build trust with your child. This can sometimes a hard one to navigate. It is not that I lie to my girls, but sometime back, when they ask where babies come from for example I may have said it was magic! I believe that the child’s age and temperament is important. My girls have very different personalities and deal with information very differently. The older one can handle the truth even at a young age. The little one is more idealistic and I have to be careful of how I explain certain topics to her. As children grow it is important to tell them the truth because if they start finding things out from other sources they will not be coming to us with their question, especially if they know that they we will not tell them the truth.
Practicing what you preach is imperative for building trust. We have to be the example for our children to follow. It is not enough to say do as I say and not as I do. This another one that many of us sometimes struggle with, but if we want our children to eat healthy and spend money wisely for instance we have to demonstrate to them how it is done. Children learn more from what we do than what we say! I sometimes get a reality check when I see my girls replicate things I do, most of the time it is quite amusing, but it is less amusing when they pick up the unpleasant traits as well! We foster trust and build a stronger relationship when they see us doing the things we want them to do.
Consistency and routine are important for children. A big part of trust is feeling safe. Having a predictable routine helps children feel secure in knowing what’s going to happen next. Many studies have shown that when there are too many unpredictable events in a child’s day anxiety builds up. Routines facilitate structure and familiarity, a safe zone. Family routines go a long way in ensuring that children have trust in us.
It is important that we follow through when we make promises and have set expectations. When you make house rules and schedule make sure that it is done regularly. Don’t break the rules just because. I have been guilty of this. I would make some rules and then break them so much so that my younger daughter, when she was about five or so, said “Mom says no but then she says yes” Needless to say I had to work really hard to change that impression. Now, when I say no, I stick to it. even if I want to change my mind I don’t. In the long run follow through has served me better than being a softy!
Trust is crucial for developing strong relationships. As a parent, a teacher, a writer and financial coach building trust is essential for my life and my profession. I apply these five traits to all my relationships. I try to listen more than I speak. I think sometimes I can be a tad too honest, but it is necessary. I practice what I preach. I don’t ask anyone to do things I don’t or won’t do myself and I consistently support and show up for those who rely one me. I believe these five traits are essential in building trust in any relationship, whether it is with a spouse, children, friends or clients.
Are you building and maintaining trust in your relationships?