When we think about trust, we think about the big things – do I trust them to feed me? Do I trust them to keep me safe? These are indeed aspects of this elusive need called TRUST, but they are nothing but casing for something much more profound.
This morning, Ilay (3.3), wanted to play with Jon’s (34) wallet. Jon gave him his wallet to explore the coins and the bills, but Ilay said: “I want to play with the pictures of mommy and me.” Jon then said, “no, you can’t. Put the wallet back”. Ilay, seemingly unhappy, started whining, “but I want to play with the pictures.” Getting a bit more upset, Jon repeated: “no, I said you can’t, you’ll ruin them.” Ilay was about to burst into tears when I came. I took the wallet from his little hands and told him, “Ilay, daddy loves having these two pictures here; he loves seeing our faces each time he opens his wallet. These pictures mean a lot to him, and he wants to keep them intact”. As I was finishing my sentence, I had already pulled the two pictures out and given them to Ilay. He took them, walked to the living room and back, handed them to me, and said: “here, I’m done playing.”
This might have all started with the pictures, but it ended with “why can’t I”? “Why doesn’t dad let me”? “Why does play=ruin”? “Why doesn’t dad trust me”?
This is a trust issue.
These are the questions we take from childhood into adulthood. These are the questions that define the way we sense ourselves in this world. These are the questions that define who we are and what we bring into this world.
Something Major We Don’t Think About When We Think About Trust
I always love sharing my Google finds with you; I believe that Google is a profound representation of the world, the forces that move us, the things we care about, and the things we, as a society, don’t care for.
And so, when I started googling questions about children and trust, how can we build trust in our children, how we can help them trust us – the only answers I found were about how we can trust a child, how can the child rebuild his trustworthiness in our eyes, and, well – you got it: we need to trust our kids, but it seems that children’s trust in their parents is not an issue anyone is interested in. So I want to tell you something: it most definitely is an issue, and it’s an issue so BIG that it defines our parenting relationships.
And it goes BOTH WAYS.
Why is Trust an Issue?
When we think about trust, we think about the big things – air, water, food, shelter – in other words: physical safety. In most relationships (parenting and otherwise), this aspect of trust would not be an issue. But there is much more to trust than the physical aspect of life, and we’re not even aware of it.
Trust is the most elusive need of them all; it is so grand, meaningful, and encompassing; ruining it is so simple and rebuilding it is so very hard unless we begin seeing its real and full importance.
Trust and US
When I use the word “us” here, I mean us, adults. When we think about trust – we think about the big things. Is he loyal to me? Is she faithful? Does he lie? Does she tell me everything? While these are indeed grand issues – they only define our adult relationships when we know or suspect the answer to be negative. But there are dozens of other aspects to trust that define our relationships daily that we are entirely oblivious to:
- Do I trust her to support me?
- Do I trust he will understand me?
- Do I trust she will see me?
- Do I trust he will hear me?
- Do I trust her to include me?
- Do I trust him to trust me?
- Do I trust her to consider me?
- Do I trust him to communicate with me?
- Do I trust her to nurture me?
- Do I trust him to accept me?
We don’t think about these aspects to trust every day, heck – we don’t think about these aspects of trust at all. But our soul is doubtful – it is then that our relationship starts paying the price for this insecurity. This is when we’ll stop sharing, telling, seeking the other’s advice, gradually receding into ourselves and our thoughts. It is then that the physical aspect of our relationship will start receding, as well, this is when we will start withdrawing; we will touch less, hug less, less seek each other’s closeness; it is then that we start falling apart as a couple in a relationship.
And no one needs to cheat on anyone for this to happen.
The Trap of Trust
If you survey your adult friends who have issues with trust, who find trusting others (and themselves) hard or even impossible, you’ll learn that only a small portion of them have suffered those massive trust issues like a blunt betrayal. Most of them had “regular” lives and “normative” families. They were fed, they were kept warm, they had water to drink and a space to live in.
But they could never be themselves. They couldn’t share their feelings; they weren’t trusted to take part; they weren’t allowed to try; they weren’t celebrated for trying when they “failed.” Trust lies in those “little things” that no one thinks of.
Children surely don’t – but you’ll notice how they are more likely to agree to certain things with one parent, and less so with the other. You will see how they open up in the presence of one, and less so in the presence of the other. We often believe (and it is indeed the case) that trust takes time, that it’s okay to be more connected to one parent and less so to the other (and it definitely is okay!), but we hold to these beliefs while forgetting that there’s a reason to it – and this reason is in the smallest responses, that we never consider being meaningful.
6 Ways to Help Your Child Trust You
Remember how we said that trust goes both ways? The truth is that it goes in more ways than just “both.” A child who trusts us to see and hear him is a child who knows that his words and experiences count, a child who takes himself and his well-being seriously. He is also a child who will forever be responsible and accountable for the well-being of others. Because that’s what he had learned at home.
Here are 10 ways in which you can show your child that YOU TRUST HIM, encourage him to trust you, and to teach him to trust himself, which is crucial for his development and life-long well-being:
- Let them try: when kids want to do something, it’s because they believe doing this will empower their experience (even when we can’t see how or why). Let them. Knowing that we trust them to make it will, often, give them the power they need to actually make it.
- Let them “fail”: when kids attempt something and don’t make it, compliment the attempt, don’t even mention the failure (generally – pretend this word doesn’t even exist). This is the only way to encourage self-motivated independence and a strong will to push those little ones further as they emerge into the real world.
- Trust them to understand: often parents “translate” their needs into “kiddie language” or avoid sharing their needs at all, thinking their child won’t understand. This strategy creates children who don’t understand. Talk to your children as you would talk to any other adult. They will understand what they will understand, they will ask to complete what they didn’t, but most importantly – they will know that you trust them to understand, and there’s nothing like trust to build the ability.
- Let them speak: our children’s words often hurt us; we often take the message personally and believe it has something to do with us. From this place, of being hurt – we “re-act”. We tell the child we’re hurt, and we say to him that these words are not allowed. These feelings are not allowed. These thoughts are not allowed. But he never meant to hurt us – all he wanted was to express himself, fully and authentically. He trusted us to help him learn how to better his experience, but instead of doing that – we shut him down. Let your children speak – they never mean to hurt you – they are seeking an outlet to the way they are feeling. Emotion coaching ourselves and our children is the only beneficial way to handle everyone’s emotions without sabotaging the needs of those involved.
- Let them be: we often feel the need to correct behaviors, not only the bluntly unpleasant ones but those that are different from the way we do things. “No, this is not the way to build a puzzle.” “No, this is not how you fold a shirt.” “No, this is not how you draw a cat.” “Let me show you’. “Let me show you.” “Let me show you.” And I say – if no one asked for your help, then your help isn’t required 🙂 Each person has his way of being and living, and no one can prove one way is better than the other. And if it proves to be “better” or “worse” for one – there’s so much more value in actually learning it, than in being told that you are wrong by someone else. And it doesn’t matter who that person is.
- Don’t lie. Ever: we often “soften” the message when we want to make it easier on our little ones. We sometimes keep certain parts of the message to ourselves if we think it will “ruin their mood” or make it harder on them to cope. The truth is that kids remember EVERYTHING. They remember what we said and to them each word is a promise. To them, our words are the holly grail of their world, the light that leads the way, the map to follow. Unless we disappoint them, end each time we do, a little crack appears in the walls of trust between us until at some point – that crack is strong enough to break the wall. If you said something – make it happen. Even if you were “wrong”.
We trust those who trust us. We learn to trust ourselves through the eyes of those who love us, and those who we love. And trust is not about the more significant things (unless it is) – it is about the ability to be.
Nothing is ever more important then trust.
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