From the back of the van I heard Jenn jabbering about a memory she had as we drove past a nearby park and wildlife reservation. “Daddy climbed this HUGE rock and then he let me climb a big one too!” It sparked memories of my husband explaining the adventures that the two of them had together frolicking in the woods and scaling what must have seemed like mountains to my then 3-year-old. He told me all about how scared she was to climb, but that by encouraging her and giving her explicit instructions on where to place each foot, each time, she made it to the top and was able to look back with a great sense of accomplishment. By giving her incremental steps instead of having her look at the entire rock to be climbed, she was able to tackle a huge obstacle and together they built an amazing amount of trust in each other.
Actionable ways to Build Trust with a Child
Raising a child doesn’t come with an instruction booklet and no child is the same. And we all make mistakes and big ones at that, but knowing how to build trust with your child will help you both carry on after a mistake was made without too much damage. Overall building trust with your child just comes down to taking a moment to think about what helps you build trust with the important people around you. And a few extra steps of intentional parenting can make all the difference in building and maintaining a strong parent-child relationship. As parents, establishing confidence and assurance that our kids can rely on us in every way is vitally important. It’s how we can meaningfully connect, build relationships, and even cope during those teenage years (or any time parenting gets tough). The key to building trust with your child is to start as young as possible with the following tactics:
Set the example as their guardian
If you say that you will do something, then that something must get done. The most important step to build trust with your child is to follow through at all times. Sure life happens, so in the case that you can’t’ follow through be certain to address why to your child.
Grab your free “parents’ guide to behaviors” download.
Don’t Break Promises
As a parent you should only make promises that are reasonable to be kept. Life happens, so think about that before uttering the words, “I promise” to your child. With just one small broken promise, your child’s trust diminishes tremendously.
Find more ways to instill confidence in kids.
Show Mutual Respect between child and parent
While your job is to teach respect, it’s also to show respect. This means you need to show your child respect that is due to them at all times, while still being the parent in charge. When a child grows up respected, they are more apt to confide in and trust their parents. In the instance of rock climbing with our daughter, my husband was able to show respect by exuding pride over Jenn’s accomplishments both big and small. He was still able to be in charge of the situation, but show respect. And while it was a fun outing, it’s no different in more real-life situations with kids. We can still be the parent in charge while respecting our children, their accomplishments, and their individual needs. When a child grows up respected, they are more apt to confide in and trust their parents.
Read more about how negotiating with children can build mutual respect.
Always Be Honest with your kids
of course you need to maintain age appropriate levels of honesty, but if you are always honest with your child they will begin to trust you naturally without much effort. It’s best to answer 100 questions from your child when being honest, than it is to risk breaking that trust.
Really Listen To Your Child
One of the largest ways to build trust with your child is to listen to them when they have something to say. Doesn’t matter what you are doing, make eye contact and show a genuine interest in what your child has to say to you. Always.
Listen to the podcast episode about how to get children to listen and communicate better.
Help break down their difficulties into manageable steps
Whether climbing a rock or facing a challenge of another capacity, it’s important to help our kids know that we are there for them and that we can help them conquer those monstrous emotions one bit at a time.
Remain Consistent in your parenting
one job as a parent is to be consistent, set boundaries and follow through on consequences that you set up in the household if someone didn’t follow a rule. When you raise your child in this manner, by being consistent, they are apt to have higher trust levels in you.
Ultimately, good parent-child relationships are built on a foundation on assurance and reliance.
Your children take after you, after all they are one half you and the other parent, so remember what it was that would help you trust an adult when you were a child and implement that into your day to day life as a parent.
Have rough days? We all have them when raising kids.
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!