Although people see the way children think as complex, it is actually very logical. They trust what they learn to be reliable. The complex part of trust is that it is emotional as well as physical. Trust isn’t just about whether a parent will provide for the everyday needs of a child. It’s a taken that they will trust their parents to provide them with clothing, food and shelter. What isn’t a given is that the parents will understand them sufficiently to help them through emotional times, or quandaries and this is where the trust element becomes complex and requires thought.
When a child makes friends, the initial basis of a friendship is often shallow. The friend seems nice. They smile a lot, and make the child laugh. What they often don’t realize is that somewhere in their young life, they will encounter difficulties and setbacks and be hurt by friendship. They trust in it until it bites them, and then are more wary of it. Similarly, parental support takes the same logical course. Without knowingly doing it, parents can make themselves so distant from the child or so impossible to please that the child decides that they can’t share things with the parent any more, for fear of recrimination.
The elements that work are positive interactions between a parent and a child. They already know that they can’t have everything they want when they want it, but trust goes deeper than that. How a parent reacts to their day to day activities and needs dictates the level of trust, and a parent who is always negative will find it an upward struggle to keep that trust. It’s a two way thing and if a parent shows any lack of trust of the child or respect for the child’s individuality, the child, in turn, finds it hard to trust back.
To build trust and to keep it, consistency is vital, as well as positive interaction. When a child does wrong, they will willingly accept an explanation from a parent as to the dangers of what they did. What makes them lose trust is being called negative names, or when parents constantly remind them that they are a disappointment. It’s hard to please a parent who is that critical, and the child sees interaction with their parent as negative. Just as in the school playground, the child avoids those children who hurt them, they take the same tack with parents who they cannot trust not to hurt them. It’s a natural progression.
A child needs to feel loved and important no matter what they do. Turning things around can make a world of difference. Instead of chastising the child for crossing a road without first looking out for traffic, or hitting them and calling them stupid, the parent who cuddles the child in gratitude that they are not hurt and explains the importance of doing it properly will gain more trust as a parent.
A child from a very young age is taught by their parents what is right and what is wrong. They try to adhere to rules and tend not to question them too much. As they get older, they realize that not everyone adheres to those rules which they have been taught. Parents who do things they tell a child never to do don’t earn respect, and a child begins to see the bad behavior of the parent and loses an element of trust. The parent needs to be an example to a child to show the child the way. When they provide bad example, the child is faced by the dilemma of whether the parent’s advice was right in the first place and why different rules apply to the parent than those applied to the child.
Because the parent has been strict in the upbringing, and then acts in a way the child sees as negative, they begin to doubt the parent, and the lost respect also leads to resentment. A child told never to use bad words won’t be impressed to hear their mom in a shouting match with a neighbor using all the words they know to be wrong. A child told not to eat sweets will hardly understand a parent who eats a whole box of chocolates in one sitting. It’s consistency and reliability that count.
One of the best ways to win trust from a child is to never be afraid of humility. A child understands that parents are people, and that people make mistakes. When mistakes are made or harsh words said that can’t be taken back, a parent should never be afraid to trust the child sufficiently to admit they were wrong. This takes the child into their confidence and allows the child to trust in return that their parent is a human being who makes mistakes. No parent should be on a pedestal so high that the child can’t reach up to it. It is this distance between parent and child that creates barriers and lack of trust.
Once a parent learns how to win the trust of a child and to keep it, it opens up a whole new world of discovery, where a child is never frightened to approach their parent in any circumstances. This is when real trust is achieved. To keep that trust alive, respect it. If a child admits to doing something terrible, sit with the child and talk it through, rather than stepping back on the pedestal and reinforcing the distance between child and parent. Just as parents make mistakes, so do children, though they have more excuse than adults to make those mistakes, due to their inexperience of life. This is when true trust is born, and a child begins to know their parent loves them, regardless of their actions. Trust is a treasure. Keep it safe.