Frank Schofield, superintendent, Logan City School District
As we reflect on the positive relationships in our lives, all of our strongest relationships often have a common core element: trust. The most enduring bonds are with individuals who trust each other. Trust, defined as “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something” is a foundational piece (maybe the foundational piece) to all positive relationships.
Being trustworthy, then, is a core element in forging positive relationships. This is particularly important in relationships with children. Being a trustworthy adult strengthens bonds, helps children develop core beliefs, and encourages the positive behaviors that will help others trust them.
Andrea Loewen Nair, B.Ed., M.A., a teacher and psychotherapist, suggests the following eight actions that parents can take to help build trust in their relationships with their children:
Listening is different than hearing. Listening is an action. To listen to a child means to recognize their words, but more importantly to seek to really understand the underlying message. For example, when a child says “I hate you, Mommy!” she isn’t saying “I hate you,” she is more likely saying something like, “I am mad that you are making me go to daycare instead of spending the day with you.”
We can show children we are listening by paraphrasing their words back to them, staying focused on feeling words. “Are you telling me that you are angry we have to be apart? You know what, I’m feeling sad to be away. You, too?” (pause) “When I see you after circle time, let’s figure out a way to miss each other less during the day.”
Attuning is taking listening even deeper; it is anticipating your child’s needs based on verbal and nonverbal cues. It is knowing that a melting down child, for example, really needs to sleep. Instead of unleashing punishments for lashing out, you find a way to ensure they get more rest.
USE EYE CONTACT
People learn a lot about a person’s intention by focusing on their eyes. When speaking to a child, get down and gently look into his or her eyes. Let your child see what sincerity looks like.
Children will automatically verbally or nonverbally ask for help, as long as they believe (trust) those requests will be answered. In order to grow trust and continue your child’s openness, requests for help need to be answered to the best of your ability.
Also respond to emotional statements with validation and support. When a child says, “I’m scared,” use words to show your child you will help keep her safe, for example, “I can see why you’d be afraid of the dark. Let’s figure out a way to help you with that.”
Follow through with what you tell your child you will be doing. Part of keeping promises is to not use them to reduce your guilt or instead of saying “no.” Promise what is reasonable and within your ability to honor.
TELL THE TRUTH
Get in the habit of not using white lies with your children. This helps children match verbal and nonverbal communication, reducing confusion. It also helps little ones understand what positive moral ethics are.
ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES AND CONSISTENCY
When a child can trust things happen in a certain order, the brain can relax, staying out of fight-or-flight mode.
Routines and consistency also help reduce conflict. For example, when pushing for “10 more minutes” a child is likely to give up whining if she knows you are going to calmly say, “It would be fun to have 10 more minutes but that will put us in the late zone. When this song is over, it is time for us to put our boots on.”
The setting and holding of boundaries grows a slightly different type of trust: a strong belief that a parent will uphold safety and integrity.
Parents will make mistakes. Being open about our shortcomings, fears, and struggles helps our children trust that doing so is safe to do. Volunteering information to your child teaches him/her how to do the same. As you do this, talk about how to volunteer information to people beyond your family in a way that is safe: how to not over share, increasing risk for predatory behavior of others.