Tuesday, January 20, 2015

5 Tips on Building Trust in your Family

That is me in the yellow!

I recently had the chance to experience something I had never done before.  I went zip lining with my family, and although I am not always comfortable with heights this experience was incredible.  It was empowering to push beyond my fear and take a risk to experience something new.  The way the course was designed helped me master shorter and lower lines before graduating to the final zip line; which had me soaring way, way, way above the tree lined valley, and allowed for spectacular mountain and ocean views.  I started thinking about how the course was developed to allow me to trust the process and the guides and the safety standards.  Trust was key in allowing me to overcome my fear and venture on to the most challenging zip line.

This experience allowed me to feel like a child again.  I think that explains the popularity of zip lining.  It allowed me to face something that I feared and step by step build trust in the people and myself--and after observing and process, venture out and have some pure fun.

Children are always encountering new experiences.  They face them all the time.  And parents are usually the ones who are there to guide and encourage them.  That is why trust is such a key ingredient to good parenting.  So how does a parent nurture and grow trust within the family?  Here are my ideas:

1.  Be a truth teller:  Try at all times to tell the truth in front of your children.  Don't let them see you repeatedly lying and covering up.  We all have had our moments when a little white lie seems so much easier than the truth...like not owning up to how much you spent on those new shoes, or calling your child out of school for one reason or another.  But little lies turn into bigger ones.  And repeatedly lying in front of your children is TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN TO BE SKEPTICAL OF WHAT YOU SAY!!!!  And trust me, that is not where you want your relationship with them to go.

2.  Insist on the truth from your children:  Kids will lie.  They will test out if lying can save them from a worse punishment.  Make it clear that within your family, you only accept the truth and if you catch them in a lie the consequences will be much more severe than if they just come clean in the first place.

3.  Don't involve your children in lies:  It is never a good idea to place your children in the middle of lies. You may think that lying to your spouse about a low grade your child received will make your child indebted to you.  They will realize you are the loving, protective parent.  The problem with this theory is they don't reason the way adults do, it is beyond their cognitive power to reason this way.  But the message will already be sent to their immature brain that you are willing to deceive others.  And then they will not know if they can trust you, and will feel justified in deceiving you in the future.

4.  Don't ever willingly allow your children to break the law:  It always mystifies me when parents of teens allow them to get their licenses and then immediately allow them to drive more than one other teen in their car.  Being this kind of parent is sending the message that laws don't matter or don't apply to your new driver.  IS THIS REALLY THE MESSAGE YOU WANT TO SEND????  It is extremely short sighted to allow your children to break a law that makes something more convenient for you.  You are teaching them to justify breaking laws...and to their immature brains, this is a very dangerous message.

5.  Only say what you mean: Children are great listeners.  They don't always do what we tell them to do.  But they do listen to what we say.  Any parent who says one thing to a child and then for whatever reason does something else is actively teaching their child not to listen to them.  When this happens repeatedly, you are teaching your child that your words have no value.  Usually this type of parent finds themselves yelling a lot, because they believe it is the only way to get their children to listen.  This has NOTHING to do with the volume of your voice...and everything to do with the pattern of communication you have established.

These tips can help you develop trusting relationships in your family.  If you haven't done this in the past--it is not too late!  Start now!  Resolve to do better.  Resolve to be the parent who lives in truth and doesn't resort to unhealthy secrets and/or lies.  Resolve to be the parent who only says words that hold meaning.  If you say it to your child, it means you are going to do it.  Your word has value, and your relationship can be solidly built on trust.  This will allow your children to feel safe and ready to take on challenges--and soar confidently into their future with their trust firmly planted in you.

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