Secrets, Trust and Children

Early this morning my 7-year-old declared loudly, “Mumma, when we (she and her 4-year-old sister) get our own iPad, we will have our own password for it”. I was stumped, and stopped sipping my tea. “Goodness, is she going to keep secrets from me?” was my first thought. Before I could say anything, she continued, “Our own password, Mumma – it will be 1,2,3,4.” What a relief! At least, right now I don’t need to worry about them keeping secrets.

However, this little chat did have an unnerving effect on me, because of an event that occurred in our neighborhood. A few days ago, one of my friend’s 7-year-old daughter walked out of home in the middle of night – alone and without telling her parents because some students in her school had hatched a plan to step out at night to chase ghosts! Thankfully, a friendly neighbor spotted her around the curb and got her back home safely.

This made me wonder, do we really know what our children are thinking? Will our children share their problems with us?

To find an answer I read up on this issue, and here are few tips that I stumbled upon, which can be easily added to our daily conversations and routines with our kids. Experts believe these methods can help parents in earning their children’s trust. Yes! You read it right – we have to EARN our children’s trust (don’t take it for granted).

  1. A promise is a promise – Keep your promises. If you tell your children that you would do something, then make sure that it is done. Of course, things can happen at last moment. But a part of keeping promises is to promise what is reasonable, talking to children in advance if there is a chance that you may not be able to follow through, acknowledging and offering a sincere apology if the promise is not fulfilled. Bottomline – be reliable.  
  2. Maintain eye contact – Research shows that children focus less on the words being spoken but more on facial expressions and tone of the voice directed towards them. When speaking to a child, look into their eyes. If I ever try talking to my 4-year-old while working on my laptop, she promptly says “Mumma, look at me and keep looking at me” and as if she knows that she has to compete against my laptop for attention, she keeps repeating “keep looking at me” while she talks.
  3. Talk about your mistakes – We all make mistakes. Being open about our shortcomings, fears, and struggles helps children trust that doing so is safe to do. Sharing information about your day at work or the challenges that you are facing will teach the children how to do the same about issues that they are facing. It also helps them see you as humans.  
  4. Establish consistency and routine – This one sounds a little odd, right? Doesn’t setting routine involve being strict? How does that help build trust? Apparently, research indicates that when children can trust things to happen in a certain order, their brain can relax and this helps them in staying out of fight-or-flight mode. So when pushing for “ten more minutes” if a child expects a certain response, (s)he can grow a sense of fairness in it. The child is likely to give up whining if (s)he knows you are going to calmly say, no.
  5. Be respectful – Yes! While our job is to teach children to be respectful, it is also critical to show respect. I remember a famous saying: The way you talk to your children becomes their inner voice. When a child grows up respected, they are more apt to confide in and trust their parents. So next time remember how you taught the “magic words – thank you, please and sorry” to your children when they were toddlers. Go ahead and use then as often as you can when you talk to your kids.

Now let me go and give my kids a little talk on cyber security – 1,2,3,4 is not an acceptable password! Maybe in the spirit of sharing my mistakes, I will tell them how I once forgot the password of our iPad and locked it for perpetuity making it unusable!

As always, do tell me your thoughts about this blog. Do share your tips on building trust at home.

See you soon again.


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