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How to Build a Trusting Relationship with Your Child


Trust.

It’s the foundation and the root of our relationships. When trust exists, a relationship grows and flourishes but without trust, a relationship can end in ruins.

Isaac Watts once said, “Learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks.”

How can parents build a trusting relationship with their children? Here are some suggestions on how to do so.

Be attentive.

Trust begins in infancy. When a baby cries, they need to know that their parent will respond to them in a positive manner. Smile and softly talk to your child as you try to discern what they’re communicating. Is he hungry, tired, or wet? Perhaps he’s bored or wants to snuggle? Responding to your infant’s needs is the first step to building trust.

Love.

One of the most important ways to build a trusting relationship with your child is to shower them with love. In all your interactions, show your children an always present, limitless love.

Communicate.

Communication is the cornerstone of trust. The more you talk openly with your child, the more your relationship will grow. Seek out times to talk with your child. Ask their opinion on something. Listen with love, compassion, and without judgment.

Be honest.

It seems obvious, but honesty with your child is crucial to establishing a trusting relationship. When you’re sad, don’t tell your child that you’re fine, rather, be honest and tell them you’re sad. You don’t have to tell her the details of why you’re sad but be honest about your emotions.

If your child asks you a question that you don’t have an answer for, let her know you’re unsure. You can tell her that you’ll have to think about it, or you can invite her to help you research the answer for her question.

Appreciate honesty.

Appreciating honesty is a vital component of building a trusting relationship with your child.

When my girls have done something wrong, I always let them know that while the action may be disappointing, lying about it makes it much worse. I always commend my children when they’ve been honest and told me the truth about a situation.

It’s critical that your child knows that you appreciate their honesty.

Avoid promises.

You should avoid making promises to your children. Promises are often hard to keep. Sometimes situations occur which result in having to change plans; if you haven’t promised something, it’s easier to explain these changes.

Follow through.

Avoiding promises brings me to my next point; if you say you’re going to do something with your child, follow through with it.

Children innately believe their parents. The more times you change your mind or don’t follow through, the less reliable you are. A child needs to know that their parent will always do as they say.

Be discrete.

Social media has bred an epidemic of the public shaming of children. While our kids may need discipline, making a spectacle of it is inappropriate. In fact, such actions could destroy any trust you’ve built with your child.

Discipline with discretion.

Be a role model.

Your child is watching everything you do. Their observations of you help them form their opinions of whether you are trustworthy. It’s crucial that you role model the behaviours you want your child to practice.

For instance, if you expect your child to make his bed every day, you should make your bed every day too. If you expect your child to speak respectfully to others, then you should do so as well. The more often your child sees you upholding the values and rules you teach, the more trusting they will be of you.

Take responsibility for your mistakes.

Nothing builds trust more than owning up to your errors. There isn’t a perfect parent on this planet. We’re bound to screw up, and that’s okay! When you slip up, apologize to your child and let him know how sorry you are.

From the moment our children come into this world, they are drawing conclusions about the world and the people who are living life with them. Building a trusting relationship with your child is an ongoing commitment but it’s the cornerstone to having an unwavering relationship with your child.

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” ~George MacDonald

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Jennifer Bly
Jennifer Bly
Author of My Kitchen, My Classroom: An Introduction to Homeschool, creator of The Deliberate Mom, Deliberate Homeschooling and regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Jennifer writes about parenting, her faith, and life with her husband and two girls. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care. 

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51 thoughts on “How to Build a Trusting Relationship with Your Child

    • Jennifer Post author

      Being a role model is so important and sometimes we don’t even think about all the things we ask of our children (and that we should do the same).

      Thanks for stopping by friend. I’m glad you enjoyed this.

  • Elaine A.

    This is a really great article. I know that sounds like it might be a spam comment, but I promise I am real. LOL! This makes a parent think about their own actions and how to model behavior for their children. Which I think is excellent. Thank you!

    • Jennifer Post author

      I’m delighted you enjoyed this post. Role modelling behaviour is one of my favourite tips (and sometimes one of the most challenging ones to implement).

      Thanks for stopping by. I appreciated hearing your thoughts on this.

  • Rabia @TheLiebers

    We’ve talked a lot about trust with our kids; and the fact that it goes both ways. One of my kiddos did something a while ago that really broke our trust. We talked long and hard about the incident and the repercussions. Said child was mature enough to handle the fallout without complaint and trust is being rebuilt.

    • Jennifer Post author

      You’re right, trust goes both ways and is it ever hard to get it back. I’m glad your child is earning your trust back… that’s tough stuff there.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Rabia!

  • Tamara

    I find that I’ve been more present these days, than before. I’m noticing it because it’s summer now and I used to let whole days pass me by doing work, while the kids were elsewhere or even worse – sometimes here doing their own things.
    I’m very attentive. I’m honest. I show my love a million different ways. And I’m creative. No doubt I still have a long way to go, but I do like that when they’re upset or sad, they trust me enough to tell me or show me.

    • Jennifer Post author

      Being present really shows your children that they matter and that they’re important to you. I’m happy to hear you’ve had opportunities to do so.

  • Tiffany

    Be a role model and breeding trust is so important. I want A to always feel like she can tell us the truth no matter what. And I want to be a good role model for her, teach her financial literacy and help guide her to a wonderful, joy filled future.
    Great tips Jennifer!

    • Jennifer Post author

      I’m glad you enjoyed this Tiffany!

      Yes, it’s a journey and sometimes I struggle… especially with the role modelling part. My brain tells me it’s so important but I have to remind myself frequently, “Is this something I would want my children saying or doing?”

    • Jennifer Post author

      Following through can be a challenge (i.e. That’s right, I did tell you I would dance with you, but that was before I had to clean this house from top to bottom and stubbed my toe on the leg of the bed).

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Amber.

  • Jen@JENerallyInformed

    You are a very wise parent. Trust is so very important and I love what you have shared. I find that trust is something we are constantly working on here in our family as the children mature and roles need to be adjusted just a little to meet those growing needs. Trust is key during these “altering” periods.

    I am so glad you are back!

    • Jennifer Post author

      Trust (and establishing trusting relationships) is a continual process. As you shared, things can shift as our children get older too.

      I’m happy to be back Jen! Thanks for visiting!

  • Bibi

    Love love love this post!! A lot of the advice is easier said than done, but I truly believe that if we, as parents, really try we can have a trusting relationship with our children.
    Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Jennifer Post author

      You are right Bibi, building trust is hard work. It also takes time and daily commitment.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on building trust with children.

  • Julie

    Love this post. So true, our actions is how our children learn to trust us, our responsiveness, the way we communicate with them, and our honesty in our actions.

  • Katie | The Surly Housewife

    All of this is awesome advice!!! I love the bit about being honest. We are so honest with our kids, down to not believing in the tooth fairy or Santa. But we are also quick to say when we don’t know something. Actually, it’s mostly me saying, “ask your father.” It’s amazing how everything they want to know is in his wheelhouse ;)

    Love this post so much and I am so glad you are back!! I hope you enjoyed your hiatus!!

    • Jennifer Post author

      As you know, we don’t do the whole Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy thing either. One of the reasons why we chose to exclude those from our life is because of trust. We love our kids and we want them to trust us.

      I had to laugh at your comment “ask your father.” I do that too! Hilarious.

      I’m delighted you enjoyed this and thank you for the warm welcome back.

  • Debbie

    Hi Jennifer, excellent tips as always. Trust is vital in building any relationship, especially with our children and it works both ways. It makes me cringe when I see parents go against their word.

    Leading by example is always the best way to go.

    xx

    • Jennifer Post author

      I agree with leading by example. It’s so critical yet it can be one of the most challenging things to do! Sometimes I see how I’ve set some standards higher for my children than I should have. For example, they always need to write thank you notes when someone gives them something, yet I rarely do it myself. I fire off a text or say the words and that’s sufficient. I’m working on it though ;)

  • Ceil

    Hi Jennifer! Your points are really good. I was trying to see if I could pick out the most important to me, but I couldn’t do it!

    My husband and I always tried to be consistent and follow through. I remember my son complaining as a teenager: “You guys always agree!” (Tried hard not to laugh!) So it’s not only the little ones that need that consistency, it keeps on going!
    Blessings,
    Ceil

    • Jennifer Post author

      I love that there was that consistency between you and your husband. How awesome is that?!

      Building this trusting relationship is key as it does grow and shift as our children age.

      Thanks for sharing your insights Ceil.

    • Jennifer Post author

      That role modeling is essential. Our kids watch us so closely! They draw conclusions based upon our words and actions. It’s crucial that those align.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Melissa.

    • Jennifer Post author

      Exactly Jeremy! If I even have a thought that I wouldn’t want my children doing something I’m doing, then I know it’s time to step back, reflect, and adjust my behaviour.

    • Jennifer Post author

      You’re so right Simone. It can be hard for parents to admit their mistakes, but it’s crucial to making trusting connections with our children.

    • Jennifer Post author

      It’s good to start at a young age. I’m sure as long as you establish a relationship built on love, your children won’t want to pull away from you.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  • Lowanda J

    I wish that every parent would take this advice because it’s so crucial for the healthy growth of a child. As an educator, there are times when I feel like I am parenting the parents; teaching them some of the basic truths that you speak of. I’m pinning this for later so if I need to refer a parent to your site. Thanks for sharing. #SHINEbloghop

    • Jennifer Post author

      I’m a former early childhood educator, so I get what you’re saying about working with families. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in our lives and responsibilities that we forget about the necessity of these things.

      Thanks for pinning… I appreciate it!

  • Jessica Dimas

    I really love so many of the points you made here. I know that as a child, I was always embarrassed if anyone saw me being disciplined. I tend to forget this myself now as an adult as I feel the need to correct my child in front of people he may have “offended” or if I’m worried of being judged for his actions, but YES, being disciplined in front of others is horrible for a child. Thank you for that reminder!

    I also really like the point about not making promises…I also hadn’t really thought of that either. Okay, this post made me realize SO much LOL, I’ve got some work to do.

    • Jennifer Post author

      I was embarrassed by public discipline too. It’s bad enough to get in trouble but to get in trouble in front of others is brutal.

      I’m glad some of these points spoke to you. Parenting is growth… move with it, be gentle on yourself, you love your boys, and that’s number one. Everything else flows from there.

  • Caryn

    Thank you for this thoughtful list. I’m so hard on myself sometimes and needed to be reminded that some of the “intangibles” are really what is most important. Love, positivity and truth.

    • Jennifer Post author

      I’m delighted you found this list helpful. Those intangibles are so important. I need to remind myself often of what I need to focus on.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Caryn.

    • Jennifer Bly Post author

      I’m delighted you enjoyed this Lauren. Being a mom is always a work in progress isn’t it?! Today I said something jokingly about my daughter’s head smelling rancid in front of her grandparents – in retrospect, I’m certain it was embarrassing for her but hopefully I can keep those things in check when we’re visiting with others.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.