Trust – Part One

About a year ago, the Hare started taking longer bike rides. Not just around the small block, the medium block or the big block: he wanted to stretch his wings a little more. The first few times he was great: he went, had a bit of a scoot around and came back fairly quickly. Then we had the not coming home on time incident. He was eight, I had a baby and a four-year-old, it was time for me to be in the kitchen preparing our evening meal. It didn’t go down well. He was fine. He’d just lost track of time, as kids do when they’re living in the moment. We talked about trust and how it was so important. He didn’t get to go exploring for a while.

And trust works both ways. One of the key things I want for our children is that they completely, utterly, deeply trust Craig and I. There are several aspects to trust, so in the interests of brevity I’ll only deal with one here.

That they trust us to give them accurate information.

Children are largely non-verbal…yes I know some talk alot…but the language paths in their brains are like small bumpy back roads rather than the super-highways we have as adults. So, to understand us, they rely on our body language first and our words second. When our body language and words don’t match, I believe, it creates a moment of distrust. Our body says this, but our words say that. They can hear our instruction, and they can also see our behaviour doesn’t match the instruction. They can’t believe our words because our bodies are sending a different (sometimes opposite) message.

Mis-match these often enough, and how can they truly trust we are ever providing correct information?

(Perhaps this is part of how generation gaps develop? If they don’t feel they can rely on our information, why would they follow our advice?)

So, here’s a  couple of leading questions…

When you say you are going to leave to go somewhere – do you leave right then? Or do you spend time chatting for a bit longer, then end up shouting at them to stop mucking around and come along, quickly now… Or do you tell them you are leaving and have them organised, only to disappear yourself to finish some task or grab something?


1.  Give them a count down to leaving (if our older boys are not within speaking distance we just hold up our fingers now, and they know it’s 10 minutes, 3 minutes… whatever…until leaving time…) then go when you say you’re going.

2. Get yourself completely organised and then give them the time warning, something like, “I’m starting the car in 5 minutes.” And then do it.

Second leading question, along similar lines…

When you are about to leave somewhere – do you tell them you’re leaving, turn and go – or do you tell them you’re leaving and then walk towards them?

Could you tell your children you are leaving and turn away from them, and actually leave?

Word of caution. When I began consciously matching my actions to my words, our children didn’t always follow – it took a month or so for them to unlearn the established pattern of behaviour and relearn that I really meant what I said.

Also, some children take a long time to learn to follow. So, if this doesn’t work, perhaps work on improving eye-contact (at least) first. (The trick to doing this appropriately is written in this post: Attention Seeking is a Big Fat Lie. )

We know a lot more than our children, simply because we’ve been around longer. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to pass that information on, and know they can trust what we tell them and follow our advice? Even when they are teenagers.

(This is officially how I help put food on the table. If you’ve found this article useful, please feel free to use the Koha button just above my blogroll. Even the smallest amount is appreciated. 🙂 )


About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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14 Responses to Trust – Part One

  1. Elena says:

    Great questions. I definitely try to back up my words with my actions. I don’t think I’ve paid very close attention to my specific body language but it would be a great exercise to be more mindful of it. Usually when I say we’re going to leave the house, I’ll chatter to my 3 year old about what I’m doing (going potty, changing the baby, gathering snacks or whatever) so he can see that all my chaotic scrambling really is moving us in the right direction. He’s usually pretty good about joining in the preparations.

    As far as teenagers taking advice, I know that the more they trust you, the more they will consider your opinion as valuable, but I also wonder, with the urge to be an individual and to have personal power, isn’t there a necessity to figure it out on one’s own? It seems like kids want to resist their parents just so that they can know for sure that they are becoming their own person and that they actually have choices and aren’t just doing what Mommy says like a little kid. You know? At my ripe old age, I love to know what my parents have to say about different situations and issues, and I realize now what a help they could have been if I had listened, but as a teen and young adult I was determined NOT to listen because I wanted to do it myself.

    • kloppenmum says:

      I absolutely agree with you about the teens. I guess my thought is that if, at least, they can rely on what we have told them, then they have a safety-net of advice to fall back on. From there they can make their own informed decisions. I don’t plan to be ‘advising’ our kids once they start on that road, but hope that they deeply (in their cells) know that we are trustworthy. I like your idea for getting the three year old out the door too.

  2. Loi says:

    When G was about 2, it struck me, how she would completely accept and believe everything I told her, even if it wasn’t the truth – it felt both amazing (to be so powerful) and rather scary at having such responsibility. We have since gone down the path of being completely honest in our responses to her questions – some seemingly far beyond her age. I try hard not to assume that because she is young, she needs an edited response, and I have found that if it something she doesn’t understand she questions it further.
    With this honesty, we have found that she is also open and honest with us, even when she has done something ‘wrong’, I really do hope this trust extends through her tween and teen years – judging from most experiences – they might come in handy!
    And yes – we do always leave when we say – and carry out threats that are made e.g. We are leaving if you start misbehaving – often results in amazingly good behaviour!

    • kloppenmum says:

      Isn’t it great when you get that openness about ‘naughty’ behaviours, at least then you can deal with them calmly and the natural (and needed) dose of shame isn’t overwhelming for our little ones. I have the same sense of awe and responsibility around the complete trust our children show us, too. It is rather humbling, I agree.

  3. adhdwith3 says:

    The count down I have learned is pretty critical–giving them the warning ahead of time, and yet so often I forget to do it—

    • kloppenmum says:

      There is so much to think about when we’re parents…it’s no wonder we forget things from time to time! But, yes I agree, the count down is important.

  4. Asta Burrows says:

    That is a great challenge – how to do what I say… and not to send mixed messages! And great point about the counting down – all though I have tried that with my husband: Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes, dinner is ready! And then he has to go and do something just when the dinner hits the table – and I am also thinking about the message he sends to the kid when he does this! We have lots to work on here 🙂

  5. klightner says:

    Mine’s not yet two but I think this is great strategy to try. Little man had quite the tantrum last week when I made us leave the playground and get in the car to go home. Jeez it was getting dark and dinner time! Think maybe I should have had a little more trust and walked toward the car instead of back to him. Will definitely keep this in mind.

    • kloppenmum says:

      Great that you think you can make this work. I would just suggest that you practise at home a few times first, and work out the distance you can be ahead of him without freaking him out entirely. Sometimes just breaking eye-contact and turning your body away can be enough. Let me know how it works out, but don’t expect it to work without the practise. 🙂

      • kloppenmum says:

        Oh, and I also suggest you make sure you have his attention before you go!

      • kloppenmum says:

        I just tried a slightly different technique with our toddler today. He didn’t want to leave kindergarten…I got his attention then called out, “Chase Mummy time!” and made little running motions in the direction of the gate. He paused and then came with no problems at all, then I swept him into my arms for a quick cuddle and carried him away. Worth a try?

  6. Pipi says:

    Of course, consistency is the ultimate key. It’s even harder when you’re not the only one who is spending time with your child. The existence of dad and nanny, or grandparents can always send various messages. I think talking to all of them about the rules and regulations is an important thing to consider.

    • kloppenmum says:

      I agree that it’s important for all the adults to have a similar approach with our children, and that’s not always so easy when other people have a strong point of view!

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