We play so many roles as parents that little things like building trust with your kids can be overlooked. We’re worried about getting food on the table, ensuring all the bills are paid, every room is clean, and that our kids are healthy and happy. But the biggest role we have as parents teaching our kids how to become fully functioning adults, and that includes being emotionally stable.
Trust is such an important part of your kid’s development. In every relationship that you or your kids have, there is a level of trust. Whether it’s trusting that their teacher is there to support them or the trust they have in you to follow through on certain promises, trust is at the core of every relationship.
Building trust in your kids starts with you. Accord to Greater Good Magazine, “The parent-child relationship is the first social relationship. It teaches the child that he can communicate in order to get his needs met, which transfers to forming relationships later in life.”
But how do you start teaching and building trust within your children? And when should you start?
While it’s never too early to start building trust in your relationship with your children, that trust is extremely important when your children become toddlers. Toddlers’ eyes and minds are opening to the world around them and trying to comprehend how the world works. You know this to be true because of how often they “test” us.
Toddlerhood is a trying time for parents, but if you play your cards right you can help shape them into the highly functioning adults you want them to be at this age. While it may not be easy, here are some ways to start building trust in your toddler today!
Avoid saying things like “Because I said so”
Toddlers (and adults) need explanations! Imagine going to the grocery store, asking for certain deli meat, and being declined simply because “they said so”. It’s extremely frustrating and you likely will lose all the trust you have for that grocery store. The same goes for when you’re building trust in your toddler.
If you give them an explanation, even if it’s one they don’t quite understand, they are likely to trust you in the future to have a reason instead of throwing a tantrum.
The same goes for “You’ll understand when you’re older”. While your toddler may not understand certain words or emotions, it’s important that you don’t belittle them due to their age. This makes them think that you don’t trust them with certain information, leaving them to feel untrustworthy or unwanted.
Get on Their Level
Building trust goes beyond explanations. Getting on your kid’s level and having eye contact when talking with them can make the biggest difference in your relationship. Whether your kids are trying to tell you something that’s important to them or you’re reprimanding them for something they did, it can feel as if you’re towering over them if you’re not on their level.
Oceanside Resource Centre tells us “Through eye contact, parents can let their children know “I am here for you, I am interested in what you have to say, you have great value to me, I love you.”
When you’re working on building trust with your toddlers or kids, make sure that they know you are both equals in this relationship. Getting on their level and making eye contact is important in every aspect of your communication with them.
Be Open About Emotions
When you’re building trust with your toddlers, it’s important to not avoid the “negative” emotions that you both may feel. Parenthood is rough, and there may be a time where your child walks in on you crying. Instead of going with the classic “Mommy is fine” line, explain to them that you feel sad and it’s okay to feel sad. Teaching your kids about emotions can help shape them into stable adults.
As humans, we all go through a range of emotions, and if they can trust you to be honest about what you’re feeling then they will trust you to be honest about what they’re feeling. This can help shape their future relationship with you and future relationships with others. The ability to talk about what they’re feeling can help them get to the root of the problem and find a solution.
Plus, imagine having your teenager trust you enough to talk about what they’re feeling. That in itself is a game-changer.
Don’t Lie to Them
This may sound very obvious, but lying to your children can break the trust they have for you immediately. Simple lies can even break down walls that you’ve spent time building between you two.
For instance, when you’re preparing your children to get a shot at the doctor don’t say “It’s okay honey, it won’t hurt at all”. Your toddler’s pain tolerance is extremely different from yours, and fear can play a huge factor in that pain. Instead, think of this as a building trust exercise and prepare your child for what will really happen. “This may feel uncomfortable and a little scary, but I will be there for you the entire time”. This shows your children that it’s okay to go through scary obstacles in life and that they can trust you every step of the way.
Being honest with them in other situations can also help with building trust in your toddler, it can even help with separation anxiety! When you’re dropping them off at Grandma’s house so you can grocery shop by yourself, be honest and let them know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Don’t sneak out or tell them you’re “going to work”. This allows your child to think of you and themselves as separate people who sometimes do things without each other. While it will take some work to build up that trust, it’ll be worth the decrease in separation anxiety.
Hold True to Your Promises
“You can have dessert after you’ve finished dinner.”, “If you clean up your room we can go out for ice cream.”, “I will play with you once I am finished taking a shower”. These are all promises that your kids trust you to follow through on, so make sure you’re following through.
Even if your kids forget about the “reward” that you have promised, building trust with your kids is showing them that you remember what is important to them.
Allow Your Toddler a Bit of Independence
When you’re building trust with your toddler, it’s important to constantly show them that YOU trust THEM. Give them a bit of responsibility and have them contribute to the household in a meaningful way.
We’re not suggesting that you leave cooking dinner completely up to them, but including them can have a huge impact on their trust levels. Include them in everyday tasks like dinner prep, setting the table, feeding the animals, and even sweeping! The more included they feel in the things that you do, the more they will feel you trust them.
Part of that independence can also be allowing them to make their own decisions. Choosing their outfit at the start of the day allows them to express themselves and know that you trust them to get dressed by themselves. No, their outfit may not always match and they may wear the same pair of pajamas three days in a row, but none of that really matters in the long run. What matters to them is that you have trusted them, which in turn will give them a reason to trust in you.
Relax and Make it Fun!
Building trust with your toddler will be exhausting. You will likely have to repeat yourself a million times and wait patiently for them through every step. But take a deep breath and know that each time you allow them the opportunity to trust you, that you get brownie points for being a good parent.
And who says building trust can’t be fun? Here are three games you can play to start building trust in your kids along with the everyday steps you take.
This is a great relationship-building game for you and your kids! Start by having your toddler or child stand with their back turned to you. Let them know that they can trust you to catch them and have them simply fall back into your arms.
The feeling of falling backward is extremely unnerving, especially for someone who really doesn’t know if there is anything to catch them. Every time you catch them, they will feel more and more secure in your arms and in your relationship. Don’t forget to tickle them every few falls as well!
This game can also be played when your kids are a bit younger than toddler age. Simply throw them in the air, let go and show them that you will always be there to catch them! Babies absolutely love this game, but be sure not to throw them too high.
Build an obstacle course with your kids! From chairs to pillows, you can make it as easy or hard as you’d like, but make sure there is a path to follow. Now comes the fun part! Take turns being blindfolded with your kids and have the one who can see guide you by hand through the course.
You and your toddler may feel like you’re going to bump into something every step of the way, but the point of this game is for them to trust you to guide them through the things they may not see or understand. Plus your kid will get a kick out making you bump into every single obstacle!
Group Jump Rope
Get the whole family involved when you’re working on building trust! Make sure you have a very long jump rope and have multiple kids and adults try to hop over the rope at the same time. Everyone will have to trust each other to make that jump correctly, otherwise, it will throw off everyone else from tripping. You’ll want to take this game slowly if you’re working on it with little ones.
Building trust with your kids is an extremely important part of being a parent. You’re here to shape them from the very beginning stages of life, and teaching them how to understand trust is something that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Building trust with your kids can help improve your relationship with them, and life will be that much better for you all in the long run.
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