On its surface the statement “you need to earn my trust” is believed and considered sound. But how does it work in practicality?
I subscribed to this philosophy in all my relationships, including those with my kids. Then I sat and talked with over 3,000 kids and began to understand their point of view. Through my research and coaching of parents and adolescents I found that the phrase “you need to earn my trust” was negatively impacting the parent child relationship.
I have come to see trust as the bedrock of love. Trust and love go hand in hand. If trust breaks down in a marriage, the love relationships in big trouble. I found this equally true in the parent child relationship. Put concisely, when our kids do not feel trusted, they begin to question if they are loved.
When kids hear the phrase “you need to earn my trust” they lose hope because they understand that it means they cannot “mess up” for an extended period of time. Given the nature of childhood, learning and especially the adolescent brain, it seems virtually impossible to them. When they reach this conclusion, their relationship with their parents begins to die. They pull away emotionally making it more likely they will fail to earn their parents’ trust because they fill the relational void with social media, friends or other escapes.
Since love and trust our inexplicably linked in a child’s mind, they often adopt a performance-based view of love. They begin to believe they are loved only when they are good, perfect or worthy of trust. This leads to hurt that they do not express and greater distance from their parents.
While I understand the phrase “earn my trust” has merit outside the home, I find it to be destructive within the home and in family relationships. Here is the reason. The person who is told they need to earn trust then must perform to the standard set by parents for a period of time. When neither of these factors is defined, it leaves kids wondering if it is possible to earn their parents’ trust again.
Just for fun let’s try to define these terms. If we specified that to earn trust you need to do your chores, not lie, get upset or talk back for a month, one can easily see how kids would fall into the belief that love is based on their performance.
Loving our kids is shown through our actions toward them. This is why I began to communicate to my kids my belief and trust in them even after they failed. Next blog I will share how I approach failure discussions that strike at trust. It will also have examples that have kept my kids close and resulted in deeper learning and better internally motivated decisions on their part.
We all desire to have trust with our kids and Revive Family can help. Join us for our free webinar on Influential Parenting to see how we can help..