Giving and earning trust is one of the most important values that you can teach your kids. Stephen Covey specializes in defining and teaching trust issues in his books on effective living. It has to be earned and has to go both ways - from the parents to the kids and the kids to the parents. Do what you promised you would do (DWYPYWD see chapter on this.)It's all about making promises and keeping them. If you make and break promises on a regular basis you can never build trust between you and them and you are teaching them to do things the same way.
Do you trust them when leaving them home for the evening or weekend… with full use of the Internet or the car?
Do you trust them with your passwords to private files? Or by not having passwords at all?
Should you trust them with your money, or with money left lying on the counter?
I say you need to extend trust for many things, especially after they earn it, but try to minimize temptations by not leaving money out, not letting them roam the Internet however and whenever they desire, by having things password protected, etc…
Have our kids always been trustworthy? I wish I could say yes, but I can't, and when we found that our trust was violated, we made it clear to the offending child and made them understand that they need to earn it back… not with any other siblings present and not with anybody else around.
There was a missing $20 bill from our teen daughter's desk, at least she was somewhat sure that it was on her desk a few days before. Earlier I had seen a wallet on the end table in the living room and when I looked inside, it contained $20. The wallet belonged to our 8 year old. Later, after asking around if anyone had seen or come across the missing money, I checked the wallet again and noticed that the money was no longer in it. I put 2 and 2 together and figured he took it out and hid it so he wouldn't be caught with it.
At first, I did not know how to handle it because I suspected he would just deny taking the money if accused, so I used a different approach. I thought if I used a soft, understanding and teaching-type approach it would be more effective.
This called for some privacy from all the other kids, so I told him discreetly to come downstairs to the sauna, telling him I needed to talk to him.
I started off by saying "When I was a kid, perhaps about your age, I wasn't a model of perfectness. In fact maybe I made up that word, but what I mean, I messed up every now and then, just like any boy your age does." (Understand, up to summoning him downstairs, he had no idea why I was bringing him there. Now maybe he had an idea, but with this preamble his guard was down and he's thinking… "dad doesn't seem to be mad," so he might have felt that he's safe in admitting it.) I went on, "When growing up, I sometimes would try to hide my guilt somehow, and sometimes even lie about it to protect myself, until I realized that when I made a mistake, or messed up in any way, it always ended better when I admitted to it and came clean as soon as possible." (Now realize he has not yet admitted to anything, nor has he been accused.)
I went on to say "Your sister lost some money and that money was in your wallet on the end table a couple days ago…" (At this point, there's no room to lie, since he knows that I know he had the money.) "I just want to know what you did with the money?"
Without asking him if he stole it, which may have been harder to admit, I asked, "Where did you put it?"
This approach works so much better than accusing right off the bat. First he realized that dad, and perhaps all boys, screw up sometimes. Second, he feels less threatened by the tone of understanding, not the threat of getting a whipping. Third, he learns a valuable lesson and I feel confident that he will never steal again, in fact I feel that we are closer than before the incident.
He likes to be around us, gives us hugs, is more diligent with his chores, etc… On the other hand, had I given him the "what for!" which is a common reaction to this type of behavior, I think he would have just been more careful not to get caught next time. When bringing out someone's fault, admit to your own weakness first and you will build a trusting relationship for a lifetime.
If you have not experienced it yet, try to imagine handing over the keys of your hard earned, or maybe financed, car or truck to your first 16 year old driver who is off on a date. Or giving them the car for a weekend trip of 600 miles or so with a bunch of their teen friends.
He or she already passed driver's ed, including the book work, driving with the teacher, 50 hours of driving with you or your spouse and the 1 hour road test for the final proof that they know how. Now, you're asked to hand over the keys for their first real adventure behind the wheel. Do you trust him or her?
At the time of this writing, we've had 10 kids complete driver's ed and all have moved on to owning their own cars. We've always had a well-used car that we didn't have to worry about, but there was often concern about the inexperienced driver on the road with other drivers that you know nothing about. As far as trust, yes we always trusted them when handing over the keys, because if we didn't, we would not have allowed it at the moment.
This book is not about discipline, but since it is about kids and raising good kids, I thought it necessary to say something about it.
It's been said "spare the rod and spoil the child." In other words, old folklore encourages spanking in order to discipline. Spanking or any form of corporal punishment is one action that I don't believe in after so many years. I've done it, mostly with my first family, but I don't remember the last time I laid a hand on one. I do seem to recall that when I did, I always felt bad afterward and had to ask for forgiveness.
I believe that spanking can lead to physical abuse and long lasting limiting beliefs in the child. There are studies out that prove the only thing spanking does is cause immediate compliance. It doesn't assure that they won't do it again and can bring on other aggression and lasting problems.
Instead, we have the kids sometimes sit in a corner and "take a time out" until we release them and actually say they can go and resume their play. This gives them time to cool off, and maybe stew about it and realize how they messed up. For youngsters that have not experienced a spanking, this can be just as effective, if not more.
One thing we do sometimes is take away their rights for the moment or for the future. For example, if a chore did not get done or they mis-behaved in some way, we will not allow them to go to their friend's house or have a friend come over for a short period of time… just enough for them to realize there are consequences to their actions or lack of action.
Some families will hold back allowance, but since we don't give allowances, we can't do that. (See chapter on allowance)
1. Trust, but minimize temptations.
2. Be trustworthy yourself and they will learn it.
3. When trust is broken, make your children understand that they need to earn your trust back over time.
4. Don't spank or otherwise physically hurt your kids!