Is trust given or earned?
Is trust something that is given or is it something that is earned?
“My son has broken our trust and now he needs to earn it back.” This is a statement I have heard a lot of parents make about their children. Their kid has been dishonest with them, or done something they specifically told them not to do. Their child has broken their trust.
Now, this child must begin the long, arduous journey of getting the trust back from her parents. Many of the children I work with find this to be a seemingly impossible task. In their mind they feel their parents views them as untrustworthy.
Once a parent begins a narrative in their mind that their child is dishonest and can’t be trusted, they will then be on the lookout for any perceived deception or lie. When the parent begins looking for this it can appear to the kid as if their parents are looking for any reasons to not believe them. It is at this point that a lot of kids just give up trying.
This is a difficult place to come back from because then the kid might begin to believe the narrative as well. The child may begin to feel they aren’t worth trusting and some even stop trusting themselves.
In my own personal journey with my children, I have noticed the brain research to be true. Once I begin to believe something about my child then I will notice all the ways my theory or thesis is true. Dr. Becky Bailey says it like this, “What you focus on you will get more of.” This is what the brain science shows us as well.
If I believe my kid is a liar, then it will be very difficult for my child to change my truth. If I believe he can’t be trusted, then I will approach him with suspicion and caution. This becomes a very difficult pattern to break out of because it actually starts the interaction in an adversarial stance.
It is very difficult for a child or any human for that matter to be completely honest when they feel like they are being judged or already summed up as bad. When I have experienced that feeling in a relationship it feels almost impossible to be honest in those encounters. So then that brings me back to my question, is trust something my kids earn or is it something I give them?
Another way to ask the questions is, “Do you only trust people that have proven to you they are trustworthy?”
These questions I had about trust got me thinking about driving on a daily basis. I was noticing how much trust I give to strangers everyday when I am driving around Tulsa.
I have no idea who most of these people are. I don’t know their character or if they have violent tendencies. I choose to drive believing they want to get from point A to point B safely as much as I do. If I see one of them texting or driving a little erratic then I am more cautious around them and may even choose to be in a further lane but I don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that they are not trustworthy. I tend to give all of these strangers the benefit of the doubt.
That got me thinking about how I started trusting my kids in the first place. Did they earn it or did I just give it? Was trust just a natural byproduct of my initial love for them? I feel as if trust is always something I choose to give or I choose to withhold. Kids and people that act in a trustworthy manner make it much easier for me to give my trust to them.
The reciprocal is true as well, when people don’t tell the truth or act in a duplicitous manner then it is more likely I will be cautious about giving out my trust. This distinction is important in parenting. My child definitely plays a role in how safe or scared I feel in giving my trust but the choice is always mine. This can be very empowering to both the parent and to the child.