“When children know they can trust us, they’re more likely to do what we ask if we tell them it’s really important.” – Alfie Kohn

I like to think of this idea as “money in the bank.” When you need to make a withdrawal, i.e. ask your child to go along with you because you think it’s important even though they don’t, if the account is empty you won’t get cooperation. 

There are lots of ways we put money in the bank: working on our self-regulation and cultivating a close relationship are two of them. 

But the idea in this quote- trust- is worth diving into a little deeper. 

How do we make sure our children trust us? 

Be honest with them. It might be tempting to tell them the TV is broken or the cookies are gone, but it erodes their trust if they find out otherwise. By taking the ‘easy way out’ we lose the chance to be a strong leader who can do hard things.

Be as consistent as possible. If one day they’re allowed to jump on the couch, and one day they’re not, it can be confusing.  Better to think about what limits are important to you and what you can let go. Or- if you say no to jumping on the couch but then you say yes after a big meltdown, they might doubt that you mean what you say. Always stop and think before you say no. Not sure you have it in you to weather the meltdown? Maybe say yes because today is ‘special-jump-on-the couch-day’ as it’s the first Tuesday after the full moon (or whatever!)

Don’t power trip them. If you use threats and consequences to get them to do what you want, you’ll lose their trust and erode the good will between you. I know I couldn’t trust someone who threatened to cause me pain to get me to do what they want.  

Take their preferences and desires into consideration. You might not always be able to squeeze in a quick trip to the playground between the dentist appointment and dinner. But you can mull it over, ask them how they could contribute to making it work out, and take their idea seriously. 

Respect them. Listen to them when they talk. Take their ideas seriously. Treat them as the important humans that they are. 

If you do these things, your bank account will be overflowing with good will and trust. So when you ask them to please wear the itchy tie and uncomfortable shoes at their Auntie’s wedding, they’ll do it (even though they don’t want to!) They know it’s important to you and they trust you don’t ask them to do things that aren’t important. Or when you tell them that they can’t play Fortnite because it’s not good for their brains, they’ll accept your limit (even if they’re really unhappy about it!) Your child will know deep in their bones that you really do have their best interests at heart. 

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