How to Trust Your “Untrustable” Child
Joey and Carla Link
August 14, 2019
A mom called me recently and said she felt bad because, as she emphatically stated, “I can’t trust my child anymore. Canyou help me love him again?” I reassured her she is not a bad mother and she is actually going through a normal phase with her child.
I told her, it is “normal”for parents to trust their child when the child says he/she will do something. Think about it, what parent wants to think or even believe they can’t trust their child? But when the task doesn’t get done for the umpteenth time after the parents best efforts to remind and remind until the parent is now the one doing all the “remembering”for many of this child’s responsibilities, it’s easy for a parent to get frustrated and even angry to the point of saying, “I can’t trust my child anymore!” And they are right, they can’t trust him. But it might not be the child’s fault.
Trust Is Broken When:
- Parents discover their child did not keep their word by actionorinaction
- Action– Parents visibly see it was not completed
- Inaction– “I forgot… I will do it right now!” (passive rebellion)
The parents feel betrayed which opens the door of doubt and they wonder if they can trust this child in anyarea of their life.
The parent begins to pull back a child/teen’s freedomsand hover over him, watching whatever he is instructed to do. In other words, the parents have taken ownershipof this child’s responsibilities getting done. They want to say “No!” to all of this child’s requests to do or play with things because they know their child won’t clean up after himself and frankly they don’t think he deserves to have fun. And when it comes to friends, they willsay “No” because they don’t think this child deserves to be with friends when their child can’t be trusted to get his stuff done at home.
The parents’ door of doubtbegins to frustrate their “untrustable” child causing the child to lash out with more disobedience and irresponsibility. Their child begins to think “Why should I try if it doesn’t get me anywhere?” Ultimately this downward spiralstunts the child’s maturity growth and responsibility development as the parents pull him back from learning opportunities with friends and responsibilities all because they can’t trust their child.
I can still remember looking at Carla and saying, “Do you think he (our son age 14) will remember to get the trash out this week? He apologizes when we remind him, thinks of ways to make himself remember, but will it get taken out? NO!” Because we didn’t give in, today our son is extremely responsible as a vice president in a company. Please remember, you are training your kids in trust and responsibility for today, tomorrow and everyday after that.
Ultimately, what you can’t trust is your child’s wordthat he will get the task done, not the child himself and your child needs to know this.
Steps Parents Can Take to Build Trust in Their Child
- Don’t say you can’t trust your child. There are areas you cantrust your child in, so this generalized statement is a lie. Rephrase your statement by asking these kind of questions:
- “I don’t trust what you are saying.”
- “Why do you think I can’t trust what you are telling me?”
- “I can’t trust what you will or will not do when I am not around.”
- Your child needs to be the one to initiate rebuilding trust.
Since your child/teen broke your trust, he/she must be the one to work to rebuild it. To do so he must have a teachableheart, admitting what he did was wrong and be open to learning how he can work to rebuild your trust in this area. By doing this, your child/teen is taking the ownershipback of getting his responsibilities completed.
- Your child/teen starts to rebuild your trust with an admission of guilt.
A parent must be willing to open the door of trust. The magic words come from the child/teen and must include two things:
1.Admitwhat he did that was wrong includingwhyit was wrong
- Share howit broke his parents’ trust in him
Without this admission by the child/teen, the parents will not believe the child is teachable. This is why parents need to stopreminding, nagging, threatening and lecturing to get their child to own up to the trust they have broken. As long as a child does not have to take ownership of their faults, there will be no repairing of the cracks in the relationship.
The Repentance, Forgiveness and Restoration Process: This 3 step process is keyfor a child/teen to own their behaviors. We learned it in the parenting class, Growing Kids God’s Wayand teach it in our parenting conferences, books, DVD’s and Mom’s Notes, especially in the presentation “Understanding Freedoms, Parts 1 and 2”.
How do you get your child/teen to do this? By letting him/her feel the consequencesof the loss of your trust. When they want to go to a friend’s house, instead of saying “NO!”askhim if he got all his stuff (responsibilities) done and have him name all of them. You ask this even if you know he didn’t. When he/she say they didn’t, ask how you can believe he will be a good friend and get back on time from his friend’s home. At this point your child will be frustrated with their inaction vs. you being frustrated with it because you have thrown the ball back into your child/teen’s court.
Once a child/teenadmitshis/her wrong and howit was wrong, he needs to ask his parents to forgivehim and tell them how he is going to make this wrong right. At this point parents need to demonstrate loveand forgiveness,acceptingtheir apology, encouraging them for thinking it through and ensuringthem you love them.
What you shouldn’t do is lecture them and tell them never to do it again. Your child/teen doesn’t need any more guilt. You can hold him accountableby asking him/her what they are going to do to preventthem from tossing the ownership of their responsibilities back to you.