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Parents – What are We Teaching Our Children About Trust and Relationships?

April 11th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Our lives revolve around the fulfilling relationships we create. We’ve all heard the quote, “no man is an island”. I believe this means we can’t happily exist all alone  in the world, without a connection to others.

Building a connection to others is easy for some and incredibly difficult for others. What makes it so easy for one and not for another?

Our ability to trust others, and have them trust us, is started in our early childhood. Yes, parents, it is up to us to help our young ones develop into trusting people who can have healthy relationships with others.

What can we do as parents to nurture trust? Here are a few things to consider.


This can be a difficult one because we perceive our children as being too young or naive to understand the truth. We develop little white lies to protect them, or insulate them, from things we have done in the past which we are ashamed of.

It is difficult to answer the question “Is there a Santa Claus?”. It is an admiral trait to want to keep our children innocent and pure. How about the question about pot, or sex before marriage, or any other issue we might not feel comfortable discussing, or don’t know how to honestly discuss with our children? White lies can be a very thin line to walk. The white lies stretches over a pit of mistrust which even many well meaning parents have fallen into.

Parents, often, reward dishonest behavior. Do we give less punishment if they tell us what we want to hear? Or, is the punishment more when we discover a lie?


Whether we want to accept it or not, our children learn loyalty from us. Loyalty is an important trait in a leader, a team, a parent, or anyone who wants to have a rewarding relationship with others.

Many people don’t seem to value loyalty anymore. In many social circles it is quite passe. No matter how loyalty is viewed in this day and age, it remains an important factor for trust.

Many parents talk about their children behind their backs. They enjoy telling “naughty” stories about what junior did. We’ve all had a good laugh at a cute naughty story. I know people who talk badly about their children as if they were the worst children in the world, loud enough for them to hear. I always wince when I hear a parent talking badly about their children. Actually, it is a tactic insecure parents use to get the attention of others.

What it teaches our children is, no one is worthy of loyalty. These children grow up to speak badly of their spouses, their children, their bosses, their jobs, and any other relationships.

There is a concept in military circles. When in battle, two soldiers will place themselves back to back in their foxhole to protect each other and thus themselves from an enemy. It takes trust and loyalty to do this. Are we the kind of parents our children would want in their foxhole?


Many people haven’t learned to have integrity. I have witness married couples who don’t trust each other, because one or both lack integrity. What does that mean?

Any time a person with integrity says they are going to do something, they do it!  They are true to their word. Their word is their bond. When a couple says one thing and does another or doesn’t do as they say they will, the lack of integrity breaks down the relationship  little by little.  It can kill any relationship, including the one with our children.

For instances, parents can say a certain consequence is going to happen if the child acts a certain way. The child will test them. If this consequence doesn’t come about, what have we taught our children about integrity?

I have seen parents who yell and scream and threaten to give the child a “lickin'”, but they are empty words. They threaten, but they aren’t willing to follow through with action.  The parent doesn’t realize they are compromising their integrity, which leads to more screaming and yelling and threats. A vicious cycle spins out of control.

Children also watch our relationships with each other. They watch how their parents treat each other. They watch us when we aren’t honest, take something that isn’t ours, make a promise or commitment and not follow through.


When we have a sense of community, we do what is right for everyone instead of only taking care of #1. People without a sense of community will lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want…to heck with everyone else.

A parent who teaches a sense of community sees the world as a loving place in which to serve. They take care of the sick, the elderly, our planet, those less fortunate than them, and they take care of their children.


This can make or break a parent/child relationship. If we parents tell everything we know, how can our children trust us with any confidences?

Our children, when they trust us, will tell us things from their heart. They don’t want these things told to others. When we can’t control ourselves, and we tell those confidences, we erode their trust.

Trust is built one day, and one interaction, at a time. It can take a lifetime to build trust, but one poor decision to destroy it. Think of our relationships with someone as an empty box. Every time we act in a way which builds trust we put a credit in the box. These credits build up over time. Any action which takes away our trust takes credits out of the box. A major bad decision, which steals the trust from this relationship, is like lighting a fire in the box. All the good things we have done can go up in a puff of smoke. The way to keep those credits in the box is to make good decisions.

Some might say they haven’t learned these things as children. Is there no hope for them to build strong trusting relationships? I’ll answer with a quote from Louis L’Amour, “A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner, so if one’s life is cold and bare he can blame none but himself.”

If this article has been helpful to you feel free to pass it on!

To read an article from Jon Gordon about building trust, click here!


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