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  • Writer's pictureKids Life Magazine

Building Trust with Your Child

By Larry Deavers

Building trust with your child is crucial for a healthy parent-child relationship. The way you prove your character and integrity to your child is by being faithful to your word, keeping your commitments and conveying to them that they are valuable individuals worthy of your time, effort and respect. 


Trust is an essential part of having the kind of influence you want to have in your child’s life.  It provides a safe environment where they feel welcomed to have honest conversations with you in the most critical moments throughout their lives, without feeling judged, criticized or dismissed.


Here are some ideas to help build a trusting relationship, whether your “child” is 4-years-old or 70:


Be consistent: Consistency in your words and actions helps build reliability and a sense of security.  The frantic urgency of work and life continually places unexpected demands on your time; however, being true to your word, reliable and keeping even the smallest of your commitments to your child is essential to them respecting you and feeling a healthy respect for themselves, as well. 


Listen Actively: Show genuine interest in your child’s thoughts and feelings. Listen without judgment and validate their emotions.  It may be tempting to dismiss or shame a child for feeling the way they do, but a more respectful and healthy approach is to ask appropriate questions that generate a discussion with your child about their perception of things. This may give you the opportunity to respectfully share an alternative perception that can help them take a different point of view and teach them to challenge their own thinking when they feel critical towards others.


Be honest: Always be truthful with your child, even when it’s difficult. Honesty fosters trust and demonstrates respect for their intelligence.  Depending on their age or your own needs for privacy, you may choose to only provide some information or to let your child know when something they ask is not appropriate for you to share, but always be honest with them.  Avoid partial-truths or manipulation, which will teach your child that misleading others with your words is acceptable and will only have detrimental effects on their ability to relate to others going forward.


Respect their boundaries: Respect your child’s personal space, privacy, and autonomy. Avoid prying or invading their privacy without reason.  While you do need to take prudent steps to oversee and protect your child, as their age dictates, you may do a disservice to your influence with them when you readily or excessively violate healthy relationship boundaries simply because you can.  When you feel the need to invade their privacy, just take a moment to reflect on whether it is necessary or whether it is just your own curiosity or need to control.


Apologize when necessary: Acknowledge your mistakes and apologize when you’re wrong.  This shows your child that it’s okay to make mistakes and that you value honesty.  Some parents are afraid that this will somehow diminish their standing in their child’s eyes.  However, recognizing your mistakes, owning them and seeking to make them right (without making excuses) is an essential element in gaining your child’s respect and equipping them with an important skill they will use the rest of their lives. 


Spend quality time together: Building trust requires investing time in your relationship. Engage in activities that your child enjoys and create opportunities for open communication.  Nothing can take the place of your quality, one-on-one time with your child.  This conveys to them that they are valuable and worth your time and individual attention.  This also creates unique opportunities for you or your child to initiate meaningful conversations that would not happen otherwise.


Be supportive: Offer encouragement and support in their endeavors. Show them that you believe in their abilities and are there to help them navigate challenges.  It isn’t enough to simply say, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” Truly showing that you believe in them will mean allowing them to take certain, age-appropriate risks and sometimes failing or succeeding.  When we are too quick to set excessive limits or rescue our child from the consequences of their choices, they soon learn they are not as capable as you say they are and that they cannot take risks without you saving them when it all goes wrong.


Be respectful: Avoid belittling or dismissing their feelings and opinions.  The pressures of life and juggling responsibilities can often leave us feeling exhausted and stressed.  This can lead to speaking with a curt tone to children, especially when their timing or attitude is not welcomed at the moment.  When we allow ourselves to speak with a dismissive or harsh tone, it conveys a sense of disrespect and can leave your child feeling devalued.  Treat your child with respect and expect the same in return.  This is a valuable boundary that teaches your child to respect themselves and others. 




Larry Deavers is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker & Executive Director of Family Counseling Service of West Alabama.






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