Developing Trust

What is trust? As parents, how can we teach our children to be trustworthy? Trust is difficult to understand for most adults, and even harder to teach kids.

Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, recommends using a marble jar to help children visualize trust. Her research suggests that small, seemingly insignificant acts of support or kindness create trust, each action building upon the other. Use marbles, stones, cotton balls, or any other small object to represent each act. The fuller your marble jar becomes, the greater the trust.

It may feel strange to reward a child for something normal like picking up a wrapper they dropped, but children love to be noticed, and this reinforcement reminds them that trust-building can start small. The more they are appreciated for their efforts in building trust, the more confident they will become.

Trust goes both ways: we must be trustworthy in order to ask someone else to trust us. As parents, we can model being trustworthy by meeting our kids’ needs regularly and predictably, by being genuine and honest, and a steadfast presence.

For added fun, plan a special treat or activity when the jar fills entirely! Ice cream sundaes, silly movie night, even an extra bedtime story is a great way to celebrate building trust as a family.

Remember that building trust is a slow process, and that is okay.

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