By Spencer Loyd
I have been working with youth and their parents for over ten years; in that time, I’ve often heard parents express concerns about the lack of trust their children have in them and their desire for a stronger relationship. This is a valid concern. As James E. Faust said, “Being a father or a mother is not only a great challenge, it is a divine calling. It is an effort requiring consecration. President David O. McKay stated that being parents is ‘the greatest trust that has been given to human beings.’”
Sometimes, the concerns are minimal and dissipate with consistent efforts toward building trust. Other times though, the concerns are legitimate and need to be addressed in order to build deeper trust with children.
Below are three helpful tips for parents who have children who struggle with trusting them, or parents who want to build a closer bond between themselves and their children.
Be the person you want them to be. It’s easy to fall into the parenting trap of “do what I say, not as I do.” However, psychologists at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education explain, “Children learn ethical values and behaviors by watching our actions and the actions of other adults they respect. Children will listen to our teaching when we walk the talk” (Raising Caring Children). So we may want to adopt the saying “do as I do” in order to help our children see we are worth trusting, and it would be great if they turned out like us.
Parents can show their kids how this is done by modeling behaviors, especially when using technology. For instance, putting your phone away during dinner shows your kids that you value them and family time, and it’s important to take a break from screens periodically.
Respond to your children with compassion instead of reacting. When situations catch us off guard, it can be almost natural to react poorly. However, a negative reaction, such as yelling when a child accidentally breaks a glass, can often have an adverse and sometimes lasting impact on children. If a parent instead responds with compassion, a child is more likely to listen and learn from those situations. The Dalai Lama said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive” (Mtsho and Cutler, 2009). Responding compassionately is harder than it sounds, but seeing your child understand a concept instead of fearing you is well worth the effort.
For example, if you find your child has been looking at pornography, instead of yelling and screaming something along the lines of “I thought we taught you better,” wait until you are calm and approach them with love. Think about saying the following, “I understand lots of people look at pornography; this is why I think/believe you shouldn’t” (For more tips on how to approach this subject, check out How to Talk to Your Kids about Pornography.)
Listen to your child, then let them find solutions to their problems. Parents want their children to succeed, so they will help them in any way they can. However, children generally learn more if they find their own solutions to their problems, instead of their parents giving them the answers. Psychologist Steven Stosny teaches, “As much as possible, let solutions to their problems come from the children. (As they mature, your job is to give fewer answers and ask more questions that lead them to solutions)” (2011).
If we can listen and ask open ended questions, this will help our children see that we are listening and care about what they have to say. For example, “How does that make you feel?” or “What do you think about that?”, or “How would you like the situation handled?” are all questions that can help guide our children to possible solutions. . As we build this habit, our kids will be more likely to consider our questions in the future, and they may even use our example as a map of how to respond to certain situations.
These are just a few of the many things parents can do to help build relationships of trust with their children. It can take practice to incorporate these ideas into daily life. And it can be easy to get discouraged. Just remember, there are no perfect parents and no “secret” to success. But, your kids are worth your efforts!
Most importantly of all, we must rely on Grace to make us into the parents that we cannot be on our own. As Joseph Smith reminds us, “The Lord gave us power in proportion to the work to be done, and strength according to the race set before us, and grace and help as our needs require.”
To find more tips on building deeper connections with your kids, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child. Set up in Family Home Evening lessons, this guide includes great questions, lessons and challenges to help your kids learn to fill their emotional, intellectual, social, physical and spiritual “accounts.” Some of the topics include: respect, accountability, positive self-talk, empathy, addiction, gratitude, critical thinking, and many more–30 lessons in all.
Spencer Loyd is the father of four amazing children under the age of 10. He attended Brigham Young University-Idaho and studied Marriage and Family Studies. He currently works as a substance abuse counselor at a correctional facility. Spencer has a passion for music, especially creating his own with his family, and binge watching scary movies with his brothers. He also enjoys helping others succeed and seeing the joy this brings.
Mtsho, B. D., & Cutler, H. (2009). The art of happiness: A handbook for living. London: Yellow Kite.
Raising Caring Children. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/parenting-resources-raising-caring-ethical-children/raising-caring-children1
Stosny, S. (2011, February 11). Compassionate Parenting. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/201102/compassionate-parenting
The Most Important Relationships of Our Lives
“The home … is the workshop where human characters are built and the manner in which they are formed depends upon the relationship existing between parents and the children. The home cannot be what it should be unless these relationships are of the proper character. Whether they are so or not depends, it is true, upon both parents and children, but much more upon parents. They must do their best.”— Joseph Fielding Smith
Ready for Awesome Family Home Evenings?
Check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child. It includes helpful lessons, activities, and discussion questions to help your kids learn to fill their social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical accounts. This is a GREAT supplement to the new Children and Youth Program.