Here are some do’s and don’ts to watch out so you can teach trustworthiness to your children.
Trustworthiness is an important quality we need to invest time in building in the lives of our children. Think about it, do you like to spend time with people you don’t trust? If you were an employer, would you want to hire people you can’t trust? When thinking about people who have made the biggest positive impact in your lives, were they often very trustworthy?
A trustworthy person is someone who can be relied upon to be honest, truthful, reliable, dependable, credible and safe (source). God calls His children to be trustworthy, and lucky for all of us, it isn’t rocket science. “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities” (Luke 16:10). For mothers, this is very good news! It means that from a young age we can encourage trustworthiness in our children in even the smallest of tasks and matters
What you should do to encourage and promote trustworthiness in your children.
1) Do give responsibilities
A clear and easy way to develop trustworthiness and responsibility in your children is to give them age appropriate responsibilities or tasks that you keep them accountable for. It might be a chore or two, or making their bed, picking up their toys, etc. By giving your children something that they can “own” they will learn to follow through with their projects and carry out what is expected of them.
This will take time, patience and training on the part of the parent, of course, because kids are not naturally going to want to do things they don’t consider fun. After a while, however, when they know there are consequences to their choices, they will get the idea.
2) Do have consequences when responsibilities aren’t met
If your workplace had a 3-tardies-and-you’re-fired rule that you have seen enforced firsthand, through hell or high water you’d get to work on time. If your co-worker has shown up 20 minutes late every day for a year, you aren’t terribly worried about it. Our children learn, not in a manipulative way, to follow our lead. If we expect them to clean their room and – when they do not – we do nothing about it, they will quickly learn that they don’t have to do it if they don’t want to since nothing negative happens anyway.
A good way to help train responsibility is by giving a task and then a consequences for failing to do the tasks, or conversely, rewards for completing it. No park on Friday afternoon if the [insert chore here] wasn’t completed during the week. After a Friday or two of sitting it out they would quickly get the picture.
3) Do explain beforehand clearly what you expect, and why trustworthiness is so important.
Children are born with immature minds. They need their parents to train and explain things. When giving a responsibility it is important to fully explain to your child what you expect of them, what will happen when they do/don’t follow through, and why responsibility is so important.
Trustworthiness is not about promising something to make others happy, but about following through on promises made.
Here are some things to avoid so you don’t inadvertently teach your children that image is more important than truth.
1) Don’t treat children as though they are trustworthy with a task/matter when in fact they are not
If you have told your child not to read under their covers at night and they repeatedly disobey you, then don’t treat them with the trust they have not earned. Don’t allow them to close their door and “give you their word.” Their word is not trustworthy. A parent would do well to insist the door be left open and periodically check that the child is in fact not reading. When your child knows that you aren’t just taking their word for it, but that you are taking their deed for it, then they will be more concerned with following your instructions than with telling you their intentions.
If they are not to play the playstation before they’ve finished their homework and yet repeatedly disobey, don’t give them the chance to continue disobeying. Hide the playstation to a place of your choosing only to be brought out after the homework has been completed and checked for completion by the parent. Trusting people when they have not proven themselves trustworthy never gives them impetus to become a trustworthy person. On the contrary, it encourages their thinking that it is what we say that matters, not what we do.
2) Don’t have unrealistic expectations that leave children feeling disappointed and unable to perform
Training and teaching responsibility will take years and years and they’ll still be learning it when they leave your house. It is something to be prioritized, but not something that should overburden your child. This is why age appropriate tasks are so important. Starting off very small and then increasing responsibility as they get older will help prevent “burnout.”
Now, responsibility is not necessarily just having your child do a chore. Perhaps it is an activity or task that, after completion, results in a reward. If they visit their elderly neighbour for a chat or help another in their yard, an appropriately exciting reward or privilege can be given. It isn’t bribing because they still choose to do this of their own volition or not since there’s no punishment if it isn’t completed. It is simply a way to get your child to think about how their actions affect their circumstances.
3) Failing to follow-up to be sure the task is complete
If your child is expected to do certain things or say certain things yet knows they are never checked, they will soon stop worrying about their obligations. “Make your bed, wash the dishes, do your homework” all become background noise to be ignored when they know that nothing will happen to them if they don’t. If isn’t a sign you don’t love or trust them to check up on their duties, but simply a way to reinforce that you are the parent in authority and you are aware of what happens under your roof. If they come to you with a “I’ve cleaned my room” then a simple “Great, let’s go check it out” each and every time will prevent them from moving a few piles around on the floor and calling it a day.
One of the qualities I value most in a person is their trustworthiness. I believe that God wants to use all of His children, but many callings and ministries require people of high character and dependability. If I am not faithful with small things (ie, my own finances, gossip, being a starter finisher) then God would not trust me with handling finances for a ministry, confidential information, or to manage a project near to His heart. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect or we wouldn’t need Jesus, but we can seek to be as good as our word and faithful with the things God has put before us.
Raising our children to understand the importance of integrity and honesty (NOT what the surface looks like, but what’s really underneath) will help many other areas of life come more easily to them. They will be naturally placed to be both naturally and supernaturally blessed in their personal, professional and spiritual lives. It isn’t something we beat our children over the head with, but simply something we can start developing from a very young age in small steps. Having patience, never withholding love and displaying trustworthiness yourself will go a long way in helping bring up trustworthy little Rescuers.
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