The Trust Bridge Tool emphasizes the importance of building trust with our kids—intentionally focusing on truth-telling from both the kids AND from us parents too. When we focus on building a two-way respectful, loving, trusting relationship, we will build a strong bridge of trust and create a level of openness, honesty, and togetherness that kids desperately need. When we walk over the bridge to tell them the hard truth about something, they will walk over to our side and tell us the hard truth too. We will bring such a closeness to the relationship with our kids that they will know without a doubt that we are a safe person to whom they can say anything.
How can you build a trust bridge and apply The Trust Bridge Tool to your parenting? Easy. Don’t lie to your kids. Obviously, it’s OK to keep your truth-telling age-appropriate as much as possible. But in general, tell them the truth.
For example—You don’t have to tell your 3 year old every detail about sex just because he heard the word and wondered what it meant. It’s OK to tell him an honest “3-year-old version” and then let him know that you will have more conversations about it as he gets older. But always say: “Thank you so much for trusting me enough to ask me this question. You can always come to mommy/daddy when you want to know something.”
When you tell your kids the truth, not only are you building trust with them (which is HUGE), but you are also modeling to them what they should do in a similar situation (which is also HUGE).
Here are a few more examples:
- When your toddler asks for more fruit snacks and you know she shouldn’t have more fruit snacks (remember how important portions are for kids to have a healthy appetite), stay confident and truthful. Instead of trying to avoid the fit by saying that you’re all out of fruit snacks (or worse–giving her more fruit snacks). You can say: “There are no more fruit snacks for today.” Don’t be afraid to tell kids the truth. It’s ok for them to be sad. This is a great opportunity for you to walk them through this disappointment and help them move on. (What a great way to prepare them for life!)
- If your child asks to go to the pool and you really don’t want to go to the pool, don’t lie and say the pool is closed. Tell them the truth and invite cooperation. “Daddy is so tired and going to the pool sounds really exhausting when my body is telling me it just needs rest. How can we compromise?” Then you can brainstorm together.
- Maybe you rest for a while why they play independently or watch a show quietly and then you’ll have more energy to go to the pool a little later in the day.
- Maybe today they get out water balloons, sprinklers, or the blow-up pool in the back yard so you can chill out at home and then tomorrow, the whole family can go to the pool together.
- You broke their favorite toy. Do not hide it from them. Do not rush out and buy them a new one before they even realize it. Instead, do what you would want them to do if they broke something of yours. Go immediately to them: “I’m so sorry I broke your toy. It was an accident. Can we try to fix it together? And if that doesn’t work, I will replace it for you.” Honesty. Integrity. Trust-Bridge Building!
I accidentally threw my son’s book report in the recycling bin. I just thought it was one of the one million things they bring home from school. I did the obligatory read-through of why he thought there shouldn’t be school uniforms and then threw it in the recycling bin on recycling day. Little did I know that it was a report he was supposed to finish and bring back to school. That night, he asked where his report was. I could have pretended to have no clue where it was, shifted the blame on him for misplacing it, and given him a lecture on responsibility. But instead I confessed: “Buddy, I’m so sorry. I read through it and put it in the recycling bin. I’m really sorry. Can we figure out a way to solve this problem together?”
That night, we planned to stay up together so he could rewrite his report. We decided that he would write for 20 minutes, then take a 10-minute break to play a game, then write for 20 minutes, then take a 10-minute break. Eventually, he got it rewritten and got it turned in on time the next day.
One week later, I found his original report. I couldn’t believe it! I hadn’t thrown it away in the recycling bin like I thought. I had a choice. I could just throw it in the recycling bin and not say anything to my son…after all, I had already confessed that I had thrown it away…after all, he had already gone through all the trouble to rewrite it. So, no harm done, right?
After school that day, I had a conversation with my son: “Buddy, I have something to tell you and you might be upset at me. I actually found your report. I’m so sorry. It was in a stack of papers next to the refrigerator. I’m sorry you had to go through all that trouble rewriting it when I had it all along.” He wasn’t angry at all. In fact, his response was surprising and beautiful…
“It’s OK, mommy. Everyone makes mistakes. Plus, we got all that extra time together writing and playing games.”
I realized that day that telling my son the truth was not only about building trust and modeling mistake-making procedures, but it was also about giving him the opportunity to show forgiveness and grace…which he would have missed out on if I had chosen to lie.
Speak the truth to one another. Zechariah 8:16
Lord, we confess that there are many ways we cover up the truth so our kids won’t feel disappointed. We lie to avoid a fit. We hide things so they won’t be sad. And we avoid the truth to avoid awkward situations. Give us the boldness and the confidence to speak truth to our kids. When we speak truth in love, You will not only bless that conversation, but You will provide an opportunity for closeness and growth and forgiveness and grace.