Sometimes Love Means Having to be the Bad Guy
Trust is a foundational element of any strong relationship. The healthy development of children requires that they have trust in the adults charged with their care. But what does trust look like? And how can it be developed?
In determining what trust looks like, I always find it important to differentiate between trust and fondness. The former is confidence in the reliability of another. The latter is deriving pleasure from interactions. While trust can lead to fondness, fondness alone does not develop true trust. Trust is difficult to find and develop, but once arrived at, it is harder to shake. Fondness can be gained and lost at the drop of a hat. With this in mind, I think it is important to evaluate the decisions we make when working with children and determine whether they are focused on developing trust or acquiring fondness.
One of the best ways to develop trust with children is through the implementation of clear and consistent limits. While doing so can often be one of the least fun parts of working with children, it is also one of the most important things that we as teachers and parents do for our charges, and ultimately one of the most rewarding. Put simply, limits demonstrate that we care and that we aren’t going to allow them to engage in behavior that is detrimental to their development, no matter how fun it might seem. When we do this, we build trust.
This might mean saying no when saying yes would be easier. It might mean following through on a consequence which they are not going to like – with their displeasure being expressed loudly and intensely. It will certainly mean drawing their ire when you know with all of your mind and heart that you are doing the right thing. Fortunately, it also means that your relationship with them will become that much stronger. And later implementation of limits (when they involve far more daunting topics like driving privileges, dating, and curfews instead of bedtimes, healthy snacks, and toy purchases) will be easier, since the groundwork will have already been laid. And, most importantly, it means that you become a person they can trust, a person they can rely on, a person whom they know they can count on through thick and thin to always be looking out for their best interests… a person they can love. In the grand scheme of things, there are few things they will be fonder of than this.