Google+ Authentic Parenting: Trust

Monday, September 19, 2011


Trust is one of the key factors in parenting, many parent child conflicts spring out of a distortion of trust in the relationship. But how does this trust work? How do we get it? How do we keep it.

When I speak of trust in parenting, I mean mutual trust. The child must trust his caregiver to fulfill his basic needs and to act in his best interest, and the caregiver, in turn, must trust the child to make his own decisions and to take action at the time fit for his specific development. Already at this simple given, things can go horribly wrong. Western parenting styles tend to not trust the child at all. In this situation, the child will lose trust in his caregiver, through frustration and incomprehension.

Image: Dreamstime
In a newborn, this trust is a given. An infant has blind trust in his mother and in any other person he encounters. Only through bad experiences in life is this inborn trust eroded and do we become the distrusting people we are. As a little side note: a traumatic birth, or in-utero experience can leave a newborn in fear and make him distrusting. We have to let the newborn know every day of his life that he is valued and that we are present, in order to restore his trust and help him deal with a traumatic entry in the world. It is important to be aware of the impact of birth and the womb experience on an infant, and not to dismiss this because ‘they are so small’ or ‘they don’t remember’. Birth is most life changing event the infant has been through, and probable ever will go through, so it would be a mistake to dismiss its impact.

The best way to maintain trust it to be present, to tend to their needs, to react when they are distressed. If your infant is uncomfortable, but there is nothing you can do, then just being present and soothing them is enough to keep their trust. Being present doesn’t mean being interventionist. We tend to want to act all the time, when sometimes simple awareness and connectedness is what is required. Your fussiness can be a huge disturbance and frustration to a child who is just trying to unwind.

Another way to avoid the trust to be eroded is to keep them safe without being restricting. If you are being to restricting, if you are keeping them away from everything, merely out of an irrational fear, or out of parental laziness (I don’t mean this in a bad way. Running behind an active toddler who wants nothing better than to stick his fingers in plugs and eat everything that doesn’t - or does -move, can be very tiresome. This is yet another reason altogether to ensure a safe environment wherever possible, where they can roam free with minimal supervision).
Keeping them safe doesn’t mean they’ll never have a bump. Children grow through bumps, bruises and scratches. It does mean being present and aware, helping them cope with frustration and harm, and guiding them so they will eventually be ready and strong to face danger on their own and make the right choices. Often, their correct decision making springs from having trust in them.

Unconditionality is a very important part of trust, for how can a child trust someone who lets his love eb and flow with the coming and going of situations. Showing your love even in difficult times is a very important step in maintaining that bond of trust.

Having a trusting relationship is one of the most important parts of parenting and it might be one of the hardest. Maintaining trust can prove an issue, since most parents have grown up themselves in distorted trust relationships. Though there is never a time to despair. Trust can be regained, even though it gets harder as they grow up, by making a continuous effort, showing them that your trust in them is unshakeable, and making clear, day after day, that you are there, that you are loving and that you care.



  1. And what do you do if you were the child whose trust was continually broken over and over again from birth throughout childhood? Besides really good counselling, haha...

  2. I've written and talked endlessly about how Trust trumps Love in almost every relationship. And I would add that there is a 3rd trust (besides the mutual trust between child and parent): the parent must trust Herself, her Heart, her Intuition. Unfortunately, many mothers are more likely to trust a doctor than their own inner voice with regards to their precious children.

    This is a great post. Your reflections are beautiful.

  3. Patti, I couldn't agree more, however, I think that inherent trust comes from being trusted... If you see that someone trusts you and has faith in you, it is easy to trust yourself.
    Sadly most of us have grown up to learn to mistrust ourselves. I think a newborn trusts his instincts... instinctively... they just stop trusting after being told over and over that they're wrong.
    @anonymous... that's a good question, I think you have to learn to trust yourself, step by step, knowledge and belief are two stroing foundations of trust in oneself.

  4. LOve this post! Trust to me is about being there - open and available to the child when he needs you!


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