One of the most important qualities in any relationship is trust and credibility. When it comes to effectively parenting our children this is absolutely true. Early on, our children naturally trust us, after all we provide food, we change their diapers and we pick them up when they cry. As they grow older and begin living life they eventually learn what it means to have people let them down. I know my kids wanted desperately to believe in me. It was a sad day when they realized their daddy couldn’t walk on water! It’s painful for a child to realize they can’t always trust mom and dad.
That childish trust gives way to a more educated trust based on their relationship with us. Through our actions we earn or lose trust and credibility with our kids. We know showing up when we say we would or buying them the toy we promised are typical ways credibility is gained. But we want to consider three ways we can inadvertently lose trust. In fact here are three examples of how we unintentionally lie to our kids and consequently lose some level of credibility.
- When we don’t follow through with consequences – man, how many times have I been guilty of this one? When our kids mess up and we assign consequences, sometimes it can be hard to stick to our guns. It’s one of the reasons we used to hate grounding our kids. We always felt like we were grounded too! I remember times when I doled out a weeks worth of punishment only to cut it to three days as I looked into their puppy dog eyes! Or when we continue to threaten punishment but never actually deliver. It’s hard to be strong when you love someone so much. I guess that’s why they call it tough love.
- When we don’t follow through with conditions – similar to number one. Sometimes when our kids want to do something we say yes, as long as a set of conditions are met. I remember when my son Keila was 12. We had planned for weeks to got as a family to watch the movie Prince Caspian opening weekend. We spent a couple of weeks reading the book. Watching the movie was going to be the icing on the cake! All the kids knew they had to have their homework done in order to go. We had even given some warning to them throughout the weekend. Keila kept procrastinating until finally he had waited too long. He was unable to get his homework done. So with crocodile tears rolling down his cheek, we all said goodbye and headed to the movie! That’s hard to do with someone you love.
- When we carelessly make requests we have no intention of following through – there were times when I would tell my kids to do something… “please pick up the toys” or “please turn off the TV”. After I tell them I would walk away. Ten minutes later I would return and find them in exactly the same spot as when I left. As I walked by I might ask them again only to return ten minutes later to the same result.
In all of these examples, we aren’t intentionally lying to our kids. But, when we consistently say things that don’t turn out to be true – in a very real sense we are lying to our kids. It’s impossible to be perfect in this. But Kelli and I have worked hard at improving. Often one of us is strong when the other is weak. We have especially worked at thinking before we speak. Before we dole out a consequence, before we assign conditions, and before we make a request we’ve gotten better at considering if we plan to follow through. Another way to say it is, “Say what you mean and mean what you say!” It’s hard and we’re still working at it.
Our goal is for our kids to know, if mom or dad says it, then you know it’s going to happen. That’s called credibility. Have you ever struggled with this one? We’d love to hear your story. Check out this weeks 60 Second Videos!