What I’ve learned from my kids: Trust

A while back (!) I started reflecting and writing about lessons I was learning from being a parent, and from seeing the world from my children’s point of view, and how my own perception and reflection has changed too.

As my eldest turns ten years old, I’ve realised how I view and approach issues of trust has changed. I was never a particularly trusting person, and I am probably ‘worse’ now, or rather less trusting. From silly squabbles to full-blown arguments on the playground, you can be sure your child will see it all at some point. Unfortunately, this can also be from the so-called adults too. Both on and off the playground, at work, in the car park, at traffic lights, even on your own doorstep.

I believe most children have an inherent ability to trust, whether it’s a trust in their parent, family member, school friend, teacher, coach, etc. Their belief in the ‘responsible’ adult manifests itself as trust. The responsibility on that adult is huge, to keep and nurture the trust and belief of the child to build and strengthen them as resilient and capable individual.

So when I see it broken, or abused, I despair. There are news stories, pretty much everyday, on local or national news where that trust has been broken, sometimes violently or sexually. Sometimes it’s kids abusing each other, sometimes the responsible adult, sometimes complete strangers. Whatever it is, it saddens me that yet another child will grow up with that in their lives, and the many ways it will affect them in the short and long term.

For me, I will protect my children from harm and that abuse of trust, but at the same time I will have to learn to let them find their own way in this world. They will have to learn for themselves, sometimes the hard way, what characteristics to look for in their friends or social circles, in different situations and environments. The same will be true as they leave education and enter a workplace where behaviours and cultures are probably already well established, and they will lave to learn all over again how to traverse this new environment and the different levels of trust and/or abusive characters. What you believe and trust in one person at one time, may not be the same in another situation when the pressure is on and your trusted friend has to make a tough or difficult personal decision.

“Trust is always earned, never given.”
R. Williams

Let’s be honest, not all adults get it right either. I have learned (the hard way) how trust can be broken, both personally and professionally. From trusted friends at school that, eventually, looked out for themselves and used/abused anyone close to them, to work colleagues and management who sometimes need to put their own needs or the needs of the business above whatever trust or belief I have in them.

Yes, I am that cynical. But we have to protect ourselves when I have trust broken, or believe trust will be broken. As I teach my children, I revisit my own beliefs around what trust is and when/why to give or not give it.

The same is true about our work and in our social lives. By being consistent, professional, respectful, inclusive, etc. I (try to) demonstrate that I am a dependable, consistent, considerate, loyal, hard working and ‘trusted’ member of the team. By being a leader rather than ‘boss’ I want my colleagues to believe all this and that I have their interests in mind, and will strive to support them. This will manifest itself as a belief or ‘trust’ that I can be relied on when they need support.

Image source: US Geological Survey (CCO 1.0)

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