RECENTLY, one of my children came home excitedly talking about a story shared by a friend.
Initially I was impressed, until I realized it sounded a little too much for such a young child.
But I decided not to burst the bubble and chalked it up to a kid’s vivid imagination and let my child carry on innocently believing the tall tale.
However, the next few days saw my child coming home with more stories from the same friend, each one more incredible than the last.
I decided it was time to sit down and have a chat. But how do you teach your child about trust? It felt a bit like a balancing act.
On one hand, I certainly want my child to always believe in the honesty of friends and other people they meet.
But on the other hand, I would not want my child falling for every line in the book.
My kids aren’t teenagers yet, but they are of school age and at a stage where they are developing stronger relationships and, dare I say, deeper friendships among their peers.
If, in the past, all it took was five minutes together on the swing set for them to declare their acquaintance as their new BFF, these days there are actual conversations and activities revolving around mutual interests.
They specify whom they want to have playdates with; they even have defined “levels” of closeness and preferences and, on occasions, “tampuhan.”
Goodness, I don’t even want to think of what their teen years will be like.
But, as with most things in life, a simple and direct conversation was the best option. We went over the details and examined the points, until we both reached a conclusion whether the stories were truthful or not.
More than that, it was the topic that naturally followed which I focused on. I was surprised as to how organic the flow was; I took advantage of it to discuss the importance of trust in friendship, or any relationship for that matter.
Conversely, we also covered the responsibility to be equally trustworthy. It took me a while to figure out how to cover these abstract concepts and make them age-appropriate. Initially, I tried using analogies and examples, until I realized it all boiled down to the simple truth.
Doing what should be done
No matter how young a child is, he/she will understand that trust is about being sure that your friend will always say and do what is right and true. And being trustworthy entails acting in the same way—doing what should be done, no matter how difficult it might be.
While our conversation focused on friendships, it was a good way to touch on the value of trust in a relationship, without me getting too detailed and preachy.
I thought the issue was over until it resurfaced a few days later. Our chat had made a bigger impression than I thought.
The ensuing conversation was a perfect opportunity to touch on values one expects to earn a person’s trust.
There are a number of qualities I would love my children to grow up with, but truth be told, between responsibilities, deadlines and daily duties that come with taking care of family, it’s hard to find time to consciously teach virtues to children.
More than once, I have made the mistake of simply assuming and expecting specific behavior simply because it is aligned with specific values I believe and try to practice. I did not realize that I had never really sat down with my kids and properly discuss how they could cultivate such value.
I’ve always believed the saying, “Values are caught, not taught,” but I have also come to realize that they still need to be properly explained for children to recognize it when they see it.
With this in mind, I took advantage of the situation and tried to break down the qualities that lead a person to trust and be trustworthy as well.
I assume that everyone has his/her own list. In our home, my personal qualifications consist of honesty and reliability.
Most popular virtue
This time, I was a bit more prepared as honesty is a value I have been trying to hammer into them since Day 1. My children know that lying to cover up for something wrong that they’ve done will get them into more trouble with me.
I’ve always told them that no matter how big a mess they get into, as long as they are honest, I will try to understand them and not get mad.
It is fortunate that honesty seems to be the most popular virtue that Philippine schools teach, so most children are familiar with the importance of being true in everything they say (and do not say) and do.
It was easy enough to connect honesty with being trusted and the disadvantages of losing one’s trust.
Considering how much value children put on promises—the value of reliability clearly visible in a child’s eyes, on how one keeps one’s promises.
A friend must be able to count on you when he/she needs a hand—or, in the level of my kids, knowing your friend will share his “baon” when you forget yours.
This was as far as we got, but I was thankful we even had the chance to get here.
A few years ago, all these concepts were nothing more than storybook lessons from tales such as “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
Nothing reminds you of how quickly your children are growing up than watching the hypothetical situations evolve over time into actual scenarios that get more complex as the years go by.