Good Character for Kids: How to Raise Trustworthy Kids
Trustworthiness is such an important character trait for your child to develop. Later in life, his ability to live up to the trust others place in him will affect every area of his life from marriage to work. So how do you train a child to be worthy of trust? Try the following suggestions to build this character trait one block at a time.
1. Explain the moral element of trustworthiness.
Even young children can understand the difference between the truth and a lie. In so many ways, trustworthiness is essentially about honesty—saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Following through when you make a promise. Help your child to understand that being a person others can trust is very important.
2. Start small.
With preschoolers, a trustworthiness exercise can be as simple as saying, “Will you help Mommy by picking up these toys while I finish dinner?” If your child promises to complete the task, check back in a while. If she’s followed through, praise her for being faithful to do what she said she’d do. If not, remind her of the importance of following through.
3. Attach consequences if necessary.
If your child struggles with being trustworthy, attach consequences to his failures. Doing this now (when both the failure—like failing to take out the trash—and the consequence are relatively small) will help your child develop the self-discipline necessary to be trustworthy with consistency. Remember, the cost attached to learning these lessons later in life is higher.
4. Set a good example.
If you say you’ll be there to pick him up when baseball practice is over, be there. If you promise to make time to help with a school project, don’t let other responsibilities crowd that out. Show them what it means to be someone who can be counted on.
5. Praise trustworthiness in them and others.
Kids learn to value what we value. If you are impressed with trustworthiness when you see it displayed, your children will be encouraged to develop it! Praise your child when he or she proves trustworthy, and highlight trustworthiness in others when you see it, as well.
6. Allow opportunities.
As scary as it may sound, you have to place your child in a few situations where they have a choice to be trustworthy or not to know if they possess this character trait. It can be controlled, age-appropriate, and low-stakes at first, but the opportunities for success or failure in this area will increase with age. If your child stumbles, pull them back down to a level of privilege with less risk until you feel they’ve learned and are ready to try handling responsibility again. (For instance, if your child can’t be trusted to follow your rules for going to the movies with friends unchaperoned, that privilege would be lost until he has displayed evidence of having learned from that mistake.) If he proves himself trustworthy going forward, you can both enjoy the peace of his having certain freedoms without creating worry for you.
© 2012 iMOM. All Rights Reserved. Family First, All Pro Dad, iMOM, and Family Minute with Mark Merrill are registered trademarks.