A few months ago when I would pick up my 22-month-old and flip him over or turn him upside down, he would tense his body, start whining and grab on to me for dear life. He was terrified that I might drop him.

Today when I playfully flip him over, he has a different reaction. His body goes limp, a huge smile flashes onto his face and he stretches his arms down to the ground, as if he wants to hang there forever. Once on solid ground he begs me to do it again.

Why the difference? He trusts me. And he should. I’m his father — one of the two people on the planet whose full-time job it is to protect him, encourage him, fulfill his wishes and provide him with what he needs to survive. He didn’t suddenly decide to trust me; instead he’s begun to let go of his anxiety, knowing that I won’t let him get hurt.

Children trust their parents intrinsically. We are their guardians, their protectors, their world. If we create a loving, nurturing, open environment in our homes then our children will feel safe to express themselves and achieve to their highest potential. Establishing and maintaining trust with our children is a critical part of a family’s success and that foundation of faith and trust is built from the minute our children emerge into the world. We have their best intentions at heart and we prove that through our words and actions.

That’s why I’m consistently bewildered, perplexed and angry when I see parents who abuse that trust. I’m a journalist who often covers crime and courts, which means that I see and hear about the tragic consequences of parental inaction or misdeeds more often than I would like. For instance, I recently reported on a woman who attempted to prostitute her underage daughter. I also recently reported on a father who wanted to get back at his ex-wife by harming their child. These cases and the legions like them transcend tragedy. They are the ultimate betrayal of a sacred trust.

Those examples are extreme and they may lead to a complete dissolution of a relationship between parent and child. Other betrayals are more subtle yet but can be equally damaging — like not respecting your child’s boundaries, giving them too much leeway that leads them into dangerous situations they aren’t prepared for or diminishing them in some way that impacts their self-esteem.

My parents gave me too much freedom in my teenage years and it resulted in some negative experiences that I wish hadn’t occurred. At the time I didn’t see anything wrong with it but as I grew up, I realized that my parents may have trusted me too much. I wasn’t prepared to make the decisions I encountered.

What I’ve learned is that trust between a parent and child is an ever-evolving dynamic. We cannot protect our children 24/7. However, we do have to anticipate potential problems in the form of questionable friends, lies about their plans, sneaky activity or trouble with drugs, alcohol or sex. We have to create an environment where our kids trust us enough to tell us the details of their lives without fearing that we will judge or punish them. Kids have to earn our trust and parents have to be smart enough to know when to grant it.

For now, it’s easy for me to teach my children to trust me and for me to trust them. Our 3-year-old readily admits when he smacked his little brother or took something out of his hands. There’s no subterfuge. Likewise, he and our almost 2-year-old know that daddy and mommy always have his back.

But someday I won’t be able to toss them into the air and show them that I will catch and protect them. At that time’ll all have to walk the road of trust together.


The Beginning
About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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  1. It’s true that trust is ever evolving. I’ve seen it between me and my parents and now I’m experiencing it with my oldest child my ten year old son. I find my wife and I are slowly giving him more “rope” when it comes to specific areas of his life. I think kids have to understand how serious it is when they break that trust and the necessary steps to gain it back. This is a crucial life lesson our kids need to know.

    Thanks for writing this.

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