If you say it, you have to be willing to do it. You are the architect of your child’s future. If you do not follow through, you are weakening the foundation of your relationship with your child. Your child will learn very quickly that your words have no merit, no honesty, and that they are just empty threats. More importantly, this leads to mistrust and unwanted behaviors.
Empty threats are the same as lying. If you tell your child, “If you throw the truck at the wall again, I will take it away” and your child throws the truck at the wall again and you do not take it away, your child will interpret this as ” My caregiver doesn’t mean what they say, they lied to me, and I can’t trust their words are true.” This is very damaging to a child and will increase anxiety and desire for control.
The best thing you can do for your child, in order to build trust and security, is to be honest with them. Your child needs you to be their anchor. It is natural to want to “protect” your child from scary things, but it is not always in their best interest.
Consider the following scenario: Your child has a routine doctor’s appointment and shots are going to be administered. You may want to tell them you are going out for ice cream or to the park in order to protect them from being scared about going to the doctor. You may be afraid it will make it difficult to get them to the doctor if they know here they are going and, furthermore, if they know they are getting a shot.
When your child asks, “Where are we going?”, you may be tempted to say “to the park.” And you may have every intention to take them to the park AFTER they go to the doctor for their shot. Your happy go lucky child is ready for the park. But … WAIT! What’s this? The doctor? For a shot?
This is not a good plan. Take a look at the following dialogue that can help foster trusting secure children.
Child: “Where are we going?”
Caregiver: “We have to go to the doctor today.”
Child: “Will I need a shot?”
Caregiver: “Yes. Today you will get a shot because shots keep us healthy!”
Child: “Will it hurt?”
Caregiver: “It will hurt just a little.”
Child: “I don’t like shots! I don’t want a shot!”
Caregiver: ” I know you don’t like shots but you are so brave and strong and I will be right there with you. And when it’s all done, we will go to the park (or for ice cream) as a reward for being brave.”
The point is that your child may not always like what you have to say, or what has to be done, but the fact that they have you at their side as their anchor to help them through it, and to tell them the hard truths, is all the better.
Be impeccable to your word, big or small. This holds true for positive reinforcement as well. If you tell your child they will earn a lollipop for being a great listener while at the park, then make sure you have a lollipop to give when your child is successful.
It is important to remember when speaking to your little ones, that some things are just simply not a choice. But it is great to give them the power to choose with the small decisions. Big decisions should be left to the big people! After all, we all know that “honesty is the best policy.”
Your turn. Do you say what you mean and mean what you say. Is honesty an integral part of your interaction with your child? Share your thoughts in the comments below.