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Growth Spurts: Trust – We’re Either Building It or Breaking It 

We talk about trust a lot around our house. We believe that, pretty much all the time, we are either building or breaking trust with one another through our words and actions, whether we realize it or not. We stress the importance of trust between us and members of our family but also between us and friends, teachers, teammates, co-workers, employers, and others. Trust is a very big deal to us.

In a family, being able to trust each other is essential, and it starts early. Think about it. Remember all those times our newborns cried? It was our responsibility to figure out why the babies were crying and then to meet their needs. We were building trust with our babies. With every diaper change, every feeding, every rock and sway back and forth, every touch, every smile, every hushed “It’s okay. I’m here,” our babies were learning to trust us to meet their needs.

As toddlers and preschoolers, our children continue to learn that we can or cannot be trusted by the ways that we care for them. They observe how we meet their needs with food, clothing, affection, attention, and safety. And language begins playing a bigger role. Our children start to make connections between the words that we say and the actions that we carry out. Even this young, they are observing consistencies and inconsistencies in us and are determining if we can be trusted. No, they probably can’t articulate this, but it is happening. And they are still crying for us to meet their needs, although now they can put at least a few words (and sometimes whining…) to them.

As children grow older, they continue determining how much they can trust us as their parents. And now the flip-side begins to take place, in that our children are really starting to build or break trust with us. Their level of obedience, their contributions to the family and household, their attitudes, and their words are all factors in building or breaking trust with us. And I firmly believe that our children should be made aware of this. When they lie to us, they need to know that they have taken steps backwards in trust-building and that the only way to regain trust is by building it again–word by word, action by action. And, parents, we must also be aware that we take steps backwards, too, if we do not speak the truth to our children or do not follow through with the things we say we are going to do. Those empty threats we throw out there when we’re angry? By making these statements but notfollowing through on them, we are showing our children that they cannot trust what we say (plus the fact that they realize they can continue getting away with ______). Consistency in rules, rewards, punishment, and discipline, however, goes a long way in building trust with our children. Again, they might not be able to articulate it–or appreciate it–, but it is happening. And just like when they were babies and toddlers, it is still just as important at this stage that we continue to listen to their cries and determine what needs should be met. Those cries might show themselves in different forms now, but they are cries just the same.

The teenage years are pretty much filled with opportunities for our kids to build or break trust with us, as they move closer and closer toward complete independence. If they have been proactive in building trust with us throughout their childhood, then the chances are good that they will now have earned more freedoms. But as we all know, with much freedom comes much responsibility. So with every tap/click/chat/text/post on their phones, with every hangout time with their friends, with every assignment at school, with every conversation that takes place, they are continuing to build or break trust with us. It is vital that they realize this, because it is particularly easy for teenagers to believe that their decisions only affect themselves. Therefore, we have a responsibility to raise their awareness and help them to see outside of themselves. And believe it or not, these full-grown teenagers still have needs that we need to meet. Their cries can be a bit easier to overlook or a bit harder to recognize at this stage, but they are still cries. It is greatly advantageous if we take the time and do the work necessary to study our children at this stage so that we will recognize each of their cries. They still need to know that they can trust us to be there for them.

Whether we are keenly aware of it or don’t even give it a second thought, trust is being built or  broken every single day in our families. It is evidenced in the way that we speak to each other and interact with each other. What does the evidence look like in your family?

Carrie Bevell Partridge puts her trust in God, above all else. He never fails.

About The Author

Carrie Partridge

Carrie Bevell Partridge grew up in Memphis, TN with her parents and four siblings. She attended Mississippi College, where she met her husband Kevin. They have been married for 20 years and have five children. They live in Ridgeland, MS. Carrie has written the “Growth Spurts” column and managed social media for Parents & Kids Magazine since 2011. You can read more of her work at and

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