The more you approach your kids from a place of control, the less trustworthy they become. Our kids respond to the versions of themselves we reflect back.

We all act based on our self-beliefs. When we lead with tight control, with constant oversight, with negative predictions about our kids, we are essentially molding our child’s self-concept around being untrustworthy. A child takes in that he needs to be controlled to make good decisions, that he has no moral compass, not capacity to be thoughtful or respectful or forward-planning.

Of course we cannot give children complete control in their lives. First and foremost, our kids have to be safe. And when they’re not – when they’re physically (hitting, kicking, running with sharp objects) or emotionally out of control (verbal taunting, screaming in someone’s face), a child is desperate for our help with containment. We must embody our authority and make decisions for our kids they cannot, at that moment, make for themselves. This is not control. This is love in the form of safety.

Now, let’s go to situations that are not about safety. Your kids are bickering about which TV show to watch. When we approach with control, we essentially tell a child: I don’t trust you. Here is an example: “You two always argue about what show to watch! I’m just going to pick one for you. You cant get along about anything!” What do your kids really hear and take in as part of their developing self-concept? “No one expects me to be able to figure things out.

And what would approaching with trust sound like? “Two kids, one show. Tricky. I’m going to walk out with the remote for now. You two are both great problem solvers so let me know when you’ve decided and I’ll come back to turn that show on.” Here, a child takes in, “I am someone who can solve problems.”

Watch what happens when you put some faith into your child and name their ability to make good choices – then give space, literally back away or close your eyes or walk our of a room, again reflecting your trust. Try it out.

After all, for our kids to become trustworthy, for our kids to be able to make good choices, we need to lead with trust in them.