My nine year old son recently told me that he was ‘trustable.’ I chuckled when he said it because, honestly, I did not think it was a real word. To my surprise, it was real!
Here’s a little back-story… we were having a conversation and he felt like I didn’t trust him to take care of his headphones. He was right, because his track record for breaking them was strong. However, when he said that to me with sincerity, I stopped and realized I was conveying the wrong message to him. I was trying to make him behave more ‘trustable,’ but was actually making him feel less ‘trustable.’ I was making my negative expectations clear – I expected him to break the headphones. That is the opposite of what I wanted. I wanted him to take care of them. How had the lines of communication gotten so twisted? Easy – and it was my fault!
I used his past performance with headphones to dictate my expectations for how he would care for the new ones. I reinforced his mistakes and projected them onto the new situation. Instead, I should have told him what I knew he was capable of and reinforced the image that I wanted so I would get the desired results. This revelation stopped me mid-sentence. I told him he was indeed trustable and I trusted him completely. I changed my approach, and guess what? No broken headphones.
Let’s purpose to communicate to our children as if they possessed the qualities and abilities that we desired for them to have. It will set a new level of expectation and they will rise to it with grace.