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Developing Trust With Toddlers

by Stacey Chaloux

Your child began developing trust in you during infancy, as he learned that you would be there to meet his needs. As he grows, it is important to maintain that trustful feeling with loving consistency and routines that help him feel confident and secure. When your toddler knows that you will still be there to meet his changing needs and that he can predict how you will react to his behavior, his sense of trust in you will be strengthened. Developing trust in you during his early years helps your little one learn to form trusting relationships with others as he grows.

Be Consistent

When life is predictable for your toddler, it helps him feel safe and secure, according to child psychologist Kenneth Condrell, writing for the Fisher-Price website. Having a routine for things you do each day, such as getting ready in the morning or going to bed at night, helps your little one know what to expect. Consistent rules are also important for helping your toddler trust you. He needs to know that even when he tests the boundaries, you will enforce the rules that are in place every time. Having patience and practicing self-control while interacting with your toddler will help your child build confidence in your relationship with him as he is able to predict your responses, according to the PBS website, The Whole Child.

Give a Sense of Independence

Toddlers are seeking independence, and your little one wants to do things for himself as often as he can. When you give him a chance to try a challenging task on his own, it can help build his confidence, but it is also important that you are there to help him when he needs it so that he doesn't become too frustrated. For instance, when it is time for breakfast, let him put some cereal in his bowl, but let him know you will pour the milk. He will see that you trust him, but he will also know that you are there to support him when he needs it. Giving him choices when possible can also help your toddler feel independent. Ask him if he would like carrots or peas with dinner, if he would like to wear his red or blue shirt or if he would like to play with blocks or do a puzzle. Not only will you reduce the number of struggles throughout the day, but he will see that you trust him to make some of his own decisions.

Listen Actively

Your toddler wants you to listen and understand how he is feeling. Even if you are not always interested in hearing about the dinosaur cartoon or the train he is playing with, it is important to show him that you are listening to what he has to say. If your toddler sees that you pay attention to him, he will learn to trust you enough to tell you more important things when he is older, according to Dr. Laura Markham of AhaParenting.com. Even when your toddler is not talking, you can notice what his behavior is communicating to you. If he's whining or fussy, he may be tired, hungry or just need some attention from you. Watch for his cues so you can meet his needs, showing him he is valued.

Honesty

A trusting relationship is built on honesty, so it is important to tell your toddler the truth. When you lie to your child in an attempt to shield him from something frightening, it will be hard for him to believe what you say at other times. For example, if he is going to get a shot at the doctor's office, let him know that it may hurt a bit but that you will be there to hold his hand. When you are honest with him, he learns that you are trustworthy, according to Dr. Laura Markham.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

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