Earlier in the pandemic, we had an incident with our kids. They had agreed to not do something, but then we found them doing it.
It wasn’t terrible (they were playing Minecraft in the evening without permission), but it really affected me. It was the first time they had really broken a big promise to us.
We’re really close to our kids and for a long time we’ve been able to count on them to always keep their word. We have never restricted their access to their tablets, but had set guidelines around when they could use them. Now the agreed-upon guidelines had been broken, and it was a defining moment.
I thought long and hard about how to handle it, and then I summoned the kids.
I sat them down and told them how I felt.
“When I promise to you that I will do something, then I will always do it. That’s called trust. It means you can always trust me, and rely on what I say. If I promise you something, then my word will always be good.”
They agreed. Of course in a moment like that, kids will agree to anything. I continued.
“Do you feel like you can trust me? That if I promise something, then you can rely on me to do what I say?”
Feverish nodding continued.
“It goes both ways,” I told them. “I want our family to be a high-trust family. That means that if I promise you something, then I will always come through. If I promise you something and I can’t deliver, then I will let you know as soon as possible. Keeping the trust between us is really important to me, and I will do anything to keep that.”
I explained what our family would look like if we didn’t trust each other.
“In a low-trust family, I won’t believe you when you tell me something. And if you promise me something, I have to assume that you’re not going to keep that promise. I don’t want to live like that, but it’s really up to you. It’s your decision whether or not you want to keep your promises, and build trust with us.”
I opened up a little to them. I told them about how my mom had trusted me for a long time. But then when I was 18, one of my siblings did something that broke that trust, and my parents never trusted any of the kids again. The experience really shattered our family, and affected all of us. Through that experience, I learned to be a realist about trust. Addiction and narcissism are curveballs in the world of trust, and sometimes you need to adjust and be realistic about what’s possible.
The whole experience made me think a lot about trust, and so I immediately bought Francis Fukuyama’s Trust when it came out.