I don't believe that children have to earn our trust by jumping through arbitrary hoops that just reinforces the power dynamic between parent/child, teacher/pupil. When a child tells me who they are, what they need or what has happened, I trust them. If I believe that they aren't necessarily telling the truth in that moment, I don't remove my trust. Instead, I wonder what is going on for that child and why they don't feel safe to tell the truth. Am I a safe space for them? Have I created a safe space? What is going on in their nervous system so that they need to protect themselves? By meeting children with unconditional positive regard, we show them that we trust them, that we will meet them where they are and that we will support them when they need it. But most importantly, we need to remember that, while trusting children helps them become trustworthy, they don't owe us their trust. In fact, they don't owe us anything. If we approach our relationships with children as transactional, they become rooted in mistrust, resentment and disrespect. A child does not owe you respect, trust or honesty. It is a gift they may give you when they feel safe with you.
Last week, I did a guided meditation with my upper key stage 2 growth mindset group on developing boundaries but I felt that it went really well with the concept that I teach kids that their brain is like a house (see my previous post on this). It developed into an activity on what good mental looks and feels like and how we can sustain it. With help from the meditation script, we then imagined what kind of garden we could build around our house to both nourish and protect our mental health. There were hardy raspberry bushes to provide protection AND fruit, apple trees to give protection against wind and feed our communities, vegetable patches for food, rose gardens for beauty, ponds for irrigation and beauty, benches for meditation and reflection and fresh water streams for drinking. There were rows of trees to provide privacy and protection, yet pathways to wander and explore. This was a lovely activity and the first time I've done it but I think I'd like to spend even more time on it next time and I think it would be a great one for older children and teens. It gets them thinking about their needs and wants in a creative way with no restrictions on what kind of garden surrounds their 'house.'