Treasure Trove of Trust (3T’s)

Treasure chestAs a child grows, there is the expectation and requirement for him or her to gain more and more independence.  Obviously.  This sounds normal and good, right?  It sounds so reasonable and easy. Well, once a child is around 7 or 8 years old, you realize that there is indeed a trajectory to college and it does indeed involve more and more independence.  But, practically, what does this look like?  How do you let go enough, but not too much? How do you allow for mistakes and growth while still providing safety? No surprise, it involves them going out on their own, making decisions without you and hopefully, showing a certain level of sound judgment.

Well, when my children were around 7 & 9, I realized that I wanted to get some data on how they were making decisions and using sound judgment, so I started paying very close attention to their choices.  Did they actually brush their teeth when asked or run their brush under the water?  Did they turn out their lights at bedtime or only when they heard the tread on the stairs? Did they stay with their friends on a bike ride or go off on their own?  Did they buy only what they were supposed to at the convenience store or spend more money on junk food because they had it?  Did they tell you the truth when asked about any of the above?

I figured I was never going to discipline them for many of these minor occurrences, but how could I get something out of this?  How could I get the point of good decision-making across in a motivating way instead of a punitive one?

I realized that I needed to be able to trust their choices and that I wanted an overwhelming about of trust and openness to override the pressures when they were with their peers.

Thus, the treasure trove of trust was born.  I started having conversations with them about the treasure trove of trust or 3 T’s.  I told them that I need to be able to trust them and that with each decision they were making on a daily basis, they were either filling their treasure trove or depleting it.

I told them their treasure trove needs to be spilling over, filled with so much trust it’s crazy.  That filling it now is important for when they get older and want to do things with friends. I explained to them about how fun it is to go to the movies or to shop at the mall with friends, to start to drive, etc. I explained to them how badly they are going to want to do each of these things.

After a handful of occurrences of either good or not so good decisions, I would respond with a ‘Hey, your treasure trove is getting fuller.  Once you’re old enough, you’re definitely going to be able to do some really fun things.’  Or, conversely, ‘Hmm….it’s going to be to bad for you when you want to go out with your friends and I’m going to have to say ‘no’.’   So far, it’s had good results.

My daughter has proven to be very reliable and trustworthy when making decisions.  She knows the guidelines and follows them and has an honestly that is very transparent.  So, yay.  Not so much for my son.  He has repeatedly demonstrated that he will choose fun over practical EVERY single time.  But, both of these are good as I am learning this now BEFORE they are alone in the car with their friends.

As for me, I figure that the ability to access the treasure trove happens now, in the tween years.  At this age, they are still dependent enough for me to access the truth of an event independent of their story – it’s observable.  Once they are out of the house, I can only rely on their stories (for the most part).

So, we are working on our treasure troves and our daughter is very pleased as hers is brimming and full.  She makes comments about how she keeps filling it.  Our son, on the other hand, has not seen the light in its importance.  He is working on actually brushing his teeth or admitting that he hasn’t, on turning out the bedroom light at lights out (or close to it) and not sneakily tormenting his sister at every opportunity (that one may never be accomplished actually– it simply provides him with too much fun.)