Having walked the fatherhood journey for the last 15 years, I have come to understand that the trust between my children and I is something that had to be nurtured and strengthened ever since they were born, all the way into their adolescent years.
The trust between a parent and children is important because it builds security for the children, a security that stays with them for life. The world is bound to disappoint and frustrate them at one point or another. But if there is a trusting relationship at home with a parental figure, it will strengthen their abilities to cope with the challenges outside the home.
Three ways to build trust
Here are some thoughts on how fathers can build trust with their children:
All photos courtesy of Kerry Cheah, Red Bus Photography
1. Routinely embrace your child
My wife and I believe that Mum’s touch is comforting, but Dad’s touch is secure. My youngest one at 5 years old still loves hugs and piggyback rides, which I will offer until she is too old to be carried anymore.
Even with my older kids who sometimes feel embarrassed to be hugged, I still give them a kiss on the head before they leave for school. I believe our children are never too old to be kissed and hugged.
2. Give your child the freedom to fail
We need to teach our children that their failures are the first steps to success. If my attitude toward failure is negative, it can prevent my children from reaching their full potential because they will become fearful of taking risks and venturing into the unknown.
I learnt that I need to be mindful not to respond with negative, sarcastic or hurtful statements when they make genuine mistakes, and assure them that my love for them is not based on their success or failure.
A good time to process failures with children is in a non-threatening and relaxed environment such as an ice-cream date, where I can listen to them share from their perspective and guide them to the lessons that need to be learned from the experience.
If there is a trusting relationship at home with a parental figure, it will strengthen their abilities to cope with the challenges outside the home.
3. Understand your child’s private world
In my busyness, I often missed out on opportunities to listen and learn when my children were willing to open their hearts to me. But if I want to know what is going on inside their heads, I need access to their inner private world.
Some of the best times to “gain access” in their preschool years were when we were playing with toys together, or when I would read to them before bedtime. As they started schooling, they would sometimes talk about the things they heard or learnt in school. Make it a point to pay attention and engage in the conversation.
As they grew older, I also made it a point to take each of the children on one-to-one “dates with Dad”, so that I could catch up with what was happening in their lives.
These intentional acts of relationship building proved to my kids over the years that I could be trusted as a father, in hopes that they would remember they can come to me if they ever face challenges throughout life – even as adults one day.
David Wong is a father of four children between 5 and 15 years old. He has been facilitating parenting workshops for over 10 years.
This article was first published on ParentWise. Developed by Temasek Foundation in partnership with SEED Institute (subsidiary of NTUC First Campus), ParentWise is a programme that offers curated evidence-based learning programmes and resources that parents and caregivers need to support their children. For more parenting tips and resources, please visit ParentWise at https://parentwise.sg/.