What is trust in relationships?

I had an interesting encounter with three of my students today. Their names have been changed to protect the innocent. I shall call them 6-year-old-boy, 7-year-old-boy, and 8-year-old-boy.

So I am walking through our outer lobby when I come upon 8-year-old-boy glowering down at 6-year-old-boy. I ask what is wrong and 8-year-old-boy growls, “He jack me,” which in kid’s speak means, “He stole something that belongs to me.”

I turn to 6-year-old-boy and ask, “What happened?”

“7 year old boy by made me.” says 6-year-old-boy, which basically means that 7-year-old-boy got 6-year-old-boy to steal for him.

“Where is he?” I ask.

6-year-old-boy shrugs, so I ask 8-year-old-boy, “What did he take?”

“My juice,” comes the reply.

I ask 6-year-old-boy, “Where is the juice?”

“He got em,” at which point I assume that 7-year-old-boy got away fast with the juice leaving 6-year-old-boy to face an angry 8-year-old-boy.

“Okay guys,” I say with a sigh, “let’s sit down.”

I sit next to 6-year-old-boy and ask, “Why would you do something so mean to 8-year-old-boy just to make 7-year-old-boy happy? Now he has the juice, and you are in trouble. Why should 8-year-old-boy be your friend if he can’t even trust you? How can I even trust you? I trust 8-year-old-boy.” I turn to 8-year-old-boy and ask him, “Do you trust me?’

“Yes,” comes his answer.

“Good, we trust each other,” I say turning back to 6-year-old-boy. “But I don’t think we can trust you if you steal from people. Don’t you want your friends to be able to trust you?”

“What is trust?” asks his small voice.

“Oh boy,” I think to myself, “We have a boy who doesn’t know the meaning of trust.” I say to him, “Trust is the most important thing among friends. Without trust you can’t really be a friend. Trust means that when you tell me something, I always know it is the truth. It means that I will let you watch my things because I trust that you will not steal from me. Trust mean that I know that you will make the right choice even when someone asks you to do something that you know is wrong. Do you think that you would like to be trusted?’

He nods thoughtfully.

“Okay, now you have to earn that trust. Maybe we could start by saying you are sorry for doing the wrong thing.”

He turns to 8-year-old-boy, and makes one of the best apologizes I have heard him make; to which 8-year-old-boy replies, “That’s okay, just don’t do it again.”

“That’s really great you guys. And did you hear what he said about not doing it again?”

Another quiet nod.

“Not doing it again is important if you want people to trust you. If you do it again, it will be right for him to not trust you, and you may lose him as a friend.”

And so ends my story about the boy who did not know the meaning of the word trust. I have decided to use trust as my talking topic for our next weekly meeting. I want the kids to tell me what they know about trust. How important they think trust is to friendship. How easy it is to lose someone’s trust, and how hard it is to earn trust back. Thanks to my boys, Trust is definitely my word of the week.

And yes, I still have to track down and talk with 7-year-old-boy. Wish me luck.

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