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April 2, 2011 / MrsH

Repairing trust after it’s been broken

MrH and I have been mulling over the concept of teaching the children how to make amends or repairs when their behavior hurts another, which I mentioned here.  While we’re not in the full implementation phase yet, Missy has been steadily breaking my trust over the past weeks.  She started sneaking things into her backpack, things like fancy shoes and toys.  It was something different every day.  Her therapist suggested I offer to check her backpack each day, and when I did Missy eagerly agreed.  I guess it’s something that makes her feel safe.  It’s not a negative “testing” of the boundaries, it’s a testing that asks “am I safe here?  Are you paying attention?”  I hate it, but can’t let the fact that this is a personal trigger for me, cause me to answer her question inadequately.  The answer I’d like for her to receive from me is “I’m paying attention to you, I will keep you safe.”

She kept pushing though.  Pushing and pushing, the depths of her creativity in this matter haven’t yet been reached, I’m certain.  I got mad at her the other day and let her know it and she was (predictably) very upset.  Later, I realized that she probably also felt helpless, not knowing how to fix things.  So I left her a handwritten note with suggestions on how to repair the trust that she’s broken.  She’s working on doing that this weekend and it’s been healing for me, and I think for her as well.  We’ll also get into a fancy system to prevent this issue over the coming weeks, but thought I’d share the note here:

Dear Missy,

I love you very much.  The ways you have been sneaking have hurt my feelings and broken my trust.  When something is broken though, we can find ways to repair it.  Daddy and I thought of some ways you can do that.

To make up for the time I’ve spent checking all your bags/pockets (choose 1):
  • help me by offering to do a few extra chores OR
  • do something kind for me like helping with Sweetpea so I can sleep in, or drawing a picture, or you can think of something else if you want

To repair the trust that is broken right now  (choose 1):

  • write a letter about why trust is so important.  Include three things that trustworthy people do.  OR
  • read a book about being trustworthy [from the library] and write 3 things that trustworthy people do, OR
  • write about a time that another person made you think you could not trust him or her.  What happened?  How did it feel?  What should the person have differently?  Did that person earn your trust back?  Why or why not?

You think about it, Missy.  You don’t have to decide today and we don’t have to talk about this today (but I’m here for you if you want to talk or want help deciding).

If you can’t decide, then I will pick for you on Monday.

I love you very much and will always love you very much,




Leave a Comment
  1. Kateisfun / Apr 4 2011 8:27 pm

    I really love how this discipline approach is about her learning, not you ‘teaching a lesson’. I also love how she has choices, particularly in light of the fact that she is the one that will learn – she can chose what makes the most sense to her (or, if she’s like I was, she’ll go with what she perceives is easiest ;). I appreciate the time boundary you extend to her; you are still the parent, but she may join you in that space if she chooses. Well done, MrsH, I hope it goes well for all of you!

    • MrsH / Apr 4 2011 8:34 pm

      Ha she sure did choose the one she thought would be easiest! But we’re having trouble finding a suitable library book. So she’s now looked through probably 5 different books and not found one yet, but she’s telling me the details of why it’s not quite the same situation. I pretty much couldn’t have asked for a better scenario, and I let her off the hook for finding the “perfect” one, instead working with her to identify 3 things trustworthy people do based on what she’s gathered so far. It’s a strategy we’ll definitely use again in the future!


  1. Earning Trust Back « Fleeting Moments

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