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April 4, 2011 / MrsH

Earning Trust Back

As adults, we throw terms around such as “you need to earn my trust back.”  The 8 year old brain, at least Missy’s brain, immediately starts asking: how?  How do I earn trust back? She takes these things very seriously but is then stymied by the abstract nature of the statement.  Trust is so fluid, so abstract, how do we break it down for someone who is still in the concrete operations stage?  I posed that question to a friend of mine.  She promptly responded that when she worked at a school for troubled girls, they simply moved up or down a level whenever an infraction occurred.  Each level gained or lost specific privileges. The idea is that the child can work her way back up, she has the power to control where she’s at, and the rules become more objective.  Trust, in this case, goes from being fluid and subjective  to very specific and clear.

So MrH and I came up with some levels in light of the recent backpack incidents.  After sharing them with her (see below for final version) she added level 5 and made it harder to earn her way up.  Rather than having three days at whatever level she’s at, and then moving up, she now has to have as many days as the level.  If she gets all the way down to level 5, she’ll spend 5 days at that level before earning her way back up to 4.  It’s a little harsh I think, and we tried to talk her out of it, but she was mostly excited about only spending 2 days at level 2 before earning her way back up to the top!

I printed them out in color.  Levels 1 and 2 are green because they’re both totally acceptable; level 3 is yellow (caution); levels 4 and 5 are both red.  We’ll use a dry-erase marker to mark what level she’s at and how many days she’s worked towards earning her way back up.  Are you still following?  This kind of stuff is so against my nature.  I really spent my 20s understanding that life is full of gray areas.  Now here I am: 30 and learning how to make everything black and white! In any case, here’s the chart I made her:

Level One

  • you choose what to bring (following rules)
  • bring any bags or purses you choose
  • mommy checks occasionally, or when you ask.

Level Two

  • you choose what to bring (following rules)
  • bring only your backpack
  • show mommy what you packed each day

Level Three

  • only bring what’s needed for school.
  • if you want to bring anything else, ask first
  • bring only a backpack, no other bags.
  • show mommy what you packed each day

Level Four

  • only bring what’s needed for school.
  • bring only a backpack, no other bags.
  • show mommy what you packed each day

Level Five

  • only bring what’s needed for school.
  • bring only a backpack, no other bags.
  • show mommy what you packed each day
  • no playdates until back to level 4.
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