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Trust Jars

The newest issue at the Maher house is lying. We have tried talking about lying and trust, but the message really wasn’t sinking in. Losing privileges didn’t seem to work, and this is an issue on which I wanted the kids to have a deeper connection and understanding. Matt and I had talked to the kids about how lying affects trust, and about how, like in the story “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” the more you lie, the more you lose the trust of your friends and family. They would smile and nod, and then, 10 minutes later, they would be lying again — about brushing teeth, about who spilled the orange juice, even about matches. Obviously, our amazing pep talks were not getting through to them.

I decided to make “Trust Jars,” because I thought a visual might help them fully comprehend the connection between trust and lying — how lying repeatedly can make trust disappear, and that it can happen faster than you realize. I’m hoping that by having a way to physically measure trust on our counter, which they walk by constantly, they’ll have a tangible connection to a pretty complicated concept.

The Trust Jar is a simple concept. I went to Dollar Tree and bought three water bottles and a lot of marbles. Using a Sharpie, I labeled one jar for each kid and created measuring lines on the side to show the degrees of lost trust. Then we filled the jars, which was the kids’ favorite part.

Now, when my kids are caught in a lie, they know they lose a bead from the Trust Jar. If they lose enough beads, then they start losing privileges of trust — the first being brushing their teeth alone upstairs (a lot of our lying is about whether or not they brushed their teeth). When they get to that first line, they will have to brush their teeth in Mom and Dad’s room with Mom or Dad watching, because they will have lost our trust that they are doing what they said they did. The farther down the jar they go, the bigger the losses are.

But I wanted to focus not only on the lost trust, but also on how you gain trust back. To do that, we keep the lost-trust marbles in a vase by the Trust Jars. The kids can earn back their trust marbles, but they know that sometimes it can be harder to put the marbles back in than it is to take them out. I feel like this is an important lesson — not just that lying is wrong, but that when you lose someone’s trust, it takes work to get it back. I think it’s a lesson that, especially in today’s climate, is really important to learn.

Will it work? I don’t know. I have seen my kids get excited for this type of thing before and lose interest, but we are still working on our Point System that we created in March, so there is hope. One of the biggest things for me has been to remember to follow through when catching them in a lie. The little white lies always seem to sneak in when we’re on our way out the door or in a rush to get something done. It sometimes means inconveniencing myself (such as by being late) in order to make sure the lesson is learned. I have also found there is a bigger impact and connection when you let the kids take the marble out of the Trust Jar than when I do it for them when they are not watching.

Whether it is a Trust Jar or something else, this is a lesson we will continue to teach and focus on at our house. In the Maher house, you always will get in less trouble if you’re honest about what happened, rather than if you lie about it. Santosh Kalwar put it best: “Trust starts with truth and ends with truth.”

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