“Lisbeth, can you define the word friendship for me? “

“It’s when you like somebody.”

“Sure, but what is it that makes you like somebody?”

She shrugged.

“Friendship—my definition is built on two things,” he said. “Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don’t have trust, the friendship will crumble.”

—From The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Most of us do not think about our relationships with our kids from this perspective until they become teenagers or even later. I wonder what we might see if we began to explore our relationships from this perspective of trust and respect much earlier—say when they’re 4 or 5?

If we do, some new questions become useful:

  What would encourage my children to respect me?

  What would encourage my children to trust me?

  How do I let them know that I respect them?

  How do I let them know that I trust them?

We might also ask:

  What do I do that might break the sense of trust and respect between us?

I’m sure you can identify behavior that will add to or subtract from trust and respect, if you just pay attention and notice what you notice. 

One of my favorite books is Letters to My Son by Kent Nerburn, who makes a powerful point about how important it is to deal with the world in a way that leads people to respect you. The flip side, in my view, is dealing with the world in a way that shows your respect for others.        —from page 86, Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids