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5 to 6: Stand by Me

How your emotional support helps him become trustworthy.

By Ellen Booth Church | null , null

Without being conscious of it, your child trusts that you’ll support him no matter what. Even at this stage — when 5s and 6s start to become more independent than ever — he still needs to see that you’ll always be there for him.

Supporting your child and demonstrating your own trustworthiness will lead him toward becoming trustworthy himself. But while on that path, you’ll need to deal with the ways his growing sense of independence leads him to test the trust connection he has with you. For example, you may have already noticed that your 6 year old likes to see what happens when he does something he knows is off limits. It could be something simple like ignoring your request to clean up or something more significant such as refusing to hold your hand as you cross the street.

Making Progress
This kind of behavior can be exasperating, but it’s important for you to remain patient and be consistent in your application of the rules. Once your child realizes that you’re not budging, he’ll likely stop trying to push your buttons so often. Instead, he’ll have a greater sense of respect for your rules. His good behavior will in turn make him more trustworthy in your eyes and in the eyes of his teachers and peers. Other techniques for helping him become more trustworthy:

Model good behavior. 5s and 6s learn best from real-life examples. Think about how you want your child to demonstrate that he is trustworthy, and then purposefully demonstrate these same behaviors for him. If you make a mistake, own up to it and explain why you are doing this. It’s vital for him to know that telling the truth is more important than hiding a mistake.

Be consistent with your praise, promises, and discipline. It will expand your child’s understanding of honesty to include integrity and dependability and inspire her to be consistent with her behavior, too.

Be calm and patient. Your child will make some mistakes, but if you are calm and patient with his progress, you will help him develop a skill that will last him a lifetime.

Chat with her teacher. This is the time when school begins to replace home as the environment that has the most influence on the development of social skills. A school environment that builds trust is essential now.


Create cooperative family rules. Having rules that the whole family knows creates an environment of support and trust.

Demonstrate “being responsible” with simple things such as holding the door open for someone or picking up the neighbor’s newspaper. This will show your child how your helpful behaviors encourage others to trust you.

About the Author

Ellen Booth Church is a former professor of early childhood education, an education consultant and author.

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