Creating a trusting and honest relationship with each of our students is imperative in helping them grow and achieve success. However, this is not always easy, especially during stressful times. How can we work on building more trusting relationships? Routine, boundaries, and communication all play significant roles.
First, it’s important that your student understands the reason that you, as a parent, and their mentor, are sometimes hard on them; it’s because we care so much. Stating this explicitly may seem obvious but is a great way to begin a conversation about accountability and honesty. When students begin to legitimately understand this, they may be more open to receiving feedback and listening more intentionally.
Establishing boundaries and routines is helpful to building trust. When both parties know what to expect, neither the student nor the parent is caught off guard. Part of this means establishing routine. Routine provides necessary structure to your student’s life and will help them stay organized—in turn, reducing stress and underlying frustration. It also allows you, the parent, to have an idea of what to expect from your student and what their schedule looks like. For instance, it may be helpful to have a quick check-in with your student on Mondays and Wednesday, for 15 minutes, at 5:00pm. Creating a consistent communication schedule not only allows the student to know that this is coming, but it will also build a consistent dialogue that opens communication and reinforces honesty. Boundaries may come in the form of notifying your student that you are checking in, but it may also mean refraining from checking in too often. Boundaries might mean sticking to your word: whether that means holding the student accountable for work, or making sure you maintain your communication with them in the way that you had agreed upon.
Verbal communication is the most direct form of communication, which means it’s so foundational in our relationships. The most effective verbal communication with students is positive reinforcement, especially when the language is specific. So many of our students are used to hearing what they should be doing better, or differently. Even if they’re small wins, make sure to celebrate them with your student. Another form of verbal communication is “tough love.” This might look like, “I saw that you missed a deadline in English. I know sometimes things come up, but let’s figure out why you missed this assignment. How can we prevent this next time?” This provides the student room to explain their actions by asking them questions. In turn, the student is more likely to stay engaged in the process and it requires a degree of self assessment. In our verbal communication, it is important to phrase conversations in a way that makes the student understand that you care about them, and that’s why you are trying to hold them accountable.
Nonverbal communication is also important. Our body language dictates how others approach us and communicate with us. When a parent or mentor presents themselves as happy and engaged, the student is more likely to feel comfortable being vulnerable and honest. For example, studies have shown that when you mirror another persons’ body language, they feel more open to communicate with you. We want to encourage as much openness, honesty, and trust when addressing academics because it can become so easy and habitual for students to become closed off or discouraged.
Listening to what your student is feeling, whether about academics or their emotional difficulties, is imperative. When you let them know that you are willing to listen without providing feedback or answers, you are allowing them to share without them feeling defensive. Knowing how your student is feeling will help both you and your student’s mentor guide them in the right direction without closing off the conversation.
In any relationship, communication, boundaries, and good listening are important. Helping your student establish and maintain consistent and easy-to-follow routines will allow all parties to feel a greater sense of organization and reduces stress.
Parents know their students best, which is both a blessing and a challenge. Keeping an open and understanding approach to conversations will help build trust and honesty.