“Promise? Buzz Lightyear, promise to catch me?”
As I was chipping away at Mt. Laundry and matching socks, I heard the soft voice of my two-year-old and paused. “Catch me?” I panicked at the thought of what my dare devil tot was up to and turned around to a peculiar scene.
Buzz Lightyear lay on his back with his arms posed upwards. My son stood above Buzz and repeated his request: “Promise? Buzz? Catch me?” My son was trying to play the old game of Trust.
I stepped in before my son fell flat on top of his toy, but the scene kept playing in my head. Catch me. Catch me. My son was so trusting, even to the point of playing Trust with a simple object.
I started thinking about trust, and the incredible amount of trust that children place in their parents. No one has ever blindly trusted me as much as my two boys. It’s a humbling experience.
Researchers from the University of Zurich published a study that links oxytocin with increased trust levels. In particular, the study focused on how smelling the hormone made participants more willing to trust others.
Oxytocin, nicknamed the “love hormone,” is responsible for bonding between mothers and children as well as between mates. Oxytocin is even released during breastfeeding. It makes sense then that there would be an incredible amount of trust between a mother and child.
Another study, conducted by Vikram Jaswal, illustrated that children are naturally inclined to believe what they are told. Jaswal concluded that the trust levels of children are designed to save the child’s brain from constantly evaluating everything they hear.
The “Why” game is tough enough. Imagine hearing “Why… Are you sure?” after every inquiry!
Although children are biologically wired to trust their parents thanks to oxytocin, trust between parent and child is not an unbreakable entity. Trust is a fickle, fickle thing, and it can be broken in a single moment.
A young child might lose trust if repeatedly lied to, or if she or he experiences a trauma (such as a painful shot after being told it won’t hurt). In addition, as children get older and their brains mature, skepticism enters the scene. Teens are notorious for not believing their parents.
Parents not only have the task of maintaining trust with their children, but they also shape how their children view trust in general. This thought that encourages me daily. My boys have given me their trust, and it’s my job to make sure I keep it.