Right or reward? A game of trust

Photo by Susan Q Yin on Unsplash

My wife and I were discussing Christmas presents at the weekend. Not because we usually plan this far ahead (it’s June), but because we’re approaching a threshold: the age where children want electronics rather than toys.

We’ve been waiting for it for the last couple of years. We keep an ear out for what my son discusses when he comes home. What interests him? What does he play with at his friends houses? What did they get for their birthdays/Christmas?

We know there’ll be a sudden rush of his peers crossing out Transformers on their wish lists and writing Nintendo/Playstation/X-Box.

On Sunday my wife pointed out that my son is playing games on his camera (a bit like Snake on the old Nokia 3330) more and more regularly. And with him moving to junior school this autumn, it feels like this coming Christmas is the one.

We started talking through how this would fit into our lives, as if we were making plans to welcome a puppy into the family.

‘We should work on a reward system’ I said. ‘Give him 30 mins on the days he’s well behaved or gets through his reading and maths’.

‘That’s not fair’ my wife said. ‘We should let him have some time each day, unless he misbehaves’.

It’s the same outcome, but an entirely different set of assumptions to start with.

From my standpoint, my son will be rewarded for good behaviour.

From my wife’s standpoint, my son deserves it unless he messes up.

At the heart of our disagreement is trust. My position was that trust needs to be earned. My wife came at it from opposite angle – trust is given automatically and needs to be maintained.

So who’s right?

Context is important

Trust is an interesting game. We grant it quickly in certain situations, but not in others.

Think about when you last started a new job. Did you have the office pass and systems access you needed from day 1? Could you give clients advice or carry out what you specialise in? Even if you were junior and being trained, chances are high that you start from a position of trust – to manage your time, to take on responsibility quickly and respond to your manager by the deadlines they set.

What about when you last hired someone? Did you put the same faith in them from day 1 as you’d expect for yourself? Does trust alter with seniority, or type of role, or more subtle factors like how someone speaks or dresses?

Or how about when you last started dating someone? Did you trust them fully from the beginning; swap deepest darkest secrets; give them the keys to your flat? Or did the comfort levels build over time?

Perhaps it’s a case of qualification. You can reference someone at work, but you can’t in a personal relationship. Imagine calling up your new partner’s ex and asking how they got in their role. How would that conversation go?!

Back at home

Whilst I pride myself on granting trust freely to my new hires at work, clearly back at home I think my son is to be treated like the new relationship.

My wife (thankfully for all of us) takes the more adult approach and gives him the benefit of the doubt.

And I like that idea. It’s time to treat him like a grown up, and for me to behave more like one.

How do you approach trust at home and work? Is it a right or a reward?

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