You Can Be Relied On: Trust Pedagogy As A Parenting Style

In addition to well-known educational styles such as the democratic or authoritarian principle, smaller currents are developing today. Some of these lean on traditional methods and supplement them on the basis of modern, scientific findings. One of these “new” theories is Etter’s pedagogy of trust. It recognizes the inherently hierarchical structure between parents and children. However, while the authoritarian style of parenting has no interest in children’s trust, trust pedagogy is based on exactly that through strong yet loving leadership, children are made to feel well cared for. Etter assumes that children are less prone to delinquency when they are educated according to this idea.

Fundamentals Of Trust Pedagogy

Heinz Etter, the founder of the pedagogy of trust, is based on Monty Roberts as well as Jesper Juul. He assumes that in communities there is usually a hierarchical structure. Such structures can provide security or have a constricting effect, depending on how they are lived.

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The concept of trust pedagogy is based on the knowledge gained from working with horses. Monty Roberts found out that horses can be led better if they trust their trainer. To do this, they need to feel both his strength and his empathy. In the Join-Up process, horse trainers strengthen the animals’ trust until they entrust themselves to him in complete obedience – voluntarily, without force.

Applying this process to human education, a few questions arise. On the one hand, proper education is not based on making children completely submissive. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that children are by nature dependent on the adults around them. This dependence should not lead to coercive obedience under threat of punishment or otherwise be exploited. Rather, trust pedagogy is about creating the basis for a trusting relationship (“I rely on you.”). On the one hand, the child should be able to make its own decisions and critically assess its environment. On the other hand, it should feel well taken care of in its family unit.

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The pedagogy of trust sees itself as a Christian approach that follows the values handed down from the Bible. Apart from faith, however, the concept is interesting for all parents who would like to educate their child without coercion

Criticism And Hints

Unfortunately, trust pedagogy is in some places strongly influenced by the Christian idea of subordination (to God and to parents). Just as a Christian trusts his God and willingly submits to him, the child is supposed to recognize his position in the family hierarchy and submit accordingly because the Join-Up concept makes a lot of sense in itself, it still remains interesting to non-denominational people. Those who deal with it should do so with a critical eye. Where subordination comes too much to the fore, modern, democratic educational principles should be kept in mind. With this background, it is possible to live trust pedagogy as part of a flexible, democratic style of education.

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Recommended Reading

  • Educating in trust – the Join-Up concept (Heinz Etter)
  • Trust School (Heinz Etter)

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