When your teenage son tells you that he is going to a friend's house to spend Saturday evening, how do you know he is where he tells you? When your daughter wakes up on a school day morning complaining of not feeling well, and you know she has a math test she has been worrying about, how do you know she is really sick? When your son tells you that he doesn't need to go to the bathroom before you are about to get into the car to run your household errands, can you trust his judgment? As parents, how do we know we can trust our children?
The answer is we don't ever really know. We must make the choice to either trust our children or not. I know these are not necessarily comforting words. Wouldn't it be lovely to have a litmus test that could inform us of all the facts?
Obviously there are some things that we could do to verify the information our children tell us. For instance, rather than relying on your teenage son's cell phone call, you could actually call the friend's house and speak to the parents to verify that you child is where he says he is. If you do this, you may feel reassured. But what does that say to your son about your trust in him? You could take your daughter's temperature to see if her illness has affected her body temperature. Perhaps this would reassure you that your daughter is not making up an illness to avoid a math test. But what would that say to your daughter about your trust in her? You could ask your son to visit the bathroom even after he reassures you that his bladder is empty. But what kind of a message would that be sending your son about your trust in his ability to monitor his own body functions?
One definition of trust is: “the firm reliance on the integrity, the ability and the character of a person. " Can we trust that our children are telling us the truth? Only if we choose to trust them. If we don't, our attempts to monitor and dig for the truth will still leave us wondering about our ability to rely on the integrity and character of our children. Rather than asking yourself if your child is telling you the truth, a better question is: “Does my child have the ability to handle each situation he faces? Can my child rely on her own character?"
As we have discussed before, parents set limits and guidelines to assure our children's safety and success. We have lived longer, have more experiences and believe we have more wisdom than our children. Our rules, expectations and standards for conduct for our children are based upon this “older" position. However, sooner or later every parent will realize that their children will face challenges and choices in the world without parents available to consult, guide and provide the “right" answer. Isn't it better to have a child who can make responsible and safe choices?
In order to have trustworthy children we must trust our children. As we trust our children they begin to trust themselves. Our children begin to trust their own judgment when they face choices and circumstances that a parent does not regulate or monitor. Our children's character and integrity are built when they choose the responsible path without an adult regulating his every move.
Our children learn the skills to trust themselves, to rely on their own character and integrity when we give them a chance. When we choose to trust our children we are choosing to teach them they are trustworthy.
To assure your sense of safety and success for your child, teach her the responsible behaviors necessary to handle the situations and circumstances she faces. Then allow your child the freedom and opportunity to practice these behaviors. If your son tells you he is going to a friend's house on Saturday night, tell him that you expect he is where he says he is. If he is changing location, you expect to be informed. Let him know that you are trusting him to keep you informed of his where abouts. If your daughter tells you she is too sick to go to school, math test or no, trust her. Tell her that you know she has better knowledge of her body’s condition from the inside than you do from the outside. If your son tells you he does not need to go to the bathroom before you are about to run errands, trust him. Tell you son that he knows how full or empty his bladder is better than you do.
Choose to trust your child. Tell your child that you trust her The more you make this choice and share that you are making this choice the more experience your child has in trusting herself and feeling trustworthy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nancy S. Buck, Ph. D. established Peaceful Parenting, Inc.in 2000 to bring her knowledge and experience with effective parenting to the greatest number of parents and other caretakers of children. She developed the Peaceful Parenting ® program from her 25 years of experience as a developmental psychologist, trainer and educator with The William Glasser Institute and as the mother of twin sons. Her genuine, warm and authentic teaching style is clear and concise, helping learners move from the theoretical to real life situations.
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