“I Want to be Trusted.”
When Katie was growing up, every once in a while she would blurt out an emphatic, “I want to be trusted.” She would always say it with an intensity that was a little startling, as if she were mad at not feeling trusted, or profoundly afraid that she would not be, or terrified, herself, that she was not trustworthy. Perhaps it was an emotional outburst in anticipation of a scary decision she was about to make.
We always had the same reaction: “We do trust you.” …and it was true. We did and do always trust all of our children. We never talked about it much. It was something we took for granted.
I have an old T-shirt that says, “Children should be seen, heard and believed.” My heart is committed to the sentiment, and yet sometimes activity in my prefrontal cortex makes me wonder how true it is.
We trust our children to make mistakes, to get into jams, to get over-extended, to need to be bailed out. We trust the decisions our children make not because we know they will always be good ones, but because their decisions represent who they are, or a necessary step in becoming who they are.
But trusting our children is not that simple; in fact it is really tricky business. One parent told me, “We always told our son that we would bail him out of any mistake the first time …. but he should learn from his mistakes and not make THE SAME mistake twice; if he did make the same mistake again, this time he was on his own. So far it hasn’t happened.” Is this a good strategy?
What does it mean to trust your child? Should teachers trust their students the same way? Can we trust children in the virtual world, too? Scary things can happen on hand-held devices. Does age matter? How can we guide them and keep them safe while letting them make their own mistakes?