The Importance of Trusting our Children
I trust you…. Its a powerful phrase; one that strengthens relationships, builds self confidence and one that is rarely used with our children. When our culture thinks of children we think of incompetent people whose every choice needs to be controlled. I understand this. They need guidance, limits, and boundaries. But I do think they are far more capable of making the right choices for themselves then we give them credit for, or that we would be willing to patiently wait for. Someone I have always respected and trusted for parenting advice told me, “independence blossoms it can’t be forced.” This resonated so much with me; I understood. My baby will do all he needs to do in his own time, and it's my job to create a safe environment for him to thrive.
I need to trust in his ability to make decisions that he knows are best for himself.
He eventually slept through the night in his own bed when he was ready. He walked, crawled, stood up and talked when he was ready. He used the potty, public restrooms, and felt safe and happy being left with other people, all in his own time. He is his own person who, given the proper resources and space to bloom, chooses what's best for himself.
As much as I know this,and so badly want to continue living this way, fear somehow always creeps its way in. When someone else’s child starts doing something my child is not, when I’m exhausted and just need my kids to be a little bit more mature then they are capable of, or when I feel insecure and question what my son is choosing for himself.
It's a terrible feeling, this urge to control things, to overpower and force my own agenda onto him. It's a feeling I’m sure is so strongly projected onto him that he starts to feel uneasy and question himself. Why can’t I just take a deep breath and say “Ok I trust you.”
Last week, this very lesson unfolded so powerfully in front of me. To say my 3.5 year old was dependent upon his pacifiers is an understatement. He had multiple ones all with names. Every second that we were at home he had at least two in his hand and one in his mouth. He would twirl one on his nose as he feel asleep at night. They were a life line--they were almost a part of him.
I spent far to much time obsessing over those things: worrying about his teeth, worrying about the judgement of others, worrying that he would never decide to give them up, just plain old worrying... Till one day I read an article that talked about children who had a strong need for sucking their thumb or a pacifier needed specific help to not escape things, and extra help coping with feelings.
They suggested connecting with your child every time you noticed them withdraw and sit sucking their soother. So I just started to be extra present with my son. Anytime I'd notice him stop playing and just take a break reading a book or something I'd make sure I sat with him. If he got hurt I'd just say over and over, “I'm here with you, hold my hand, we will get through this together, it's ok to cry."
I started talking to him about his pacifiers and telling him “When you feel ready you can just stop using them." I started telling him I trusted him and knew he was capable of making good choices. I put him in swim lessons, which really started to build his self confidence, and you know what? He woke up last week and said, “mommy I'm all done with my binkys."
He put them down and never picked them up again for the rest of the day. At bed time I thought for sure he would ask for them, but nope, he crawled up into bed and went to sleep as if they never existed. The next day he fell and got hurt and started asking for them again. I had this huge moral dilemma... “What do I do?” I decided to give them back and as I handed them over I said, “I know you’ll give them back when you're ready.” He had them about 5 minutes then said he was all done and didn’t have them again.
Last night I said, “Hey buddy when you feel ready I'll leave your binkys here and you can throw them away." He walked right up and said, “Oh I can do it now. I feel ready.” and tossed them in the garbage. What an amazing thing for me to experience as a mom! What a beautiful testament to trusting my son.
In a lot of ways, there are similarities between parenting and being a follower of Christ. Because of the experience with my son, I got to thinking about trusting God and how hard it can be to give up control, lay my fear to rest, and just surrender. How much work and wisdom trust actually requires. How just like God so boldly wants to walk hand in hand with us in a connection that says, “I trust you my father” and “yes, my child I trust you."
This showed me that the give and take can seamlessly weave together when our expectations don’t only involve ourselves. Just like my heavenly father wants to be in a relationship with me that is built on trust through my free will, and allow me to grow at my own pace, my child wants my trust through his free will in an environment that lets him blossom.
This might look messy sometimes and that is when God gives us grace. My children are worthy of my grace.
Trust builds connection, trust grows free thinkers, and trust says: “You my child are more than capable." I'm thankful to God for growing me through my children and for pulling me closer into his love through my own free will.