The Two Kinds of Child-Parent Trust

This guest post is by Amy LeForge who is the mother of two sets of twin boys that she homeschools, hopefully without causing any of them to need therapy. She blogs at Earnest Parenting.

There are different kinds of trust that we offer our children over time. For example, there’s the trust that a child will do her chores responsibly, and trust that he won’t play with matches and set the house on fire. Now that the boys are older, we’re dealing with having to trust them to make good decisions while online. An even bigger issue: trusting them with cell phones. Hubby and I have to trust that they’ll send only appropriate messages, and that they’ll respond appropriately if someone sends them a text, link, or picture that is untoward.

The kinds of trust I’ve mentioned so far are a little bit difficult, but as a parent I’ve been growing into them along with the boys. There’s one kind of trust though, that’s really scaring me: trusting that my children will turn out okay.

Many parents worry about their children’s education and career path, to the point that they interfere far too much. It can get extreme to the point of the parent living vicariously through the child, which is not healthy for either party.

I’m pretty much fine with my children choosing whatever career path they like. If a son chooses to get a degree in engineering, then decides to spend his life working in a minimum-wage job, that’s okay as long as he’s happy with that choice. The only time I get a little nervous about careers with my boys is the thought that they might go into politics. Bleh.

So it’s not trusting them over career or education choices that scares me. Nope. For me, it’s how they turn out as individuals.

It’s really important to me that the boys grow up to be men who love the Lord and serve others. A very wise friend of mine pointed out recently that I don’t get to control that. I don’t get to determine what they’ll do with their lives, and ultimately I have no control over the choices they make. Honestly? That’s a terrifying prospect. When they were born I was responsible for everything about their lives. There was no area over which I did not have control or input. When they’re 18, I won’t have any control at all. I’m hoping for input, but we’ll see.

My friend reminded me that my job as a parent is to do the very best I can to model and teach, and that’s it. Eventually I have to (gulp) turn over all control to the boys. I think one reason that this trust is giving me the willies is that I can’t withhold it until it’s earned. There are time constraints. When they’re done with scohol and head off to college or full-time employment, then I can’t follow them around and make sure they avoid every mistake, even though I may want to do just that.

It may be that looking at parenting as gardening makes this particular trust a little easier to manage. I plant seeds in their lives and nurture to the best of my ability, and then watch them grow. It’s also true that if I don’t step up and force myself to trust the boys more and more that I may actually stunt their development. In my head I know that children need to make mistakes on their own as they grow and develop. In my heart, I want to help them through every situation as much as possible and avoid painful consequences. The tension and conflict between those two ideas is healthy, but still difficult. Especially because I have to let the head win out over the heart frequently.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that we have 18 years to get through this process with each child. I’m going to need every second of it, because I’ve got so far to grow.

Amy LeForge is the mother of two sets of twin boys that she homeschools, hopefully without causing any of them to need therapy. She blogs at Earnest Parenting.

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2 thoughts on “The Two Kinds of Child-Parent Trust”

  1. Want things to be easier? Stop caring about results. Let your kids experience you as someone who accepts them as they are. When they screw up, be ok with it. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work with them so that it doesn’t happen again, but make it about the thing, the event the “it.” Don’t make it about them. The next time they get it wrong, see if you can determine whether they simply “spilled the milk,” or if they don’t understand the difference between right and wrong in the given situation. If they oopsed, let ’em off the hook immediately. Tell them that everybody makes mistakes, and that it’s ok. Ask if they understand what went wrong, ask if they need help, then move on. The less they are afraid of messing up, the less they’ll do it. Stop freaking out when they make poor choices. Stop tensing up. Stop caring about the results. Care about what’s in their hearts. It’s the journey, not the destination.

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