Trust and distrust often represents a difficult dilemma. Trust fosters confidence, while distrust can ruin a good relationship, but we can`t always trust our children? The question is when can and should we actually trust our children and give them freedom and responsibility, and when should we act as mentors and provide guidelines and restrictions? The troubles of being a parent.
Parents often make the matter of fact comment, “I can’t trust my kid…” and expect that the object of their distrust will grow up with a sense of confidence and trust in the parent. This is a mistake. Depending on the stage of growth at which your child is, you must determine the points at which you can trust them to be independent and points at which you cannot trust them to take care of themselves.
Moments at which distrust, or more appropriately extra care, are required:
- Leaving your child with a stranger or another family member
- Letting your child cross the street alone
- Leaving your child free in a zoo or a large fair
These are some situations in which your child may not be aware of the possible dangers and act wrongly. In these cases, you are not showing distrust to your child. You are assessing the situation holistically and combining your awareness of your child’s abilities before taking a decision. If the child is below five, you will not allow independence in the above situations whereas you may be open if your child is a pre-teen.
Moments at which you may leave a small child’s side:
- Birthday party
- Sending the child for a school picnic
- Permitting an outing with friends and a parent
You may be wary if your child is very small and will allay your fears by ascertaining the arrangements for the care of children. Safety precautions and suitable care by adults help you to satisfy yourself towards an appropriate decision.
Often when parents make the statement about distrust, they are referring to the innocence of the child and the possible dangers the child would face. There must be a distinction between the fear of childish innocence and distrust. Keeping the channels of communication continuously open can mold childish innocence in a fruitful direction.
Distrust, on the other hand, is akin to suspicion and fosters a feeling that all people are to be regarded with suspicion. Distrust presupposes mala-fide intent on the part of the younger mind and draws conclusions on the basis of action instead of open communication. Distrusting your child does little by way of nurturing them or making them aware of the realities of the world outside of home. In fact, it reduces their sense of self and comes in the way of maturing and managing situations independently and effectively. Your distrust in them begets their distrust in you.
A parent who communicates expectations to the child and is consistent about the downside of not living up to expectations can expect that the communication will not be taken seriously. For instance, you may tell your child never to go to a friend’s house without informing you beforehand. Your communication also needs to cover what is expected in a situation of having to hurry to the friend’s home and difficulty in contacting you. It is possible the friend wants your child to go out to the store, tell your child what is expected. Your child is expected to inform you and take care to avoid certain things. In case of the real possibility of not being able to contact you in the face of an urgency of going elsewhere, what should be done? Who should be informed? Make sure your communication is clear so that even if your child is unable to call you, he or she is aware of what timely action to take. Since you have kept your child informed about different strategies to be adopted, you know that there is a little leeway you can provide. This is a method of building trust between you and your child.
A parent who does little more than insisting on the expectation of being called and restricts the child once the call is made is giving the message of distrust – distrust does not receive respect, it receives disobedience. Do not allow your worry for the child to lead to disregard of preferences. Under circumstances of normalcy, you need to develop a set of actions that you can expect the child to remember and consciously adhere to.
Going out with friends
When a young child is going out with friends, there may be situations that lead to inappropriate behavior. You may feel that your child is with the wrong group of children. Counter this effect by reiterating your trust in your child and guiding thought towards identifying the difference between right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable. Highlight your expectation that your child will use certain ground rules, for instance, causing hurt to another person or property is not ‘fun’. In the face of goading to do a daring act that has the capacity to kill or maim, it is better to dare to do something to good effect. One can dare to be risk-taking in business or finding creative ways to manage situations and help people.
You can clearly put into a young mind the expectation that restraint is to be exercised before being a part of an activity. If you find that this is not happening, the effect of the peer group is greater than your own words, take stronger measures. Let your child know that you are watching out for any behaviour mismanagement that can cause trouble to the family or the young person. Highlight to your child the difficulties that children of that age face by references to current happenings and the impact on their own lives and their families.
Trust denotes the expectation that a person will take responsibility for actions and use judgment in the face of doubt.