Trusting my kids has never come naturally to me. I have always had to work hard at it, it doesn’t seem to come automatically. The reason I know that that my default setting is mistrust is because I generally try to act and speak with trust and I am always surprised that it works.
I sometimes hear the trust thing put the wrong way round. ‘When you act in a trustworthy manner, then I will trust you’. What actually works is: ‘When I behave in a trusting manner you repay me with trustworthy behaviour’. Usually. And if you don’t, you’re genuinely ashamed and want to get it right next time.
I remember the first time it hit me that I needed to start trusting my kids, it was when my third son was about three (it took me a long time…). When he jumped onto the settee next to me as I was holding a cup of hot tea, I stopped myself saying ‘Watch out! That’s really careless, can’t you see I’ve got a cup of tea in my hand?? Think before you act, don’t just jump on me like that!’
I decided that rather than treating him as a careless idiot I would assume that he was a considerate caring little boy who had just made a mistake as children do. So I just gave him some salient information and trusted that he would get it. I said ‘Aaaargh, my tea’s hot!’ and his response was an immediate ‘Oooh, sorry Mum’ and he sat very still so as not to knock me again. I learned that he knew what to do without being told, and I was gobsmacked.
And I have continued to be gobsmacked ever since, even though I pretend not to be.
This week that same son, now 16, started college and needed to get a bus pass.
‘You need to get it tomorrow’ I said ‘otherwise I’ll be paying bus fare every day’
‘Yeah ok’ he said.
‘It’s really important’ I said, ‘I really can’t afford to be paying that out every day’
‘Yeah ok Mum, I will’ he said.
It was the slight irritation creeping into his voice that made me stop myself saying anything else, when what I really wanted to do was impress upon him just how important this was, and how much I wanted it signed in blood. I had to stop myself saying ‘Do you know where to go to ask them at college? Do you know where the bus place is? You realise you’re going to have to give yourself enough time to get there don’t you? Have you checked the bus times? WILL YOU REALLY DO THIS??’
I even managed to say ‘Have a great day!’ as he left, rather than ‘Don’t forget the bus pass!’
And when he got home I made myself say ‘Did you have a good day?’ in place of ‘Did you remember your bus pass?’ (and that was really hard..)
‘Yeah it was great’ he said ‘Oh and I had to get passport photos for the bus pass so you owe me four pounds’.
So he had found out what to do, where to go, where to get passport photos, found four pounds from somewhere and given himself enough time to do all this without any instructions or advice from me.
Gobsmacked. When WILL trusting my kids become my default setting?