Welcome to my life. It's a whirlwind of kids, chaos, pets, people, family, art, and being home (most of the time; I like to get out here and there). We unschool, so the unexpected is, well, expected...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Trusting kids

I've been thinking about trusting kids and what that means.

I trust my kids absolutely. It doesn't matter what kind of choices they make, or whether or not they make mistakes, I will still trust them.

As Chamille has gotten older, I find the trust divide very big, between the way I trust her and the way other parents trust their teens. Here's the biggest difference, in the way I see it: I trust both of my kids to do what makes sense to them, to make choices that will benefit them with the best possible outcomes.

The way that I see other parents deal with trust, is that they want to trust that their kids will do what they, the parents, want them to do. They want to trust that their kids will make "right", as defined by the parents, choices. When the kids don't, the parents lose trust in their children.

There isn't an issue at all with discipline when you trust your kids absolutely. When they make choices that you don't like, it isn't because they are deliberately disobeying you or trying to make your life as a parent difficult, it's because they saw that they were making the best choice at the time. Since kids are still learning, they don't always predict all the outcomes that may arise from their choices, and sometimes they need to pick up pieces of the aftermath, but still, it was the best choice they could make at the time.

There is no need to discipline a kid if they are never put in a position where they must choose between what they feel is right and what they feel their parents think is right. When the outcome of denying their own intincts is to do something someone else wants or get into trouble for not, they are denied the chance to learn how to make good choices for themselves. My kids aren't punished or disciplined for their choices or their actions whether I like them or not. There are no hoops to jump to be in my good graces.

When I tell other parents that I trust Chamille to make good choices for herself, I think often the assumption is that she is making all good choices that I approve of based on a set of rules and guidelines and that I trust her to follow all those rules and guidelines. In the absence of those rules and guidelines, she is making choices that directly relate and impact her and others, and because of this, she makes good choices because she weighs carefully the real outcomes of those decisions and not whether or not she will get "caught" or get "in trouble" by doing or not doing certain things.

I absolutely trust my kids, even if they make choices I wouldn't! How wonderful and freeing that is! I don't have to be on constant vigilence to make sure that my kids are complying with rules and guidelines and applying consequences for not following those rules and guidelines. I love this so much and I wish so much that other parents would practice this too! It's so wonderful to have kids that I don't have to fight with, that want to hang out with me and who confide in me about all sorts of things that most kids would never confide in with their parents.

The older Chamille gets, the more value I see in this way of trusting my kids. I see a big and wonderful difference in how beneficial this is as opposed to the more tradional approach to parenting. I can see very clearly how rules and guidelines negatively impact relationships between parents and children. Unless a child agrees with all the rules and guidelines that the parent sets forth, there will be dischord. There is no way around it. Dischord isn't a great way to live and learn happily and easily.

I like happy and easy! Like the above diagram, I want my kids to believe in that fully!


Stephanie said...


Arabella said...

I think it's absurd to avocate parental responsibility to children. What a burden for children to carry. In spite of philosophy, though, most parents of sense will naturally give more freedom of choice to older children than they will for younger children. I know I do. That's, actually, truly natural parenting.

Jenny Cyphers said...

I suppose it depends on your definition of parental responsibility and what avocating that would look like.

I honestly don't see it as placing a burden, it's way more like removing a burden. It's a huge burden for kids to live under the authoritative thumb of a parent. Sometimes kids never overcome that.

Shannon Dee said...

Thanks, Jenny...I can't believe I hadn't read your blog before! =)

Sandra Dodd said...

-=it's absurd to avocate parental responsibility -=-

I've never "avocated" anything. What is "avocate"!? (Oh. I looked it up. I don't think it's what Arabella meant.)

I have three children who are all 18 years old, as of this week. Holly turned 18 on Monday. None of them went to school. I've been letting them make choices about what to eat and what to wear and what to do for 18, 20 and 23 years. I was responsible for that. My husband and I decided to do that. We didn't make them responsible for themselves when we found ways for them to make real, honest decisions.

Because when they were young their decisions were real, but inexpensive and not life-threatening, by the time they got to the big bucks and the life-or-death, they had more maturity and good judgment than most of the adults I know.


Their lives were pretty much documented as things unfolded, and had these things not been workable, some of the adults who have met them would have mentioned, no doubt, that unschooling was lunacy and my kids were bad examples--absurd, or unnatural. They're not, though. What I get is mushy feedback from people who have worked with them or for whom they have worked, shocked that someone so young can be so responsible. It's because they have had years and years of practice with responsibility, with the advice of two parents.

~Katherine said...

That's the way you do it!! I love knowing that while it's not always easy to make good decisions (at *any* age) it's easier for a child to screw up while learning to make decisions before they get older and the stakes are higher with potentially more dangerous outcomes. I don't want Karl to wish his parents had done that with him.

Michele James-Parham said...

I too have been accused of burdening my son with too much responsibility, because I don't micromanage his life or impose rules/consequences on him...I would find it far more burdensome for him to constantly have to guess what *I* might want him to do or what he could do & NOT get punished for -- take away rules, punishment & offer advice & a willingness to listen instead. Talk to traditionally parented kids -- their conversations revolve around what they can/can't do, can/can't "get away with"; that kind of life must be burdensome, confusing & inauthentic...to think, I lived that way for almost 18 years myself.