Trust. Is trust earned? Or is it learned?
I get a lot of crooked eyebrows and sideways gazes when discussing how I choose to parent my children. Particularly when it comes to the topic of trust. You can’t really trust your kids, I often hear, they have to earn it first. Is that what we say when they are first learning to roll over, sit up, walk etc.?
Why is it that we sometimes give them a nudge to help their momentum to roll from one side to the other. Or we hover our hands in position to catch them after taking a few steps. And then what do we do next? We move them back to a starting point to try again and celebrate every single small improvement they make as they increase their mastery and competence—or in other words, we allow them to master their trust in themselves. They don’t have to earn these skills, they learn them. And the grace of failure is given generously.
Trust is no different. It is a skill we learn with practice. With trust, however, we are quick to strip away the grace of failure almost instantly!
Imagine this. We set our child in a highchair and spoon feed them, as the food you so carefully placed in their mouth oozes out the sides of their mouth. We don’t scold them for not knowing this skill and instead we smile and try to scoop every leak that trails down the sides and every which way out of their mouth. We even giggle when they pair their skill of blowing raspberries with eating. Then we move on to the next skill of mastery until eventually, they are feeding themselves.
Nevertheless, my kids are allowed to eff up and I do not require them to earn my trust. My trust is freely given…for it is not my trust that is in question. Their trust is not mine to own. It is their’s to learn. So why would they need to earn something they already have and are simply trying to learn how to use effectively?
When you communicate to your children that they are untrustworthy, then that is the narrative you are teaching them. Teaching them that it is ok to eff up allows for the space to debrief, assess, redirect if needed, and try again.
I trust that my kids will eff up and I also trust that my kids will figure things out. It may not look like I imagine it should look. But I trust that they will figure it out in their own way. And I will be there every step of the way, not only just to guide them, but to learn from them as well. Was it not Christ that taught to become as a little child? There is so much depth to this humble teaching. And I intend to live by it to the fullest.