I have been thinking for a few days about the concept of trust. What does it look like? How does it play out in our lives? What does it mean to parents, especially parents of prodigal sons and daughters?
The dictionary defines trust as: “1: firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something. He placed his trust in me. 2: a person or thing in which confidence is placed. 3: confident hope. I waited in trust of their return. “
Let’s Break That Down…
The first definition talks about “firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone”. For parents, this is a very tricky process. How does this work?
Trust Them for What? With What?
Some things are obvious: We can’t trust a 12-year-old boy to drive a car on a public street, for example. He may have the skill set to operate the vehicle, but he doesn’t have the life experience or knowledge of the rules to be trusted to perform appropriately in that situation. That’s why the law prohibits him from getting behind the wheel.
You know your kids. But just because they can, doesn’t mean they should. Let’s look at that 12-year-old again. Can you trust that 12-year-old to slice up tomatoes, mow the lawn, and use the microwave? Probably, but can you trust that 12-year-old to make the right choice when placed in a roomful of kids who are swearing, smoking, or looking at inappropriate stuff online? That may be too much to ask.
This means that decision-making gets tougher as your kids get older. When you are asked to trust your son or daughter in a new situation, the five best words a parent can say are, “Let me think about it.” Kids are great for springing some new request or idea at the last minute, then following it up with phrases like, “everybody’s going” or “Kayla’s mom lets her do it”. They are interested in popularity and being part of the group. While that may be important to them, you are interested in safety and consequences.
Don’t Be the Cool Mom
In a recent conversation with my Prodigal Son, he was speaking with fondness about a childhood friend’s mother. “She told us to call her ‘Mom’ instead of her name. ‘Don’t steal my cigarettes,’ she’d say, ‘Just smoke the ones that are in the ashtray. I’ve only had a couple of hits off them.'” My son was 12 at the time. Of course, he thought she was cool.
It was obviously poor judgment on my part to trust this parent, but his son and mine were the closest of friends, and she “seemed nice.” I never really got to know her well enough. When I suspected my son was smoking, I could have called her and asked her about it. I’m pretty sure she would have told me her philosophy on smoking and that could have made a huge difference.
Please don’t think you have to be the “cool” parent. You’re not “ruining” your kid’s life by setting boundaries and limits. Of course, your kid will tell you that you are. Stick to your guns. I didn’t, and it cost my son dearly.
Remember, being the house where everyone hangs out doesn’t mean you’re permissive. All you need is a sense of humor and a well-stocked pantry. Your house rules apply to everybody, and you treat your kids’ friends like family.
The Tricky Line Between Firmness and Suspicion
I believe it was President Ronald Reagan who coined the phrase, “trust but verify”. It’s a good phrase for parents to remember. For example, when your daughter says she wants to spend the night at her friend’s house, call the friend’s parents and talk to them, just to verify and confirm what your daughter has said. She may have a tracking app on her cell phone, but wouldn’t you rather prevent wrong behavior than catch her at it?
The tricky part comes in when you overreact to your own fears and suspicions. Don’t automatically assume that your kid is up to no good. Instead, ask questions, communicate your concerns, and step in at the first sign of trouble. Base your decisions on your kid’s past behavior, not on your fears. Verify where they are going, who will be there, and what kind of supervision they’ll have. If you don’t get satisfactory answers, then the answer is a simple “no”.
When Trust is Broken
When you trust your kid and your trust is broken, take a breath. Give your kid and yourself a “cooling off” period before discussing consequences. In the consequences, be sure to include the opportunity for them to earn back your trust. Start small with this and take your time. They need to feel the weight of the loss of trust, but they will also need to have a light at the end of the tunnel. For more about this, click on the link to see “7 Rules of Engagement With Your Child”.
The Ultimate Trust
And finally, whatever happens, keep your ultimate trust in God. He has your child’s life in His plan, and He will not be dissuaded from that plan. No matter how many mistakes you make as a parent, God has never made a mistake.
As Usual, He Gets the Last Word
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.— Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)
Grace is Real–
Judy, the Default Mom