Years ago, when my son was four, our au pair came home from the kindergarten where she’d been helping out – the very same kindergarten that he attended.
She said to me, ‘It’s a bit sad. Whenever he wants to play with someone, he always goes up and asks. He says, “May I play with you?” And of course, that gives them the chance to say no. And sometimes they do and then he wanders off. Whereas he could just join in, without asking.’
That hurt me so much… I didn’t want to know that!
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I don’t know if you’re like me, but the last thing that I wanted was to think that my son was outside a group or rejected in any kind of way. And it hurt to learn that he had this overly polite way of asking to join in the play.
It worried me and it made me reflect on one of my earliest parenting lessons.
This had been when he was much younger, perhaps only 18 months. I actually went to see a parenting expert, a very lovely person that I learned a lot from. The main reason I was asking for help was that my son was occasionally biting me, and it hurt. And I had handled it with consequences amongst other things, and felt I was way off the path that I wanted to be on as a parent.
I went to see her and her answer surprised me. She didn’t tell me to, ‘Do this or do that, and it’ll all be sorted.’
She said, ‘I can’t tell you when this will stop, but it will stop. You just have to trust him – guide him gently, guide him kindly, tell him what you want and trust him. Trust that it will stop.’
And I really took this to heart.
The biting stopped quite quickly after that. I think because my energy around it really changed from one of pressure and, ‘I have to sort this out and he has to stop,’ to one of, ‘It’s ok. It will stop.’
And so, on the occasion when my au pair told me her story, I remembered that. I decided to trust him to work this out and to trust that this was his way of joining in the play, or not joining in the play, and that he would find his way.
But what does trusting actually mean? I looked it up once. And the dictionary definition that I found and really liked was, ‘believing in the ability of another,’ which is just so powerful.
Can you imagine getting that message as a child? That your mum or dad believes in you or your ability? And I don’t mean believing unrealistically in their ability to do something that is beyond them.
I mean believing in their ability to work things out, to overcome any difficulties or challenges. Like those they may be having right now.
A lot of children are struggling, aren’t they, with no friends, nowhere to go, with parents stressed out with having to school them from home and possibly run jobs and careers and businesses at the same time?
I mean, who can do that?
So, even though children are struggling, we can trust them to be resilient, to get through this, and to emerge the other side stronger. And I feel this is such an important message for children.
(And, by the way, I think everyone in my son’s peer group would now regard him as very confident – maybe much more so than the average. And he has lots of friends.)
Let’s trust them. I mean, what’s the alternative to trusting? The alternative is we try to fix them. We may get anxious edge and wonder what’s wrong with them.
If that’s something that’s coming up for you – what’s wrong with them, should they be behaving like this? – I really recommend inwardly taking a little step back and just sinking into a deep trust in them and a deeper trust in yourself as a parent.
Believe in your child’s ability.
Trust is one of my Six Wise and Loving Parenting Powers.
If you’d like to learn more about trust and how it applies to parenting, and also how it fits in with my overall system of the Six Wise Parenting Powers, I recommend filling in the form below to get my free guide – Solve the Struggle with your Kids.
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