To have a strong relationship with someone, it is essential to trust them, but if we trust our children, we're often frowned upon, or at least deemed irresponsible.
It is not only children who are mistrusted. From the moment of conception, we're encouraged to put ourselves in the care of professionals. Doctors and midwives take blood samples, measure heart rates and take scans. During the birth, mother and baby are monitored, and all too often the birth is taken out of the mother's control. It seems a natural progression then that professionals should continue to be involved with the subsequent care of the baby. Health visitors, well meaning friends and of course, the ubiquitous baby care book are all on hand to offer advice and the mother learns to ignore her instincts.
Those who practise cry it out or controlled crying techniques rarely enjoy the experience. The sound of a baby's cry, even one that isn't ours, spurs us to do something about it. To ignore a baby's cry goes against our instincts. Jean Liedloff writes in The Continuum Concept that 'young mothers read and obey, untrusting of their innate ability, untrusting of the baby's 'motives' in giving the still perfectly clear signals." (p.49) In our society, children, even babies, are viewed with suspicion. Rather than trusting that their cries signal a need, we are told that they are manipulating us. Liefloff continues, saying that "Babies have, indeed, become a sort of enemy to be vanquished by the mother. Crying must be ignored so as to show the baby who is boss, and a basic premise in the relationship is that every effort should be made to force the baby to conform to the mother's wishes." (p.49). In this relationship, there is no trust. The mother no longer trusts herself, and she certainly doesn't trust the baby to know his own mind. Saddest of all, the baby soon learns that its mother cannot be trusted to fulfil his needs.
This pattern continues as the child grows. 'Pick your battles' while true in essence, and something I regularly remind myself of, emphasises the way we view our relationship with our children as an adversarial one. There can be no real trust with an adversary. Locked in a battle of wills with their children, it is no surprise that many parents find themselves under huge stress. Would it be so disastrous, however, to trust our children? To assume, unless clearly proven otherwise, that their motives are good? Christina Fletcher, writing in The Mother says of children 'it's important to see them as Who They Really Are through our words, actions and thoughts, and make them feel like they have great worth to the world." (p.31) When we see them this way, when we trust in them, they will more often than not live up to our expectations.
Fletcher, C. (2010, November/December).Dealing with sibling rivalry with spirit. The Mother, 43, 31-32.
Liedloff, J. (2004) The Continuum Concept (New Ed edition) London: Penguin.