A Powerful Trust
What if you’re disempowering your children when you think you’re doing what’s best for them?
As a mother of three daughters who are now young adults, I’ve had a rather unusual experience compared to most moms in America. I had no problems sleeping at night when they were teens, and I didn’t worry once they moved to different states to go to college—even though one moved to New York City and is soon headed to Paris and then Buenos Aires! Why is that? This is what I want to talk to you about in this article.
My inspiration for it came a few years ago, when I was chatting with a wonderful mom whom I hadn’t seen in some time.
Although there are many ways in which our parenting was similar, our conversation and her interactions with her daughter highlighted a core difference. Our then 15- and 16-year-old daughters were heading to the local yogurt shop. My friend insisted that her daughter take a sweater in case she got cold, in spite of her daughter’s assurance that she’d be OK.
Although this mom is also a very loving, attached and attuned parent, she is a lot more directive and protective with her daughter than I’ve been with my three.
At some point in our conversation, while praising my parenting work and the results I’ve had with my daughters, she said something that inspired this article. She told me that she didn’t allow her daughter to be as free as I allow mine, because she wasn’t willing to experience the potential consequences of that.
Her statement really stayed with me. I found myself pondering it a lot, and feel compelled to express my perspective.
What I feel very strongly about and could have replied to this mom is: “I’m not willing to experience the consequences of not trusting my daughters. Of making their decisions for them. Of having them rely on me to guide their decisions and monitor what they do.”
Giving them freedom to make their own decisions is what’s allowed them to remain connected to their inner guidance, instead of shifting their focus outward to what others tell them.
I’ve told each daughter that the only person who will always be with her, whom she can always count on, is herself. Therefore, I’ve seen it as my job as a parent to nurture and strengthen that relationship above any other.
Trusting my daughters to make their own decisions while they still lived with me allowed them to develop their experience while I still had influence on them, and could still give them my opinion and feedback.
By the time they moved away from me at 18 they had been making all of their decisions by themselves for a long time, and therefore were well equipped to make them. I’ve made a point of telling my daughters that the only person they can fully trust is themselves—above even me and their dad; that there are times when, as parents, we have to make decisions for them (this mostly happened when they were little), or choices that impact them which might not feel right to them, and that we’re not necessarily making the best decision; that we are fallible; and that it doesn’t mean that because we’re the ones making the decision we’re right and they’re wrong.
I wanted to make sure not to skew their perception of what felt true and right to them by telling them they were wrong. I just presented my perspective and opinion, taking responsibility for it and not making it “the truth.”
Why do I believe that the only person my daughters can fully trust is themselves? Because no one else ever has as much information about them and their specific situation as they do. No one else has access to their instincts and their inner guidance, which are the most reliable resources we have (when they’re not covered up with all our conditioning).
Our inner guidance is our connection to our drive toward wholeness, toward what we know is right and good, when we’re not in some form of protective mode. It’s our connection to presence, spirit, our higher selves, God, or however we experience the source of life. It’s our connection to massive amounts of information, of which we can only intellectually access a small fraction.
I’ve encouraged my daughters to value their own opinions and guidance in terms of whom to trust, whose advice to listen to, which expert or more experienced person to turn to when they need help or additional information.
I’ve encouraged them to be discerning when reading or listening to others and to never blindly trust what someone says. I can trust my daughters to make the right choices for themselves because they’ve always been trusted to do so, and therefore are experienced in it.
One thing that happened naturally for me—something I feel really blessed by—was seeing the long-term perspective when it came to my children. Not allowing them to go out on a specific day might keep them safe in that one instance, but it won’t do anything in terms of keeping them safe for the rest of their lives.
What will keep them safe is being grounded in inner honesty, critical thinking and having access to their inner guidance.
Now I’d like to share a story I told an acquaintance many years ago, before children were even on her mind. She told me recently that it’s a story she still remembers me by.
Once, when she was 3, Gaby was standing on the kitchen counter, getting something in a cabinet. When she was done, she asked me if she could jump off.
My reply to her was, “I don’t know, can you?”
How could I possibly know what her body is able to do? I’m not in it!
She turned the focus to herself and realized that she didn’t feel comfortable doing so. And asked me if I’d take her down.
If I had told her she couldn’t, she would have learned to trust my opinion instead of her own feeling of rightness. She wouldn’t have become as attuned to her body and her specific abilities.
Trusting my daughters to make their own decisions, from toddlerhood on, has made my life as a parent so much easier than those of most other parents I’ve seen.
And it’s ensured that my daughters knew how to keep themselves safe, rarely got hurt and are now well equipped to handle life on their own. I feel incredibly blessed to have had the foresight to do this with them. Then and now, we’ve all reaped endless benefits from it.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #49.
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