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Family life

We Trust You, We Just Don’t Trust Them

When our kid is faced with a choice between right and wrong while with his friends, we trust that he’ll make the right decision, but we don’t trust that they will. Here's why.

We Trust You, We Just Don’t Trust Them

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As a parent, I often find myself chiming after my kiddo and saying things like, “Because I said so,” or “Don’t make me ask you again.” They are those annoying phrases our parents used with us, common phrases that we said we'd never say to our kids when we were younger because they were so parent-ish and lame. And then we do. But one saying we’ve coined that is unique to our family is, “We trust you. We don’t trust anyone else.”

Why it was important to establish this with our son

Our 11-year-old has recently started venturing solo to parks and friends’ houses in the neighbourhood, and we regularly tell our son this phrase. It applies to so much, like who he chooses to hang out with, and it also means being aware of his surroundings. When he’s faced with a choice between right and wrong while with his friends, we trust that he’ll make the right decision, but we don’t trust that they will.

We don’t know them like we know our son. Or, while he’s walking or biking around, I trust he’ll be as careful as possible, but I don’t trust that anyone else will, which means looking up, checking for cars, and knowing what is happening around him.

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Mother and daughter talking on the couch Photo:iStockphoto

Our family truth policy

My husband and I have always had a “truth policy” in this family – we’ve promised our son that we will tell him the truth if he asks us a question. Whether it’s something silly, funny, personal about friends, or related to adult topics like sex, we will always give him the most honest answer we can. That’s why we let him in on the truth when he reached a certain age and asked about Santa. When he asked how babies were really made (and the “God made you” answer was no longer satisfying him), we told him about the sperm and the egg with no squirming or childish analogies about birds, bees, or watering seeds.

We always thought it was very important to be honest because it tells our son that we have trust in him – if he can trust us enough to ask the tough or embarrassing questions, then he can trust us to give him the real answer. It’s a mutual respect that I hope we will continue to honour into teenager-dom and beyond. It means a lot to a kid when you tell them you trust them, especially one who is just starting to explore their independence.

mom and daughter looking at eachother touching foreheads and smiling iStock

Explaining some harsh realities

However, “we trust you, we don’t trust them” can incite certain questions. When we used it for the first time, my inquisitive kid asked, “Why wouldn’t you trust our neighbours [or my friends], [or a grownup], etc.?” This became a new life lesson, and we had to teach our son the harsh reality that not everyone’s actions are nice. Sometimes, people make bad choices, and we can’t control that. Other times, our friends or neighbours might be distracted or not careful, which also can’t be controlled.

All we can do is be the best we can be – and I trust you will be – but you have to be aware that not everyone around you has the same intentions. If you know that, you’ll understand that you can’t unquestioningly trust that your friend looked both ways when crossing the street or that the next-door neighbour looked behind him before backing out of his driveway in his car. The sooner you realize you can’t trust everyone else, the better your chances of staying safe and sound.

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Does my 11-year-old still periodically walk around with his head in the clouds? Definitely, but the other times, hopefully, he doesn’t just use his common sense but also his now-heightened second sense to double-check on others and circumstances around him. You can’t have trust in many things in life, but at least I can trust in the trust I have for my son.

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