National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

First, Trust Yourself

BY Dr. Ray Guarendi

July 20-26, 2008 Issue | Posted 7/15/08 at 12:50 PM


Our daughter is a good and responsible kid, but we still keep a close watch on her social life. She compares our approach with the laissez-faire style of many of her friends’ parents and concludes: “You just don’t trust me.” How should we reply to that charge?

How short an answer do you want? How about, “I trust you. I don’t trust the world.” If you want something longer, I’ll give it. I suspect, though, that it probably won’t be any better-accepted by your daughter than my pithy sound bite.

You could say, “Oh, but I do trust you. I trust that you are 15. And I trust that 15-year-olds think like 15-year-olds. And I trust that there will be situations that, for all your wisdom, you’ll be unsure how to handle. And I trust that, with time, I’ll allow you to experience more. And I trust that you’ll believe me when I tell you I’m doing this out of love and protection for you — as a most precious gift of God.”

Tell me, how could she not be moved by such an open expression of trust?

If, after all this, Faith still wants to call your vigilance a lack of trust, so be it. It’s not that you don’t respect her level of maturity. It’s that you understand fully her youth. Don’t allow Faith to make you feel guilty by turning a positive — sound parental judgment — into the negative of a personal insult.

Why are kids so quick to take our loving supervision personally? For one, humans in general are quick to take another’s behavior personally. Call it the sensitivity of the self. For another, teens in particular are quick to misunderstand parents’ motives. Therefore, to them what you are doing stems from your inability to see them accurately. You just don’t yet realize how trustworthy and downright grown-up they are. In short, the problem, dear parent, lies in your misperception, not in their youth.

Another reason kids freely fling the “You just don’t trust me” accusation is this: It may be true. You don’t fully trust them. So? Incomplete trust isn’t a bad thing, socially or psychologically. It’s recognizing reality. Indeed, a wise parent realizes the limits of a child’s judgment, experience, or character. Even the most mature 15-year-old is still a 15-year-old.

Other parents also fuel your daughter’s fire. How? By letting their kids do too much too soon. As Faith sees it, if all those grownups give more “trust” than you do, you are the suspicious one. How could all of them be wrong and you alone be right? If this were a game, the score would be 23 (other parents) to 2 (you and your spouse).

Here you face your toughest battle with your daughter. You know, and I hope you act by our knowledge, that even if the score were 123 parents to you, it would be irrelevant. Good parenting is never done by consensus. The question is not how your standards compare to others. The question is: How do my standards reflect the kind of child I wish to raise?

The doctor is always in