How to Get Our Children to Trust Us

Gemma-Rose shows one of her ballet paper dolls to Sophie, and says, “She’s wearing a Firebird costume.”

“I remember listening to that music!” says Sophie, with delight.

I remember too, so I say, “I could find that piece of music on Youtube, if you like.”

The girls nod and soon we are settled in front of my laptop watching a rather grandly dressed conductor directing the various instruments of the orchestra.

When the 10 minute clip comes to an end, I have another suggestion. “I wonder if there are any videos of the actual ballet.” The girls sit impatiently while I search. There are lots of videos. We take our pick, and soon we are watching the firebird dance around the damsels in Kashchei’s enchanted garden.

Sophie knows the story and asks if I can find the bit where the prince smashes the egg containing the evil ogre’s soul. I don’t actually find that small segment of the ballet, but I do discover a much longer 45 minute video of The Firebird ballet which looks very promising.

“Shall we watch that another day?” I ask. The girls nod.

And then someone remembers the older kids drew pictures of the firebird years ago, and soon pens and paper have been gathered, and Sophie and Gemma-Rose are busy drawing their own representations of this mythical creature.

I sit and think while they draw. We had no idea we were going to learn about Stravinsky and The Firebird Suite and the ballet, this morning. It just happened. I picked up on something Gemma-Rose said and made a few suggestions, which the girls were eager to follow.

I often say, “How about…” or “Would you like…” and “We could… “ and their eyes usually light up and moments later, we find ourselves on a wonderful learning adventure together.

The other day I even teased Gemma-Rose by saying, “We could do some maths,” and she actually replied, “Okay.” Yes, she was quite happy to listen to any suggestions I had.

I have been musing over the reason why my girls are so open to my suggestions. And this is what I’ve come up with…

The girls love learning. They know it’s a natural part of life. Everyone does it, including adults. So when I make a suggestion, they know I am just sharing learning ideas that all of us might enjoy. Usually, we end up learning something new together. I talked about this in my post How to Make Children Do Their School Work.

And secondly, I think they trust me. Trust me? Isn’t unschooling all about parents trusting their children, not the other way around. Here’s what I am thinking…

We can say we trust our children and we are willing to let them direct their own learning, but sometimes we have a secret agenda. We try to sneak in certain learning experiences we feel are essential, that we don’t really trust our children to learn by themselves. We ‘suggest’ they might like to learn this maths concept or we might find a round-about way to test their spelling. Children are clever. They realise what we are doing. I guess they could become wary about our ‘suggestions’. They no longer trust us.

When our suggestions become important to us, they end up not really being suggestions at all. And children know they are not really free to pick and choose from the menu of experiences we are strewing their way. We all know mum is going to be disappointed if they turn around and say, “No thanks! I’d prefer to do something different.”

And maybe there’s another way we can influence the effectiveness of our suggestions. It’s all to do with control. Can you remember, as a child, asking a question and receiving a long lecture? Adults are good at seeing an opening and taking over. Children’s eyes glaze over and they lose interest. I try to gauge my children’s level of interest and respond to their needs, not use the moment to swamp them in every piece of information I think they need to know. If I didn’t do this, I’m sure that if I suggested an activity they might think, “Oh no! We’d better not agree or we’ll be caught for hours!” Again, I would lose their trust.

These are only my musings based on my observations with my own children. I wonder what you think.

So on Monday, Sophie, Gemma-Rose and I are going to settle on the sofa and watch a longer version of the Firebird ballet together. I can’t wait. I love learning new things. So do my daughters. I might point out a few things as we watch, but I certainly won’t lecture. (They will probably point out a few things to me too.) Then afterwards, I won’t test them by asking a hundred different questions. (I am sure they’ll tell me all about the ballet without any prompting.) I will just let the girls enjoy.

Oh, yes, there’s one other thing I will do. While we’re watching, more suggestions for further adventures may occur to me. Learning happens that way all the time.  I’ll be sure to scribble any possible ideas down in my notebook. Then at an appropriate moment, I will be able to say, “How about we…?” And the girls might just say, “Wow! That sounds interesting. When can we do that?”

Or they might not. It really does not matter at all.

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    • Miu
    • February 8, 2013

    It's really cute that you bothered to look for my first post and even commented 🙂
    Thank you!

    1. Reply

      Miu, I enjoyed your post! Thank you for stopping by on my blog too.

      God bless!

    • Kari
    • February 9, 2013

    Sue- Unschooling is all about trust– about trusting enough to let go of our need to control. I think that is why I have trouble jumping in with both feet! I still look at unschooling longingly from the sidelines and think "I wish we could do it that way all the time."

    But the trust can be so hard and I always decide we'll stick with what we're doing- a sort of modified unschooling approach to home schooling but with specific expectations.

    It is working for us, but it is not a learning experience my children would say they absolutely LOVE. Maybe I should pray for more trust?

    Thanks for always reminding me that learning is natural and fun and that our kids will enjoy it if we do!

    God Bless

    1. Reply


      I guess we have to do what we are comfortable with. We know ourselves and our families, and we do what works for us. Mum has to be happy, as well as the kids.

      I didn't always trust. I think it comes with time and experience. I can look at my older children and know what worked and what didn't. Looking back is a big advantage. I am also very aware of the passing of time. We have no little ones left in our family and if I'm going to trust and jump in with both feet, it has to be now. I can't afford to wait.

      I am sure you love learning just as much as me! Isn't it great that our education continues on past our school days, and really never ends?

      Thank you for stopping and commenting. I appreciate it!

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