Littletree has gone on a self-imposed screen-free and sugar-free break, she asked me to hide her computer for a week and to put away her pocket-money so she can’t get sweets and asked me to get extra fruit and veggies.
All this came about while Purple was away in San Francisco for a couple of weeks earlier in the month. I think she just missed him a lot, and turned to spending a lot of time watching DVDs and eating “junk” food to fill in time. After about a week of watching rather a lot of movies, she announced that her head wasn’t feeling good and she was having trouble sleeping, and not feeling good in her body. She identified that it was because of spending too much time in front of a screen, and not eating well enough, and set about making a plan to get better.
Well, it’s been three weeks now, Purple is back, but Littletree is still avoiding sweets, and goes days at a time without turning her computer on. Today was the first time in ages she bought herself chocolates and sat down to watch a DVD. Then she begged me to make a hearty veggie soup for dinner, with extra kale and garlic.
I’m so impressed with the way Littletree makes healthy choices for herself. She knows her body and is able to recognise what she needs, on her own. I firmly believe this is because she has a 100% unhindered, self-regulated diet. And most of all, because she is trusted.
Without going into the details of how it works, what it comes down to is having an intrinsic trust of the child. It's sub-consciously saying to the child: ‘Of course you'll make healthy choices and I absolutely trust you to do so’. From that, the child gets the message that she is trusted, and therefore trustworthy, and thus, can trust in herself to make the right choices - as all children will, given the right support.
I’ve been talking about this kind of trust all week, and struggling to really define it – it’s a kind of trust that’s bigger than ‘trust’; it’s something so intrinsic and whole-spirit. Then someone sent me this quote from Dr Jeremy Hayward:
"In order to communicate very openly with the world, you need to develop fundamental trust. This kind of trust is not trusting “in” something, but simply trusting. It is very much like your breath. You do not consciously hold on to your breath, or trust in your breath, yet breathing is your very nature. In the same way, to be trusting is your very nature. To be trusting means you are fundamentally free from doubt about your goodness and about the goodness of others."
While the prevailing cultural belief in our society is that children are inherently bad; that they won’t behave “properly” and that if given the slightest chance, they’ll only get up to no good, be spoiled, or worse. Children are treated based on the notion that they need to be trained, restricted and restrained to ensure that they can’t act on their inherent “badness”. Any parent or educator who isn’t constantly vigilant to reign in the inherent unruliness of children will be seen as negligent.
Trusting in children is about coming from an intrinsic belief that children are inherently good. And they *are*. Children truly are good, and they will behave in the manner they are expected to – not necessarily in the way we tell them to with words, but in they way we show them they are supposed to act. For the most part, we show them that they’re bad and going to get up to mischief. We show them that they are going to fall and hurt themselves, that they will eat nothing but sweets and junk if given half the chance.
But with true trust, in an environment that models respectful behaviour, children are perfectly wonderful, social beings. They do the right thing. They learn from their mistakes, rather than being protected from making them.
I trust Littletree. I trust her to go exploring in the candy aisle at the supermarket. I trust her to know how high she can safely climb. I trust her to behave like a sane, healthy, respectful human being. And she does.