Radical Trust? Nah…

So, today we’re playing, “Have the Parent’s Lost Their Freaking Minds!?” What you see before you is not a photoshopped gag. It’s not a posed shot, wherein (almost) 4 year-old Echo is pretending to cut the tofu. And it isn’t nearly as insane as it may look either.

Yes, Echo is actually doing what it looks like. She chopped up this part of our dinner as Natalie was preparing other things, just out of frame to the right. I was also standing nearby, watching intently, and mentioning important things like, “Hey your toes are a little close to the knife blade…”.

I decided to take this shot, and to write the current post, because it has recently come to my attention that Natalie and I trust our kids to be more able than other parents do with their kids. We were in the Quality Supply looking to buy some chicks the other week, and I was really surprised by just how many parents told their kids that they could not hold the chirping little fluff-balls. I was even more incredulous by how many parents clearly indicated that they did not trust their kids to be mindful of keeping the chicks safe — i.e. not “squash/hurt/kill” them. Meanwhile, Echo is going from trough to trough holding this chick and then that one, and then another.

Jean Liedloff, author of the seminal Natural Parenting book, The Continuum Concept, relates a story of a young village kid (where Liedloff was studying) who was playing near a pit filled with various sticks and branches, and even though the child had just begun learning to walk, no one was running over to the kid and shouting, “Look out! You’ll fall and get hurt!”. Everyone just assumed that the baby would keep himself safe, and he did.

Now I think that is some radical trust. And I don’t pretend to be that fully enlightened, reprogrammed, or bold in my unerring trust of my children. But it reminds me of what is plausible for humans being raised and behaving naturally.

One of the other things that Liedloff noted was just how many of the village babies were being carried around and cared for by very young children, not much more than toddlers themselves. The parents had such faith in, and understanding of, their children that they even entrusted their infants to them; and the young children apparently had no trouble whatsoever in performing the necessary tasks, nor did any of the parties seem anything less than delighted with this arrangement.

The bottom line is that our kids, all of them, are much, much more capable than we give them credit for being. And if we would, instead of handicapping them with our fear, learn to trust and empower them, well, we might be parenting very different children all together. We might even make the parenting of our children all that much easier on ourselves in the process.

By the way, Echo learned to hold a knife, first, by holding a parent’s hand for a couple of years. Then she graduated to “just checking it out” by holding a knife apart from cutting. And the scene above — that was actually her first time really doing all the cutting on her own. But watching her, and knowing just how über-capable she is in general — it makes me wonder in what other ways we’ve held her back…


Be well, my fellow true believers.

About Nathan M McTague, CPCC, CPDPE

I am a full-time parent of three, Writer, Life Coach, Lecturer, Parenting Mentor, and Shamanic Practitioner. In all of the above, I am seeking to assist my fellow humans in their processes of claiming and unleashing their highest potentials.
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9 Responses to Radical Trust? Nah…

  1. Our older kids use knives all the time, and the Hare is our current trusty fire-lighter now the autumn days are somewhat chilly. We are frequently told how brave and competent our kids are…personally I think we just got out of their way when we needed to. Even our uber-sensitive Owl was riding a bike without training wheels at three and a half – all the other kids I know with the same birth temperament were seven at the earliest. I love the look of concentration on Echo’s face as she is chopping. 🙂

  2. stacey says:

    so affirming to see that picture of Echo. Quinn was in the same exact position tonight on our counter cutting the mushrooms, since he is not quite 19 months he uses a butter knife. I think he enjoyed the mushroom barley soup more than usual, knowing that those were the mushrooms he had cut up in our soup. Cooking has never been so fun. Lots of love to you Nathan. Stacey

    • Hiya Stacey!

      I can so perfectly picture Quinn with a butter knife and mushrooms in the yurt. It sounds idyllic. And I bet he really did feel more like he had a connection to the meal. That’s a pretty interesting additional consideration…

      I’m so glad you felt affirmed, as well, Stacey. Hearing that made my day! I can’t think of any better outcome from a post, than for a parent like you to come away more empowered!

      See you soon!

      Be well.

  3. thetwincoach says:

    Excellent advice, as always, Nathan. Not knowing how much it would actually hold my kids back, I know I’ve been more fearful than I would have liked – especially in the first couple of years. I’m better with them now and I am amazed at how much they really can do when my own fears don’t get in the way. Thanks for this post, I’ll be sharing it! 🙂
    Be well,

    • Hey Gina. I hear you.

      With my eldest, we had a scary, week-long NICU saga following her first five days of life, and afterward, I was just nervous about keeping her safe. Aaaannnd I wasn’t quite ready to get up to my elbows in kid-ness yet. I wanted to stay clean, etc., so I never did let her try feeding herself until she was way older than she should have been. And combined with other conditions in her life, that pattern of holding her back has really “held her back” a bit in certain areas. Nothing major, but it’s still there, and I feel bad about it. We continue merrily onward, of course, but I sometimes do wish I’d known more then…

      Thanks for joining in, Gina. And for sharing my post.

      Be fearless, Mama!

  4. Lisa says:

    I let my two year old boys use an embroidery needle to string beads (lightly poking their fingers before they used it) and they do an amazing job. I’m always right there with them but don’t have to spend my time being worried; just amazed and in awe of their ability to explore, string, un-string, and string again. Thank you for this post. I’m ordering Liedloff’s book.

    • Fantastic, Lisa! I’m sure you’ll find the book inspiring. Liedloff has some great stories about parents trusting kids to be competent.

      And boy oh boy, I really like the embroidery needle for stringing beads! What a great example of what I’m talking about. Two year-olds with sewing needles! Woo hoo!

      Be well, Lisa.

      Thanks for your sharing your kid-trust!

  5. Sally says:

    Oh, yes. Children are capable. My four-year old has his own axe and chops wood. He knows all the safety rules, and I trust him. He’s also been helping in the kitchen with a real knife for at least a year. He’s a kid who’d rather be a grown-up, but we give him dignity by giving him the tools to be helpful.

    • That’s it Sally!

      Thanks so much for sharing your “trustingness”. We need more of these kinds of examples to spur parents onward in their belief in their capable children.

      Thanks again!

      Be well.


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