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Today's Family Magazine

MOMMY CHRONICLES: Trusting your child's instincts

By Stacy Turner

Being a good human being isn’t something I worried about too much as a kid and young adult.  That’s not to say I’ve never had my share of difficult circumstances and made plenty of mistakes.  Through it all, I’ve tried to follow one of the golden rules my father often preached to my siblings and me –– treat others the way you want to be treated. Applying that rule to friends, coworkers, and significant others has served me well, and it’s something I’ve tried to pass along to my kids, too.  When situations arise where friends or acquaintances don’t treat them particularly well, I try to encourage them to focus on the positives.  My usual position is to encourage my girls to give people the benefit of the doubt, be kind, and not make snap judgments.  I didn’t think much about how gut feelings can figure into the equation. 

Over the course of several sport seasons, my daughters would comment on the general awkwardness and immaturity of one of their coaches.  We noticed the same traits, but also saw his time and effort spent working to help young athletes improve, and downplayed the negatives.  We never witnessed anything untoward or heard about anything inappropriate, and the seasons progressed smoothly.  The next season, we learned he had moved on, coaching at various neighboring school districts before landing a full-time teaching position nearby.  We were shocked, saddened, and blindsided when he was recently charged with attempting to engage in sexual misconduct with a minor over social media. 

My husband and I were more shocked to hear this than our girls were, since they had heard some rumors that had been circulating.  And while our girls were not targeted, and the case hasn’t yet been determined, in hindsight, I feel I should have responded differently when my girls voiced their concerns.  I wish I had asked more questions to understand what they weren’t saying.  I wish I gave more weight to their gut feelings, instead of trying to encourage them to be nice.  I feel I could have done a better job helping them learn how to strike a balance between being kind without setting them up to be vulnerable or manipulated.  And to understand the difference between rumor mongering and being cautious, aware that rumors may contain grains of truth.  Most of all, I feel like I missed the opportunity to help my girls be empowered to trust their intuition.

Our kids often claim we’re overprotective, but they’re happy to look in the stands and know we’re watching their games and activities, even if they complain that Dad shoots too many videos and cheers too loudly.  They still complain when we limit who they spend time with and what apps and social media platforms they can use.  We want to help them recognize and set healthy boundaries.  We don’t mind being considered old-fashioned or overinvolved, especially if it makes them less likely targets. 

We hope that even when we don’t say the right things or ask the right questions, they know we love them unconditionally and pray for them daily.  And now, we’ll always make sure we encourage them to trust their gut.  We know we won’t always get things right, but we’re committed to keep trying.  Because as parents, we often rely on another one of my father’s adages –– trust God, but lock your car.