Sometimes a kid just needs to know: Will you trust me?

The epic Starbucks incident that made me a better parent.

Sometimes a kid just needs to know: Will you trust me?

It was one of those moments when you wish you could disappear into the wallpaper. Three-year-old Levi was screaming—screaming—bloody murder in the Starbucks bathroom and for the life of me I could find no “mute” button.

I’m pretty sure people must have thought I was in there beating him, and if there had been a loudspeaker within a five mile radius I would have hijacked it to announce that HELLO WORLD, I DON’T EVEN SPANK MY CHILDREN, MUCH LESS BEAT THEM. (Oh yeah, I’d have spoken in all caps and bold for sure.)

After spending the day at the Portland zoo, we had ducked into Starbucks so I could grab a coffee and make sure everyone did the potty rounds before heading over the mountain pass to my parents’ house in Bend. It was late in the afternoon and I was hoping to make the three hour drive without stopping.

Levi didn’t want to use the bathroom. He hadn’t gone in several hours, but still, he wasn’t willing to give it a try.

No amount of please just try was going to change his mind. I powered on, frustrated and determined that he at least sit on there and give it a go because I’m the mom and I know what’s best. As much as I powered on with my reasoning and coercing, he powered on with the screaming and sobbing and protesting.

Eventually he changed his no, no, no sobbing to trust me mommy, trust me mommy, trust me mommy sobbing.

Those three little words were a game-changer.

Would I persist and have my way, knowing that I was right? Or would I give up my right to be right and show him that I trusted him?

The answer was a no-brainer. Obviously I would not choose forced obedience over my child feeling trusted, so I threw in the white flag.

I hate being wrong. . . especially when I’m right. But I hate even more to think that my child might feel like his own mother would refuse to trust him.

This wasn’t an obedience issue or a respect issue; it was a trust issue, a relationship issue.

I hugged him tight and helped him to settle while his sobs morphed into gasps for air and then calmed to quiet sniffling. I asked for his forgiveness for making him feel like he wasn’t trusted, and assured him that if he changed his mind and had to stop to go potty later I wouldn’t be mad.

(Sometimes it helps to remember we aren’t dealing with adults as we parent our children. Sometimes it helps to remember they are three and doing the best they can with what they know.)

I drove over the mountain pass feeling sad that in the heat of our argument it took me so long to figure out that he wasn’t concerned with being right, he was concerned with being trusted. I forgave myself and remembered that just like he was a toddler learning how to do grown-up things, I was only a toddler-mom – learning and fumbling and grasping for grown-up wisdom to know how to parent him.

We made it home without stopping to go potty, and pulling into the driveway Levi said (without one bit of animosity in his tone), “See Mommy, I didn’t have to go!” I assured him he was right and told him I was so proud of the way he helped me to understand his needs. (On a side note: he really is the most remarkably determined young thing!)

Our relationship was both torn and then mended right there in the tiny Starbucks bathroom as I learned a valuable lesson that day: children need to feel trusted by us just as much as they need to feel like they can trust us.

And again I thanked God for giving me such a profound little teacher. Apparently even those of us who parent to build relationships, not robots need to be reminded of our own priorities every now and then.

So tell me friends, what have your children been teaching you lately?

Loving the little years,


About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Meg
    16 April 2014 at 5:15 pm

    My 3.5 year old is so insanely intuitive. He’s also very verbal. He picks up on my frustrations in moments like your Starbucks moments and will tell me “it makes me sad you’re frustrated mommy” or simply “don’t be frustrated at me mommy.” Talk about your heart breaking. Like you said, it’s so easy to forget we’re dealing with 3 year olds, not adults. I need to forgive myself more like you said you did. I let it eat at me. When I’m pretty sure (at least I hope so) that he’s not thinking about it anymore. Man… this mom process of sanctification is rough!

  • Husband
    16 April 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Love it. Great reminder for our second one. Thanks you. Wow there is allot to think about when raising world changers

    • Adriel
      17 April 2014 at 10:16 am

      thanks “husband”. LOL. 😀 and yes, i couldn’t agree more – so much to think about. we’re not perfect, but we’re doing a great job – you especially. i’m certain of that. x

  • Lisa @bitesforbabies
    17 April 2014 at 5:06 am

    I can totally relate! I feel like lately with my 3 year old I am constantly telling him he “has”to go potty (although 99% of the time I am right!). It is so frustrating!!! I do appreciate the point of view that they also need to be trusted (and I have given him the benefit of the doubt a few times in the past!). I think when he’s older it will be easier for me to do this 😉

    • Adriel
      17 April 2014 at 10:21 am

      yeah, for sure lisa. i hear you. when this took place, levi had already been potty trained for a year and he literally NEVER had accidents (we were really lucky – he was a breeze to pick it up) so it was reasonable for him to be begging for my trust, rather than just him skirting the potty issue. right now we’ve just begun potty training judah (less than two weeks) and we’re still making him sit on the potty when we feel it’s time, even when he protests. obviously it’s different requirements for different stages… but this instance with levi was an example of me needing to grow in my parenting to match where he was up to. i was lagging behind, treating him like a baby when i shouldn’t have been…

      thank goodness there’s grace for us growing parents, ey?!! x

  • Ewa
    20 August 2016 at 12:49 pm

    My children teach my everyday that I should enjoy every single day. Children love to play and they don’t analyse what the future brings. They enjoy every moment, every day. This joy, we adults lack the most but this is very important in life to catch every single moment.


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