Acceptance has amazing powers. When we accept our children we give them permission to accept themselves. We silence the voices telling them they must be perfect, and create deep family connections. It took me a while to learn how to accept my children, but I have come a long way. Here are a few things that I have found helpful along the journey.
Learning to Accept Your Children
1. Work on Self-Acceptance
If we can accept ourselves it will be easier to accept our children in the same way. Shame researcher Brené Brown’s explains,
“We judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing.… We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”
I have seen this idea at work in my my own life. If I am feeling inadequate I tend to be more critical of my boys. When I am happy with myself I find it so much easier to accept them just as they are. It takes practice and perseverance to accept ourselves, but the benefits ripple out to all our relationships.
Leo Babuata has written a helpful post about self-acceptance here. I would also recommend Brené Brown’s books
2. Learn a little about child development
Understanding the ages and stages of your children will help you understand why they behave the way they do. Did you know that toddlers are at the stage when they are developing a sense of self, so for them resistance is normal and healthy? That was a huge revelation for me. Once I understood this I was able to deal with tantrums, and defiance calmly and accept that this was just a stage. Well most of the time anyway!
3. Take time to understand your child’s personality
Most parents discover very quickly that every child comes into the world with their own unique personality. Take the time to figure out your child’s personality type and find out more about that type. This will help you understand
- What makes your children tick.
- How they will relate to you and others.
- How they are different from you
Learning about this makes it so much easier to accept your children and rejoice in the differences.
4. Let go of your expectations and dreams
We all have dreams and expectations for our children, but at some point we must let go of them and let our children live their own lives. I always assumed that all of my children would go onto university. As it happens two of them chose to go straight from high school into the work force. I was terribly disappointed and worried that they would not be able to get a good job. For a while I pestered both boys about their choices and tried to persuade them to go to school. Eventually it dawned on me that I was pushing my expectations on them and that wasn’t fair. Both of my boys are making their way in the world just fine and in fact one of them just landed his dream job. I needed to get out of the way and respect their choices.
5. Let go of your fears
When you find yourself constantly criticizing your children take a step back and examine what is behind the criticism. Often it is fear. Perhaps fear that we are not doing a good job as a parent. Fear that our children will grow into adults who cannot function in the world. Fear that other parents will judge us. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is acceptance. Learn to let go of the fears that get in the way. It is not our children’s responsibility to make us feel good or prove that we are good parents.
6. Be mindful of what could be behind your child’s behavior
In particular watch for learning disabilities – Did you know that children with Dyscalculia are not able to learn their tables, struggle to do even the simplest mathematical calculations, or find it impossible to follow verbal instructions? I didn’t until my youngest son was diagnosed with this learning disorder. Once I understood this I was able to accept that he needed a calculator to do the simplest calculations and did much better with written instructions.
I would also watch for mental illness and signs that a child is being bullied or abused.
This is not an exhaustive list, so I invite you to add to it. What tips would you add to the list? What things have helped you learn to accept your children?
“Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It’s about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be. And that, if you’re lucky, he just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be.” – Joan Ryan