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We often say we love our kids no matter what, but unconditional acceptance can sometimes be a struggle. Learn how to accept your children for who they are.
“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” Charles R. Swindoll
We want those memories to be good ones
Think about the people you encountered as a child. Did you have an adult in your life who accepted and loved you just as you were? How did they make you feel? Now contrast that with memories of an adult who was constantly criticizing you?
Acceptance is a wonderful gift that we can offer our children every day. Still it can be a struggle at times. Raising kids is hard work.
It would be so much easier if they would just do as they are told, listen to our every word, and refrain from picking their nose in public.
But alas that doesn’t happen, so we parents have to hone our acceptance skills and love them anyways.
I’ve come a long ways on this acceptance journey. I haven’t quite got the point where I can confidently say I accept my children just as they are, but I have come a long way. Here are a few things that I have found helpful.
6 tips to help you accept your children just as they are
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.
Today 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 the underlying causes of 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.
Over to you
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?