Accepting Children for Who They Are
You’re outgoing and love being the center of attention—but your toddler daughter is shy, clinging to you instead of having fun with the other kids in her playgroup.
Your husband has always dreamed that his son would become a star quarterback—but your little boy prefers curling up with a good book to tossing a football.
As parents, we often glow with pride at our children’s accomplishments. Yet there are also times when we feel puzzled and—let’s admit it—disappointed by our child’s temperament, abilities, or interests. We can’t help wishing that they were just a little bit . . . different. We know that accepting children for who they are is what we should do, but that can be a challenge.
Why is unconditional acceptance so difficult? “Because we as parents have pre-conceived notions about our children. We have our own agenda,” says Concord, Massachusetts-based parenting expert Mimi Doe, author of Busy but Balanced and 10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting. “We try to impose what we think our child should be, rather than being open to the beautiful essence of who our child is and nurturing that.”
Modern moms and dads tend to approach parenting as a project, something we can control. We want the best for our children—the happiest childhood, the most secure future—so we try to mold them almost from birth. Instead of letting them gradually discover their own unique interests and talents, we give them constant direction, using an arsenal of scheduled activities, educational products, team sports, and private lessons to shape who they are.
“Our culture’s gotten a little out of whack,” Doe says. “I’m seeing kids who are physically, mentally, and emotionally burned out by the time they hit high school. They don’t want any more organized anything.”
Instead of imposing our own dreams and wishes on our children, we need to recognize that they came into this world with certain traits, abilities, and weaknesses that we can’t change. “Our job is to tune in, discover who this person is, and ask ourselves how can we can best support them as they unfold into the world,” Doe says. She offers the following five tips to help you give your child the unconditional acceptance he or she needs.
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