Accepting Children for Who They Are
Take it Slow
When you notice that your child has a particular talent or interest, be careful not to go overboard with your enthusiasm and encouragement. If your preschooler starts banging on the piano, for example, don’t rush right out to find the best piano teacher, sign up for lessons, and make her practice every day—because you’ll soon practice the joy and love of music right out of her.
Instead, let her simply play with her newfound interest. Give her a toy xylophone and some pots and pans and to bang on. Go to the library and get a few CDs so she can hear different kinds of music. There’s no need to get serious at such a young age. Remember, childhood is about exploring and discovering. Tomorrow she might decide that she hates the piano and would rather be a zookeeper.
It’s important to encourage your child’s dreams, wishes, and hopes—even when they’re completely different from yours. If your child declares, “I want to be a race car driver!” don’t say, “Are you kidding me? You’ll get killed!” Instead, look deeper and try to find the essence of that interest. Ask questions. Say, “Hmm, that’s really cool. What is it about racing that interests you? Is it going fast? Having people applaud? The way a car works?” Explore a bit. Get a book from the library on race-car driving. Ask yourself, “What’s the essence of this dream and how can I support that in my child?”
You can also encourage your child by introducing her to new role-models—especially people who are quite different from you and your spouse. Invite someone interesting from your office, neighborhood, or church to dinner. Host an exchange student. If you see an article in the paper about a local artisan who makes flutes and your daughter is interested in musical instruments, contact the artist and ask if she can meet him. Expand your child’s world with exciting possibilities and you’ll expand your view of who your child is.
“Parenting is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be joyful,” Doe says. “This is not something that takes an MBA. You don’t have to go to any expert, other than your own deep intuition about this child, to be a fantastic parent.”
Instead of looking at parenting as a project, look at it as a dance—one that you and your child are enjoying together. As he’s discovering the world, you’re discovering who he is—and giving him all the support, encouragement, and acceptance he needs to thrive.
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