We say we love our kids no matter what, but accepting your children for who they are can turn out to be a struggle. Learn what it means to love your child unconditionally:
When you were pregnant, you may have imagined what your child would be like.
Maybe you thought she’d be the little showman who’d charm friends and family with her humor and wit. Or you thought she’d be the next child prodigy who could solve puzzles in record time. Perhaps you looked forward to long hours of sweet slumber as you hold a calm baby in your arms.
Instead, you got the opposite.
The little showman you expected is introverted and shies away from relatives and friends. A child prodigy, you realize, is rare for a reason. And the calm baby? She’s instead a colicky one who cries all night.
This isn’t what you imagined. And the difference between expectation and reality doesn’t match your perception of parenthood. You want to enjoy being a parent, but find it hard when what you imagined is so different from what you have.
That’s the trouble with family. Friends, partners—these are people you chose. You decided you got along with friends and parted ways with those you didn’t. You chose to spend your life with your partner for many reasons.
But you don’t choose family, particularly kids. Your personality works well with your partner, but your child is different, from her temperament to her lack of interest in your hobbies.
On accepting your children for who they are
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But accepting children for who they are means absolving your earlier expectations and hopes.
In The Conscious Parent, author Shefali Tsabary talks about accepting children as a way of showing unconditional love.
After all, what is unconditional love? It’s…
- practicing love no matter what.
- not withholding love because of certain conditions.
- honoring our kids and loving them for the fact that they’re born and in our lives.
They don’t need to prove anything to get that affection. They don’t need to be any type of person, or even behave well to deserve our love. And they don’t need to live up to our expectations—their presence and being is all they need.
Even your parenting style will differ depending on each child’s temperament. As Dr. Tsabary says:
“When you attune yourself to your child’s uniqueness, you realize it’s futile to try to parent with a cookie-cutter approach. Instead, each child requires something different from you. Some children need a parent to be soft and gentle, whereas others need the parent to be more assertive—even ‘in their face.’ Once you accept your children’s basic nature, you can contour your style to meet their temperament. To do so means letting go of your fantasies of yourself as a certain kind of parent and instead evolving into the parent you need to be for the particular child in front of you.”
Nurture their interests
When kids feel like they belong to your family unit, they’ll be less likely to find this elsewhere. They’ll trust your advice above others and pursue their interests, however similar or different they may be from yours.
Because all kids have their strange quirks, some of which might not be typical interests of other kids. It seems normal if your child loves trucks and ladybugs, but what if she can’t get enough of vacuum cleaners or water fountains?
Her interests may seem silly, even embarrassing. How do you explain her obsession in, say, tornadoes? But the thing is, feeling embarrassed or putting her interests down will make her feel like she can’t turn to you. That she has to hide her hobbies because they seem petty to you.
Instead, encourage her passions, both typical and unique.
Borrow books about bugs if she has expressed interest in them, and take her to a train museum because you couldn’t peel her away from her train set. And yes, talk about vacuum cleaners, tornadoes and water fountains, no matter how strange these interests may be.
Fostering a sense of belonging
Interests aside, children’s personality and temperament can also differ from ours. Extroverted parents don’t understand why their daughter cries at social gatherings. The sports fan of a father doesn’t encourage his son’s interests in piano or science.
Our kids aren’t us. They may adopt many of our interests and values, but another part of who they are isn’t nurtured or raised.
Instead, accept your child for who she is. Don’t make her feel like she can’t live up to your expectations, from her popularity to her skills. Nothing isolates a child more than feeling like all she does will never be good enough for you.
And no family is perfect. We’ll all have days with shut doors and silent dinners. Still, we can do much to give them a sense of belonging, starting with accepting them for who they are.
Practicing unconditional love
Above all, convey the message that you love your child no matter what.
Accept your newborn’s constant crying as the season of your life for now. Don’t refuse to hug your toddler because she hit her sister. And don’t pressure her to be social when she’d rather stay in her room.
Tell her you love her even when she throws public tantrums. Even when she makes disappointing decisions and mistakes, and through every second of her life. She doesn’t need to do anything special to get love, and she’ll never lose it no matter what she does.
Just the fact that she’s born already means she’ll get the love she deserves.
Today, tell and show your kids you love them unconditionally. You might say,“I’m so glad you’re in my life,” “Thank you for being you,” “I’m so happy you’re here,” or “I love you no matter what.”
After all, accepting our kids for who they are simply means “I love you for being you.”
Get more tips:
- 5 Things You Need to Do to Handle Your Threenager
- How to Set Limits with Your Baby (And Almost Toddler)
- “He Needs You”: How to Help Your Angry Child
- Stop Comparing Your Child to Others
- 15 Principles of Effective Parenting
Free: Exhausted and feeling guilty from constantly losing your temper with your child? Even if it seems like you’ve tried just about everything, you CAN stop losing your temper… if you start from the inside out and change from within.
In How to Finally Stop Losing Your Temper, you’ll learn how to reflect onyour habits and triggers and what you can do when you feel that rush of anger. Join my newsletter and download your PDF below—at no cost to you: