On Accepting Your Children for Who They Are

Accepting your children for who they are can be harder than it sounds. Learn what it means to truly love your child unconditionally.

Accepting Your Children for Who They AreWhen 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 others with her humor and wit, or the next child prodigy who’d 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, whose shyness keeps her 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 behavior 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.

The Conscious Parent

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 a 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 your child’s 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 that 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 interests because they seem petty in your eyes.

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 own unique personality and temperament can also differ from ours. Extroverted parents don’t understand why their toddler cries at social gatherings. The soccer fan of a parent doesn’t encourage his child’s interests in piano, dolls, 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 his unique identity. Don’t make him feel like he can’t live up to your high expectations, from his popularity to his skills. Nothing isolates a child more than feeling like everything he does will never be good enough for his parent.

And no family is perfect. We’ll all have days with defiance, slammed doors, and silent dinners. Still, we can do much to give kids a sense of belonging and build a strong relationship, 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 at playtime. 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 or dislikes hobbies you want her to adopt. Even when she makes a wrong decision, or causes so much frustration. She doesn’t need to do anything special to receive love, and she’ll never lose it no matter what she does.

Just the fact that she’s born already means she should 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”
  • “I’m lucky to be your mom”
  • “I love you no matter what”

In doing so, you’re also encouraging her own self-acceptance she’ll take with her into adulthood. After all, accepting our kids for who they are simply means “I love you for being you.”

Socializing Your Child

Get more tips:

Free resource: 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.

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  1. Mindy Goff says:

    Hi Nina, first I must say I love your wisdom, second I am actually Nana his Grandma . I have a hard time with Jamesons tantrums, he will be 2 in May. I have been given a second chance at being a part of this beam of light, his Daddy is incarcerated for drug charges , AND the whole thing is well a bit of a mess. I want to give him uncondional love and I do, but it is heart breaking when he is having a tantrum and I feel there is nothing I can do.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Mindy! Tantrums are definitely a hard one to handle, trust me I know! But I can imagine how much more difficult it is with problems at home. It does sound like you’re showing unconditional love. Tantrums aren’t supposed to be easy on anyone, even us. So even though we’re supposed to be calm and in the moment, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feel the emotions we do. Acknowledge that you feel upset, but that you have a game plan and need to be there for him. I’ve found that the best things to do during tantrums is to simply reassure them that we’re here, that we love them no matter what, that they can crumble in our arms. The discipline, consequences and lessons can all come later, when they’re much calmer. For now, it’s all about showing them that they’re safe.