Can you imagine a world where critics or bullies couldn’t strip away your child’s own self-love? Not that your child wouldn’t encounter these people or experiences, but that when she did, that she could stand proudly, secure and filled with self-love and compassion for herself? How can we change how our children see themselves? If we can nurture our children toward self-love and acceptance in life, their world can be whatever they choose it to be.
Sabine Beecher discusses how self-acceptance involves detaching our self-appraisal from what others think: “Self-acceptance is acknowledging yourself and recognizing that everything about you is a fact. That fact is your starting point and you go on from there. With self-acceptance you can look at yourself and say, ‘There is this part of me (my nose) that I don’t like. There is that trait of mine (I get impatient) that I hate. I acknowledge that they are all part of me.’ There are no conditions. . . . Self-acceptance is your inner security.”
According to a 2009 study, “promoting self-acceptance in early childhood can also serve as a protective or preventative factor in the development of future mental health problems. Both parents and teachers can teach and encourage the practice of self-acceptance within the child’s environment. Therefore, it is important that self-acceptance be taught and promoted in early childhood education.”
Remember that children’s brains are constantly under construction. This means that they are malleable and can learn very early in life. The evidence is growing that even three- and four-year-olds can begin to develop a resilient spirit and a sense of confidence. And so, you can begin to teach your child to be self-accepting beginning during the toddler years. You can teach your child through stories, activities or content that illustrates how one can practice self-acceptance. As your child grows, continue to incorporate this mindset into your everyday parenting.
So how can you help and empower your child to be himself? Acknowledge who your kid is by watching him and supporting him with affirmations and questions that express curiosity:
- “Wow, I love how you are being you.”
- “You are making very good choices for yourself.”
- “What matters to you right now?”
Embrace who your child is without trying to change her. Learn her goals and help her be the best version of herself. Ask yourself thoughtfully, “Who is my kid?”
After conflicts or stress, talk about feelings. When your child is struggling, take the time to talk to him. Tell him you understand the frustration he’s feeling, then ask him to explain any other feelings he’s having. Ask questions like “Did you feel sad, or mad, or something else?” and “How can I help you?” Practice this type of discussion in the home as often as possible so that your children become accustomed to it.
Be patient and be positive. As a former teacher, I’ve learned that it’s important to point out to your child that each one of us will learn who we are at our own pace. You can tell your child to be patient with herself as she grows into the person she is meant to be.
Teach your child to love and adore himself, even when he feels like he doesn’t deserve it. Self-compassion will help your child accept and love himself.
Accept your child unconditionally. And when you don’t, acknowledge the mistake and tell her you’ll do better next time.
From Donna Tetreault’s parenting book, The C.A.S.T.L.E. Method: Building a Family Foundation on Compassion, Acceptance, Security, Trust, Love and Expectations plus Education.
Interested in reading the book? Use code HelloBello for 25% off at Familius Books.