Acceptancefrom a parent or careris at the heart of a child’s sense of personal safety & self-value. It helps them to learn that they are safe, worthwhile & valued by others & it enables them to share their inner world without fear of judgement or censorship. Whilst their behaviour may be evaluated & limited, they can be sure that all their thoughts & feelings are accepted. Their inner life is neither right nor wrong, it simply ‘is’. Acceptance helps a child to trust & listen to their own thoughts & feelings & to grow into their own authentic self, without shame.
Accepting a child’s intentions does not mean that we must be permissive of all behaviours, or that we cannot set limits & boundaries. However, when we set expectations about behaviour, still we can communicate an unconditional acceptance of the motives behind the behaviours & an empathy for why they may have developed certain patterns of behaviour or coping strategies. When a child experiences this acceptance, it helps them to develop confidence that conflict and discipline is directed towards their behaviour & that it does not threaten their relationship with their parent or carer.
Acceptance of thoughts & feelings can help a child to become more curious themselves to explore their motivations & to think about how to do things differently next time, when they have engaged in inappropriate behaviour. It reduces the danger of the child tipping into shame – a pervasive sense of self-loathing – & therefore the danger of more acting out.
With acceptance, a child feels that we ‘get it’, we understand where they are coming from & we are on their side. It is a powerful part of connecting with the child & then any correcting needed can become that much easier.