Acceptance is the one of the most loving gifts we can offer another human being, and it is especially crucial in our relationships with children. From the moment they are born, our children are receiving formative messages from us about their worth, their place in the world and in our hearts. To develop a sense of security and self-confidence, they need us to at least attempt to accept, acknowledge, and understand their individual perspectives.
Perhaps an even more compelling reason to acknowledge and accept our children’s perspectives, especially when they differ from ours (which is bound to happen every ten minutes with toddlers), is that it works. It makes parenting much easier. Acknowledging feelings and desires helps to ease challenging behavior. It clears the air, opening up the safe, emotional space children need to feel more cooperative.
Once children are assured we hear them loud and clear – we understand how much they want to throw their toy trucks, though we prevent it — they usually stop acting these messages out.
Leah shared her discoveries and the progress she and her husband are making as they practice acknowledging:
I wanted to share a couple of things with you. Your page has changed my life! I was a pretty relaxed mum “pre-Janet”, but now even more so, I don’t worry about trying to make my daughter stop crying or trying to stop her experiencing a range of feelings. I’ve stopped getting stressed over it. I love that I feel confident knowing it’s ok for her to be upset, disappointed, angry, frustrated, etc. The bonds I have now developed with my daughter (3 years old), and the bond I’m developing with my son (10 weeks) are incredible due to your advice.
Acknowledging my daughter’s feelings instead of distracting (something so simple) has been the biggest factor in the change in our relationship. I’m slowly helping my husband to use your language and understand this parenting style. This morning without my prompting I heard him say, “I know that you’d like to play with those pencils, but they belong to mum. Let’s find some pencils that are yours.”
Wow. Acknowledging what she wanted first! This is a huge breakthrough. Just today I heard him say to our son, “You sound upset. Do you want me to pick you up? Ok, I’m picking you up.” To our daughter, also today, “You’re having trouble being quiet, I’m going to put you in the play room until you can be quiet.” Not perfect, but I could see what he was trying to do.
Today I read the piece your husband wrote, about how he had changed his approach to parenting, Respecting My Baby (An End to the Daddy Doo Dah Dance). Sounded so familiar! The things we do or did because that’s how we were raised or what we see.
I think by my husband observing how well things are working for me, he’s realizing that you don’t need to raise your voice or sound angry to stop your daughter jumping on the new couch. That was today’s moment of “teaching” for me. “Stop jumping on the couch! I said stop! Isabella, stop! Just stop it!” While he’s clearly getting annoyed, frustrated, and angry, Isabella thought it was hilarious and kept jumping while laughing hysterically.
I came over and quietly said to him, “She’s seeing the way you’re reacting, and she’s responding to it. Try this…” I turned to Isabella and took her hands so she stopped and looked at me. “Isabella, I know you like jumping on the couch, but if you keep doing it our new couch will get wrecked. It might break. If you can’t stop yourself from jumping on the couch, I will lift you off the couch.” And she just stopped! I think we were all a bit surprised, especially my husband.. I am so blessed to have found your page and book.
I offer a complete guide to respectful discipline in my new book:
(Photo by Julian Povey on Flickr)