“I really struggle between showing acceptance vs. being ‘too understanding’ and therefore feeding anxiety”
Firstly lets look at acceptance. What does it mean ? When I talk about acceptance , I am talking about zero anger or disappointment to a child. I am referring to accepting that they are doing their best in this moment and that their current behaviour is a way of expressing their emotions or trying to get something that they believe is going to make them feel happier.
Instant gratification is not the way to happiness. Sometimes children (just like us) believe that if we can get this thing right now- I will be happy. But I have come to learn there are 3 things that create real, long lasting happiness. They are:
- Feeling loved and accepted
- Being loving and kind to others
- Being responsible for our choices and our own life
So when speaking to a child, acceptance of how they feel would look like no anger.
If they didn’t want to go to a party for example, acceptance would look like.
“That’s ok that you feel this way. Mommy loves you. I am right here. You are lovable. Let’s look at all of your choices.”
When a child remembers they are loved AND that they have choices- they feel less afraid.
This therefore wouldn’t be reinforcing fear in the child or stunting their growth – it would simply be accepting that right now they feel afraid and helping them through that fear to calm (self-regulation).
This is what loving and teaching a child looks like. We can help children become resilient by accepting them and by reminding them of the truth that they have nothing to be afraid of AND by reminding them of their autonomy (choices).
It is never loving to hold a child back, agree to everything that they want or say, or not stretch them through challenging situations.
Firstly we always need to ask ourselves- am I being accepting in this moment? Does my tone and my words sound accepting? Am I angry?
This is where it begins. Then we can help a child remember the truth and self regulate.