Accepting children as they are doesn't mean that we don't help! Children often need our support learning things that are hard for them.
Seeing and embracing them exactly as they are (Even the Hard Parts, as I wrote about yesterday) is an important foundation for whatever we may teach them. When we are present with them in a real and conscious way, they feel grounded and safe, which is vital. Being seen realistically also helps them to know themselves in an honest way.
If your child struggles to make friends, put away toys, do homework, or go to sleep, it can be important to offer direct and skillful help. When we are present with children and observant, we can see what is not going well and pinpoint the moment when things go wrong.
For example, many years ago I knew a child who was new to a preschool and was having trouble with transitions. I watched carefully and noticed that he burst into tears just as the kids went in to the bathroom to wash hands and get ready for snack. Until then, everything was fine. I could see that he seemed confused just before he was upset, and realized that he may not know the routines that the others had learned. I taught him the routines--lining up, singing a hand-washing song, getting out the snack supplies--and all went more smoothly.
Sometimes children who are overwhelmed by cleaning up their toys need a simple task, "Let's start with putting all of the Lego's in this basket," or even baskets with labels or a photo of how the areas looks when everything is put away. A child who doesn't make social connections easily may need the support of a script. "Hi, can I join in?" is a classic way to do it, or "Want to play trains with me?" A child who has a hard time falling asleep may need support that starts with recognizing the sleepy feeling in himself.
So try being curious about the challenging moments, looking for things your child needs help with. Offer warm, friendly, non-judging, and specific support. Remember, you are really on the same side. By helping rather than trying to control, you will both enjoy a better outcome.
Yesterday I wrote the post Children Have Their Own Path and Purpose, about my belief that all children come in our lives with their own path, plan, and purpose. Seeing my children as they are is my most important work. All other parenting is built upon seeing them.
Please join me this week in spending time being curious about our children. Let's look not through the lens of what they 'should' be or what is normal which only sees them in comparison to others, but through a more open lens.
Can you make a list of adjectives that describe your child? If possible, use non-judging words, looking beyond words that may focus on your child's affect on you (easy, difficult, lovable, needy) and considering more neutral words (active, careful, calm, bold).
As you think about that child, consider how they respond to:
How do they approach:
How do they handle:
When do they turn toward you and when do they turn away?
Do they have characteristic behaviors (cuddling up in a blanket? standing on a swing?)?
What do you notice about their facial expressions and gestures?
My life and work are guided by the these core understandings: that all beings (including me!) are capable of transformation and joy, that healthy parenting matters profoundly, and that simple practices can support each of us.