The Secret Soil of Growing Healthy Children
Shhhh…I have something to tell you, a tip to help you raise healthy, mature children. Here it is: the seeds of maturity grow best in the rich soil of acceptance. I know, it is not a great revelation, but, it is true nonetheless. The soil of acceptance nourishes an inner feeling of being loved and lovable. It encourages a strong root system in which a realistic self-concept, healthy independence, and effective problem-solving skills can intertwine. A child bursting forth from the nutrient rich soil of acceptance is confident to grow strong and straight; empowered to reach for their true capabilities and potentials in the midst of prevailing winds, storms, or obstacles; and free to branch off in new and better directions in response to loving guidance and discipline.
Planted in the rocky clay of rejection, children grow twisted and gnarled with bitterness, anger, and feelings of inferiority. Without the nourishment of acceptance, children develop a weak root system plagued by a shallow view of their capabilities, a limited strength to withstand the pressures of life, and restricted ability to absorb the resources needed to support and sustain them in time of drought. They become hedged in by a lack the confidence and find it impossible to stand tall. They grow twisted, bending in whatever direction the winds blow.
Yes, the seeds of maturity grow best in the rich soil of acceptance. But this raises a difficult question. Our children will engage in behaviors we find unacceptable. And, when we express rejection of those behaviors, our children might see it as rejection of them. So, how can we make sure our children know we accept them while telling them we do not approve of unacceptable behaviors? First, make sure you truly do have an attitude of acceptance toward your children. Are you accepting of their interests, even when their interests are different than yours? Are you accepting of their likes and dislikes, even when they differ from yours? Take time to really assure your acceptance of your children’s unique interests, strengths, likes, and dislikes.
Second, express acceptance in as many ways and as often as you can. As parents, we need to express acceptance more than disapproval. Learn about their interests and get involved in some of them. Learn about their world. Meet their friends. Talk about their music. Show an interest in anything that interests them. Still, be honest with yourself and your children. If you find one of their interests boring, you don’t have to fake excitement; but, you can still express a curiosity in that interest as a way to learn about your child. Take time to learn about that interest: what makes it interesting to them? How did that interest develop? Who else enjoys that interest? How could you learn more about it…enough to enable you to carry on an intelligent conversation with your child about that interest? Doing so will let your children know you are interested in them as a person…and, you might just discover a growing interest yourself! John Gottman talks about a 5-1 ratio of positive to negative experiences in healthy relationships. With that ratio in mind, work to express acceptance of your child at least five times more often then you express disapproval of unacceptable behavior. This may take work at times, but the results are well worth the effort.
The seeds of maturity grow best in the rich soil of acceptance. So pour on the soil of acceptance, keep it rich and keep it deep.