Love the Child You Have

We spend so much time and emotional energy pushing, pulling and prodding our children and ourselves to "try harder", "do better", "accomplish more". From the earliest stages of life on this planet, we compare our children and our parenting to those babies and toddlers and moms and dads who seem to have it all together.

I've got news for you. NONE of us really has it together. We are just doing the best we can, day by day, diaper by diaper and challenge by challenge. None of us will be the perfect parents and we sure did not produce the perfect child. HUMANS in all their glory make up the family circle, and that circle is not perfectly round.

We are all a combination of possibilities, potential, pain and pleasure. Learning to live with, love and accept the humans in our home and our lives is the most challenging journey. Perhaps the hardest part is loving and accepting the person in the mirror. What if our childhood was a story with parents who accepted us "just the way we were" and we did not grow up saddled by the life belief that "I'm not good enough"?

We do have the capacity to change the message in our hearts and to change the script in our homes. When we accept our child for who he or she is, nurture their interests and listen to their stories; we tell them they are valuable. When we love them for who they are and not what they do, they learn to value themselves. "Love the child you have" means to accept their messiness, their fussy times, their stubbornness and their ability to bring you to laughter or tears at any given moment.

Real encouragement does not begin with, "Why can't you be like your brother?" or "maybe next time you will really try." It begins with a high five to your 3 year old for picking up 3 toys of the 97 toys scattered across the living room. It begins with appropriate expectations and learning to breathe when your kids seem to be plotting against you. Loving your child does not mean keeping them "happy happy happy" all the time. It is accepting them, guiding them and holding them accountable.

When we love and accept our imperfect selves and our imperfect children, we model strength and resilience and character traits that are much more important than any report card or trophy or external achievement. Children get their first sense of value from how we treat them, how we talk to them and how we make them feel.

What messages are your kids getting from you about their value?

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