Loving Our Kids As They Are

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You know how I feel about the "shoulds" of life. We get it from our friends and our teachers and our movies and our Internets — but it starts much sooner than that.

It starts in our homes. It starts before we're out of diapers. It starts in the minds and words of our parents.

I wrote a post for Babble.com called "I'm Done Focusing on How My Son 'Should' Be" about just this.

"Today I will accept you for who you are. I will do my best to step away from the image of who I want you to be, or who I think you might be, and see you.

Today I will pay attention to the things that bring you joy and the things that bring you pain, without judging whether they’re good or wrong.

Today I won’t absorb your feelings, outbursts, or mistakes as my personal failures. I’ll acknowledge your thoughts and feelings as being REAL, without trying to fix, change, or condemn.

Today I will tell you that you are okay, just the way you are. It’s okay to feel anxious. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to feel angry. It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling, as long as you don’t act in a way that hurts yourself or someone else.

Today I won’t attempt to control your personality, label your feelings, or resist reality with “can’ts” and “shoulds” and “if onlys”.

Today I won’t compare you to a standard, or a person, or a timetable. I will meet you wherever you are.

Today I’ll notice your strengths over your shortcomings. I’ll encourage, not criticize.

Today and every day, I will be the one person who unconditionally accepts and loves you. The one person who sees you, even when the surrounding “shoulds” make it hard for you to see yourself."