Acceptance > Affection > Attention
If only we could put our feet in the shoes of another person, to know what it feels like and to know what they may need. What a difference that might make in our life and our relationships!
When it comes to our children, we all desire to give them what they need to do well in life – but what is it that our kids need? What kind of environment can we create that both enhances our kids’ experience of home, but more importantly, creates an atmosphere that allows our kids to grow, mature and become the best version of themselves?
As parents we are not just caretakers and providers of food and lodging, nor are we policemen trying to keep our kids under control in a hostile world. Although it may seem at times that is exactly what we are! We are far more than that… we are atmosphere shapers.
The good news is we have the freedom and ability to create a place in which our kids can thrive. There are three main components to this environment. Acceptance, Affection and Attention. Or put another way…Our kids need acceptance, thrive with affection, and crave attention
One of the biggest challenges for parents is raising kids that are full of obvious imperfections!! We tend to give acceptance based on their performance or lack of perfection… but kids thrive, and of course, perform far better when acceptance is given not earned.
I love what New York writer David Brooks has to say on this:
“Parents desperately want happiness for their children and naturally want to steer them toward success in every way they can,” Brooks wrote. “But the pressures of the meritocracy can sometimes put this love on a false basis. The meritocracy is based on earned success. It is based on talent and achievement. But parental love is supposed to be oblivious to achievement. It’s meant to be an unconditional support — a gift that cannot be bought and cannot be earned.”
Acceptance is a real, discernible feeling that your kids get from you, and it has a powerful effect on the psyche of your child - or any child for that matter. As much as acceptance creates a certain type of atmosphere, the absence of acceptance also creates its own atmosphere.
Accept rather than expect! High acceptance produces confident kids, however, high expectation without acceptance produces nervous, fearful kids that sometimes look to other places to get the acceptance they so desperately need. If your kids know you accept them, the dynamic in your relationship changes immediately.
In addition to an environment of acceptance, kids thrive in a place where there is lots of affection.
“Most parents do not realize how important it is for their teenager to be able to come to them and have his emotional tank refilled.” (How to Really love your teenager: Ross Campbell M.D. Victor Books 1982)
Affection is what kids thrive on. A parent who expresses affection daily to a child or a teenager will almost guarantee a thriving child. Affection gives them the fuel they need to succeed in life. Studies in parent-child relationships bear this out:
Many studies have shown that warmth in the parent-child relationship is related to positive outcomes for children. Higher self-esteem, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behaviour problems have been linked to warmth and affection between parent and child. Parental warmth and affection is also positively related to adolescent academic competence and negatively related to teen pregnancy and associations with deviant peers. Parental warmth is even found to encourage children’s use of social support and proactive, problem-focused coping styles. Conversely, receiving insufficient levels of parental support can foster feelings of alienation, expressions of hostility and aggression, diminished self-esteem, and antisocial and risk behaviours. (Child trends.com)
Affection is expressed in two primary forms: physical and verbal. The power of touch is undeniable yet still way under utilized. To give constant and regular, appropriate physical affection will build a child that is secure and confident.
The simple impact of giving attention to a child is undeniable. When my wife and I were spending some time with parents at a ‘Parenting’ group recently, one of the parents told us this story. The father was with their son hanging out. The son asked the dad to look at him. At the time the father was ‘watching’ his phone checking social media. The son kept asking…”look at me dad, look at me”. The dad replied several times and said I’m watching, I’m watching (while not taking his eyes of his phone). The boy then grapsed his dad’s face in his hands and forced his dad to look at him and said: “With your eyes dad, look at me with your eyes!”
This simple encounter with his son changed the father’s perspective on how to ‘spend time’ with his boy. He is now fully engaged and really ‘seeing’ his son and giving him the actual attention he craves and needs.
With the rapid increase of mobile devices, two income families, busier work schedules and pressure, computers and work being taken home and the lack of boundary between home and work there is a crisis of “attention deficit” between parents and kids. All they need is some attention and the encounter that it produces and you will have happier, more relaxed children who crave less attention from things that may do them harm!
So maybe its time to give your child one of the ‘A’s! It’s in your power to give it and it will make a huge difference to their day and to their future!