Have You Accepted the Child You’ve Got?

raise the child you've gotAcceptance of your child is the single most important factor in insuring your child’s self-confidence and strength of will to resist the negative influences we spend so much time worrying about. Acceptance is often a hard concept for parents to get because it sounds as if we’re supposed to accept everything our child does—and that’s just not good parenting.

It’s easiest to think about acceptance through your own experience. Did you feel accepted for who you are or did you think that your parents would love you more or be prouder of you if you were different, more like your brother, got better grades, excelled at sports—just simply someone else? Did you feel accepted or approved of only when you behaved a certain way, felt a certain way? And did feelings of rejection (unintended on your parent’s part yet perceived on your part) cause you to pull back or try to be different? You probably can’t answer this because these changes are very subtle and slow to adapt.

“People stop showing the parts of themselves that have been rejected, trying to tuck away these traits in order to survive,” says Nancy Rose in her new book, Raise the Child You’ve Got—Not the One You Want. Nancy explains that, “As parents, we create stories about our children….The story comes out of our perception of who our child is, based on reality, but heavily influenced by our beliefs about ourselves and the world. The story we’re creating then becomes our reality, and our perspective narrows.”

In this lovely, practical, and clearly written parent’s guide to unconditional acceptance, Nancy leads us from a place of understanding how easily we create that narrow perspective of our child and then gently guides us on a journey to alter that perspective. With detailed information and exercises on temperament to understand “the core self”, she helps us get to connection while still setting limits on behavior.

That journey is a mindset shift in seeing undesirable behavior as a mistake rather than a forecast. It is knowing that the child is whole just the way he is. It is understanding that the child wants to please, wants to be successful, and when he’s not, it’s due to obstacles in his way that, in many cases, parents can remove through connection. “The lovely paradox,” Nancy says, “is that, by accepting ‘what is,’ we are in the best position to channel ‘what is’ in a positive direction.”

This freeing new perspective of our children allows them to discover themselves, to own their feelings, take responsibility for their actions and to feel strongly connected to the most important people in their lives—you. As Nancy along with abundant research concludes, “Having a close connected relationship with a caring adult, one who listens to the child’s feelings, is the single strongest indicator that an adolescent will reach adulthood without experiencing teen pregnancy or violence, without becoming addicted to drugs or tobacco, and without dropping out of high school.”

Raise the Child You’ve Got gives you tools for leading your child with acceptance and being that strong authority in your child’s life that influences by connection rather than control. As she says, “A parent who accepts but does not lead can create a situation where the child takes advantage of rules, grows up without learning respect, and can ultimately enter the adult world unprepared.”


Nancy and I believe in each other’s work so much that we are making a dual offer. You can win a copy of Nancy’s book, Raise the Child You’ve Got, by simply commenting below. Tell us what acceptance means to you—whether or not you feel able to accomplish it. Sunday night June 15th I will choose a comment using a random generator tool. I will give your email address to Nancy and she will send you an autographed book. At the same time and in the same way, Nancy will be giving away a copy of my book, When Your Kids Push Your Buttons, so you can comment on her blog for a chance to win my book. Buttons delves into the layers in the parent where unacceptance may have its roots, which make it difficult to fully accept the child we have now. We both agree that the combination of our work offers a parent a full in-depth path to unconditionally accepting our children.

Nancy’s contact info:






Congratulations to Cecelia Sherwin! She is our winner of Nancy Rose’s book.

I do hope the rest of you will check out her book and buy it if you felt inspired.


35 thoughts on “Have You Accepted the Child You’ve Got?

  1. Acceptance means loving the child I have. It means putting the work into understanding his needs and wants and how to manage them gracefully. It means that I accept him fully, even as I am correcting his behavior or teaching him a new skill. It also means that I set boundaries for myself and him. If he is making a mistake and I become fearful for him, I might need to take a break.

    Becoming the leader for my child – that is a work in progress.

  2. Acceptance? To mee it means looking at my daughter and seeing her for who she is. This is not always easy by no means but when I look at her that way it seems my love for her grows and seems immeasurable. My heart flows over for this person that I am gifted to have in my life. Acceptance… beautiful work in progress.

  3. I’m not sure what acceptance means to me, other than the fact that I accept that my children are two totally different people, with different likes and dislikes, different personalities, and different temperments. The challenge is learning how to parent for that: one behaviorally challenging child, and one “easy” child. I accept that I have that, but am struggling to learn how to parent differently now for the younger, more challenging child.

    1. Such an important point, Michelle. And we don’t do our “easy” child any favors by viewing them that way. I address this directly in the book…hope it helps you.

  4. Oh I need this 🙂 with 2 boys of very different personalities and needs…parenting can be tough!

  5. This book sounds very helpful. It seems it is easy to only notice the bad behaviors and not see the true reason for them. Being able to separate the behavior from the child is the first step to learning how to deal with difficult situations.

    1. And sometimes, we inadvertently train our kids to misbehave…for instance, if we tell them “no” but then give in when they wear us down, we are teaching them to not take “no” for an answer.

  6. Acceptance means loving them ‘warts and all’, loving them even if they don’t do things ‘my way’, and loving them enough to let them spread their wings and fly ‘their way’.
    My kids are 26 and 23 and I still struggle with this.
    Now I’m reading more (in preparation for those ‘some day’

    1. Sandy, there has been a HUGE response to the book from grandparents. It can be tricky, because with the benefit of hindsight, grandparents can sometimes see things more clearly than the parents do.

  7. Just the title of this book has made my muddled thoughts surrounding how to help my children clearer. I realized that I have been trying to figure out how I can help my kids excel at their extra-curricular activities that they are struggling in. Perhaps I shouldn’t be trying to change my children, and instead focus on changing the activity to something they like and feel accomplished at! Duh!

  8. When it comes to parenting, I feel that acceptance and respect go hand in hand. While parenting my 4 children, I always try to be respectful of their feelings, their needs, their temperaments, their current situations, etc. Just because kids are smaller than adults doesn’t mean they don’t have the same emotions as we do!! They are real people too!! Oftentimes I see parents telling their kids to “stop whining” or “stop complaining” – and these are the very things that the parents are doing themselves! I feel as parents it is our mission to teach each child how to manage him/herself so that he/she can be the best person within his/her means. And this starts with helping them feel comfortable in their own skin and allowing them to be the people that they are – in other words, simply accepting them. This doesn’t mean the parent tries to force them into an unyielding mold based on the parent’s needs– it means the parent works with each child’s individual temperament, listens to their fears, helps them with their weaknesses, and lets them make their own mistakes. Oftentimes kids are not allowed to make mistakes and learn from them – they are just expected to be “perfect” all the time. If they make a mistake they are criticized. Although much easier said than done, parents need to give kids the space to make their own choices and decisions so that they learn from them, not just bark orders all the time and expect them to be followed. The message that any child needs to hear is that no matter what, their parents love them and accept them for who they are. Kids need to know it is OK to have feelings and express feelings – our job as a parent is to teach them how to safely handle those feelings. Our job as a parent is to help our kids find their own wings and teach them the tools they need so they can soar in the direction they choose. Parents should guide, not force. Parents should encourage, not belittle. Parents should be the unconditional supporters, not the drill sergeants. Children are not our minions (even though the little yellow ones are really cute:)) And all of this is only possible if we respect our children and accept them for the people they already ARE, not what we WISH they could be.

    1. Lots of wisdom in your comment, Janet. I especially like “Kids need to know it is OK to have feelings and express feelings – our job as a parent is to teach them how to safely handle those feelings.” Imagine if more parents could be emotionally present when their kids are angry. These lucky kids learn “anger management” as they develop, not in a court-ordered class for domestic violence perpetrators (for example).

  9. My child is a bright and beautiful being who has a couple of learning differences that have made life extremely challenging. Just last night I was reading (another!) parenting book that had a chapter about special needs children. She articulated some his experience in such a way that I began to feel another layer of grief, for him and the pain and high anxiety he lives with. To me, acceptance includes grieving the life I imagined in order to move through and on to what life has presented me with.

    1. Oh, how poetically you express this very important point, Susannah. It is often necessary to grieve for our unfulfilled hopes and desires for our children (and ourselves). It seems like parents of special needs children are forced to face their grief earlier, and/or in a way that parents of “mainstream” kids are not.

  10. Accepting my children for who they are appears to be an ever-deepening process. It is sometimes hard to tease out the difference between accepting them and setting limits with them.
    When I accept them, I remember my childhood better, and my own challenges better and consequently accept myself better – then we are all at a different level of connection……

    1. Laura, acceptance is the starting point…then comes leadership! The book describes the limit-setting that is necessary. And yes, it is ongoing, and an “ever-deepening process” (I love that description).

  11. Acceptance is being seen and loved. It’s what I wanted as a child! My children have taught me how to give it to them. I love how fierce they are in expressing their needs, and how free they are to be and grow and strive when they are met.

    1. Allison, how wonderful that you are able to give your children what you didn’t fully get as a child! Yes, children are our teachers. By the way, I bow down to you for appreciating your kids’ ferocity. I hope my book helps more parents be like you 🙂

  12. I don’t think any parent is 100% unconditionally accepting and I know there are frequently times when I have been exasperated and baffled at my kids’ choices, but I absolutely strive to understand their perspective and be constructive and collaborative, As a highly sensitive person (see Elaine Aron’s website hsperson.com), I know what it’s like to have had people call me “hypersensitive” as a kid. It was absolutely not helpful and only made me more withdrawn. As a parent, I have the privilege and challenge of raising two very active and loud kids, one of whom has ADHD, and both of whom are genetically unrelated to me. This is not easy, but I can’t imagine how disastrous it would be if I tried to force them to be the quiet children I originally envisioned having. They are like Irish Setter puppies and, like puppies, need to have opportunities to be loud and active to feel happy.

    1. I will check out Elaine Aron’s work, Alisa. Thank you for the link. I love how you write about “the quiet children I originally envisioned having.” That resonates with me… I envisioned strolling at the mall with my baby as we shopped for cute accessories for both of us. Spoiler alert: NOT!

  13. Every parent has a vision or fantasy of what they want their child to be like. Acceptance is allowing your child to be who they are, not who you want them to be. This can be very hard if your child has a challenging temperament, or is “different” in some way. I would love to read this book!

  14. Acceptance is letting the child know they don’t have to act this or that way to get attention. It is about giving them freedom within boundaries that are not meant to cage them up. Boundaries that we all have.

    1. Cecelia, congratulations! You are the winner of Nancy’s book. I will give her your email address and she will be in contact with you to get your address.

  15. Acceptance is being aware that my child is his own person with his own mind, agenda, expectations and experiences. Knowing this, he deserves empathy, compassion, consideration and respect. He has a right to his feelings and thoughts. Therefore, I am here to help and motivate my child and not take his behavior personally.

  16. To me, acceptance is knowing my children are their own unique selves, with their own strengths and ways of being, and I aim to foster that as much as I can. When one of my children is angry with me, for example, I say, “Even though you’re really angry with me, I still love you very much! : )

  17. I accept my children by trying to be less controlling and more respectful of their thoughts and feelings. Also trying to understand what’s motivating a behavior versus just trying to stop it because I don’t like it. However, my biggest struggle is comments others make to my children! For example, your brother picked up all his toys or you can’t have dessert until you finish x, y or z (which half the time isn’t any better for them than the dessert–does she really need to eat three more French fries before getting one piece of candy?!!!). I try to talk about balance when eating or doing chores and playing, so they can see the reasoning behind why things should be done or shouldn’t be done. And then I pray that they will follow our examples!

    1. Carissa-
      Parenting in a connective way almost predictably provokes comments of criticism, blame, or threats as those fear you are doing the wrong thing with your children. Stay the course and go for balance as you are.

  18. I planned on being an unconditional parent and then my son expressed his unmet needs and pain through aggressive behavior toward his younger sister. Acceptance of him while trying to help him has been unequivocally the greatest challenge of my life. I am excited to have Nancy’s book as another resource to help me be the mother I want to be and that my children need.

  19. I really appreciate this article. I thought I had a connected relationship with my oldest son ( we would talk about everything) but when he reached his junior year in college, things went horribly wrong– he changed colleges that year. He had been saying all along he wanted to attend medical school yet his actions didn’t support that missive. Also, his grades were going in a south direction not to mention he was telling us he couldn’t get the classes he wanted and was ‘enrolling’ in classes are hat didn’t count towards his goal. Based on those observations, we said he needed to make a change to which he agreed to. Once he moved, he became investors lived with kids from his high school that he wouldn’t give two seconds to in high school. He started to drink heavily and smoke pot. He quit communicating with us, eventually leading to his complete estrangement of us for 4 months. His younger brother was the only one having contact with him from the family and former church friends. Finally, the college pastor was able to break through using an intervention involving his roommate (who knew how troubled he had become and didn’t tell anyone from home). Our son’s apartment lease was ending and he asked to move home. We agreed and my husband attempted to get him to come up with a daily routine, budget, and expectation of job hunting. Our son agreed to counsel with the college pastor on a weekly basis, which he met for the first 7 months he was home. As time went on, needless to say, he never really looked for a full time job because he was trying to get on in the oilfield and made overtures of joining the army. He never made a budget, never paid off his debt to us, didn’t keep a routine, and stopped counseling with the pastor on a regular basis. He became increasingly hostile and disrespectful and started staying out all night without communicating to us. He had the car taken away from him twice. Lastly, when it got unbearable, he told us of his plan to join the army for real and he started meeting with a recruiter. Not surprisingly, he made the highest grade one could make in the ASFAB and was able to secure his preferred job but he wouldn’t ship out for 3 more months. During the 10 months he was back at home he worked at several odd minimum wage paying jobs and he kept himself isolated from us for the most part. The ‘connectedness’ I had felt from him for 21 years was gone. Also, I need to add that my husband’s reaction to all of this was detached –he just wouldn’t force our son into an either or type of situation–I think he was intimidated by the prospect that our son would reject him once again and run away–emotionally my husband couldn’t handle that or the turmoil that would cause–there was so much tension already from walking on egg shells for the past 2 years. After joining the army, our son seemed himself during basic training while having to be substance free–he wrote us saying he appreciated how much we supported and loved him even when he didn’t deserve it. After basic graduation he had access to a phone and he was back to drinking and dipping tobacco. At least he knows he would be majorly busted if caught with drugs so I’m certain he’s not doing that. He was very communicative the rest of his training period and surprised us by coming home for thanksgiving. And he actually made the effort to connect with his dad more. But it was during Christmas that things seemed to be headed back to the way he was when he left–more sullen, withdrawn and he stayed out all night New Year’s Eve without communicating with us even though he indicated he would be home later that evening. He quit communicating regularly when he returned to his base. Also, me tried to hide the fact he had gotten several tattoos since October but I just happened to see them because his shirt was unbuttoned. That was such a shock because we have always been on about how we think that is disrespectful to one’s body and we would be disappointed if the boys should decide to get one. Well our son had 4 large ones as if January and I’m fearful he has even more now–I haven’t seen him since February 1. Well he is due to come home on leave in a week. Can you please help me know what to do to recapture/begin to gain a connected relationship with my 25 year old son? He means the world to me and I know he must have been very hurt to have made these choices in life–so contrary to the way he was raised. His closest friends in the past 4 years have been guys who have little to no relationship with 1 or both of their parents. We were such a close family when he was growing up. One detail–we did move twice–first time when he was 5, second time when he was 10. He was always the odd man out–geeky athletic guy–he was skilled in the classroom and in the sports arena so he didn’t really fit in with the true geeks or jocks. But I thought that had worked itself out his first 2 years of college. Thank you for your insight.

    1. Just love him. There is too much history here to counsel you in a comment. He is an adult now and clearly has made a decision that works for him. Accept him and his tattoos. For you it may be disrespectful to the body. To many it is just the opposite. Are there other areas like that where you have tried to impose your way of thinking that did not work for him, that made him feel that he couldn’t quite meet up to your expectations?

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