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How to Nurture and Teach Self Acceptance to Your Child

Updated on October 27, 2012

How to nurture and teach your child self-acceptance is actually very simple. Accept yourself.

I said it was simple, but I didn’t say it was easy! However it is possible, and this article introduces you to simple techniques that can help you and your child develop self-acceptance.

This article covers three main points:

  • Why our own self-acceptance is crucial to nurturing self-acceptance in your child
  • How to foster your own self-acceptance
  • How to relate to children in ways that teach them self-acceptance

EEG Brainwaves Mapping
EEG Brainwaves Mapping | Source

Why our own self-acceptance is crucial

On an airplane adults are instructed to put on their own oxygen mask first before helping children. That’s because to be able to help others they need to fully alert and aware of what’s going on around them.

The same is true when teaching children self-acceptance. We might think that all we have to do is tell our children we love them and they will feel good enough. We might think that our own low self-esteem doesn’t matter. But it does.

The Science Bit

Children, particularly until the age of six, don’t think the same way adults do. Their brainwaves are literally different.

Babies mostly experience delta waves, which for adults occur during slow wave sleep and in some continuous attention tasks.

From toddler age till around six, theta brainwaves are predominant. Adults and older kids do experience theta brainwaves, but less often. Times we do are when close to sleep or when highly emotionally aroused. Theta brainwaves enable children to learn new information rapidly. (Think of how quickly a child learns to speak compared to an adult learning a new language.)

Small children learn by absorbing what’s going on around them. This is why modeling (demonstrating the action or behavior we want children to adopt) is so important.


It’s not what you do it’s how you do it.

Most people do realize that children respond more to what we do than what we say. But even more they respond to how we are. They instinctively know when we aren’t being honest even if they don’t know in what way or why.

It’s easiest to explain this with an example that most parents will be able to relate to. Once, several years ago, I met my girls after school and headed for a playground. We stopped to buy some drinks and snacks. One of my daughters reacted huffily when I said no to a sugary snack.

I tried to empathize with her. “You feel angry that I didn’t let you have that chocolate, and that’s okay. But … blah, blah, blah.”

I might as well have said blah, blah, blah, because all she heard was “but.” She didn’t want my empathy, she wanted to the chocolate – and I was withholding it. She continued to huff, and I started to feel annoyed. However, I had read enough parenting books that instructed parents should never show anger towards their children to think that I shouldn’t say what was on my mind.

To be honest I can’t remember all of our conversation, but I do remember that at some point she said that I had told her she was naughty and shouldn’t be angry.

Shocked, I replied. “I didn’t say that!”

But I had been thinking it. My thoughts had run along these lines: “She’s behaving like a brat. I shouldn’t let her get away with this.”

These were closely followed by: “I shouldn’t be so judgmental. And I mustn’t let her see that I’m having these horrible thoughts about her.

According to those parenting books, calling my child a brat would leave her feeling her very being was wrong. Good parents judged the behavior, not the child. Yet here I was wondering if I had somehow created a monster. I couldn’t let her know any of that.

Except she already knew it. So I admitted, yes, I had been thinking she was naughty. I also added I knew it wasn’t true.

She instantly calmed down.

Children aren’t fooled by parental fakeness. They know something isn’t right, even if they can’t always put it into words like my daughter did. The moment I was honest she calmed right down. I had been trying to use niceness to manipulate her into being how I wanted. My children, it seems, would rather have honest anger than fake niceness.

This is not an invitation to call your children names or yell at them. It’s an invitation to notice the thoughts that arise when you feel the urge to rant. By the time of that occasion with my daughter I had been observing and questioning my thoughts for a few years, and she also knew the process I used to do this. So when I explained to her that I knew my thoughts weren’t true she understood what I meant.

Many of us don’t just think our thoughts are true, we think we are our thoughts. That’s why we say, “I shouldn’t think such terrible things.” Or, “I’m a terrible person for thinking that.” Admitting my thoughts to my daughter reminded me that they were simply passing through my mind. They didn’t mean anything about either of us. This was partly what allowed us both to calm down. The other importance factor was that I had validated her experience. When adults deny their feelings, it is hard for children to trust their own experience.


How to foster your own self-acceptance

In the anecdote above, I’ve written the words should and shouldn’t in italics because I want to look at them more closely. When we think we should do or be a certain way it blocks us from honestly noticing what’s going on. For me, it’s important to feed my family healthy food. But in that moment I also wanted harmony with my child, so I experienced internal conflict. To avoid this I wanted my child to happily accept that I’d said no.

Instead she gave me a more valuable gift by showing me that fake niceness doesn’t work. This allowed me to notice where I was trying to follow rules instead of looking inside for what was causing my turmoil. It wasn’t because of her. It was because I was judging myself and judging her.


Awareness is the key to self-acceptance. By that I mean awareness of thoughts and feelings and being able to separate from them. The judgmental thoughts that come into our minds are not who we are. Had I been able see this on that occasion, I would have been able to accept myself more quickly, and so my daughter’s reaction would not have mattered. I could have allowed her to feel her anger until she was ready to let go.

Our reactions are caused by believing thoughts and by trying to avoid certain emotions. The emotions we most often try to avoid are those usually described as negative. There’s a sad irony in trying to avoid negative emotions: by getting into a fight with our feelings what we get is a fight! By truly accepting them we transform them. Just as darkness disappears when we switch on a light, so negative feelings disappear when we welcome them.

Useful Practices for Developing Awareness

There are many different techniques that can support you in fostering awareness. For some people meditation works, for others it is less effective. If you approach meditation as something you should do, or as something that will make you “good” you are approaching it from the same perspective that keeps us from self-acceptance. So as best you can, see meditation (or any technique) as an aid to becoming more aware rather than as a way to improve yourself. We are not bad because we feel frustrated; we just got into some unhealthy habits.

Any technique that guides you towards acceptance of negative thoughts and feelings will, in the long-term, bring peace of mind. Any process that encourages you to push negativity away may bring short-term relief, but is less likely to result in lasting change. We resist negative feelings because we think they will overwhelm us, but what causes overwhelm is the struggle. If this seems hard to believe, that’s okay. Don’t believe it, but stop just now and notice what you are feeling.

Could you allow that feeling just for this moment?

And then would it be okay if it went?

These questions are adapted from the Sedona Method, which is one technique I find very helpful in letting go of negative feelings, and for nurturing awareness.

Links to Resources

Many of these techniques provide free resources that you can use at home.

The Work

The Lefkoe Belief Process

Information on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Non Violent Communication


Listed below are some other processes that you may find helpful. Several of these techniques have specific parenting programs.

The Work of Byron Katie (see my article Improving Your Quality of Life With The Work of Byron Katie)

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

Non-Violent Communication (NVC)

Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP)

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

The Lefkoe Belief Process


You don’t need to be religious to pray. If you are religious you think of prayer as asking God for assistance, but if you are not, you can think of it as asking your higher mind. When I feel stuck in an argument with my children (or anyone) I sometimes ask: “Please allow me to see from a different perspective.” It is amazingly effective.

The most important thing is for you to choose a technique that works for you.

How to relate to children in ways that teach them self-acceptance

Although the more we naturally accept ourselves, the more we will naturally guide our children into self-acceptance, it’s not necessary to wait until then to begin. In fact, treating our children and ourselves with kindness fosters self-acceptance, so it’s a win-win situation.

I feel wary of providing guidelines because it’s easy when stressed to make suggestions into rules to be followed. Therefore what follows are some practices to use as best you can and whenever you remember! Do be kind to yourself when you forget, allow your regret and acknowledge your desire to nurture self-acceptance in your children.


Allow your child to feel and express emotions.

From baby to adulthood, this is the single most important thing you can do to teach your children self-acceptance. If we tell children a feeling is wrong and they shouldn’t have it, they usually conclude that there must be something wrong with them, or with the feeling. If they then try to stifle the feeling that creates an internal fight – which often becomes external!

Feeling and expressing an emotion are not the same reacting to it. What we actually don’t like is the reaction rather than the emotion. Children don’t enjoy reacting either, and as they learn to not react to every feeling they have they will become more confident. Allowing them to have feelings is the first step to teaching them not to react.

There are two ways to do this:

1)Model acceptance of your own feelings.

Anger is the emotion we most often try to stop in children and in ourselves, so I will focus on it for now. If I feel anger and think I shouldn’t, I am more likely to blame the anger on someone else, in attempt to justify feeling the way I do. If on the other hand I simply notice the anger I can let it come and let it go. One very effective way to do this is to focus on the sensations in your body.

You could even say to your child, “I notice feel angry when I think about what you said (or did). It’s probably because it reminded me of something from long ago. It has nothing to do with you so I’m going to take a few moments to calm myself.”

2) If your child has reacted to anger by hitting or some other way you find unacceptable, you can explain to them that it’s okay to feel angry, but that hitting hurts the other person so it’s not okay. As best you can, try not to label the action bad, because children can’t always separate actions from themselves.

Give Age Appropriate Choices

Even babies have preferences. One of my daughters “chose” her bedroom décor when she was 6 months old. I held up a lampshade with red and blue mice on it, and she smiled. I held up one with elephants in pastel colors, and she giggled, clapped and waved her legs. I knew which one she liked best. Of course you don’t need to do this with every situation, but do give simple choices whenever possible.


Spend time with your children in age-appropriate ways.

Ignore anyone who says you are holding your baby too much. Parents of premature babies used to be kept from their little ones for fear of infection. But doctors have found that babies who are regularly held thrive better and cry less. Another advantage is that touch helps mothers and premature babies bond. The advantages of touch apply to all babies, and those who are held regularly tend to have fewer tantrums as toddlers.

Recent research in England indicates that teenagers whose parents spend time with them are less likely to smoke, drink or engage in underage sex or violent behavior. In other words, they feel more secure.

Some suggestions of activities to do with older children are:

Read books they like, either separately or together. I read The Hunger Games trilogy after my elder daughter did, and I am reading a Percy Jackson book along with my younger daughter.

Go to the cinema together

Play on a wi fit. (They’ll laugh at you, but who cares?)

Go to a beach: walk through the surf with them, build sandcastles, cover them in sand. We adults can get so caught up in the seriousness of life that we forget to have fun, and we can learn from our children.

Let them teach you! Literally we can learn from our kids, especially in technology. Teaching us also boosts our children’s self-esteem – so long as they are happy to do so of course!

Get to know your children’s friends.

This is easy when your children are small, but is just as important when they are older. By inviting friends round you show appreciate them.

Tell them stories from your own childhood.

We loved to hear about the mischief my father got up to.

My children find it helpful if they are going through a difficult time and I tell them of similar situations from my own childhood.

Both these ways help children feel understood.

Explore thoughts and beliefs with your children.

My two used to bicker over who got the biggest piece of pie, pudding, chocolate… One day I asked them why it mattered. After a little probing one said a smaller piece meant she was less important and the other said it meant she wasn’t liked as much. This opened up a chance to discuss more deeply, and gave me insight into what mattered to my children.

If a child reacts huffily to something you say this is another good opportunity to explore what’s going on. Ask them what they heard you say that felt like a criticism, and let them know your intention wasn’t to criticize and that you would like the chance to explain what you said more clearly. Don’t blame them for reacting that way, and don’t blame yourself either: the aim is to maintain a connection and clear up misunderstanding.

And feeling connected and understood nurtures self-acceptance in us all.


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    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      8 years ago from UK

      Michael, it took me a long time to realise that thoughts don't define us, and it is such a life changing understanding that I feel compelled to share it with others! Self acceptance is as you say key to peace of mind and some also think it has a major impact on our bodies too. I am inclined to agree with that.

      Thanks very much for your comment and for sharing.

    • molometer profile image


      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hello Yvonne,

      Well written and thought provoking hub. Practical, useful and interesting information for any parent anywhere.

      Our thoughts do not define us, they are just thoughts and as you mentioned. They can be allowed to pass right on through.

      Self acceptance is the key to our peace of mind.

      Thank you for putting this so eloquently, and in an easy to digest way. Sharing.


    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      Thanks Hareshpahuja.

    • Hareshpahuja profile image


      9 years ago from MUMBAI INDIA

      This is a great hub ! Vote up & more.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hi raciniwa,

      Yes, testing limits is part of growing up and it can sometimes be scary for kids unless we guide them through. And as you say that guidance is not in the form of what we say, but how we are.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Good to see you here as always!

    • raciniwa profile image


      9 years ago from Talisay City, Cebu

      Children are always testing their limits as they develop Autonomy, they also need to experience all the necessary emotions...Children don't follow what we say but what we do...

      this is a very insightful hub Melovy...great hub...

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      Thanks jaswinder64.

    • jaswinder64 profile image


      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada.

      Very interesting and informative hub. Voted up!

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hi allie,

      You might be interested in a book called “Hold on to your kids” by Gordon Neufeld. (I reviewed it a while back along with a couple of other books.) Because I’d read it I wasn’t surprised by this latest research - he wrote about how kids who become “peer orientated” (looking to peers for support) can seem as if they are coping at school and in social situations, but inside they are often lost because their peers aren’t emotionally equipped to give them the support an adult can. (I meant to link to it here, and will do so soon!)

      Thanks for your comment!

    • alliemacb profile image


      9 years ago from Scotland

      Such a great hub. I was particularly struck by the research showing that children whose parents spend time with them are less likely to smoke etc. As the parent of a teenager, I believe that it is so important to teach your kids to like themselves. Thanks for the great advice given here.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hi tillsontitan,

      Thank you so much for your very kind comment, and yes acceptance is definitely the key.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hi Shesabutterfly,

      Thanks very much for your kind comment and for sharing.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hi ksinil,

      I am so pleased to read you had a few lightbulb moments. The funny thing is I often do too when I write this kind of article. I love writing them and sharing what works for me, and it’s so wonderful to see that it helps others. Thanks for your comment.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hi Cre8tor,

      Exactly - honesty strengthens relationships. It funny how so many of us can see that in adult relationships but not with kids. Thanks for your comment.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hi Bill,

      I am not surprised by what you say about your students and parents, and it’s so sad really because everyone wants to do well for their kids and so many don’t realise the first step is doing well for themselves.

      Thanks very much for your so kind comment.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hi Rebecca,

      I was amazed how many programs there are on the internet claiming to put your brain into theta state so that you can learn faster and also overcome beliefs picked up in childhood. I have no idea if any of them work.

      Thanks for your kind comment.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hi TahoeDoc,

      I think all parents need reminders now and then. I know I do. Sometimes it’s quite a challenge to see things from a kid’s perspective, and yet I’ve noticed that when we can it makes parenting far more enjoyable.

      Your kids sound wonderful, and your love for them is so obvious in this comment, how lovely it is to see! I share your sentiments about mine - the most important things in the world.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hi Kelley,

      I’ve been doing “The Work” for well over 7 years, and I am so grateful for the difference it’s made in parenting. I agree with you that screwing up is part of being human.

      It amazes me how often I’ve seen advice to parents: "Let your child know it’s okay to be angry,” followed by, “Don’t get angry.” That gives a very distorted message, and I agree with you that kids can learn far more about how to handle emotions when we exhibit all emotions.

      Thanks for your kind comment and for sharing.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      9 years ago from New York

      I would suggest every new parent read this hub. We fight so hard but unless we accept and show our children we accept, we can lose the battle.

      Great hub and pictures that show you practice what you preach!

    • Shesabutterfly profile image

      Cholee Clay 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin

      Great hub! Very insightful and useful information. Voted up and shared!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This is truly insightful, I had several light bulb moments while reading this. It just goes to show, what you think is equally important as what you say. Integrity is important.

    • Cre8tor profile image

      Dan Reed 

      9 years ago

      This is a great hub! I so agree with our being honest with our children. They need this as do we to strengthen our relationships.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      9 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What a great hub! Yvonne, you have outdone yourself this time. I can't tell you the number of students I have had over the years who had such horrible self-esteem and I would meet their parents at conferences and...the same thing. Fantastic hub!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      9 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Really great advice for parents. I believe they really can detect insincerity more than we realize. I need some theta waves! I enjoyed the photos of your family and the beach!

    • TahoeDoc profile image


      9 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      Great job! and boy, do I need the reminders to see things from my kids points-of-view when I get tired and stressed from working. Being in that state is more like survival mode and it gets very hard not to be short and irritable with my kids. They are really wonderful, overall well-behaved, thoughtful and kind. They are also normal, rambunctious, sometimes defiant boys (5&7).

      They really do seem to 'get it' when I explain that I am feeling the way I am because of work and not them. I like emotional honesty when I'm not perfect at expressing them.

      Thanks for the insights and reminders. I will remember that even if I'm dead-tired and spent, what I say, do and HOW I am matters to my kiddos!! And they are the most important things in the world to me.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Melvoy this is a fantastic hub! It does remind me of the work of Byron Katie where she emphasizes acceptance. I think it is important that children see their parents exhibit all emotions and as you said so they know that we are more than our emotions and or behaviors. Sometimes we screw up and that's just part of being human. Thanks for sharing your personal stories. Voted up awesome and Shared on Pinterest! Take care, Kelley


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