Empowered Parenting Requires Radical Acceptance

Feb 28 / Barbara Robles-Ramamurthy
Do you often find yourself caught in a loop asking your partner or child to change their behavior, over and over again?

Are you weighed down by frustration over your late-night snacking habits or the moments you’ve raised your voices at your kids once again?

Parenthood offers plenty of opportunities for us to cultivate radical acceptance, the practice of accepting our reality without judgment or resistance. In our society, the idea of growth mindset has gained prominence as a valuable lifestyle strategy that allows us to see the value in our mistakes and encourages lifelong growth and learning. However, if we are not careful, this outlook can inadvertently lead to feelings of inadequacy and frustration when change or improvement doesn’t manifest as expected, even after putting in hard work and intention. This is where the concept of radical acceptance enters the scene, allowing us to harmonize accepting our present reality while simultaneously striving for progress. The term "radical" here denotes complete and unreserved acceptance.

Applying radical acceptance to parenting can help us live more joyful and peaceful lives by helping us appreciate and accept our current situation, even when we know that things can be improved—ultimately the here and now is already happening and meaningful change can’t be logically expected, so, sometimes, to enjoy what is, we must accept what’s in front of us. The pursuit of change does not have to be an agonizing process; each step we take contributes to our desired outcome.

Here are some practical ways to infuse radical acceptance into your home environment:

1. Embrace all emotions. Children, much like adults, experience a wide spectrum of emotions, sometimes with extraordinary intensity. Yet, their emotional regulation and display of socially acceptable behaviors (often determined by adults!) are still under development. This reality can leave parents feeling puzzled by their children’s seemingly disproportionate emotional reactions. By accepting all emotions and recognizing that emotions are separate from behavior, we can begin to compassionately respond to our family’s emotional needs. Valuable tools that can support radical acceptance practice here include active listening, validation, decreasing power differentials, and maintaining mindful presence. All of these concepts and tools are covered in our Teku Parenting Course and Community.

Focus on what you can change and accept what you can’t, at least for the time being. Parenting ushers in a shift from being in control of our own lives to managing our new lives with our children. When our approach hinges on attempting to control our kids and every facet of their existence, we often encounter stress, overwhelm, and even anger. Radical acceptance reminds us to release the need for all-encompassing control, enabling us to embrace our reality, even amidst challenges. Acceptance does not equate with complacency; it steadies us in our values as we navigate the present while planning for a better future. Key tools that can support radical acceptance here include practicing observation of our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and surroundings, and emotional regulation skills to navigate the acceptance process-all of these are taught and practiced in our Teku Community Spaces.

3. Set realistic goals and expectations. Frustration often arises from a mismatch between our expectations and our child’s current behavior or performance. This aspect is particularly pertinent for families dealing with conditions like anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or autism, but its relevance spans all family and parenting contexts. Radical acceptance reminds us to embrace our child as they are in the present moment, acknowledging their capabilities. Simultaneously, it encourages us to support them in pursuing their goals. Radical acceptance does not imply inaction; rather, it advocates for setting practical expectations based on your child’s abilities and strengths. Celebrate their uniqueness and achievements, regardless of size or intensity. Practical tools for radical acceptance here include parent and caregiver empowerment to promote awareness of our family’s needs and our ability to seek the necessary support-this is our expertise at Teku.

As you ponder this concept of radical acceptance, consider your comfort level and the feasibility of integrating it into your daily life. How challenging would you find this practice, and what support mechanisms do you have or need to move forward? Remember that small, consistent steps are incredibly valuable in this journey.

If you’re eager to begin a journey that integrates radical acceptance to alleviate unnecessary stress and conflict, we invite you to join our Teku Community! Together, we learn and grow together, supporting one another in this transformative journey.

This blog post was previously published in Psychology Today

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