Accept Your Kids, Even When You Disapprove

300-handKids’ Corner | By Patrick Biron –

We have a saying at the gym: “Praise the child, punish the behavior.” Put another way, we should always accept a child for who they are but actively disapprove behavior when needed. This is an incredibly difficult distinction but can be even more challenging when dealing with our own children. Let’s be honest – it’s just way easier to lose our patience with our own kids than others’, blurring the lines between how we view them and how we view their choices.

Fundamentally, children require acceptance to live a happy and fulfilled life. If a child feels that he will only be accepted because of what he accomplishes, chooses or avoids, there are negative, scientifically documented consequences that can last a lifetime. Conversely, children who feel assured of their acceptance have higher grades, take leadership positions amongst their peers and are exponentially less likely to bully other children.

Richard Lavoie, an expert in child social behavior, said, “The number one need of any human is to be liked by other humans. But our kids are like strangers in their own land. They don’t understand the basic rules of operating in society, and their mistakes are usually unintentional.” Children who don’t feel accepted are more likely to have depression, anxiety, poor grades, experiment with ille-gal substances and seek out unhealthy relationships later in life.

Your child desperately needs to know at his core that he is acceptable to you, especially during those times when he doesn’t succeed, makes mistakes or falls short. An easy way to describe this is unconditional love. Parents need to always be an advocate for their children. Make sure you prioritize them and that they know they are your priority. Stand up for them as long as that acceptance doesn’t blind you toward bad behavior, because after all, they are just children.

All of that is very different from approval. Acceptance is all about the child as a person, but approval is all about their choices and behavior. For example, the following are actions you should always disapprove with your child:

  When they lie.

  When they disrespect others.

  When they abuse drugs.

  When they hurt others.

Disapproving of these actions should be framed in a loving way if possible, such as, “I love you so much, it makes me so disappointed when you make bad choices.” It takes purposeful parenting to walk the fine line between approval and acceptance, but if you apply this correctly, you might even one day hear your kids say that famous phrase, “I want you to yell at me – just please don’t be disappointed!”

If you have a topic or question you’d like covered or simply want more information, e-mail Patrick Biron at