So, as many of you know, I just finished up my PhD. The final requirement is a research project and paper, which I studied an online format of the Child-Parent Relationship Therapy (CPRT) parent training. The results were amazing!
Interestingly, one of the measures of success for CPRT is levels of parental acceptance measured before and after the training. In other words, prior to the training parents are given an assessment to determine how much they accept their children. After the ten-week training, parents take the same assessment again and the scores are compared.
When I was writing up the results (which prove that an online version is just as effective for increasing parental acceptance as face-to-face!), I spent time looking into how parental acceptance was defined and measured. So, I realized what I need to do to express parental acceptance to my son, according to this assessment.
Here are the four ways that parental acceptance is defined and explained:
Respect for the child’s feelings and their right to express them.
In this case, an accepting parent is one who does “not become emotionally disturbed because the child expresses negative feelings. He realizes that such feelings need to be expressed for the maintenance of good mental health.”
Appreciation for the child’s uniqueness.
In this category, an accepting parent is one who “allows the child to be different from every other child and feels all right about it and accepts the child’s limitations.”
Recognition of the child’s need for independence and autonomy.
In this case, an accepting parent is one who “allows and encourages the child to become increasingly independent and does not resist the growth toward independence.”
In this category, an accepting parent is one who “offers support and love at all time – shares his child’s joys and sorrows; supports him in failures as well as successes.”
This was especially interesting to think about the things that I do already that communicate acceptance, and how play therapy principles align with truly accepting your child. The beauty of raising my son from a play therapy parenting approach is that he hears messages of acceptance in everyday interactions without me trying.
Here are some examples:
Respect for the child’s feelings is expressed in reflective responding.
“I know you like hitting the ball.”
“You are really frustrated right now.”
“That made you so excited!”
“You must feel really upset to be acting that way.”
Appreciation for the child’s uniqueness is expressed in encouragement.
“I wonder what you think you are good at.”
“You can do something else if you don’t like that activity.”
“You know a lot about XXX, other children know a lot about other things.”
Recognition of the need for independence is expressed in allowing the child to struggle.
“I know that you can figure it out on your own.”
“You aren’t giving up until you get it.”
“You are working hard.”
“Even though you are frustrated, you keep trying.”
Unconditional love is expressed in limit setting and choice giving.
“I know that you are angry, but people are not for hitting. You can choose to hit your pillow instead.”
“You can choose to speak kindly to tell me why you are mad or you can choose to write it down and let me read it.”
“If you choose to finish your homework, you choose to play outside before dinner. If you choose not to finish your homework, you choose to have no playtime outside before dinner. Which do you choose?”
I am so encouraged that play therapy gives me simple and effective ways to communicate that I accept my son NO MATTER WHAT. If he is not as skilled in an area as other kids, we celebrate his strengths. If he expresses his anger in hurtful words, the feelings are acceptable and acknowledged, we just discuss another way to communicate his frustration. If he doesn’t want my help on something, or if he does but I know that he can do it, I let him work through the problem on his own.
All of these techniques are rooted in my play therapy training. And I love that I can be assured that he hears messages of acceptance every day, without having to make an intentional effort to. I hope that you begin using some of these phrases with your children and that they understand just how much you love and accept them on a daily basis, too!