The first thing I would ask you is whether you’re a perfectionist – and hard on yourself as well. And the reason I ask is because accepting others for who they are begins with self-acceptance. It’s common for people to be oblivious to the fact that they have yet to fully embrace themselves, faults, qualities and all. Perhaps it may help you to think about whether you avoid situations where you may fail, or where you won’t be in control. These are warning signs that you hang on to a way of believing how things ‘should’ be, rather than accepting them the way they are.
Mind you, acceptance is NOT passivity. It doesn’t mean you don’t take action. Quite the contrary. When you accept things, AND have hope, you become empowered for action. When you don’t accept things, you fight against reality – and when you don’t have hope, you give up.
So how do you accept and work towards change? Notice the Good.
So for example, when you catch yourself comparing your sons to other boys, become aware of the fact that you’re comparing, and bring greater balance to the situation by focusing on 1-3 good things about your sons, however small they may appear to be. Are they kind, creative, organized… Beware of perfectionism – don’t discard their positive qualities or abilities because they don’t meet your standards. In fact, let you sons know what you admire about them, so they make it part of their identity. Remember, our children rise up to whatever label we place on them. You call them irresponsible, and they’ll become so. You call them uncaring, and they’ll steadily stop being loving.
Once you’ve created this warm and accepting environment in your home, you can gently talk to them about what they can do to grow and improve. But please don’t rush into this. If you’ve been critical for a long time, first let the trust develop by making home a place of love, warmth and acceptance. I’ve seen enough clients who grew up without this – and how they suffer with low self-worth for the rest of their lives.
When you do get to the stage of nurturing the desire to rise to their best selves, let them lead the way. Don’t tell them what you want, but ask them to think of what and who they would like to become based on their values, opportunities, talents etc. We’re all hard wired to want to grow and improve, and as parents the best thing we can do is provide the right environment of acceptance for this to happen.
One final word of warning – it takes time to change old habits. Begin right now and be consistent in your efforts. There will be moments when you’ll react and that’s normal. Just be kind to yourself and remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can. This is how you will provide yourself with the acceptance you need to overcome your weaknesses and self-transform. All the best!