Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tolerance vs Acceptance

My daughter, who will be 14 next week, pointed out today that one of the creators of the TV show Glee said that the show is about tolerance, when he should have said it is about acceptance. Acceptance of self and others. Accepting our children for the people they are, instead of trying to make them into the people we imagined they would be, is something I have mentioned before. Our children's first experience with acceptance should be at home, from their family. Our children also need to see our acceptance of ourselves. This can be hard. We may not have grown up feeling accepted by our family and we may struggle with knowing and accepting who we are as adults. If that is the case, then we need to model the journey to self-acceptance for our children. Through us, our children also learn to be accepting of others. Just being tolerant is not good enough for ourselves, our children or our world.

Accepting our children as they are, for who they are, unconditionally, is vital if they are going to grow up to be healthy adults who live authentically, following their passions, secure in who they are. I feel it is incredibly urgent that we remind all parents of the importance of accepting children in light of the four suicides of gay teens in our country this month. These teens were not accepted. They were bullied. Many teens are bullied but they don't all commit suicide. What makes a difference? Family acceptance is a pretty good place to start.

"Higher rates of family rejection were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes. On the basis of odds ratios, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection. Latino men reported the highest number of negative family reactions to their sexual orientation in adolescence."

Accept your children unconditionally. If there is something about one of your children that makes acceptance challenging admit that this is your problem. Get the help you need so that you can get over your issues and start being the parent they need and deserve. You child came into this world a very special person, find joy sharing life's journey with that person. If you are just tolerating your children you need to figure out what is getting in the way of acceptance. If you have rejected a child you may both need help if your relationship is going to get to a place of connection, trust and acceptance.

My heart goes out to the families affected by these suicides. I don't know the relationship they had with their children and I am not implying that these deaths are their fault. These deaths are the result of our flawed society. We must all step up and embody acceptance in our communities. Accept your children, accept their friends, let them know just how amazing you think they are. Practice acceptance until it flows through your life. Acceptance isn't just a nice idea, it can be a matter of life or death.


  1. I've been thinking about acceptance lately, as well. The word has figured a lot in a few conversations with parents who are trying different means to make their children "fit". I love what you've written here, and it makes me think about the meaning of another word -- "appreciate". 1)to recognize the full worth of. 2)be grateful for.

  2. Laura,
    I really appreciate your comment :). It is easy to get busy w/ life and forget to appreciate our children. Thanks for reminding me to stop and think of the things that I appreciate about each one.