radical acceptance

Radical Acceptance – Parenting with DBT: A Series on Effective Parenting Strategies

You’re so sick of saying the same things.

“Marco, pick up your socks.”

“Vanessa, stop hitting your brother.”

“Monique, put down your phone and do your homework.”

Sometimes, you sound like a broken record, complaining about the same things your child is or isn’t doing. 

And the truth is, you just can’t take it anymore. The fighting, the whining, the monitoring, the complaints, the begging to get things done – it’s all so frustrating and exhausting.

It should be different.

What is Radical Acceptance?

Radical acceptance, as discussed by Marsha Linehan, the founder of DBT, is about “accepting life on life’s terms.” As those who study or practice Buddhism can attest, the pain we experience in life is inevitable. There is death, loss, divorce, health issues, and daily frustrations and disappointments. However, we create suffering (including anxiety and depression) when we choose not to accept all of these realities, when we bump up against them and maintain a narrative that whatever it happening shouldn’t be. Radical Acceptance is a distress tolerance skill (from the Distress Tolerance module in DB T), meaning it’s a skill we can use when struggling. It helps us accept reality and problem-solve from that point forward.

Radical Acceptance and Parenting

Yes, things would be easier if your children listened the first time you said something. And yes, there might be other families with more peaceful interactions. But this is your family and these are your interactions.

Accept first. Radical acceptance doesn’t mean you have to like or approve of the situation. It just means you accept it. Acceptance put us in a frame to problem-solve. We problem-solve effectively what is, not what we wish something to be.

Here’s an example: 

Marianna was so frustrated with how long it took her daughter, Emmy, to get ready for school in the morning. Emmy knew how to put on her clothes, brush her teeth, and pack her bag, but she dawdled. Marianna found herself hounding Emmy each morning, “Let’s go!” to no avail. Emmy should be able to do this more quickly she thought. And she kept bumping into this expectation, which set her up for disappointment and frustration. But all of the “shoulds” in the world weren’t helping. She had to digest what was rather than what should be. It wasn’t until Marianna realized that despite what Emmy was capable of, for some reason, she wasn’t able to execute. Marianna accepted this. And then she started problem-solving. She knew that Emmy had a competitive streak, so one morning, Marianna staged a “Getting Ready for School Olympics” where Emmy could compete for gold in different events (dressing, eating breakfast, brushing her teeth). Emmy sailed through her morning routine, enjoying the mock competition. 

If Marianna hadn’t accepted the reality that Emmy was having trouble, she would have continued to get frustrated by the time delays and continued to bump heads with her daughter. It was only when she accepted the problem that she moved into problem solving, which made mornings more peaceful for Emmy and herself.

Now, how can you incorporate Radical Acceptance as a parenting skill?

More Help with DBT

If you want help learning and integrating Radical Acceptance and other DBT skills for parenting and beyond, DBT therapy might be right for you. There you’ll learn a whole host of skills that can help reduce suffering, parent more effectively, and create a life worth living.

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