Effective Parenting

Screaming for Unconditional Love and Acceptance


By Chris Abatelli, LMHC, LPC
LCC Youth and Family Counselor



As parents, or anyone who interacts with children/teens, we want to have the best intentions for the children in our lives.  However, it does not always go the way we planned.  Kids do end up finding their own way and growing, but we must be careful not to force what we want.  I think one of the best movies that can model the need for love and acceptance is the Disney movie ‘Brave’ (spoiler warning).   Here, we have a young girl, Merida, wanting to have her own independence and her ability to create her own fate.  At least, that’s what she thought she wanted, as most kids do.  The movie also follows her parents who want the best for their child.  They did not understand their daughter and thought what they had planned was right.  Both parents did what they thought best instead of connecting with their child.  A series of different and crazy events occurred: mom being turned into a bear, both lost hope, BOTH had to change, grow, and connect with each other.   This does not give us permission to let our kids do whatever they want.  Instead, we should guide them with connection.  

Just like the main character in ‘Brave’, Merida wanted to be understood, heard, but, more importantly, receive unconditional love and acceptance from her parents to create her own path.  I think all children want this, not just from their parents but from other leaders in their life.  Being a parent myself, it is hard to guide my children in the right direction; however, I realize that what makes things better is connection, not judgment.   Connection helps kids not just grow into productive healthy human beings, but also with their relationship with Christ. I have known parents and leaders who have refused to connect and listen to the youth in their lives, instead being judgmental and insisting on forcing their plans for the youth. This often results in the youth’s resentment, disobedience and rejection of the parents’ or leaders’ values.  Connection starts through empathy and compassion. Theresa Wiesman, a nursing scholar, recognized that there are four main qualities that show empathy:   

  • Perspective taking – Understanding the person’s point of view and validating their feelings. Validating somebody’s feelings does not mean you agree with them.  You just acknowledge what they have experienced. 
  • Stay out of judgment -This can be very hard because it can be easier to judge.
  • Recognizing emotion in another person – Can we identify the emotion and relate to the person?  If we can’t relate to an emotion, can we relate to confusion in our kids?
  • Being able to communicate that understanding back to the other person. 

The best way to define compassion is the desire to help someone and/or walk with them in their struggle. Again, this does not mean you agree with them, but you must walk through the problem with them. You cannot have compassion without empathy. Even if we don’t know what to say, try this: “I don’t know exactly what you are feeling or going through, but I do know how it feels be confused.  I know that it hurts and is scary.  I am here to listen and, if you want, I can give you my opinion or are my thoughts.” This idea of asking permission gives the youth the opportunity and power to ask for help and guidance.   As parents, we may need to change our behavior if we want our children to change theirs. I know you have heard these words:  model the behavior you want.

Chris Abatelli provides secure telehealth counseling sessions for young adults, adults, teens and families. Please see Chris’s bio here: https://lccny.org/chris-abatelli/ For an appointment, call LCC at 1-800-317-1173 or e-mail us at https://www.LCCNY.org