Parents can show acceptance of a child by not intervening in his activities. Take a child who is attempting to build sand castles at the beach. The parent who keeps away from the child and occupies himself with an activity of his own, permitting the child to make "mistakes" or create his own unique design for a castle (which will probably not be like the parent's design or, for that matter, may not even look like a castle)--that parent is sending a nonverbal message of acceptance.
The child will feel, "What I am doing is okay," "My castle building behavior is acceptable," "Mother accepts me doing what I am doing as of now."
Keeping hands off when a child is engaged in some activity is a strong nonverbal way of communicating acceptance. Many parents fail to realize how frequently they communicate nonacceptance to their children simply by interfering, intruding, moving in, checking up, joining in. Too often adults do no let children just be. They invade the privacy of their rooms, refusing to permit them a separateness. Often this is the result of parental fears and anxieties, their own feelings of insecurity.
Parents what children to learn ("Here's what a castle should really look like"). They are uncomfortable when children make a mistake ("Build the castle farther from the water so a wave won't topple the castle wall"). They want to be proud of their children's accomplishments ("Look at the perfect castle Cody made"). They impose on kids rigid adult concepts of right and wrong ("Shouldn't your castle have a moat?"). They have secret ambitions for their children ("You're never going to learn anything, building that thing all afternoon"). They are overly concerned about what others think of their children ("That's not as good a castle as you're capable of making"). They want to feel that their child needs them ("Let Daddy help"), and so on.
Thus, doing nothing in a situation when the child is engaged in an activity can communicate clearly that the parents accept him. It is my experience that parents do not permit this kind of "separateness" frequently enough. Understandably, a "hands-off" attitude comes hard.
At the first party that one of our daughters gave during her first year in high school, I remember feeling very rejected after being told by her that my highly imaginative and constructive suggestions for the entertainment of her guests were quite unwelcome. Only after recovering from my mild depression after being asked to stay out could I comprehend how I was communicating nonverbal messages on nonacceptance--"You can't give a good party by yourself," "You need my help," "I don't trust your judgment" "You are not being a perfect hostess," "You might make a mistake," "I don't want this party to be a failure," and so on.*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. book