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Bring Out the Best in Your Child & Yourself

Carissa Dollar
Indianapolis IN USA
Report on a session from the 2003 LLLI Conference
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 5, September-October 2003, pp. 180

How can we relate better to our children? How can we do a better job of staying cool when they are pushing our buttons? How can we achieve an attitude of mutual respect with our children? The first step is to accept two very basic principles.

  • Principle One: children have an innate drive to express their best selves-to develop their highest potential.
  • Principle Two: children depend on us to help them.

Once we have embraced these basic ideas, we must explore our own "three Levels of Self," according to Ilene Val-Essen, author of Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Yourself and creator of the Quality Parenting program. This will help us recognize how we sometimes "lose-it" and help us to remain calm and centered when we are under stress.

First, there is the Lower Self. The Lower Self is a person's least evolved self. The Lower Self suffers from low self-esteem, often behaves in a robot-like fashion, behaves predictably but not productively, and is motivated by instincts and drives.

The Centered Self is a person's competent self and enjoys high self-esteem. The parent who is in the Centered Self knows herself and recognizes personal rights and needs of herself and her children. She thinks before acting, pays attention to her own behavior, and makes changes when necessary. She has effective interpersonal skills.

The Higher Self is when we are at our highest and best. The Higher Self enjoys ultra-high self-esteem, experiences meaning and purpose in life, helps others learn and grow, acts competently even under the most difficult circumstances, and recognizes the highest and best in others.

As we examine these three levels of self, we must each ask ourselves, "What is that part of myself that most interferes with a positive relationship with my child?" It may help to get creative at this point and draw a picture of our Lower Self. We must each get to know our sub-personality. How does it look and act? How does it feel? How does it think? Suggest giving the sub-personality a name, such as "Frenzied Franny." Recognizing the characteristics of our Lower-Self and knowing when we may slip can help us turn things around.

Ilene recommends the following three-step process to parents:

1. Recognize the Lower-Self.

2. Cross the bridge to the Centered-Self.

3. Express the Centered-Self.

In order to find our Centered-Self, Ilene believes we must each develop and strengthen our own will to remain calm and centered in times of stress. Attitude is a point of view, which is shown both verbally and non-verbally. Non-verbal communication is most important when we relate to our children because 93 percent of what most people pay attention to is non-verbal. Parents need to stay aware of their own verbal and non-verbal reactions in order to foster an attitude of mutual respect with their children. It may help for us to keep in mind that children are as unhappy with their Lower-Self behavior as we are. We need to realize that when our children are in their own Lower-Self, it is really a cry for our help. Unfortunately, when our children slip into their Lower-Self, we often slip into a similar place along with them. We must learn to realize we have a choice in how we behave. This will help us raise children with high self-esteem who can be in their Centered-Self more often.

Some parents may find relaxation exercises helpful in crossing the bridge to the Centered-Self. Ilene recommends finding a comfortable sitting position and closing your eyes before performing the following exercise three times.

Step 1: Inhale slowly for six counts. Breathe in slowly as you visualize lifting tension from your solar plexus in an imaginary elevator. Raise this energy up to your loving heart and then into your wise head.

Step 2: Hold your breath for eight counts. Imagine the energies from your heart and head fusing and filling your head with love and wisdom.

Step 3: Exhale for six counts. Allow the energy of loving wisdom to radiate forth from you, filling the room with calm and tranquility.

Step 4: Pause for eight counts. Affirm what you did: raising tension from your solar plexus through the loving heart and wise head to create the energy of loving wisdom.

When you have crossed the bridge to your Centered-Self, then you may find it easier to express your thoughts and feelings appropriately. It helps to water the flowers and not the weeds, recognizing the positive things our children do each day. If we constantly support them for their positive behavior using assertive appreciation it will be easier to set limits and let them know when things aren't working well for us.

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