Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Virtual Book Tour: Quality Parenting

Today we are delighted to welcome Dr. Ilene Val-Essen to our Virtual Book Tour. She is a parent educator and the author of Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self. In three easy steps, Ilene teaches parents how to prevent and solve problems with mutual respect. Why don't you read on and see for yourself?

Nourishing Relationships: What is the purpose of the book?

Ilene Val-Essen: Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Yourself helps parents create a family environment based on mutual respect. As we bring out the best in each child, we inevitably discover the best within ourselves.

N R: Why did you write the book?

Ilene: As a parenting instructor I discovered that attitudes are even more important than the effective communication skills that most parenting books focus on. I wanted to help parents recognize those attitudes that bring out the best in their children and those that invite resistance and rebellion. Most importantly, I knew that family life could be so much easier and I wanted to help parents shift their attitudes so that they could enjoy a family based on mutual respect.

N R: What makes the book unique?

Ilene: One aspect of the book’s uniqueness is the deep respect it models for our children’s yearning to be their best. The book accepts that this drive for growth is a core part of our children’s very being, a part of their nature. While the book acknowledges this spiritual component, it offers practical, proven techniques to encourage cooperation, independent and responsible behavior.

Another aspect is how the book views difficult behavior—our children’s and our own. This challenging behavior is viewed as a cry for help: an ineffective attempt to meet a legitimate need. As parents learn to meet their needs, they’re better prepared to help their children meet theirs.

N R: The book is organized around a 3-Step Process. What is it?

Ilene: The Three-Step Process offers parents a system they can rely on to solve and prevent problems with mutual respect. The first step helps us recognize when we’re “off center”—stressed, upset, overwhelmed or angry. When we’re not at our best, it’s tough on our kids. We can’t help a child, teen or grandchild become calm and centered until we’re there ourselves. Step two helps us let go of stress, to step back and become calm. The final step helps us to become centered: to adopt the attitudes and model the effective skills of mutual respect.

N R: What do you mean when you tell parents to “water the flowers, not the weeds”?

Ilene: It sounds quite silly to imagine watering the weeds in our gardens, when it’s the flowers that we want to grow. Too often, we give our children attention for behavior we want to discourage, rather than acknowledging the behaviors that we want to encourage. What we feed naturally grows!

N R: For what age child would this book be most helpful and what will women gain by reading it?

Ilene: Whether parenting toddlers, children or teens, the book promises that family life can be so much easier.

Imagine spending less time:
• Feeling overwhelmed or exhausted
• Repeating yourself or nagging
• Yelling or screaming
• Playing referee

• Imagine spending more time:
• Feeling calm and centered—even at difficult times
• Enjoying children and teens who are more cooperative and reasonable
• Preventing problems instead of rushing to solve them
• Living with mutual respect

Thanks so much, Ilene, for introducing us to your unique approach. Readers, whether you're concerned your kids or helping out with your grandkids, click here for more information about Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self, Ilene and the work she does.

We’re also grateful to all who have dropped by - and now it's your turn. If you have questions for Ilene or want to share your ideas, please click on "Comments" at the bottom right-hand corner of this post. Just follow the prompts - we want to hear from you!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the idea of mutual respect. Could you tell me a little more about what you mean by the term?

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love my kids so much but with the stress of work and not enough money I hardly ever have the energy to bring my best self to the situation. help!!!! Connie

7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a single mom, divorced a year ago, and my 15 year old son is driving me nuts. He never sees his dad, is mad at me even though his dad is the one who wanted out. No matter what I say or how I try to comfort him, he shuts me out. I don't have the money to see a therapist but it keeps getting worse. Do you have any ideas?

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your interest.
Mutual respect reflects the understanding that "We treat each other with equal respect." Our age and experience are not equal, but we can see each other as equally worthy of respect.

The simplest way to think of it is to remember the golden rule:
Treat your children as you would want to be treated.
Teach your children to treat you the same way.
Dr. Val-Essen

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Connie,

Thanks for your honesty.
I think your best self just poured out in your comment: "I love my kids so much." Just tell them what you shared with us.

Dr. Ilene Val-Essen

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Singe Mom,

VAL-ESSEN'S ANSWER TO 9:03 comment

The life of any 15 year old is not easy, as you already know. Not seeing his dad makes it more difficult. But you can help by using the skill conscious listening, which is described in my book, BRING OUT THE BEST IN YOUR CHILD AND YOUR SELF.

The purpose of conscious listening is to become a good facilitator--to support children in working through their own problems. The assumption is that children have their own answers and we can help them best by allowing them to sort through their many thoughts and feelings.

As we listen respectfully, without judgment or opinions, our children have an opportunity to peel through the many layers of their experience.

They may gain a better understanding of themselves and the problem. The process may also provide a new prospective and shed light and possible ways to begin to resolve their pain.

At minimum, they know we understand and accept the full range of their experience.

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what you said struck a chord - i seem to play referee most of the time. my children are both girls, 8and 10, competitive and fight a lot. how do I get out of it? beverly

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hi Mom,
You shared your best self beautifully by letting us know how much you love your children.

Let them know--as often as possible. No one ever tires of knowing they're loved.

Saying these three words not only takes very little energy, but also gives us a lot in return.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen my daughter-in-law "off center" and disrespectful with my grandkids many times but I'm afraid to say anything. Do you have any suggestions about how to get her to calm down herself so she can give their kids a better atmosphere in which to grow.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sibling rivalry drives parents right up the wall. The skill I mentioned previously--conscious listening--can help. You don’t have to play referee. You don’t have to figure out how to solve their problems. There are other options!

First, you do not have to do the familiar and put yourself right in the middle. Instead, step back and act as the witness: just comment on what you hear and what you observe. Acknowledge, without judgment, each
child’s experience.

Sometimes, simply acknowledging the situation allows a new idea to
emerge. Sometimes, it’s useful to invite the children to brainstorm.
The solutions children create often fall outside our radar screen.
That’s one reason we want to encourage them to come up with their own ideas. The other, of course, is that we want to support them to gain experience in problem solving. Have faith; they really can solve their own problems!

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think it’s wise not to say anything.

She probably already feels badly that she’s having a difficult time. One reason I wrote my book, Bring Out the Best in Your Children and Your Self, is because I discovered that even the most caring and capable parents “lose it” at times. Sooner or later, under stress, we all seem to go out of control and blow up or cave in.

In my Three-Step Process parents learn to recognize the triggers that set them off and how to calm themselves. They can then spend more time creating and enjoying a family environment based on mutual respect.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Nourishing Relationships said...

Thanks to our readers and Dr. Ilene Val-Essen! I know your questions resonated for many women and your answers, Ilene, were thoughtful and practical.
Phyllis and Rosemary

8:51 PM  
Blogger Arti said...

We hear talk of ‘strong family bonds and or ‘blood being thicker than water, yet we also hear of family or so-and-so being ‘the black sheep of the family’. So, exactly what does constitute the ideal family and family experience then? To get a real understanding of how family changes and influences our lives, do visit the blog at

12:01 AM  
Blogger michael said...

Parenting skills are developed and honed through the years. There is nothing wrong to follow the same parentings that are parents used on us.
effective parenting skills

12:20 AM  
Blogger Jersey Diva Mom said...

The point about communication when coming from a place of stress really resonates. My business has really sufferedthru the recession, and to have my older son hitting tween years while facing that stress has been a nightmare sometimes. It's a good reminderthat I need to center myself to keep communication open in this challenging phase in his life.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Nourishing Relationships said...

You're right, our stress colliding with the changes our kids are going through can result in overload. Being aware of what calms us down can make a huge difference. Going for a walk, talking with a friend, even counting to 10 can soothe an escalating situation.

8:27 PM  

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