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Helping Children to Love Themselves

If our emotions are a powerful current, we need a transformer.  By transformer, I don’t mean those toys that go from one shape to another.  Instead, I mean those boxes that hang on power poles.  Transformers are also found outside of large buildings and industrial sites.  Transformers take the incredible power surging through the utility lines and modify it so it matches the voltage needed for the situation. 

Most small businesses and residences use 110 volts to power our appliances and gadgets.  Large manufacturing plants can use thousands of volts in their industrial machinery, but even they will have an on-site transformer that makes sure the right amount of voltage is passed along, to either the little copier in the office or the big processor on the shop floor.  Different situations and different end uses require differing amounts of voltage.  It takes a transformer to handle all those differences, to make sure that the right amount of voltage is applied to any given device. 

Likewise, our children need to know how to make sure that the right type and amount of emotion is being applied to any given situation.  Too little creates an apathetic, pale response to life, and too much creates volcanic, caustic emotional states.  So, how does your child — or any of us, for that matter — know how to respond in just the right way to the myriad emotional cues and demands we encounter in our daily lives?  Rather than try to go into every possible emotion situation potentially experienced by your child, I’d like to suggest that you instead focus on teaching your child how to channel all of them through a single emotion. 

If I was to try to create some sort of a visual chart, with all the potential combinations of emotions, it would probably take up an entire wall.  After all, on any given day, your child can experience happiness, anxiousness, joy, disappointment, frustration, elation, satisfaction, relief, anger, or fear.  It seems to me that God says there’s one universal emotional transformer that can help your child stay emotionally balanced as he or she grows into adulthood.  When our complex emotional lives are routed through this transformer, we have power to perform and wisdom to respond.  That transformer is love. 

My goal as a parent is to help my children learn to recognize and regulate their own emotions, and read and respond to emotions of others.  Because I’m human and fallible, I need help to do this.  By using a template of love, I’m able to bring God’s power and wisdom to this task.  I want my children to love themselves.  When children learn to love themselves, they are given the security of exploring who they are.  They learn to understand their emotional makeup.  Once they recognize their emotions for what they are, they can begin to place those emotions under control.  They are able to regulate their own emotional responses in a way that neither devalues who they are for having those emotions, nor exploits emotional intensity. 

Our children need to love themselves and they need to learn to extend that love to others.  When children love others, they are empathetic.  Instead of reacting to others, they learn to respond by reading the emotional states of others.  They’re able to respond in a loving way to the people around them.  Love becomes the controlling authority, not how they are feeling.  This is emotional maturity.  With this maturity, they are able to apply the correct emotional response to any given situation.  They are emotionally buoyant and can land on their feet if their buttons are pushed.  They are emotionally intelligent and can discern the motives and desired behind the actions of others.  In this way, they can respond appropriately, especially when it requires they protect themselves against others. 

Help your children learn how to love themselves and each other.  Out of this, your family will become the school house when love is taught, modeled, discussed and tried out.  Your children will learn to channel their emotional lives through the transformer of love, and God will provide the right energy to power their emotional lives. 

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

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