By Dr. Maryann Rosenthal

Parents can do more than anyone else to promote a child’s self-esteem. Your words and actions have an enormous impact. But you must use good judgment and good timing.

Children who hear how great they are regardless of their behavior receive conflicting messages. So being overly lenient and passive based on the belief that to do otherwise would injure the kids’ self-esteem is a fool’s game.

On the other hand, a kid who is called responsible when he exhibits responsible behavior likely will end up as a responsible adult (providing his parents also model responsible behavior). In short, we can have a significant impact on—though not total
control over—who our children become.

Take charge of your own self-esteem too. Talk aloud about your feelings and the way you cope with problems. For instance, you might say, “This situation at work has been gnawing at me. I’m feeling a little blue. I think I’ll take a walk after dinner. Go to the park maybe. Then I’ll feel better.” That sends the message that individuals can have some control over how they feel and how they think about themselves.

Show your kid how you derive pleasure and satisfaction from refining your character, performing acts of kindness, taking responsibility for yourself, and seeking wisdom and truth.

Show her how you support right over wrong. Show her, for instance, by cheering as loudly for the person who visits the nursing home as for the quarterback who throws the winning pass.

Shower more kudos on the person who gets control over his emotions than he who fires off a nasty note or makes a sharp verbal thrust. Show her by supporting those who fight for a good, if losing, cause and those who do what’s ethical even if at great personal risk.

Show her by spending time on activities that have meaning and purpose, that really affect the world and the people in it. Celebrate not just warriors but peacemakers. Make as big a fuss about your kid’s acts of lovingkindness as you do about her A in math.

Dr. Maryann Rosenthal’s new book “Be A Parent Not a Pushover is available in bookstores everywhere. Dr. Maryann tells how to find a balance between loving your children and setting limits for them, to generate trust, confidence, resilience, and integrity.

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