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As most of the readers of my columns know by now, I was a single parent of three adorable children — two boys and one daughter. My children are far from perfect, but all have finished college and are doing quite well in their chosen careers. My two boys went into education and my daughter chose public relations. Raising my three children, I realized the important role that self-esteem had in ensuring their future happiness and success.

Our children’s lives are like pieces of paper on which every passerby leaves a mark, says a Chinese proverb. As parents, we worry about the marks and remarks made to our children. Will they be scarred for life? Will they bounce back? How will all these encounters affect their self-esteem and self-image?

Parents have more influence on their children than any of the other factors we sometimes worry about. The way we instill values, skills and esteem in their lives goes a long way in protecting them from negative influences. As parents, we must never forget that our job is to bring out the best in our children.

Parents can, in fact, motivate their children to have can-do attitudes and determination to turn life’s difficulties into challenges that can be overcome. This is done by allowing our children to develop their own interests and exposing them to new experiences and activities. In the process, our children inculcate the values we hold dearly and the standards that seem right and important to us. Even young children are old enough to have ideas about right and wrong and to make decisions based on standards that matter to them. A strong value system can help children refuse to smoke, drink and use other drugs, because it gives them a basis for weighing the facts.

Parents often fail to realize that they are models for their children. It is an established fact that children learn by what they see parents do and say. As such, we must speak confidently about ourselves and show appropriate ways to respond when others attempt to chip away at our self-image. When bad things happen, don’t criticize, instead, respond in a nurturing, sensitive manner and give your child choices on how to respond. Based on respect, love, and support, nurturing responses encourage self-responsibility.

As parents we give our children praise for efforts as well as accomplishments, but we must also assist them in setting realistic goals. If the child or the parent expects too much, the resulting failure can be a crushing blow to a child. A child may not know that his or her personal best can make you just as proud as winning a blue ribbon.

Discipline is a controversial topic when it comes to raising children. A parent must realize, however, that when our children disappoint us, we must criticize the action and not the child. Self-esteem boosting begins in the home. Outside influences do impact our children’s self-esteem, but we should never underestimate what a loving parent can do.

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