It sounds quite simple. When we feel good about ourselves and possess a strong sense of self worth, we expect good things from ourselves.

If you consider yourself a kind and caring person, you will be kind and caring. If you think you are honest and ethical, you will hold yourself to those high standards. If you believe you are ambitious and creative, you will work hard to achieve your goals. If you have confidence in yourself, you will not be afraid to pursue your dreams, to take risks, and to reach out to others.

Unfortunately, a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-worth is not something everyone can readily acquire. A great deal of how we feel about ourselves is determined by circumstances early in our life. Probably the most important of these is the presence of a loving family, whether it's a large extended family, a single parent, a single relative -- aunt, uncle, or grandparent, or a caring mentor.

The foundation of a healthy sense of worth comes from knowing you are loved and respected, and that others believe in you, expect good things from you, and have high expectations for you. A child needs to experience the trust that comes from properly balanced oversight and supervision with childhood independence, probably one of the hardest tasks for a parent. Obviously there are exceptions to this, but it is difficult to overcome the effects of childhood experiences that hinder the development of a healthy sense of self-worth.

It is important that children know that good things are expected of them. I am not advocating extravagant, unwarranted praise and recognition. Overindulgence is not the answer. There are reasonable, common sense ways of helping children develop healthy self-esteem without resorting to extreme measures.

Low self-esteem fosters insecurity, and both are comfortable resting places for resentment, anger, hate, racism, and bigotry and can easily set a low standard of personal behavior. If you do not feel good about yourself, it is difficult to expect good things from yourself. The tragedy of this is that it is easily passed on to the next generation, making it hard to break the cycle. The ultimate responsibility rests on the parents and family of young children. It is the character of the parents, not their education, wealth, or socio-economic status, that plays a major role in determining a child's future.

Doing the right thing for our children is not an easy task, and there will always be circumstances over which we have no control. Complicating this are the times when the "right thing" is not easy to define, as well as the increasing exposure to influences from the digital world beyond the home. Fortunately when we make our best effort, the odds for a good outcome are in our favor.

I realize I'm simplifying a complex issue, where numerous factors are involved in the development of one's personal character, but with all complex issues, we have to start somewhere.

I believe the single most important gift we can give to our children to prepare them for the life that awaits them in this rapidly changing world is a secure sense of self-esteem and self worth.

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