HICKS: Five steps to take this year to become a better parent

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2. Stop parenting for certain behavioral outcomes and stop focusing on your child’s happiness. Instead, be sure you are teaching your children the values and skills that they will need to one day live without you.

“Life is not about pixie dust,” Ms. Borba said. “Parents today work too hard to make life easy for their kids and by doing this, they rob them of the skills to cope with difficulty. The goal is resiliency and independence, not ‘happiness’ in every day.”

3. Put self-esteem in proper balance; it’s not about self-centeredness.

“Imagine a scale with self-worth on one side, and competency on the other. If your child feels puffed up by praise, but does not have skills and competency, his self-esteem is not genuine,” Ms. Borba said.

The fix? Give children plenty of chances to practice self-reliance and resourcefulness.

“Every month, devise a lesson in self-sufficiency with age-appropriate doses of stress that are intended to give children opportunities for successful problem solving,” she said. “And remember the proverb: Never do for your child what he can do for himself.”

4. Ms. Borba sees America’s children internalizing the anxieties and fears of their parents.

“Our children deserve to be optimistic and positive,” she said. “Pessimism is bad for our kids and bad for our country.”

In 2013, she urges parents to chill out on negative media, expose children to positive news and help them develop a positive worldview.

5. Most important, focus on developing empathy in your child.

“Children are naturally empathetic from an early age,” Ms. Borba said. “But now we know through research that empathy is the first building block of moral character. In it are the seeds of moral conscience and goodness and the virtues of humanity. If you do nothing else to improve your parenting this year, teach your children that empathy matters most.”

Marybeth Hicks is the author of “Don’t Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid: Confronting the Left’s Assault on Our Families, Faith and Freedom.” Find her on the Web at http://marybethhicks.com.

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