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What are you teaching your children?

Mother's Day is Sunday, May 12. [File art/Metro Creative Connection]
Mother's Day is Sunday, May 12. [File art/Metro Creative Connection]

Mother’s Day is celebrated in May. Father’s Day in June.

Parents matter. The most important gift they give their children is a sense of self-worth. The message comes in many ways — time spent together, nonverbal messages, or by the example of the adults as they relate to themselves and others.

The gift of time: Years ago Pam Olson Vennerberg shared with me how she started the day when her two daughters were young. “I would wake them, feed them breakfast and head for the outdoors first thing in the morning while everyone was fresh. I’d say let’s go look for some adventure. It’s out there but we have to go and find it.”

They would spend two or three hours walking and exploring. She would let them take the lead and be curious. It may have looked like play, but the mother was giving them a positive sense of themselves and the ability to make decisions.

Non-verbal messages: How can you make sure your child knows you really love him? When he enters the room does your face light up? Or does your face say your shoes are untied again!”

Adult examples: When my granddaughter Aly was 8 years old, I asked her to tell me about her school friends. She described each one with such detail I could understand why she liked them, so to keep the conversation going, I asked her to describe her father and mother.

“My father is nice, generous, follows rules, loves children, looks people in the eye, smiles at them when they talk and is silly, fun and helpful. My mother is happy, nice, helpful and loving. She enjoys swimming, reading and laughing. She really likes to introduce me to people! And my mother loves her life!”

What are you teaching the children in your life?

Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at