A role model is a person who serves as an example by influencing others. In other words, a role model is a person whose behavior is imitated by other people.
There are role models who engage in positive and constructive actions and there are those who have bad habits that can be transferred to anyone who admires that person.
Children who have good, strong role models to follow have a better chance of developing a positive lifestyle.
Children look up to a variety of role models to help shape how they behave in school, relationships, or when making difficult decisions. Children also look up to other relatives, teachers, coaches, and peers.
They may try to copy the behavior and appearance of celebrities, such as athletes and entertainers, and characters from books, TV, movies, or video games.
But the most important person to help shape your child’s life is you.
Why Be A Role Model?
Weather you know it or not you are always teaching your child something either by your words or actions.
Andy Rooney once said “I’ve learned… that the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.“
Robert Kiyosaki adds’’ poverty is learnt at home. Middleclass is learnt at home and wealth is also learnt at home.
Parents are not superhuman, but they have a powerful impact on young children who are watching their every move. Positive actions by role models create positive habits in children that cannot be learned in the classroom.
Leo Buscaglia said “The best students come from homes where education is revered: where there are books, and children see their parents reading them.“
Role modeling is one of the most powerful tools you have in your parenting tool belt to influence the direction of your children’s character, whatever their age.
When used to best advantage, you can pass on the values you want your children to adopt so that they become the adults you would like them to be.
How To Be A Role Model
Being a positive role model actually requires effort, fore-thought, and self-control for most parents.
Because your children are watching you all the time, your actions, beliefs, and attitudes become integrated into your children’s way of being; therefore, it is very important that you be very intentional about what behaviors you model for your children.
Being aware of this huge responsibility can encourage you to better yourself: for example, if you do not want your child to smoke, then one of the most effective ways you can communicate that is to quit smoking yourself or not start in the first place.
Here are few things you can do to become a good role model:
Walk the Talk
Unfortunately for parents, the saying “Do as I say, not as I do” simply does not work. Children can sniff out hypocrisy like a blood hound, and they gain the most from parents who demonstrate consistency between their actions and their values by “walking the talk.”
If you don’t want your children to lie to get out of going to school by feigning illness, then you best not lie about taking a “sick” day from work.
If you don’t want your children to spend excessive time on technology devices, you have to limit your use of the same devices.
Kids respect adults who live by the rules they preach. Hypocrisy disillusions children and sends them looking for alternative role models to follow.
Review your Own Behavior and Attitudes
Model through your own actions. For example, consider how you:
- handle stress and frustration
- respond to problems
- express anger and other emotions
- treat other people
- deal with competition, responsibilities, loss, mistakes
- celebrate special occasions
- take care of yourself (what you eat, how much you exercise, balance your commitments)
Model through your Words
Your children are not only watching you carefully for clues about how to be; they are also listening to you. The way you speak, what you speak about, and the opinions you express will influence their values.
Consider how you speak to them, your spouse, your friends and neighbors, the check-out person at the grocery store.
- Do you model respect of others through your words and tone of voice?
- Do your words indicate respect for differences and tolerance toward all people or do they subtly support lack of acceptance for others different from yourself?
- Do you “bully” your children with harsh words and threats when they misbehave, or do you respond with discipline based on respect for your children’s humanity?
Focus on Positives You Can Model for your Children
Ask yourself what kind of people you want your children to become, and then consider what you can do to model the behaviors and attitudes that would reflect that kind of person. This is another way of saying that it is helpful for you to examine your own values.
For example, do you want your children to:
- develop a strong work ethic?
- have a generosity of spirit?
- have courage?
- stand up for their beliefs?
- be kind and considerate?
- be patient?
- be diligent and persistent?
- be assertive?
- be a contributing member of society?
- take good care of their bodies?
- be open to new learning? To find pleasure in reading?
If you wish for these traits in your children, then do these things yourself!
Build Strong Relationships with your Children
You will be a larger influence in your children’s lives if you have a warm and nurturing relationship with them, and your children are more likely to emulate you if they feel close to you and supported by you.
- Give them unconditional love in a safe environment that also provides consistent, firm, and flexible discipline so they know what is expected of them.
- Listen to them without judgment when they are upset. Share your own feelings with them so they get to know you; share some of your choices and decision-making as examples to guide them.
- Find ways to have fun with them, to share interests, to enjoy one another’s company (preparing a meal, discussing a TV show, playing sports together, etc.).
Build a connection with them based on trust so they know they can count on you when they need you, and so that they learn to be trustworthy in return.
Be Forgiving of Mistakes
Nobody is perfect – neither you nor your children. That means that mistakes will be made. What is most important when mistakes are made is the way you handle the situation.
When you or your children or someone else makes an error:
- are you unforgiving or accepting?
- do you deal calmly with the situation to resolve it or do you berate the perpetrator?
- do you get angry and look for someone to blame or do you assess what has gone wrong and consider what can be learned to avoid a repetition?
If you make a mistake
If you make a mistake by doing something that you later regret, you can use that as an opportunity to show your children how to handle errors in judgment by:
- acknowledging the misstep.
- accepting responsibility for your part in it.
- apologizing to any hurt parties.
- finding ways to make amends.
- thinking about what you can do next time so you don’t repeat the error.
These steps are all part of a healthy process of reacting when you mess up. This is the same process you can use if you respond to your children in a way that you later regret.
If your children make a mistake
- let them know that mistakes are opportunities for learning and that nobody is perfect.
- help them to go through the steps outlined.
- have a forgiving and responsible attitude toward making mistakes.
Modeling through your Actions
Your children will see you living these lessons if you are kind to yourself when you make a mistake and if you are accepting of them when they do.
Additionally, if you address problems and conflicts in your own life (such as trying to lose weight or dealing with a difficult neighbor) and share the process with your children in an age-appropriate way, you can encourage your children to address their concerns similarly.
You are modeling for your children an approach to life that includes on-going growth, learning, improvement, and development. What a great life lesson for your kids to learn.
It takes so much pressure off them (they don’t have to be perfect) because you have modeled for them how to treat themselves and others when the inevitable mess-ups happen. What a hopeful and optimistic attitude to pass on to your kids!
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The way you act and the kind of model you offer your children can maximize the chances your kids will grow up with good consciences and well-developed moral reasoning skills.
The right kind of modeling can influence how much empathy your child will end up feeling and showing in later life.
The chances of your children growing up to be altruistic – to be willing to act for the benefit of others, even when there are no tangible rewards involved – are better depending on the kinds of role models children grow up with.
Good role models can make lifelong impressions on children, regarding how to act in the difficult situations that they will inevitably face in life.