Why not try to be your children’s most influential role model? It’s not as difficult as it sounds.
The first role models children have from a very young age are their parents. They watch what we do and mimic our actions so that they can learn the skills they need to survive and grow.
They may not need as much guidance after they’ve mastered the basic elements of living but in navigating the tricky road of life they still need role models to help them along the way.
The truth is that children of all ages need someone to look up to. That’s why many of them choose athletes or rugby players, while others prefer to idolise rock stars or actors. Unfortunately, these heroes on the movie screen or the playing pitch are often not the best models to follow when it comes to living a healthy and wholesome life. Even the most successful musician can be arrested for possession of illegal drugs and the best golfer in the world can be found out to be living a double life.
That’s why it’s important that parents set good examples for their children early on and show them that just because someone has a hit song on the radio it doesn’t mean they should model their lives on them.
You can be your children’s own role model. It’s not that difficult.
The best place to start is by continuing to unconditionally love and accept your children as they grow and develop. That doesn’t mean you don’t provide discipline and direction when they stray. It just means that you let them know that, no matter what, you will always love them. This is an important step to maintaining your connection with your children as their friends and peer groups become bigger influences in their lives.
Secondly, you can model good behaviours, like living a healthy lifestyle featuring prevention and moderation. That certainly includes not using illegal drugs, but it should also mean having a healthy diet and plenty of regular exercise. You have to remember that children watch not only what we say but monitor what we do. If you want your children to follow your lead, you have to practice what you preach.
Another area where parents can model good behaviour is in their interaction with others, starting in your own family and then extending out into the community. If you are kind and courteous within the family circle, then you can ask your children to be the same; and if you show each family member respect, then you can ask for and expect this respect to be returned.
Respect is a very important element of being a role model and while parents often demand this of their children, you cannot make them respect you. You have to earn it through your actions and behaviour.
Within the broader community, your children will notice if you are helpful to your neighbours and if you give back to the community. They also notice which parents volunteer for school trips and who sign up to help coach the soccer or netball team at school. These examples of giving back are easy ways to gain the trust and admiration of not just your children but their friends and schoolmates whose opinions also matter a great deal when it comes to selecting role models.
In the end, parents are only human and even as we strive to be good role models we may sometimes stumble and make mistakes ourselves. When we do, it gives us another opportunity to teach our children how to behave in the world by admitting we made a mistake, by apologising and by trying to make amends to anyone we may have hurt in the process. These are the things that children remember and by showing good grace under pressure we give them another great reason to continue having their parents as their life-long role models.
The best place to start is by continuing to unconditionally love and accept your children as they grow and develop. That doesn’t mean you don’t provide discipline and direction when they stray. It just means that you let them know that, no matter what, you will always love them.
By Mike Martin