It’s been a bit of a wild ride for me lately. After nearly 30 years of adulting, I decided to go back to college. (Cue the “your mom goes to college” jokes.) And that’s meant some serious prep for the graduate entrance exam. As I’ve studied, I’ve paid particular attention to the possible essay questions and what they say about our society and the values we revere.
Here’s what I discovered.
Many questions focus on who is influencing our children. While some might argue that society, pop culture, and politics are molding the rising generation, I hold to a more traditional belief—that what happens in the White House (or the movie house, for that matter) isn’t nearly as important as what happens in your own house.
In other words, your influence on your children trumps every other outside force vying for their attention. When you are a good role model in your home, your children will learn how to navigate everything from belief in God to safe and effective technology use—one area Troomi Wireless knows well.
It’s all about finding ways to be a role model to your children.
How Do Positive Role Models Affect Us?
For teens, positive role models impact the decisions they make and the direction they face. According to Rachel Wise, a certified school psychologist and licensed behavior specialist, teens who look up to one or more positive role models have higher grades and self-esteem and are more likely to make smart choices regarding health and nutrition. She asserts, “Positive role models are also shown to decrease a youth’s potential for risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, sexual intercourse, and violence.”
It stands to reason, then, that as parents, we should strive to be positive role models to our children in our homes. With an active, hands-on approach to parenthood, we can encourage our kids to make good choices, especially through our positive examples.
But to be good role models, we need to practice what we preach because our kids are always watching.
Ways to be a Role Model to Your Children
How can you be a good role model in your family? The first step is to evaluate your own behavior. For better or worse, our kids accurately mirror us. They do what we do, say what we say, and behave as we behave. If we want them to behave in a certain way, then we have to behave that way ourselves.
But what do role models teach us? More importantly, how can we be the role models our kids need? Here are a few things a good role model can teach others, especially if the people you are trying to influence are the children in your own home.
Handle mistakes graciously.
Even the most seasoned parents make mistakes, both in parenting and in other interpersonal relationships. When we are quick to apologize, either to our children or others, our kids recognize that mistakes are part of the learning and growing process. They also learn that offering an apology isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of growth, strength, and self-awareness.
Ask for help.
There is no shame in seeking and accepting help. Rather, those who admit a need for help are more likely to succeed because they are using all available resources. Teach your kids to seek out help from experts.
Deal with frustration calmly.
Nothing is more frustrating, at times, than parenthood. Trust me, I know. But it can also be the most rewarding experience of our lives. When frustrations arise, handle them calmly. Then when toilets overflow (don’t ask!) or a little milk gets spilled, your kids will follow your lead and react calmly to an otherwise difficult situation.
Be a problem solver.
Kids sense panic. No one is expected to have all the answers to every problem. But when challenges arise, you can model problem-solving responses. Teach your kids how to live within a budget, work through a tricky carpool schedule, or learn how to use a YouTube video to change the spark plugs in the car.
Navigate conflict effectively.
This world is filled with contention. You don’t have to look further than your TV or your phone to find bitter disagreements. And sometimes those conflicts bleed into our everyday lives, even entering the refuge of our own homes. Show your kids how to resolve conflict through listening, seeing things from a different perspective, and giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. Your kids will take their conflict resolution cues from you.
Our kids notice how we feel and act about ourselves. Therefore, show them proper self-care. Get enough sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Keep your living space safe and clean. As you make yourself a priority (without becoming egocentric), your kids will reflect that behavior on themselves.
Treat others with kindness.
How you treat others, both in person and from a distance, impacts how your children see and respond to the world. For example, do you allow others to enter your lane when you drive? Do you smile at strangers at the store? Do you hold doors for others at an event? Each small act of kindness we extend to others teaches our children to be kind as well.
When your children talk to you, listen carefully. Lecture less and hear more. Try to understand what they are not saying as much as what they are saying. When they speak, focus on them instead of formulating your response. When you listen, they will learn the value of listening for themselves.
Keep the World Outside
The voices of the world are incessant. But don’t let them intimidate you. Make your relationship with your kids a priority. Spend time with them. Share your thoughts with them. Do the things they like to do. Teach them the lessons that are important to you. And most importantly, model the behaviors you want them to emulate. As you do these things consistently, your influence in the home will overshadow the outside noise and you can be the most important role model in your children’s lives.