When I grow up, I want to be just like you.
Has your child ever said this to you?
It’s a bittersweet statement for a parent to hear. On the one hand, it’s touching to have your child look up to you in this way; on the other, being a role model comes with great responsibility.
Children learn as much, if not more from your actions as they do from your words.
Role models come in all shapes and sizes; they do all kinds of jobs; they come from any country or city. Some children view athletes as their role models; other children look up to authors or scientists. And, believe it or not, many children see their parents as role models.
All too often, parenting behavior is guided by adults reacting to their own childhoods; that is, many parents think: I don’t ever want to be like my parents; or it was good enough for me, so it’s good enough for my kids. Remember that reacting instead of responding prevents you from making decisions that can change the outcome of a situation. To be a more effective, consistent, active, and attentive parent, it’s best to focus on your children and their lives.
Does this mean that you have to be perfect so your child will grow up to be perfect, too? Of course not. No one is perfect. But, you do need to figure out what kind of example you are setting for your child.
You may want to be the kind of role model who does the following:
Children are great copycats. 1,3,14Have you ever said a curse word in front of your child, only to hear him or her repeating that word later (usually at the worst possible time)? Kids are highly imitative, with both words and actions. If you are aggressive, your child may copy you to be aggressive, too. If you are very social, your child will probably be very social, too. Make sure you are a strong, consistent, and positive role model, to foster better behaviors in your child.
How parents act in their relationships with one another has a significant impact on child development. 2Regardless of the living arrangements, parents should consider their children when dealing with each other. Your child sees how you work through everyday issues and uses your interactions as the basis for his or her own behavior in relationships. The next time you interact with your spouse, ex-spouse, or significant other, ask yourself whether or not you are providing a positive example for your child. Do you want your child to act the same way you are acting with that person or another person? If not, you may want to reconsider your behavior.
How you feel affects your child. 6,9Your child tunes into your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. He or she can sense how you feel about something, even if your words say that you are feeling something different. So a negative reaction or outburst from your child may not be without reason. It could be your child’s way of telling you how you feel.