Your children may or may not do as you say, but chances are they’ll do as you do. There’s no getting around it. You serve as a role model through your attitudes and behavior inside and outside the family. Just remember, someone impressionable is watching, listening and learning from your example.
Should you be flawless? Of course not. But show them your best self. You can use these practical tips as you teach your kids how to:
Solve problems. Children need to know how and why you make the choices that you do. They learn what you value every time you make the extra effort. Your decisions don’t only impact you, so talk to them when you consider your parents’ needs before your own, put money in their college fund, help out in the homeless shelter.
Care for themselves. What are some of your lifestyle choices for sleep, nutrition, fun? The habits you set for health, diet, exercise, smoking or drinking are regularly passed on. And your attitudes and interests will shape your kids’ experiences for years to come. You’ve heard it before, that ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’
Show respect. Do you sometimes take your partner for granted or step over co-workers in order to get ahead? Try to take the moral high ground by practicing how to apologize, forgive and express gratitude. When you model ethical decision-making and follow it up with appropriate behavior, you enhance your children’s understanding of how they can feel good about themselves and do the same for others.
Admit mistakes. Ever been caught swearing in traffic? Nobody’s perfect. Coming clean can have a powerful influence on your kids’ emotional growth. When you have a tough choice to make, allow them to see how you work through the problem, weight the pros and cons and come to a decision. By sharing your efforts to resolve conflict at work or calmly discussing family problems, they learn non-aggressive responses to stress, frustration or anger.
Think positive. Talk about your own role models growing up. Let your children observe you setting and reaching your goals. Introduce them to role models with admirable qualities who are working to make a difference. When you see them demonstrate praiseworthy characteristics, be sure to let them know. Teach them to continue striving for what they want while being happy with how far they’ve already come.
While your children are busy taking their cues from you, recognize that actions speak louder than words. Getting out of your comfort zone will challenge them to do it themselves. Your appreciating diversity will encourage your kids to accept differences, including their own. Let them know what you stand for and embrace your hopes and values. Live as if someone is watching, because they are.