Children spend a significant number of hours each day in school, but their most influential teachers are the adults in their homes.
Much of what children learn – and mimic – is based on what they see parents, guardians, even older siblings, do. At a very young age, it’s a simple game of peek-a-boo or repeating ABCs. As they get older, they’re likely to model parents’ attitudes and habits. A child’s attitude about school, for example, can be directly influenced by what his or her parents have to say about it. If school is something to endure, they will begrudgingly endure it. If it’s something to embrace, they will flourish.
Here are five ways to be a good role model:
Do as I do. If you want them to read, let them see you reading. If you want them to be interested in politics and history, read about those subjects. Share your observations and ask what they think about various topics. If you want them to make healthy choices, exercise and provide healthy snack and meal options.
Learn something new. Whether it’s a new recipe or a tae kwon do class, your children will be intrigued by the fact that you are trying something new. Let them know what you’re doing. Share your excitement – and tell them if you are a little nervous. They will see that even adults can be intimidated by trying something new. Given the opportunity, they are more likely to follow in your footsteps when they have the chance to try something new.
Approach learning with excitement. Show enthusiasm for learning – and for what they are learning. Sure, most of us don’t use algebra in everyday life. But the fact that they can grasp complex concepts should give them confidence about taking on what may seem like impossible challenges.
Be present with your child. If you ask your child how their day was then grab your cell phone (which is vibrating repeatedly with incoming texts), you’re sending a message that your phone is more important than your child’s answer. When you’re present with your child, you’re not talking on the phone, cooking dinner, cleaning house … or texting. Be physically, emotionally and mentally present. The text can wait.
Take on a challenge. If you’ve never run a 5k but decide you’re going to give it a go, share your goal with your children. Talk to them about your progress – and even encourage them join you in tackling the goal. When they see you set a goal and stick to it, you are teaching them about commitment.
For more information, check out these resources:
PBS parents: “Going to School: The Parents’ Role.” www.pbs.org KidSource.com, “How Can Parents Model Good Listening Skills.” www.kidsource.com South Florida Parenting: “Parents: First and best role models.” www.sunsentinel.com