Each of the parenting articles in THE INFORMED PARENT offers ideas and skills that, when used consistently, assist in creating a healthy, well-functioning, and happy family. This month several suggestions are presented for effective behaviors that you can integrate into your life.
As a parent, you are a powerful role model for your children. By watching you, they learn how to be in the world. Much of what they learn you never specifically teach them. Young children play with their dolls using a similar tone of voice that you use with them. Sometimes you may have learned something about yourself through how they interact with their toys.
Adolescents may work very hard not to be like their parents as they seek their own identity. Nonetheless, without knowing it they model behaviors seen in you.
When the children become adults it is quite easy to see how they are similar and different from you. They notice it, too. Often young women and men say, “When I listen to myself, I sound just like my mother or father.”
The following suggestions will assist you in becoming a positive and successful role model for your children.
Life offers both challenges and joy. When we learn to accept both as opportunities to learn and grow, we exhibit enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is not always a “Rah, rah” demeanor. It is a positive acceptance of what is. It is working toward solutions in the difficult times. It is a willingness to see the greater picture instead of only our current circumstances.
When we set these goals, we are likely to achieve them. Realistic goals may require stretching ourselves by learning new skills or changing our life style. When our children see us willing to challenge ourselves, they learn that what they want does not always come easily. They also begin to learn the difference between possible and unrealistic goals.
Many of us do not model the importance of self-care. We work long hours. We make sure everyone’s needs are met. We push ourselves when a good rest would serve us well. Taking time for self may mean sitting at the end of the day and reading a few pages of a book or watching a favorite TV show. It may mean taking a walk or asking the children to play in their rooms for 15 minutes while you rest. Children need to learn that being a healthy adult means learning to care for self.
In past articles we have discussed how to listen effectively and how to take responsibility for our thoughts and feelings by using “I messages.” When we model effective communication through our choice of words, how we listen , through our body language and tone of voice, our children generally are kinder to each other, their peers, and to us.
Most of us put more into a day than we can comfortably do. This either results in frustration because we haven’t accomplished what we wished or fatigue because we have done too much. Raising a family and working are hard to balance. We need to learn that some things really can be put aside. By prioritizing, we teach our children that we can complete the important tasks and others may need to wait. They will ultimately get done. If they don’t, they were not that important anyway.
Share household tasks. When we show that we are willing to let others help we give the message that we cannot do it all by ourselves. Usually when we delegate in one area of our lives, we do it in others. Delegating gives us time to achieve our priorities and time to take care of ourselves.
People tend to get into ruts. We eat the same foods, watch the same kinds of movies, read the same kinds of books. Be willing to expand. Risk eating a different ethnic food such as Italian or Chinese. If you usually read novels, try a nonfiction book. Rent a different genre of video. When we experiment we may find new opportunities for enjoyment. We can always return to the familiar. Experimenting teaches our children that the unfamiliar can be interesting, and it’s okay to experiment and not like what we tried. We never know until we push ourselves out of the familiar.
Parenting is hard work. You may not always succeed the way you had hoped. Doing your best and being honest about your feelings is enough. Being yourself means learning that you don’t have to be perfect. It means being willing to learn and grow... and practice, practice, practice.
Being an effective role model is a privilege. It only feels like a burden when we attach the need to be perfect. When we are the best parents we know how to be, our children learn the skills of being caring, compassionate human beings. That is the measure of success.