No matter what young people might say; parents and care givers are still the most influential role models in their lives. Children learn how to behave from the people closest to them. This includes how they deal with their emotions and cope with stress and anger and how they relate to others socially. It also teaches them how to empathise with others and what is appropriate behaviour.
As they get older and become more independent, it is important not to underestimate the importance of being a good role model. Having a strong healthy relationship with a young person will help them to navigate the danger years when alcohol, drugs, risky behaviour and peer pressure are also vying for their attention.
Tips on how to be a top role model:
1. Show support: as teenagers get older they still turn to their parents for advice. Show you support and trust their decisions and they will be more likely to come to you for advice and let you know what is going on in their lives.
2. Get involved: try to stay involved in a teenager’s life, share their interests and ask about their friends. Teenagers are most likely to choose friends who are like them, so encourage good values from a young age.
3. Do what you say: if you are asking a young person to respect certain rules and a life style make sure you stick to it as well. Show them that you have confidence in who you are and what you believe in.
4. Healthy lifestyle: demonstrating good eating habits and a positive attitude to your body will help make young people feel positive about their own body image and be more accepting of their body shape. It also emphasises having a healthy body rather than striving for the external stick thin images portrayed by the media.
5. Exercise regularly: this encourages teenagers to do the same. This gets them out of the house and away from the computer and other social media that can take up so much of their time. It also gives them a different outlook and perspective on life and encourages social interaction with others through team sports.
6. Life is about learning: show that you enjoy learning and that you are not frightened to try something new. This can be in both formal and informal education. Show that sometimes things need a bit of work and sticking at before you get results.
7. Look on the bright side of life: an optimistic attitude and positive outlook in life will help develop a sense of ‘can do’ in a teenager rather than ‘what’s the point’. This is an important skill for them to develop and helps build their resilience and self confidence.
8. It’s alright to make mistakes: the important thing here is how you handle them. Everyone makes mistakes and the key point is for a young person to know that this is how we learn. Take responsibility for your actions and talk about how they can be corrected.
9. Do unto others: Teenagers will treat people with respect and kindness if it is shown to them first. Talk to them about social issues and point out positive role models in the media (e.g. Nelson Mandela) and inspiring historical role models (e.g. Martin Luther King).
10. Problem solving: try to demonstrate how to solve problems in a calm and productive way (listen and think calmly, consider options and other people’s needs, find constructive solutions and, sometimes, work towards compromises). Getting angry when things don’t go well doesn’t help teach a child how to handle a situation when it doesn’t quite go the way they had planned.
Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Parenting Research Centre. Dept of Families, Housing, Community services and Indigenous Affairs. AP. Andrew Fuller.
This blog and the information it contains is not intended as a substitute for professional consultation with a qualified practitioner.