You probably already know by now that kids are little sponges. They repeat A LOT of what they see and hear at home. Parents are the ultimate role models for their children.
The good news is, being cognizant of your actions around your kids can help them learn good habits. The bad news is, kids somehow absorb almost everything. While there is no such thing as a perfect parent, we should all strive to “practice what we preach”. Here are some simple ways for parents to model good behavior.
Go for a walk
Pick a fun, family activity that gets everyone moving. This will help develop healthy attitudes towards physical activity. Exercise allows kids to practice gross motor skills and coordination, in addition to working out some of their excess energy.
Talk about feelings
Every stage of childhood and adolescence comes with its share of emotions. Get comfortable talking through emotional situations. Share your feelings about particular situations with your child. Be sure to include how you
feel and why you feel that way. Try, “I’m mad because I don’t like…” as opposed to “Don’t Do that!” This will help your child improve their own emotional regulation and emotional intelligence.
Eat to fuel your body
Model healthy eating behaviors at the dinner table. If you want your child to eat healthy, nutritious meals, you need to eat them as well. Feeding a picky eater may be frustrating but keep at it. This is not to say that you can’t have the occasional family pizza night, just make sure to keep take-out nights in check.
Talk it out
As I must consistently remind my toddler, “Hands are not for hitting.” Although tempers may rise during an argument, physical violence is never a healthy way to resolve a conflict. Talking through a disagreement is the way to go. While playing referee may be daunting, it’s helping your child in the long run.
Admit when you are wrong
Admitting that you made a mistake does not have to be shameful or demeaning. In fact, it helps illustrate that you are actually human. It also models accountability. There’s no need to make a big deal out of. You can simply say what you did wrong, apologize (if applicable), and offer what you should have done differently.
It’s okay to cry
A lot of parents intentionally try to prevent their children from ever seeing them cry. However, crying is a normal, human response, particularly in emotional situations. Children need to know (particularly boys) that crying is okay and not a sign of weakness.
Say “Please” and “Thank you”
Basic manners are important to many parents. While being polite isn’t an essential skill, it’s certainly a helpful social skill. Children are very good at picking up how you treat others, both at home and in public.
Keep your promises
This isn’t about teaching your children not to lie (although, I’m sure you want to do that as well). It’s about following through and modeling dependability. That being said, it’s a good idea not to make promises that you know are unlikely or impossible to keep.
The Golden Rule: Treat others the same way you would want to be treated. Compassion and kindness go a long way, especially when your kids are around to see it.
Respect the rules
If there are “house rules”, make sure you are following them as well. It’s important to hold yourself accountable to agreed-upon expectations like “no swearing” or “put the screens down during dinner”.
Be mindful of self-critical language
It’s easy to be too critical on ourselves. “I’m so fat” or “I always mess that up” aren’t particularly healthy or helpful. Children can internalize these messages and develop unhealthy or unrealistic expectations of themselves (body image, perfectionism, etc.)
Treat others with respect
We don’t have to agree with everyone or cater to them in order to show basic respect. When interacting with others, don’t demean, belittle, or intentionally embarrass someone else. This goes for both other adults and children.
Be a good loser
Winning is fun but it’s more important to lose graciously. Life is full of disappointments. By showing your kids that it’s not always about winning and that life goes on, they are more likely to be able to cope with their own setbacks in the future.
Listen to others
Being about to actually listen (and not just hear) others is a learned skill that’s beneficial beyond childhood. You can model good listing skills by not interrupting others and making eye contact during your conversations. This includes your interactions with other children.
Make sure you are fully present
While checking the occasional e-mail or text may be necessary, don’t spend all your time on your smartphone. Give your kids the time and attention that they need. They’re much more likely to respond in kind when they reach their teenage years and have a phone of their own.