We all have dreams for our children’s futures: Contentment, success, happiness, raising children of their own … But how do we guide them to be the person we dream of them being, in terms of character, how they feel about themselves, and how they treat others?
It’s certainly not about being perfect. Instead, demonstrate the importance of honesty about mistakes, acceptance of things you can’t change, putting effort into everything you do, and celebrating the positives in life.
Here are a number of ways you can be a good role model for your kids:
Promote Positive Body Image
It’s understandable to have certain hang-ups about your looks; but nurturing a positive body image is important not only for yourself, but also for your children. It’s all very well telling them how beautiful, talented and intelligent they are. But if they see you constantly putting yourself down, and worrying about your nose, or your thighs; they are more likely to see themselves, and others, in the same negative light. Whether you repeat affirmations to yourself, read Caitlin Moran’s books, or start a new self-care routine that makes you feel good; it’s a vital component for raising your children to feel confident, and comfortable with themselves.
Communicate & Avoid ‘Because I said so!’
It’s a lot harder to do what you are told, if you don’t understand why you are doing it. Which is why ‘because I said so’ (however tempting it may be to say) does little to promote good habits. Explaining how and why things are done, may take longer in the short term; but it helps develop good habits quicker. It also promotes a sense of responsibility in children; and teaches them to be good communicators themselves. Communication also means being honest about feelings, about mistakes, and that bad things can happen in the world; but showing how they can be faced, rather than shielding your child from everything.
Do What I Say, Not What I Do?
Let’s be honest: If you’re making them eat broccoli, you better eat it yourself. Otherwise, why should they? Children learn more from actions than words; which is why kids whose parents smoke, are far more likely to become smokers themselves.
Saying you don’t have to do something because you’re a grown-up, will only make them resent it, and look at it as a chore. Whereas, if you present something as normal, and something that everyone does, it’s far easier to adopt. So just as you want your children to be healthy; you too should keep fit, and eat your veg!
Don’t Be Too Judgemental Of Others
Far too many negative attitudes in the world are caused by a lack of understanding for others. So show the compassion, honesty, and generosity you want your children to have. Make the effort to be involved in your community, travel (if possible) and meet different types of people. This will help your children realise how important it is not too judge people based on their looks, ethnicity, or style; and to be tolerant and understanding toward others. An effort to avoid snap judgements, also promotes acceptance of things that are not in your power to change.
Your children spend a lot of time learning new things, having spelling tests, doing maths homework, and competing in sports. So rather than commiserating with them, why not show them that there’s always space to keep growing as a human being: Take up an evening class, try learning a new language, join a book club, or simply push yourself to try new recipes and visit new places … You might even enjoy it.
Encourage Responsibility, and Reward Good Work.
Make sure you reward your child for work that is well done, rather than just criticising mistakes. Praise and acknowledgment is vital for self-esteem; and it gives children the incentive to continue. By giving your kids responsibilities outside what is directly theirs (e.g chores in the home other than tidying their room) it teaches them how to be accountable for their part of the whole. This gives children a sense of independence and ownership; while celebrating good work encourages everyone to focus on the positives in life.
Life can be tough, and there have been some crazy things going on in the world recently. Which is why it’s even more important than ever to be grateful for what you have, and to celebrate small victories.
To get into the habit, why not encourage the whole family to think of 3 things they’re grateful for first thing in the morning, or just before bed; then compare at supper time, or while you’re in the car. They can be as big or as small as you like – Even a good outfit, or the perfect cup of tea deserve recognition sometimes.