Tips on Role Modeling
Young children learn by observing and imitating the adults in their world. From birth, children watch their parents closely, following their every move, studying their expressions, and mimicking their sounds. As babies grow, imitating becomes more complicated. In the kitchen, they may bang on a pot with a wooden spoon while a parent uses a similar pan and spoon to cook. They will try on makeup, pretend to shave, mother a doll, read a book, and write a letter—all in imitation of the adults they love and admire. Children will also imitate our bad habits, such as swearing, smoking cigarettes, or abusing alcohol or other drugs.
Show your children how to handle stress. If you are tired or sad or angry, talk to your child about your feelings and your need to rest quietly. Help your child learn to manage his or her feelings in the same way.
Show your children how to solve their own problems. If you quietly address issues as problems to solve rather than as behaviors to punish, children will calmly apply problem-solving strategies to difficulties elsewhere in their world. If you come home from work angry, they will surely follow your lead. Rather, talk about how to work with other people and solve problems together.
Model the traits and behaviors you wish to cultivate in your children. Model respect, friendliness, honesty, kindness, tolerance and self-esteem, exercise, eating good foods, laughing, reading, playing, and dreaming. Studies show that children who have strong, loving role models in the early years grow into strong, successful adults. They view the world, their peers, and themselves in positive terms and have few problems with abuse of drugs or alcohol.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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