Children learn by mimicking; they learn by watching others. Anyone who’s engaged even in the slightest bit of introspection knows there are behaviours they wouldn’t want their children or any children really to pick from them. In the interest of being an intentional parent, here are some behaviours you should actively model for your children.
Factors that increase a child’s likelihood of modelling behaviour
A child is more likely to mimic the behaviour of:
- A person who they see is rewarded for their behaviour and not punished, for example, if another child does something and adults laugh, a child is likely to copy that behaviour
- Someone in an authoritative position
- People who are like them i.e. the same gender, age, interests etc.
A child is also likely to observe and copy the actions of others if they lack confidence or are unfamiliar with a situation.
Behaviour to model
Engage in whatever activities you want them to engage in like reading books, controlling your screen time etc.
This is all about modelling how to manage your emotions.
- Identify and discuss your feelings so that they learn to do that too, for example, when you did this it made me angry because…
- Be patient during stressful situations like while in traffic, or waiting in line.
- Use a calm tone when mediating conflict between siblings or friends to show them how to calmly handle situations even when they are upset.
- If you are in a conflict with any family member, show them how you can use conversation to resolve it.
- Admit when you’re wrong and do it publicly so that they see what accepting responsibility for your actions.
- Apologize to the child if you slip up or lose your cool.
- If you accidentally model inappropriate behaviour, use it as a teachable moment, discussing why your behaviour was not ideal and what you should have done instead.
Exercise and healthy eating
Model healthy eating habits including avoiding things like smoking or counting calories. In their adult lives people often continue eating the way they did in their homes.
You should also consider modelling healthy exercising ad working out.
This is all about how you relate with others. Social skills are especially important so that your child learns how to connect with other people. This can save them from isolation and loneliness.
- Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to your child and others including children
- Demonstrate respect for the property of others
- Let your child see you sharing things with others, giving, donating
- Don’t lie or engage in deceptive behaviour in front of them
- Talk to others how you would want them to talk to people
Work and organization
Organization in this instance is broad encompassing both physical and mental organization. This can be ordinary things like cleaning the house or organizing their toys so that they understand the value of work and the importance of caring for your environment and space.
You should also model balancing your professional and personal life. Show them how to power through difficulties related to work and life in general.
What to do
To be successful at getting your children to pick healthy habits from you, here are some things to do.
- Follow the rules you set for your child from house rules like cleaning up after yourself to safety rules you set
- Always show, don’t just tell.
- Celebrate the positives. When they do great, point it out and praise them.
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