Children are excellent observers. Even as newborns, they imitate their parents. During the elementary school years, discussions they overhear at home on a wide variety of topics are integrated into their own thoughts. By the time they are in middle school, when we ask our children to do something, a commonly heard response is "You don't do it, so why should I?"
Although it is never too late, the best time to start being a role model to your children is right away -- even from birth. Does being a role model for your kids mean you have to be perfect? Fortunately, the answer is no. In fact, a tolerance of imperfection is a good behavior to model! While it’s important to exercise and eat well, taking a day off from riding your bike or deciding to have dessert at a party is absolutely fine — as long as it’s in moderation. Similarly, if we yell at our children when we shouldn't, we can apologize and, by doing so, effectively model how to deal with a mistake.
Below is a list of behaviors that are among the most important to model for your kids:
Turn off the TV
By turning off the TV, you and your child will have time to do other, more important things together, such as talking, playing a game, reading, exercising, or pursuing other hobbies. Studies show that spending time with your child each day makes them more likely to come to you with problems and less likely that they will get involved in alcohol and drugs. Also, turning off the TV will decrease your chances of becoming overweight, because people tend to eat junk food while they watch TV.
Eat A Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet
By maintaining a healthy diet, you decrease your risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and some cancers. You will also feel better about yourself. People who eat a healthy diet will have more fruits and vegetables in their house than those who don’t, and this makes it much more likely that their children will also eat healthier. Instead of grabbing for that lollipop or cookie for your child, chances are greater you will grab a piece of fruit or some yogurt because it’s readily available.
Exercise also helps decrease the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Studies also show that exercising decreases the level of stress hormones in our body. By exercising regularly, you are not only improving your own health and happiness, but you are also teaching your children how important it is for them to take care of themselves. Chances are, if you have children and you exercise regularly, you will include them in your activities. You may go hiking or biking with them, play tennis or baseball, or bring them swimming or ice skating. This could also teach them to love physical activity and, at the same time, allow them to spend more time with you.
We all have the responsibility to help others who are less fortunate than we are, even if it is simply by carrying groceries into the house for an elderly neighbor or picking up trash off the side of the road. Plus, it makes us feel good. Children are aware at a very young age that we are helping others, and they want to imitate us. During pretend play, they may pretend to pick up trash off the side of the road or serve food at a homeless shelter. They also learn how important it is to think about and respect other people and to care about other aspects of the world, such as the environment.
Cuddle Up And Read
By reading our own books, we instill in our children a love for books and knowledge. Reading also teaches them the art of relaxation and quiet time. Our lives are so stressful these days that it's important to build in relaxation time. In addition, it's also fun to have several family members sitting together on a couch reading their own books on a rainy day or a lazy weekend afternoon.
Almost half of all teen deaths in the United States is due to motor vehicle accidents. Almost one quarter of teenagers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. How can you help decrease the leading cause of mortality among teens? By acting as a role model and refraining from drinking any alcohol before you drive. If you are going somewhere after drinking, make sure you assign a designated driver -- and let your children know. It is also a good idea in general not to drink too much or too often for your own health and for the benefit of your children, as they notice everything.
Wear A Seatbelt
It is important to show your children that you are always thinking of safety and that they should as well. It's a good idea to wear a helmet when biking, roller blading, skiing and doing other sports which carry a risk of head injury.
Everyone knows smoking can cause lung disease and cancer, may worsen asthma, and even has secondhand effects. Studies also show that teenagers are more than twice as likely to smoke if their parents do.So, if you smoke, now is the time to quit to increase your health and to show your family that you are motivated to improve yourself even if it’s hard work.
Keep Your Cool
Children learn how to cope by watching their parents deal with stressful situations. If you lose your cool and yell at your children when you get upset, they learn to deal with disagreements the same way. Teach your children to discuss issues calmly by remaining calm yourself, listening to all sides of an argument, and respecting all involved.
Maintain A Relationship With Your Significant Other And Friends
While it is very important to spend quality time with your children, you should also spend time with your significant others and friends. This teaches your children that all relationships are important and require nurturing. It also helps keep you happy and reduces your stress, which are important factors for all of us, adults and kids alike.
By Stacy Beller Stryer, M.D., FAAP
Content provided by Revolution Health Group