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How to Model the Behavior You Want to See In Your Child

by Vannessa Rhoades 27 Apr 2023
How to Model the Behavior You Want to See In Your Child

Kids are very keen observers of the world around them. They watch how their parents and caregivers treat other people, how they handle stressful situations, and how they cope with their emotions. Your kids are watching and learning even when you think they don’t notice anything. 

Kids are biologically programmed to imitate the adults who care for them. Social learning theory teaches us that humans learn by observing the behavior of others. Watching others helps inexperienced individuals learn from more experienced individuals, resulting in either positive or negative outcomes. This conserves time and energy and decreases individual risk, ultimately improving our survival as a species. It doesn’t take a psychology degree, though, to see that children mimic their parents. You’ve probably observed your child imitate you preparing dinner or caring for a younger sibling. Children copy what they see and repeat what they hear. That’s why it’s so important for adults to set a positive example. Let’s take a closer look at modeling appropriate behavior and its importance in child care.

What Kind of Example Are You Setting?

In order to model positive behavior child care, you must be conscious of how your activities, interactions, and responses may be perceived by your children. Sometimes parents and caregivers unintentionally set an unhealthy example for their kids. For instance, consider the following situations:

  • Parents tell their children to be kind and respectful, yet make derogatory comments when others aren’t within earshot.
  • A parent tells a movie theater attendant that their 12-year-old child is only 10 so that they can get a discounted ticket. The child learns that sometimes it’s alright to lie to get what you want.
  • Separated co-parents bicker constantly about custody issues, yet demand that their children get along with one another.
  • Parents smoke regularly, then tell their children not to smoke because it’s unhealthy. Similarly, parents demand their children eat healthily, then indulge in lots of junk food late at night.
  • A parent spends all evening scrolling around on their phone or watching TV but insists their child should read books.
  • Parents demand their children take responsibility for their choices and behaviors. Yet, when they forget about a doctor's appointment, they argue with the front desk and insist it’s a “scheduling error.”
  • A parent instructs their child to always be kind and friendly but is rude to the waiter serving them dinner.
  • Parents insist children share and show generosity. However, their parents don’t make charitable donations or participate in any volunteer activities.

Don’t Be a Hypocrite

Being a good role model 100% of the time is tough – nobody is perfect. But as parents and caregivers, it’s important to do your best to set a good example and model the behaviors you want your children to emulate. For example, if you want your children to eat healthy food, it’s probably not a good idea for them to watch you go on a junk food binge. Likewise, if you want your children to be respectful, you should strive to be kind to others.

Teach your children how to comply with instructions and follow rules from an early age. Using consistent, positive discipline strategies will help them as they grow older as well. By setting a good example and honoring the rules yourself, you will improve the effectiveness of your discipline.

Children, especially girls, often grow up with messages to tame and quiet themselves. Lynx teaches children that using their voice to speak their truth is a gift to the world and encourages them to be bold, and brave and to speak up for themselves. Slumberkins Spotted Beige Lynx Kin, Self Expression is perfect for children as they begin to explore the world around them and develop a sense of self through play. Lynx will always be there for them, encouraging them to speak their mind and hold their own healthy boundaries.

Walk the Walk, Don’t Just Talk the Talk

Each day you have a chance to set an example for your child by modeling the behavior you want them to exhibit. When things don’t go the way you planned or you make a mistake, use it as an opportunity to talk to your children about where you went wrong and what you can do better. Children can still learn important lessons from mistakes. For example, if you handle a mistake by giving yourself grace and an “I’ll do better next time” attitude, children will learn to treat themselves with more compassion when they mess up. Take a look below at some other examples of positive behaviors you can model for your children.

Demonstrate empathy and kindness toward others

Be respectful to everyone you encounter, regardless of their position or station in life. Whether it’s a person on the bus or a waitress taking your order, say “please” and “thank you,” be courteous, and smile. Allow your kids to see you showing compassion to others. Make examples of specific situations you encounter and ask your children how others might be feeling. Teaching your children empathy is an excellent way to keep them from becoming future bullies.

Develop a good work ethic

Learning to work hard and honestly is a skill that will benefit children in school, sports, extracurricular activities, and later in life. Whether you work remotely or head into the office each day, allow your child to observe you working. Tackling household chores together is another great way to inspire a healthy work ethic.

Live a healthy lifestyle

Treat your body with kindness by exercising regularly and eating healthy foods. Limiting junk food and preparing healthy meals also helps your kids avoid childhood obesity issues. That said, try not to be overly restrictive in your example. It’s okay to allow treats. Obsessing about food and your body (or your child’s body) can lead to eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and other issues. 

Give back to the community

Whether you’re helping out at the school or participating in a food or clothing drive, you’re teaching your children that what happens in their community is important. You’re also teaching them that giving back helps make the world a little better for everyone. Get them involved in volunteering and service projects as soon as they’re old enough. As a bonus – it also teaches them to appreciate what they’ve got.

Limit your screen time

Most parents are concerned about the amount of time their kids spend interacting with technology. But before you start pointing fingers, take a few moments to examine your own screen time behavior. Even if you’re “working,” your kids are still watching you sit in front of a screen. Deal with your own technology use issues first, and then try to regulate the rules for the children.

Exhibit healthy social and emotional skills

Demonstrate to your children how to meet a new person and how to ask for clarification when they don’t understand something. Teach them how to make friends and include others in their play. Show them how to handle difficult feelings, like anger or sorrow. Discuss how you feel when you’re frustrated or upset and urge them to do so as well.

The Takeaway

Your main goal as a parent or caregiver is to help shape your children into kind, considerate, genuine, and loving humans. Oftentimes, the most effective way to do that is to set a good example yourself. For some, this may mean examining your own behavior and patterns more closely and making some necessary changes. 

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