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Nurturing Your Child to be a Positive Role Model

By Ms. Janice Nass, LCSW

How can we as parents help our children become positive role models? As parents we may feel that although we continually work on instilling positive values in our children and hope that they internalize these values we are losing the battle. Other influences in their lives, such as peers, social media, and even world events can sear values and priorities into young people’s consciousness. These influence often work to conspire against our efforts and result in our children adopting values and perspectives that we may not share. Don’t despair. Here are some tips to help you be a positive role model in your child’s life.
• Nurture a warm relationship. Children tend to be more willing to accept and internalize parental values when they feel close to their parents. And close families usually have many shared interests and values that reinforce each other.
• Show and tell what matters. A key to your influence on your child’s values is that they understand what really matters to you. The best way to do that is both to show and tell—help them see the values in action in your own life, then talk about why you do what you do.
• Cultivate open communication. Teens are more likely to internalize their parents’ values when they have open, frequent, and honest communication with each other—when teens feel comfortable talking with their parents about tough issues and about things that matter to them. Show interest in the things that matter to your child and show them that you care about their choices and activities. That attentiveness, in turn, motivates your child to pay attention to and accept your values.
• Give your child choices and appropriate independence. Helping children see that they have power in their own lives and can influence others helps them be aware of and internalize their own values. If parents don’t give choices or don’t see their children as unique individuals, the children may end up pushing away in order to develop their own sense of who they are.
• Provide appropriate information, guidelines, and structures. In addition to giving children opportunities to make their own choices, it is just as important to set clear and fair expectations and consequences, then follow through with the consequences when needed. There is, however, a careful balance. If the rules and consequences lead to feelings of being pressured or controlled, they can become counterproductive, with teens rebelling against them.
• Align values with the other parent (when applicable). Shared values between parents or parenting adults increase the likelihood that their children will accept their value priorities. If values are not shared, the child may feel conflicting loyalties in picking which values to adopt as her or his own.
• Cultivate skills to put values into practice. In order to internalize values, help your teen practice skills that will help them be confident in standing up for what they believe and to take actions based on their values. Building assertiveness and resistance skills, as well as skills of empathy, caring, and compassion, all help to reinforce positive values.
• Provide experiences that reinforce positive values and commitments. If caring for others is important, give young people opportunities to care for others. If being honest is important, give them opportunities to be honest. If being generous is important, give them opportunities to share. If being responsible is important, give responsibilities to the child where others are depending on her or him. When you do, also be sure to talk about or reflect on the experience, so they become more articulate about why they do what they do.
• View mistakes as teachable moments. Your child is going to make mistakes and not live up to your values or his or her own. Sometimes those mistakes are fairly trivial; sometimes they have momentous consequences. In each case, remember to keep your relationship with your child as a priority, and seek to find ways to learn from the mistakes. Think together through appropriate consequences as well as alternate strategies for dealing with the issue in the future. That may take time, but it can pay off in the long run.
• Recognize the limits. Even though you can (and do) influence your child's values, you don’t control them. There’s nothing parents can or should do that simply “copies” their own values onto their kids. Indeed, they may choose to reject some values that are really important to you. That doesn’t mean you have failed; it means they are becoming their own person.

 

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