Many good character traits and positive qualities need to be observed and experienced to be fully understood by a child.
Most parents would like their children (and hopefully all children) to grow up to be healthy, happy individuals who show respect and consideration for others. However, many good character traits or positive qualities cannot just be taught.
Children need to witness interactions and be involved in experiences repeatedly to understand why certain behaviors and choices are good (or not good) for themselves or others. This is where role models come in.
Related Article: How Do Positive Role Models Affect Our Youth and Communities?
Who are role models?
Role models can be parents, older siblings, neighbors, parents’ friends, teachers, principals, counselors, community leaders, celebrities, or really anyone a child looks up to.
What is a role model and why are they important?
A role model is a person whose behavior is imitated by other people. There are role models who engage in positive and constructive actions and there are those who have bad habits that can be transferred to anyone who admires that person.
Some people lead such negative and destructive lives that they are examples of what not to do.
Children who have good, strong role models to follow have a better chance of developing a positive lifestyle. When a child follows the example of an adult, they will pick up habits and perspectives that could last a lifetime.
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While everyone may have a different definition of what a good role model is, here are a few with which most people agree.
Here are four characteristics of a positive role model.
1. Positive role models try their best to make healthy lifestyle choices.
A good role model will always try to make good decisions about lifestyle choices such as food, health, reading, making conversation, and other things that children should learn.
The child will notice the positive attitude and get the message that making an effort is more important than perfection.
2. A positive role model shows respect to others, even in challenging situations.
One of the first things children learn is how to talk to others. If they see the adults who are close to them treat others in a demeaning way, children will likely do the same.
It is not enough to tell children that it is important to respect others. They need to see how it is done.
Even if someone is unkind to you, there are ways to assert yourself without being disrespectful.
For instance, if someone if unkind to you, you can try one or more of the following:
- tell them how you feel in a calm but confident way
- talk through it calmy with the person – try to understand their perspective but still maintain your boundaries
- let them know what you will and will not accept regarding how you are treated
- take space
- take good care of yourself
- remind yourself that it is not your fault if you are respecful and being treated with disrepect
- let a person go out of your life if they treat you with a pattern of unkindness, beuase it is not healthy for you to stay in a situation like that or around a person like that
- teach your child/students strategies to respectfully handle an unkind person, and how to put up boundaries and remove themselves
3. Many adults have several interests, and it is important for role models to show children that curiosity can be a good thing.
Life-long learning means to be interested in many aspects of life, whether it is music, outdoor sports, current events or plumbing.
When children see that their parents show interest and sometimes proficiency in many things, they get the courage to get out of their comfort zone and explore other activities.
They can become more hopeful about their own future when they see someone else that they look up to doing productive and helpful things for themselves and others.
It is especially impactful when a child’s role model believes in the child and is also hopeful about the child’s ability to have a meaningful and productive future.
Research also suggests that the completion of tasks and activities improves self-confidence.
4. A good role model will encourage children to exercise and/or be regularly active and provide support and partnership.
Those who are good role models for children may know that physical activity is extremely important for children’s health and proper development. The role model may already be physically active on their own.
However, a positive role model could try to actively engage their child(ren) in some form of physical activity several times a week.
Children do not need to play vigorous sports regularly unless they want to. A daily walk, bike ride, climbing activity, or game of tag is beneficial for their confidence, self-esteem, and health.
Make Physical Activities Fun for Kids
Conclusions About Role Models
Role models have a powerful impact on the youth that are watching them. Positive actions by role models create positive habits in children that can last a lifetime and transcend generations. How are you a positive role model today?
Research links on the importance of being a good role model for children:
- Parents as Role Models: Associations between Parent and Young Children’s Weight, Dietary Intake, and Physical Activity in a Minority Sample
- Defining a “Healthy Role-Model” for Medical Schools: Learning Components That Count
- The Association between Role Model Presence and Self-Regulation in Early Adolescence: A Cross-Sectional Study
- Negative Adult Influences and the Protective Effects of Role Models: A Study with Urban Adolescents
- An Examination of Accessible Hands-on Science Learning Experiences, Self-confidence in One’s Capacity to Function in the Sciences, and Motivation and Interest in Scientific Studies and Careers
If you don’t think a child has a positive role model in their life regularly, consider the following alternatives:
- school staff member
- school or private counselor
- older peer mentor
- Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America
- community leaders at the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club of America, or 4H Club
- volunteer organizations where youth can participate and meet helpful leaders in the community
- providing access to frequent, and detailed information, about famous or well-known positive role models, past or present (e.g., literature, movies, threatre, internet).
Examples may include
- Martin Luther King Jr. (Civil Rights Activist)
- Michael Jordan (hard-worker, takes jobs seriously on and off-court, strong work ethic, team player, donates to help children)
- Martine Wright (motivational speaker and famous athlete with physical disability)
- Mel Robbins (Author and Speaker)
- Rev. Dr. Joan Campbell (Charter for Compassion).
Can you guys please add some amazing role models for kids in the comments?
I am looking for people who regulate their emotions, take care of themselves, think of how others feel and care, believe in themselves, work to their potential, etc. Maybe you can nominate someone as an amazing role model down below. If they are chosen based on the nomination story I will give them a gift of their choosing up to $50.
Education and Behavior – A Free Resource for Parents, Educators, and Counselors. Keeping Us On the Same Page!
Rachel Wise is the author and founder of Education and Behavior. Rachel created Education and Behavior in 2014 for adults to have an easy way to access research-based information to support children in the areas of learning, behavior, and social-emotional development. As a survivor of abuse, neglect, and bullying, Rachel slipped through the cracks of her school and community. Education and Behavior hopes to play a role in preventing that from happening to other children. Rachel is also the author of Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.
“Children do best when there is consistency within and across settings (i.e., home, school, community). Education and Behavior allows us to maintain that consistency.”