How to be an involved 4-H parent in 10 easy steps – Step 6: Being a positive role model

Your child has joined a 4-H club, now what? Try these tips to help 4-H members and parents have a successful experience.

Let’s start by clarifying there is no such thing as “easy” when it comes to being a parent. Parents play an important role in 4-H programs by supporting and encouraging their child throughout the 4-H experience, in much the same way they would advocate for the child through school, sports or other activities. Being an informed and supporting parent can enhance your child’s 4-H experience to ensure they receive maximum benefit from the program. This article is part of a series that will provide a number of tips for 4-H families to bolster their 4-H experience.

Step 6: Being a positive role model

A role model is defined as “a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.” A parent has the most influence over their child, and can also influence other adults with whom they interact with. In a 4-H setting, your child may witness you interacting with other 4-H parents, volunteer leaders, 4-H staff and even other 4-H youth members.

The following are some examples of positive behaviors you can demonstrate as a role model for your child and other children in the 4-H program, as well as volunteers and other parents. Your child will have more respect for you and learn appropriate behavior to model when you demonstrate being a positive role model using the “actions speak louder than words” approach rather than the “do as I say, not as I do” approach to situations.

  • Don’t be a bully to other adults and especially not to children. The Michigan State University Extension article “Adults must be positive role models” explains the negative impact bullying by adults has on youth over the course of their life. “Adults who bully vs. adults who care: Adult behaviors are powerful modeling tools” provides great examples of how adults can conduct themselves to be inclusive.
  • Practice sportsmanship. The MSU Extension articles “Sportsmanship: Make it a measurement of character” and “Four ways parents can model good sportsmanship at shows” identify key action steps that you and your family can follow to increase sportsmanship in your 4-H experiences. Reviewing “Step 5: Fostering growth through competition” in this series provides additional ways parents can foster sportsmanship.
  • Follow the rules and encourage your child to do so. When you choose not to follow the rules other participants are held to, it sends the message that you or your child is better than the other participants. If you have questions about the rules, there are plenty of people who can help provide clarification including your 4-H leader, project area superintendent or your 4-H program coordinator. If you feel a rule is unfair or harmful, address your concerns in a respectful manner with the 4-H program coordinator and the person or group responsible for creating and enforcing the rule.
  • Abide by due dates and deadlines. Missing a deadline can occur for any number of reasons, but it often boils down to you just forgot to do what you were supposed to by the deadline. Set a good example and encourage your child to form a lifelong habit of tackling tasks on their to-do list early and not procrastinating. Your child will be thankful you instilled this life skill when they are in college and are not the student pressing send on their final paper at 11:59. If you do miss a 4-H deadline, you are welcome to inquire about an extension as some deadlines are flexible, but be respectful of the response provided.
  • Take responsibility for yourself and your actions. If you are upset about a situation, handle your feelings in a nondestructive manner where you are able to express your point of view without “blowing up” and causing other people to become hurt. The MSU Extension RELAX: Alternatives to Anger program is offered for a variety of audiences and can help individuals develop healthy ways to conduct themselves and direct their feelings.

Helping your child identify positive role models can benefit their future success. “Talking to your kids about role models” provides great advice on engaging in conversations about positive and negative role models. The tips in this article could be used proactively to begin a conversation with your child or to evaluate a negative experience and process their feelings. “Building strong adolescents through caring adults” provides further research on the essential assets youth gain through positive role models.

Your family’s 4-H journey can provide your child with an unlimited number of learning encounters. Whether your journey is just getting underway or if your family has been involved in 4-H for years, you are likely to find something new to learn and experience at every step along the way. You will find there are people along the path to help guide you, but ultimately the path of your family’s 4-H expedition will be individually determined.

Look for the next article in this series soon – Step 7: Taking responsibility.

For more in this series

Did you find this article useful?