Talking to your kids about role models
It’s important to communicate with your child about the positive and negative characteristics of a role model. Check out these tips for talking with your kids about role models.
According to Merriam-Webster, a role model is a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others. Often times, children will imitate those they look up to such as older siblings, celebrities, teachers or other kids. If you could choose the perfect role model for your child, what characteristics would that person have? If you had to create a list of characteristics, could you? It sounds easy but can be very difficult.
When you think of the perfect role model for your child, what characteristics wouldn’t you choose? That may be an easier list to create, as it can be much easier to point out characteristics in a role model that we don’t want kids to mimic. But how is that communicated to your child? The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry created a fact sheet, Children and Role Models, that suggests the following for discussing role models with your child and for serving as a positive role model for your child:
- Have your child identify qualities they admire in their role model.
- Give examples of people in your community who you feel have positive qualities and are a good influence on others.
- Talk about people you look up to for guidance and inspiration.
Furthermore, they suggest negative role models can also influence children and that behaviors of negative role models can be seen as typical, safe or acceptable. For a child this can be confusing. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests the following to help you talk to your child about role models who have made mistakes:
- Remind your child that all people have good and bad qualities and that anyone can make a mistake. Explain that it is important to apologize and learn from our mistakes.
- Ask your child what he thinks of the role model’s behavior.
- Ask what he could have done differently in the situation.
- Give examples of more positive and healthy ways to handle the situation.
For more information about role models, visit the following Michigan State University Extension articles:
- You are a role model by Laura Anderson.
- Teaching youth to be trustworthy- character series Part 1 by Michelle Neff.
- Help young children identify and express emotions by Kendra Moyses.
- Build strong adolescents through caring adults by Suzanne Pish.
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