Tuesday, 7 October 2014
Are we role models for our kids?
Once a friend asked,” How does one build passion and commitment in the child?" Is it something you are born with? Are role models important for kids? When asked, most of us would agree that kids learn from role models and imitate behaviours of those they admire. The question then is not, “Do kids imitate adults?”…."But,” which behaviour do they imitate?”…….There is no dearth of negative role models around…so I think parents are the best role models.
Children are more likely to imitate parents if parents spend time with them. In addition, parents need be very intentional about what they role model for their children. In some families, parents spend or hand out “guilt money” in order to make up for the time they aren’t spending with their kids. Many kids lack the basic social skills needed to foster healthy friendships because they spend so much time interacting with “things.” The “Things” do build their self esteem, make them feel good and gets them friends!!! These days, their identity and social status are defined by what and how much they own. Thus we land up spoiling them and making them selfish. On a societal level, this surely broadens the chasm between the parents who can afford to buy what their kids want and those who can’t. And with so much of the popular culture working against parents; it can be a tough task. Professional marketers have produced industry articles such as “The Nag Factor” and “The Art of Fine Whining” that instruct advertisers on how to manipulate kids into demanding their products from parents. And parents get suckered into the frenzy.
The starkest example of the over-growing, insatiable, desire for material goods is when I ask children what they want to do when they grow up. They all they say they want to make money. Researchers have proved that people who are highly focused on materialistic values are less satisfied with life, seem less happy, have higher incidence of unsatisfactory interpersonal relationships. So that makes us parents more aware in making sure we give the right guidance.
I think parents can use the same three-step sales strategy that marketers use, but with a different message and for a very different purpose.
First, parents should acknowledge that children’s needs are important: Kids need to have friends and feel that they fit in. They need to find their own unique identity and gradually accept responsibility and gain independence as they grow. Kids should know that you see those as valid goals for them, too.
Second, parents need to reassure kids that they can be successful at reaching those goals: Parents can show children that their path to happiness depends on relationships with other people and not with the acquisition of things. Kids may not realize it, but having resposibilities is good for them. Each one of us need to know they are valued and valuable. Parents can show their kids that they are valued at home by giving them responsibilities.
And finally, parents can say, follow us, we’ll teach you the skills you need to make friends, earn the respect of others, and be happy in life.”
As children grow, they need guidance on increasingly complex arrays of issues. Today’s children are the first day-care generation; the first generation defined by computers and television; the first generation to grow up in desegregated schools; and the first generation in which both parents usually are employed. As a result, because of their expanded knowledge and wider experiences as children, teenagers think they need adults less. By displaying moral and ethical behavior, parents can also impart values which can counter the negative influences children may receive from their peers or media. The responsibility of being a role model can also encourage parents to better themselves. Parents need to intentionally role model honesty, integrity, compassion, dependabilty, high standards and values.
Because children seem to be more world wise than in the past, we are more likely to assume that they can take care of themselves. One often find kids telling their Mom and Dad what to buy for themselves and the family – what clothes are “in” and what cars or mobiles are “cool”. :)
Think about the kind of person you’d like your child to be or become. I hope you want your child to be: Someone who genuinely cares about other people, values others for who they are and not what they look like or own, and shows love for family and friends. Someone who demonstrates responsibility and can set and work towards long-term goals! Someone who is willing to share with and give to others . Children don’t just naturally acquire these virtues. They need to be taught, primarily by parents.
And with so much of the popular culture working against parents; it can be a tough task. Parenting today is a difficult, complex and often exhausting "bussiness". The demands of juggling personal, professional and family obligations combined with the changing face of the world and increased isolation have made parenting a Hurculean task.
To be a role model is simple, but definitely not easy: Be the kind of person you want your child to be. Know your values and act on them, treat others the way you would like to be treated, follow your dreams, cut yourself some slack when required, and feel good knowing you're building the assets that your kids need to succeed!! :)
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