Our culture is inundated with celebrities for our children to watch and observe, and they have instant access to them in the palm of their hands. Strangely, we have started to believe that it is a famous athlete, actor or politician’s job to be a role model for our children. Don’t buy into that, parents. YOU are their closest and most valuable example. Think about what you want from and for your children.
Do you want them to be thoughtful? Show them how by asking a friend about her life, rather than talking only about yourself.
Do you want your children to be confident and gracious? When someone compliments you, genuinely thank them without qualifying or discounting the compliment.
Do you wish your kids showed everyone the same kindness and respect? Speak kindly to servers. Treat her school custodian the same way you treat her principal.
Do you want your sons and daughters not to follow the crowd? Carve your own path. Don’t do something because it’s expected.
Parents, your children are watching. They are learning from your example. Inspire them by telling them what you want for them, then showing them, over and over.
Not only are your actions important, but your words. They can bring those actions into focus. What you say is their window into the motivation for your actions. They are not just watching, but listening.
Kids might have selective deafness when you ask whether they have finished their homework, but they hear how you talk to and about them. Let your language also be an example.
Don’t let them hear negative talk from you — this includes (note to self) cursing, gossip, badmouthing friends, family and especially your other children.
Show them how to set boundaries by saying no and meaning it.
Talk to them about your mistakes and failures, even parenting mistakes. Apologize when you are wrong.
Praise them, even for the little things — the way you talk to them becomes their inner voice. Let them overhear you praising them to others.
Be willing to listen and respect their feelings and problems.
In short, be the kind of person you want them to be. Then be open, honest and available to talk about it.
Easy, right? Of course it’s not! Parenting is the hardest, best job on the planet. Even great jobs let you have a break every now and then. Give yourself permission to be silly. Even though this is serious work, when you start to establish this open communication with your kids, you can start to model that it’s okay to be tired and stressed. It’s also okay to not take yourself so seriously. Crank up the music on the way to soccer practice and belt out some Justin Bieber.
The next time your daughter is scrolling through Kendall and Kylie’s Insta feed, trying to duplicate the signature pout, put down your own phone, ask her to do the same and show her how to do something in real life that is valuable. Even if you are just demonstrating your killer falsetto.
The Biebs would be jealous.
Laurie Wolk is an Author, Educator & Motivational Speaker focusing on parenting adolescents and social media. A “go to” girl since childhood and a cheerleader at heart, her passion is helping parents and young girls learn how to communicate and connect with themselves, each other and the outside world.
She works directly with companies, schools, organizations and individuals on building confidence, leadership and digital citizenship skills. Her goal: teaching girls how to put down their digital devices and develop “in real life” communication and relationship skills.
A graduate of Emory University, Laurie received her BA in Psychology and is the Author of the book Girls Just Want to Have Likes: How to Raise Confident Girls in the Face of Social Media Madness due in bookstores nationwide this August. She is the Editor of The Spark Report, a weekly report that helps parents of tweens/teens spark meaningful conversations with their children. Laurie received advanced certification at the Martha Beck and Girls Leadership Institutes and is on the Board of the Westchester Children’s Museum and at Girls Leadership.
An engaged and hands-on mother of three + dog, Laurie understands adolescents and connects with them both as a guide and a friend, teaching them important social and emotional skills that will serve them for a lifetime. She has been called a “modern mentor” by clients and forms natural connections early on with both parent and child.