Role models are meant to inspire, instruct, and to set a good example. Whether you’re trying to teach your children core values or showing your students the proper way to conduct themselves in a learning environment, the most important thing you can do is to be honest, thoughtful, and consistent. Role models don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to show that everyone makes mistakes and that it’s important to be accountable for them. You can be an inspiring and instructive role model as long as you are about the people who look up to you.
Being a Role Model for Your Children
Practice what you preach. If you want to be a good role model for your children, then the most important thing is for you to do as you say. Of course, some rules that apply to your kids may not apply to you — you may not have homework to finish or a 9 pm curfew — but it’s important to show them a good example of how to conduct yourself. Your children will be modelling your behavior and it’s important to show them whatever you want to see from them.
If you tell them to be kind, them don’t let them see you bad-mouthing a waitress.
If you tell them to have good manners, then don’t talk with your mouth full.
If you tell them to keep their room clean, then keep your room clean as well.
If you’re always asking your children to eat healthier foods, let them see you choosing a salad over fries once in a while.
Apologize when you make a mistake. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be a flawless parent who never makes a single mistake. That’s impossible. Things go wrong, and sometimes, your temper will flare up or you’ll say or do something that you regret. That’s perfectly natural. The most important thing is that you acknowledge the behavior and apologize for it instead of pretending that nothing ever happened. If you misbehave and try to brush it under the rug, then your children will get the message that they’ll be able to do the same.
If you’ve done something wrong, sit your child down, look him in the eyes, and show that you’re really sorry. Make sure your child knows that you mean it, so that he understands how to apologize when he’s done something wrong, too.
Think out loud. Your children don’t have to see you as the person who has all the answers. In fact, you can help them out more by showing them that you do have to struggle to find the right answer in certain situations by thinking aloud and inviting them into the process with you. When a tough situation arises, you can weigh the pros and cons with your children, and show them what goes into a decision-making process. This will show them that you’re human and that when you say “no,” you’re not just saying it categorically, but because you’ve put a lot of thought into it. However, you have to be careful not to take this idea too far; you don’t want to end up having to explain your reasoning to your child every single time, or that may get exhausting and will lose its power.
For example, you can say something like, “I wish I could let you play with your friends right now, but I want you to finish your science project first. Remember the last time you stayed up late finishing a project and how upsetting that was? I want you to get in the habit of doing your work first before having fun.”
Whenever you do explain your reasoning to your kids, make sure they’re actually listening because they’re interested and not just because they keep asking why, why, why to get on your case.
Follow through. Another must for any parent who wants to be a good role model is to back up what you say. If you tell your child she won’t be able to go to the mall with her friends if she doesn’t finish her homework, then you’ve got to stick to your guns, or you’ll be seen as a pushover. Though it can be difficult, you can’t let your children’s apologies, emotional pleas, or cries of, “But everyone else’s mom is letting him go!” sway you from your rules and ideas. Of course, you should always listen to your children and never make rules without thinking about them first, but once you make a mandate or a rule, then you’ve got to stick to it if you earn your child’s respect.
If your children see that you don’t stick to your word, then they’ll think it’s okay for them to not stick to their words when it comes to saying they’ll do their chores or come home at a certain hour.
If you say you’ll pick your kids up at a certain hour, make sure to be there. If you’re late, apologize profusely. You don’t want them feeling like they can’t depend on you.
Treat everyone, including your children, with respect. If you want to be a good role model for your children, then you have to treat everyone around you with respect, from handymen to your neighbors. You can’t tell your children to be kind to everyone and then let them see you mad-mouthing your friend, yelling at a telemarketer, or just being snippy with a cashier. You also have to be kind to your children instead of being mean or inconsiderate to them, because they will definitely take that behavior to heart. If they see you being rude to a waitress, for example, they will model this behavior and will think it’s acceptable.
Even if you have a conflict with one of your peers or co-workers, don’t let your siblings hear too much about it, especially if you’re getting angry. You don’t want them to think that it’s okay to gossip about people.
Be consistent. Another thing you have to do to be a good role model for your kids is to be consistent in the way you keep order in the household. If you have a rule that your children can’t play with their friends until they’ve done their homework, then you have to enforce it every time, instead of making exceptions based on how badly your children want to play with their friends. If you say that your kids have to finish their vegetables before getting to dessert, then don’t give up on that rule because your kid has started crying. If you make a lot of exceptions, then your children will be confused and will think it’s okay to not be consistent in their own behavior, too.
That said, there will be occasional times when you have to bend the rules and make exceptions, if the situation really calls for it. This is okay, too, and will teach your children not to have a black-and-white view on things. For example, if your daughter is going to her junior prom, it may be okay to let her stay out an extra hour or two past curfew, but only because it’s a special occasion.
If you have a partner, it’s important to be a united front. You don’t want to play bad cop, good cop with your partner and have your kids think that you and your partner won’t give the same answers to their questions.
Treat your partner with respect. Your relationship with your partner, if you have one, may be one of the most important relationships for your child to see. Though no relationship is perfect, you should show your children that two people can work together to love each other, compromise, and grow as individuals and as a couple. You may not think your behavior affects your children, especially when they’re small, but they’ll model the relationship behavior they see when they are old enough to have relationships of their own.
Sometimes, you may get mad and raise your voice. If that happens, you don’t have to pretend like everything is fine. If you know your children heard it, you can explain that things got a little out of control but that you’re not proud of the behavior.
Being a Role Model for Your Students
Don’t play favorites. Of course, it can be nearly impossible not to play favorites when you’re teaching a class with a student who is always falling asleep or texting sitting next to another student who is hanging on to your every word. When it comes time to give grades, students will be properly evaluated, but when you’re interacting with your students in the classroom, you’ll have to do the best you can to hide your biases so that you can foster a positive classroom environment.
Try to call on all students equally, and not to make a point of praising the high-achieving students too much, or the other students will feel left out.
If you are short with a student who hasn’t been impressing you, then he won’t be motivated to change.
Follow your own rules. This one is pretty straight forward. If you tell your students not to be late to class, don’t be late to class. If you have a no-cell phone policy, keep your phone off during class. If you tell your kids they can’t eat in the classroom, don’t chow down half a sandwich in the middle of a presentation. If you fall into this kind of behavior, your students will think of you as a hypocrite and will lose respect for you. What’s more, you’ll be modeling behavior that suggests it’s okay for your students to break the rules.
If you’ve broken one of your own rules, make a point of apologizing for it.
Show an interest in the material. Whether you’re teaching organic chemistry or basic grammar, if you don’t care about the course material, then nobody else will. You have to show that you’re excited about The War of 1812, The Canterbury Tales, factoring equations, or whatever it is you’re teaching that day. Your enthusiasm will be infectious and will show students the importance of caring about what they’re learning. If you act bored or sick of the same old material, then the students will follow suit. One of your goals, as a teacher, should be to show your students what it’s like to have a passion for a certain subject. Your enthusiasm can lead them to develop a passion for your favorite subject, too, and this will be a great achievement.
Admit your mistakes. This one is a bit tricky. You want your students to see you as the person with all the answer and the guy who administers the tests. However, sometimes things do go wrong — maybe you forgot an important point in the lesson, maybe one of your test questions didn’t add up, or maybe you promised you’d have your students’ essays back on time and didn’t get to them. If these situations arise, you should tell your students that you’ve made a mistake and move forward from there. Swallowing your pride for thirty seconds will be worth it in the long run, because they’ll see that they’re fallible, too.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should allow students to question your every move, or for grade-grubbing students to go over every little part of every little exam with you. Find a balance between being open to admitting errors and not letting students question everything you do.
Ask for feedback from older students. Though asking a class of third graders what they think of your lesson plans may not yield the best results, you can become a better teacher and a great role model if you ask older students for feedback about your teaching and lesson planning. If you’re a college teacher, for example, asking for feedback at the end of your class can help you do your job better the next time around and will show your students that your ideas aren’t set in stone and that you’re flexible.
Of course, it’s a fine balance. You have to be aware of what’s good for your students, even if it’s not the most fascinating material, and which lessons are useless because your students don’t actually learn anything.
Be encouraging. If you want to be a good role model, then you should encourage your students to do well and to work harder in school. If they’re struggling, then help them after school, give them additional resources, or give them extensive feedback on their essays to help them improve. When they show improvement, make sure you give them the praise they deserve. This models the idea of improvement and shows students that they can be better than they are; if you make a habit of being encouraging to good students and dismissive of weaker students, then you’ll make students think that there’s no room for improvement.
To be a good role model, you shouldn’t make students feel bad for performing poorly, or to praise high-achieving students too much. Instead, you should talk about how the subject matter can be quite difficult and leave room for questions so students can clear up anything they don’t understand.
Being encouraging about your student’s progress will make you a good role model because giving them a drive to succeed in your class can also help them apply this determination to other realms of their life.
Also, keep in mind that unfortunately, not all students get help or encouragement at home. Giving them a positive role model who offers encouragement can give them hope for the rest of their lives.
Being a Role Model for Your Younger Siblings
Apologize when you’ve hurt your brother or sister’s feelings. It can be really hard to swallow your pride, especially when you’re used to being in charge of your little brother and sister. However, if you’ve made a mistake, genuinely hurt your sibling’s feelings, or just did something you regret, it’s really important that you suck it up and say you’re sorry. Not only will this show your sibling that you really do care, but it will send the message that they should apologize to you when they make a mistake. Make sure you really mean it and that you’re not just doing it because it’s what your mother or father told you to do, either. Say, “I’m so sorry for what I did,” instead of, “I’m sorry you got so mad at me,” to show that you’re accountable for your actions.
Be the more mature sibling. If you want to be a good role model, then you can’t be the one throwing the temper tantrums, kicking the wall, or yelling at your parents. Your little sibling will want to be just like you, and it’s up to you to act mature and take the high road instead of acting like a baby. Though you can’t always be mature and reasonable, you can try to set a good precedent, so your sibling knows how to act. If you’re in a fight with your sibling, don’t stoop to his level and name call or start crying, and act more mature instead.
This can be tricky, especially if there’s not a huge age difference. Still, try to be more mature even when you’re upset, and your sibling will try to do the same.
Show that you’re not perfect. If you’re an older sibling, then you may have this idea of yourself as being a shining, flawless example for your sibling at all times. Though this can be true in some cases, you should take the pressure off yourself and recognize that you’re only human. When you’ve done something wrong, you can talk to your sibling about the behavior and explain what you would do differently, next time. Whether you’ve yelled at your mother or showed unsportsmanlike behavior at your soccer game, you can tell your sibling what happened and show that you regret the behavior.
You don’t want to cover up anything you’ve done wrong and act like you’re always on top of your game, or your sibling will think that he or she should do the same when he or she makes a mistake. Life is all about learning from your mistakes, and it’s important to talk to your sibling about them.
Include your sibling in your activities when it’s appropriate. Of course, there will be times when you’ll just want to hang out with your buddies and leave your kid sister out of it, and that’s fine. However, if you’re running errands for your mom, watching TV, or doing something that your kid sister or brother would be happy to do without bothering you too much, then it’s important to let your sibling have that time with you when you can. You want to be a good role model of inclusion and family togetherness, so that your sibling doesn’t feel compelled to leave you out of anything in the future.
It’s okay to get some alone time too, though. Not only is alone time healthy for everyone, but getting some time alone will also show your sibling that he or she should get some alone time for personal growth and reflection, too.
If you want to do something on your own, explain why. If you want to be left alone for a while or want to just hang out with your friends, don’t just tell your little brother to scram; instead, say something like, “I want to spend some time alone with my friend Jenny. You wouldn’t want me to be around when you’re just hanging out with your best friend, would you? It’s nothing personal and we can hang out later.” This will not only strengthen your relationship, but it will show your sibling that he or she is also capable of offering reasonable explanations to people instead of being mean.
Of course, you’ll feel cooler if you just tell your sibling to leave you alone and slam the door, especially if your friends are around, but this sets a terrible example.
Don’t compete. It’s likely that your younger sibling will want to talk like you, dress like you, and be like you. This can be flattering and sweet, and it may just be something you have to deal with. However, you should avoid creating a competition between you and your sibling, whether it’s over your looks, your grades, or your soccer skills. You want to be there to encourage your sibling to work hard, not to discourage your sibling from trying. If you set up a competitive relationship with your sibling, it’s likely to carry on for the rest of your life, and can lead to some unpleasantness down the line.
Remember that, since you’re older than your sibling, it’s naturally easier for you to do things faster and to be stronger or more skilled. Instead of pointing this out, help your sibling improve, and offer encouragement whenever you can.
Do well in school. You don’t have to be a straight-A student in order to be a good role model for your sibling, but you should try to show a general respect toward your teachers and your school. If you act like school is pointless, all the teachers are stupid, and that you don’t care about studying for your tests or skipping school, then your sibling will surely follow suit. You don’t want to set a precedent where your sibling thinks it’s okay to not care about showing up to class or succeeding in school; this line of thinking can affect the rest of your sibling’s life in a bad way.
On the other side of the coin, if you’re a stellar student while your sibling is struggling in school, you shouldn’t flaunt your test grades and super achievements, either. Don’t make your sibling feel bad about not catching up to you. Instead, take on the role of a mentor and help your sibling with his studying and homework as much as you can.
Don’t pressure your siblings to do something more adult than they’re ready for. If your sibling is a few years younger than you, it can be tempting to get your sibling to join you when you smoke cigarettes, drink beer, or do something more adult with your friends. Your sibling may be desperate to please you, and you may think it’s cute to get your little brother or sister to help you play a dirty prank on someone or even to break the law, but in fact, you’ll be sending your sibling down a dangerous path. If you want to drink with your friends or do something else your sibling isn’t ready for, keep the pressure off.
Make it clear that your sibling is his own person and that he should never make decisions based on what you want. If your sibling feels like he should cater to your needs, he may be vulnerable to other people who want to boss him around.
If you just aren’t the role model type, then don’t stress yourself! You just aren’t that kind of person, but you can still follow some of the steps.
Sometimes people are insecure and will try to drag you down to their level of insecurity. Ignore them and realize their actions for what they really are.
How to Be Your Own Role Model
How to Be a Great Role Model to Young Kids
How to Be a Better Friend and Role Model
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