It’s true: Children are sponges, tofu, and Velcro. Not only can they absorb anything and everything, it seems that everything can stick to them (most often: dirt). Children model what they see—especially their parents. Good habits and bad, they are watching (and probably mimicking) what their parents do.
A study done by the American Academy of Psychology suggests that when children grow up they will most likely follow in the footsteps of their parents. The good news is that if you live a life with the utmost health in mind, your children have a 65% chance to follow in your healthy footsteps. By showing children the way, we are leading them down the road to longevity in order to live healthy, happy lives!
No Double Standards: Setting a Consistent Example
Sadly, many of us want to live healthy lives, but we don’t live up to our words or goals. This often creates a double standard for our children. Many parents set expectations for their children’s health without living up to those expectations themselves. Here are some common areas in which parents struggle to set a good example:
- Drinking and smoking: These adult activities are fraught with health and lifestyle concerns. True, the occasional drink does not hurt you in the long run, and wine actually has some health benefits, but we’re talking about a drinking habit here. If you tell your kids to not drink or smoke but don’t follow your own advice, curiosity might eventually get the best of your children.
- Eating habits: Let’s assume that what you eat, your whole family eats, since you cook for each other at home. If you expect your kids to eat healthily, you must improve your own shopping and eating habits.
- Exercise: We tell our children to exercise regularly, yet we get caught up in the busyness of life and neglect our own need to be active. Regular time outdoors has also been shown to significantly improve both a child’s mental and physical health. You can view our post about the benefits of spending time in nature here.
- Technology: No one wants their children to be glued to their phones, yet we as parents often are. It’s hard not to be when so much of our work (professional or otherwise) is done electronically. However, as we discussed in our last post, setting a good example in this area is vital for our children’s mental health.
Children have a much harder time respecting parents and other adults when double standards seem to be the norm. In time, children often decide to do what they want. If adults don’t regulate their habits, why would children? This also applies to mental well-being: if parents set a good example in their attitudes and mental health, their children are likely to follow.
Setting a Positive Example of Mental Health
Living a healthy lifestyle is much more than eating right and exercising. Emotional well-being and a positive attitude also seep into your child’s core being more than you know. Respecting ourselves at the deepest level of who we are leads to self-confidence and positive self-esteem. Respecting ourselves also gives us an innate ability to trust in our decisions, practice healthy leadership, and be assertive. By caring about lifestyle choices and striving to set our goals high, we are enforcing the fact that our lives have worth. When children see these social/emotional characteristics modeled, they can more easily grow into happy, well-balanced individuals.
Likewise, modeling a positive attitude makes a huge difference in a child’s life. When little ones see fear or anger modeled often, especially in reaction to specific stimuli, they are much more likely to repeat what they see. Keeping a positive demeanor is no easy feat, but it certainly pays off. And staying positive does not mean bottling up negative emotions—it simply means finding ways that help you deescalate situations. If you can find positive ways to handle your emotions, you will have the privilege of teaching your kids those same principles.
Parenthood is a minefield. Just when you overcome one mine, another blows up. But as you navigate this minefield, remember: consistency is key. For your children to truly benefit from your example, you must be consistent with your rules and lifestyle.
While it may take a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to raise good parents.
Contact our office today if you need help building the foundation for a healthy family lifestyle. We would love to come alongside you and be a part of your village!
It is impossible to be a perfect role model, but is it not a parent’s job to try?