Teenagers need role models. What you do, how you act and behave, as a parent or carer has a massive influence over your teenager’s attitudes, behaviour and choices. You are their most important role models. With the many influences that surround your teen in the digital and real world, it's important to be the best role model you can be for them. They look to you for answers, guidance and protection. By being your best self and being more aware of your own actions and words, you can have a positive influence on your teen’s values, attitudes and life choices.
If you live your life in a way that reflects your values and what is important to you, then what you say and what you do will match up. This provides clear lessons for your teen about what you expect from them, as well as what they can expect from you. It’s important to think about ways you can be a positive role model for your teen as they become more autonomous and independent.
How you behave sends a signal to your teen that this is the sort of behaviour you approve of. Role modelling works in relation to virtually everything – from how you handle emotions such as frustration and anger, to how you respect and relate to other people, to how you respond to stress and cope with difficulties. It also influences patterns such as eating, exercise, how you look after yourself, and problem solving.
What about the influence of other role models in your teen’s life?
Well - you might think that your teen’s peers and friends have a stronger influence in the teenage years than you do. Friends and peers do influence your teen, but so do you – it’s just that peer-influence is different from your influence.
Your teen’s friends are more likely to influence everyday behaviour, like the music they listens to or the clothes they wear.
As a parent or carer, you influence your teen’s basic values, like issues related to their future, educational choices, and religious values.
And the stronger your relationship with your teen, the more influence you’ll have. That’s because your teen values your good opinion, advice and support. In fact, it’s likely that when your teen becomes a young adult, they’ll end up with values, beliefs and behaviour that are similar to yours.
Teenagers need you to stay connected with them and what they’re up to. You can take an interest in what they’re doing with their friends without invading their space if you balance your teen’s privacy with monitoring and trust.
Depending on what’s important to you, the clearest way to be a positive role model is to show your teen how to be the person you want them to be.
Here are some examples how to be a positive role model to your teen:
Model positive relationships. Including your teen in family discussions is a good way for them to understand how people can get along with others and work together. A teen’s family is their first training ground for relationships, and usually one of the strongest influences.
Show them the importance of learning. A positive approach to education and knowledge can help your child value the process of discovery and learning. An optimistic outlook generally supports positive outcomes.
If you make education seem interesting and enjoyable, your teen is more likely to have a positive attitude to school and learning. For example, you could learn a language or a craft like painting, or you could read about an unfamiliar topic. And when you spend time reading for pleasure, it’s a great way to encourage your teen to pick up a book.
Take responsibility for your mistakes. Openly admitting your mistakes and failures, and talking about how you can correct them will show your child how to be accountable for their own actions. It also teaches them that it’s okay to make mistakes and fail. Failure can be treated as form of information to learn from that that also builds resilience.
Respect others and positively resolve conflict. Showing respect to others and trying to problem solve conflicts that arise, rather than simply getting angry and upset, will show them what respect and problem solving looks like
Make yourself available to your teen. One of the best ways to be a positive role model for your teen is to make yourself available to them. Many teens pull away from their parents because they feel that their parents are too controlling, judgmental, or out of touch. By making yourself available, your teen will know that you can be approached for advice in the future.
Talk to your teenager. Communication is important in any relationship, especially between a parent and a teenager. Talking may have come easier when your teen was a child, but you can and should still have meaningful conversations together - it may just have to be on your teen's own terms.
Indicate that you are willing to listen. Using effective communication skills, like active listening, can promote a healthy relationship with your teen. Communicating in a healthy way with your teen will also provide a healthy model of behaviour for your teen to follow. While there are lots of ways to model effective communications skills for your teen, showing that you are willing to listen is a great way to start modelling effective communication skills.
Get to know your teen's friends. Part of being a positive role model for your teen involves ensuring that your teen has supportive and healthy relationships with their peers. You can do this without spying or snooping by simply talking to your teen and taking an active role in interacting with your teen's friends
Be supportive of your teenager. Support is important for developing teens. Not only do they need supportive and understanding parents, they need supporting and understanding role models as well.
You can help your teen to choose and build respectful relationships by role-modelling respectful and caring behaviour in your own relationships. And if you find yourself in a disrespectful relationship, model positive ways to manage that – for example, by being assertive, talking with the person involved or seeking professional help.
You can also stand up for yourself in a respectful way. This can be as simple as politely saying no to others – for example, ‘I can’t work late today because I promised to help at my teen’s football game’. This helps your teen learn important skills and ways of relating to others.
You might worry about how your teen will manage peer pressure to experiment with alcohol and drugs. But it’s not just friends who influence teenagers in this area – you also have an influence.
You can try to discourage your teen from trying alcohol by talking with your teen about alcohol and other drugs, the effects they have and the risks involved.
But the way you use alcohol and other drugs also influences your teen’s attitudes and behaviour, so you can be a role model for safe habits. For example, think about the different messages you might send by drinking occasionally and in moderation, compared with drinking daily and heavily.
You can role model a healthy lifestyle by eating well and exercising regularly. You could involve your teen – for example by swimming or running together, or going for a family walk.
You can also try to avoid making negative comments about your body – and other people’s too. This sends important messages to your teen about body image and acceptance.
Your own technology use sends powerful messages to your teen about the place technology has in your family’s life. For example, always walking around with your phone sends your teen the message that your phone is very important to you. But scrolling through social media and then going for a family walk sends the message that social media is just one option for entertaining yourself and relaxing.
Follow your own advice. By being a positive role model, you'll need to live the positive lifestyle that you want for your teen. If your teen sees you saying one thing and doing another, they may think you're being hypocritical or unfairly judgmental, which may make communication more difficult in the future.
These are just a few examples of how parents and carers can be positive role models to teens. I hope they are helpful.
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