While nobody expects you to be a "perfect" parent, it really isn't that complicated to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids.
Kids need love. Kids need boundaries. Kids need someone to look up to and learn from.
Your job, as a parent, is to lead by example -- modeling the kind of behavior that you want your kids to adopt.
Becoming a role model, of course, often means taking a close, honest look at how you live your own life.
This kind of self-examination can be uncomfortable, at times, but it's absolutely necessary for the well-being of your child.
If you're ready to step up to the plate, here are 10 ways to lead by example, helping your kids to build character and self-respect, and showing them:
"This is what awesomeness looks like."
1. Be your best. When it comes to your kids, role-modeling is everything. Your children pay attention to everything you say and do, and they imitate your words and actions. Keep in mind how easily they are influenced. Be your best.
2. Take care of yourself. Being your best starts with taking good care of yourself -- getting enough sleep, making time to exercise, eating good food and finding healthy ways to manage negative emotions without lashing out.
Depleting yourself by constantly putting other people's needs first is not a good move. That's not the kind of future you want for your kid -- so don't model it, yourself.
3. Be dependable. You don't want to raise a flaky kid who lets people down -- so make sure to model dependability.
That means coming through for your child ("I promised that we'd going to the park after you cleaned up your room, so let's go!") instead of letting work or other obligations always come first. It also means coming through for friends, family, colleagues and everyone else in your life.
4. Check in with yourself. "Checking in" to evaluate your own behavior is a beautiful practice -- and it's healthy for your child to see and hear you doing it, too.
You can open up conversations with your child by saying things like:
: Lately, I've been thinking: I might be watching too much TV.
I'm feeling a bit tired. I'm think that I need to start eating better food.
:Today I felt so angry! I think it's time for me to look at how I handle conflict with others.
Invite your child into the conversation to share some things that he or she would like to explore or improve, as well.
By doing this, you're reinforcing the idea that being an awesome person is an ongoing process. There's always room to learn and grow!
5. Be loyal. We live in an era where removing a "friend" from your life can happen at the touch of a button. Show your child what true loyalty looks like -- showing up to help a friend in a time of need, or sticking with a local business owner who has served your family for years, instead of hopping over to the newest cheap-o mega-store.
6. Be attentive. As children get older, they push for more independence ("Mom, please don't come in my room!") and that's to be expected. But as a parent, your job isn't to be a "cool friend." Your job is to be a parent. Which means being attentive and making sure that your child isn't in harm's way -- even if your child thinks you're "annoying."
You can say:
"You are so precious to me, and it's my job to make sure that you're healthy and safe, always. I hope that one day, you'll understand why it's my job to be so attentive, and to take care of the people I love. I hope that one day, if you have children, you'll be concerned and attentive, too."
7. Teach (healthy) skepticism. Children are naturally trusting and they look eagerly to their surroundings for role models. Teach them that not all "role models" are reliable. Show them what it looks like to have a healthy skepticism and to "follow your instincts."
For example, at a car dealership, you could privately turn to your child say:
"This man says that this is the best deal in town, but I have a hunch he might not be correct. Let's check out some other dealerships. It's important to trust your gut."
8. Fess up when you've done something wrong. When you do something wrong -- say, barking angrily at your spouse because you're grumpy and hungry -- don't make excuses. Take responsibility and admit that you did something unacceptable.
It's healthy for your child to see examples of grown-ups taking responsibility for their actions -- and enforcing "consequences" to correct inappropriate behavior.
"I wanted to go out and get a manicure, today, but I yelled at your father and that caused a big fight. Instead, we're going to stay home and spend some time talking, together. We're going to figure out a plan so that this doesn't happen again."
9. Enforce consequences when your kid does something wrong. So many parents are hesitant to enforce consequences when a kid breaks a rule, but consistency is essential.
When your child does something unacceptable, you must implement an appropriate consequence. This is connected to lesson #3: Be dependable. Kids thrive on consistency and reliability. Without it, they invariably feel aimless and unsupported... and are at risk for developing into adults who don't know how to be consistent, either.
10. Start now. The habits that children develop at an early age tend to stick with them as they grow older. Since bad habits are tough to break, one of the best things you can do for your children, from day one, is to model behavior which positively shapes their character and values, and equips them to live responsible, productive lives.
The sooner, the better. The more consistent, the better.
That said, no matter what age your children are, it's never too late to model the behavior you want your children to adopt... raising awesome kids who grow up to become awesome adults!
As a psychologist and life coach, Dr. Suzanne Gelb's insights have been featured on more than 200 radio shows, 100 TV interviews and too many articles to keep score.
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And while you're visiting, if you enjoyed this article ... go deeper. Check out The Life Guide on How To Get Your Kids To Cooperate--And Help Them Be The Best Grown-Ups They Can Be for more tips, tools and practices to help you navigate parenting with grace.