mother and son standing together

Our relationship with our parents can be one of the most important that we have in our life. You are your child’s first and most influential teacher and your actions often say much more than the words you use. 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 will provide clear lessons for your child about what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. It’s important to think about ways you can be a positive role model for your child as they become more autonomous and independent in adolescence.

How does role-modelling work?

Role modelling the behaviours you want to see in your child is important. How you behave sends a signal to your child that this is the sort of behaviour that you approve of. If what children observe from your behaviour is different to what they are being told, then your child is likely to be confused, and possibly resentful. It may also confuse expectations and boundaries, leading to conflict and frustration between you and your child.

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 good parental role modelling looks like

Depending on what’s important to you, the clearest way to be a positive role model is to show your child how to be the person you want them to be.

Here are some ways you might do that:

  • Model positive relationships. Including your child in family discussions is a good way for them to understand how people can get along with others and work together. Our family is our first and often most influential training ground for relationships.
  • Model the importance of learning. A positive approach to education and knowledge can help your child value the process of discovering and learning. An optimistic approach generally supports positive outcomes.
  • Model taking responsibility for your own mistakes. Taking responsibility for yourself by admitting your own mistakes and talking about how you can correct them is positive role modelling.
  • Model respect. Showing respect to others and trying to problem solve conflicts that arise rather than simply getting angry and upset is also a display of a positive role model.

Look after your own wellbeing

Being the best parent you can be and supporting your child through their teenage years requires patience, calm, time and resilience. Although your family is a priority, they rely on you. Make your own wellbeing as important as that of your family and don’t feel guilty for needing time to yourself, privacy, space and peace and quiet to charge your batteries so you can meet your family’s needs.

No-one can do it alone, if you need support reach out to people you trust and respect for advice. You might find that other parents have similar experiences and it can be comforting to know you’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed at times.

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