How do we be good role models to our children?
Maybe it’s not just your children, maybe you’re teaching others. You want to be a great role model to a little niece, a nephew, other young adults, or young people in your life. Most of us long for that.
This article offers seven tips on being a good role model.
When we’re feeling disempowered, it’s almost impossible to be a good role model, so I’m including some basic tips and tools to keep top of mind whenever you’re longing to show up for your kids and for those around you as a great role model.
This is a journey of empowerment.
The first tip is to be you and be real.
This can be a tall order because to be real sometimes might mean we have to show some vulnerability. We may have to show some painful emotions.
When I talk about showing emotions or being able to be with our emotions, it’s just to be with them and to be real about it, as opposed to giving our emotions no space or attention.
I remember when I first got divorced, my children were quite young, only six and not quite three yet, and it was such a trying time.
It was so challenging for me, and I had a lot of moments where I just wanted to burst into tears. I just wanted to scream.
One day, I was with the kids and I was having such a rough day and I said to them, “Okay, guys, you know what? Mommy needs to scream. Let’s go lay down on my bed and we’ll all kick and scream together and just let it all out.”
They were kind of like, “whatever,” and then we started doing it and we screamed until we were laughing hysterically.
That moment was a transformational moment for me because I realized the importance of allowing them to be a part of my experience. Not from the place of taking anything out on them or putting anything on them, but from a place of letting them into my world and finding a creative, clever, but not scary outlet so that I could be real with what I was feeling, be myself, and express.
You don’t want to over-intellectualize with children, so there was no explaining. It was just, “Mommy’s feeling icky. Let’s go scream together.” That’s all that needs to be said, and they get it.
Don’t Project Your Feelings / Emotions
We don’t want to project our stuff onto the little ones or young people around us.
In fact, we don’t want to project our stuff onto anyone around us.
If we want to be good role models, we want to show up owning our stuff.
We need to own our crap. We need to own and celebrate our successes and joys. We need to just be there and not expect someone else to celebrate for us, to take care of us, or any of that.
It’s not that we can’t ask for help. We need to do that. The idea is, we don’t want to project whatever’s going on onto someone else with any level of expectations.
They are their own person and we are our own person.
Having expectations or projections of our emotions or our mental state is absolutely not going to help them to know and see their own real self, let alone the real you.
Along these lines, I have a free report for you. It’s around the concept of mistakes we as women constantly make that keep us feeling depleted, isolated, and disconnected from who we really are.
Self-care is one of the most critical tools, and might look like being very real and being honest.
It might look like taking a bath, something that was always a saving grace for me. I would put the kids to bed, and I would soak in an Epsom salt aromatherapy bath. It was so cleansing, healing, and nourishing for me.
Self-care might include the way that we spend time in Nature, and the way that we nourish our bodies with what food we take in.
But also everything that we ingest:
Are we spending time around toxic people?
Doom scrolling social media?
Spending too much time with negative downer-type news?
We need to look at how we’re caring for and nurturing ourselves because when we’re nurtured and fueled, we have fuel to give back.
However, if we’re constantly depleted, if the gas tank is empty, we’re not going to be able to be there for others, and certainly not able to be a good role model to anyone around us.
Admit Mistakes and Apologize
Be human with the knowledge that we’re all fallible. We make mistakes. If we don’t model that for our children, our children will struggle.
I want to share a quick story and a couple of points from my own life.
I remember a time when I was staying with my grandparents. My grandfather was an alcoholic. My sister and I were staying the night there.
My grandfather had gone out drinking. I didn’t know that at the time. When he came home we were still up and we were supposed to be in bed. We were asking for some water or something, and he started yelling at us and chased us back upstairs,
“You two get into bed!”
I had never seen him like that, and it really startled me.
We went to sleep feeling a little scared. When we got up in the morning, he was in the kitchen making us breakfast, cooking us eggs, bacon, and a wonderful spread.
He didn’t even acknowledge what had happened the night before and he was like the perfect grandpa that I always thought of.
I remember talking to my father after we had gone home. I told him what happened and he said, “You know, everybody has a different way of apologizing.”
That really struck me because apologies aren’t always in words.
However, if my grandfather had apologized with words, I would have known that he saw that what he had done was scary and frightening to us.
I do think the words are important. Language is generative. We need to admit, we need to acknowledge, we need to say, “I screwed up here.”
We are not going to be the perfect role models. Perfection is a complete fantasy.
I have a demon of perfectionism. Many of us do when we care so deeply about those around us, and about doing this deep inner work we’re doing to feel more empowered.
However, perfectionism can keep us from empowerment because we keep protecting ourselves from stepping into new things and taking risks.
My parents also were not very good at apologizing or admitting they were wrong. They would get defensive. They would try to find a way to blame it on someone else or something else. It’s not healthy. It doesn’t help a child, a young person, or anyone around you for that matter.
When you can actually admit that you were wrong about something, you screwed up, or you made a mistake, you allow fallibility to be part of your existence and the relationships you’re in.
We want to make sure we own it, name it, admit it, and apologize for it.
Find Balance in Your Life
Find balance in the process of everything you’re doing. That’s going to help you become a great role model.
If we want to be great role models, others need to experience or see us finding balance around fun, work, play, self-care, joy, and the capacity to dance between the inner and outer aspects of our lives.
We need to be willing to dance the extremes of life, shifting our thoughts and beliefs as we go. Others need to see us doing that dance.
We can’t be stuck in an all-or-none kind of mentality.
We want to model the idea of knowing when to persevere, to keep going, and to push ourselves beyond our limits, and also knowing when to back off and say, “That’s enough. I don’t want to push myself to the brink of unnecessary pain or suffering.”
We want to find balance and rhythm.
What’s the rhythm of our day?
Rhythm is an amazing tool for children. It helps them feel so secure, feel safe, and they know what to rely on.
They have something to rely on because there’s a certain rhythm to their day. It’s super important.
Rhythm is a tool for creating balance.
When we have a rhythm, we’re able to build in different aspects of our lives. There might be a certain time in the day for this kind of activity, a certain time in the day for that kind of activity. We’re looking to find balance within our lives, when to breathe in and when to breathe out.
That is such powerful modeling that we can offer not just for children. In many ways, we think of role models as being adults toward children, but we all probably admire an adult in our lives too.
We look at something and we say, “Gosh, I wish I could do that,” or “I wish I had that.”
We aren’t trying to be role models to other adults. What we do tend to try or long for is to be role models to young people around us.
We want to be the kind of adult that any other adult aspiring to be their best would like to see showing up in their life as well. It gives everybody hope when we can do that.
Finding balance helps us to avoid extremes.
We are going to go to extremes. We’ll constantly find ourselves in one way, and then when we’ve found ourselves stuck there, we inevitably swing to the other side. The pendulum swings.
It’s not so much about never going to extremes. We’re going to go there, but this attention to finding balance feeds into all of the other things:
Are you taking care of yourself?
Are you noticing and being conscious of when you’re out of balance?
Are you being real and honest?
Are you admitting mistakes you’ve made when maybe you’ve gone to an extreme?
Are you correcting yourself and actually changing your ways?
Too many people are in codependent relationships. Perhaps there’s an alcoholic and a partner stays with them forever no matter how abusive, unkind, or unreasonable they are.
There’s this process of never owning, never changing, never shifting.
We want to own the extremes that we go to, and actually work to find a dance that’s more in the middle.
We’re never going to be static. That’s not our goal.
Our goal is to be dynamic in the dance. We actually want to be dancing extremes, visiting them and finding our center again and again.
While we may dance between extremes, we want to avoid hanging out in extremes.
We don’t want to stay at one end of the tightrope that we’re dancing, or the other. We want to be dancing it and finding our own middle, our own center. That’s where we find true empowerment. That’s when we find that we become, by default, a great role model to those around us.
We need to ask for help when we need it. We need our communication to be clear.
When I was growing up, my mother needed help. She was the mother of five children, but she did not know how to ask for help.
We cannot expect people to read our minds.
If we want to be great role models, we need to communicate in a way that we would want to be communicated with.
We don’t want our kids to be thinking they have to guess what we feel any more than we want to guess what they feel.
We want to communicate with them. We want to clearly ask questions.
There are so many different ways that we forget to use our clear words.
Remember, language is generative.
The way we speak whether, it’s through an apology, through requesting help, or through a declaration of how you’re going to show up, take care of yourself, and set boundaries for yourself, communication is key.
Be you and be real.
Admit your mistakes and apologize.
Find balance through fun, rhythm, and perseverance.
Avoid extremes, and effectively communicate.
Those are seven tips I hope are helpful for being a great role model.
Please share in the comment section:
What do you notice?
How does this idea of role-modeling show up?
Do you feel others around you using any of these tools are a nice role model to you, or someone that you aspire toward?
Do you use some of these tools effectively in your own life?
Leave your thoughts as well as any questions, because I genuinely love hearing from you.
For a video version of 7 Tips to Be a Great Role Model, watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwscSJq2Zwo