Dear Mr. Dad: People are constantly talking about how parents should be good role models for their kids, and that makes good sense to me. But everywhere I look, I see parents behaving in horrible ways. Maybe I’m confused about what “good role model” really means. What are good role models supposed to do?
A: We all know that our kids are watching our every move (even when they’re ignoring us). And most of us have banished the phrase “do as I say, not as I do” from our vocabulary. So there’s no question that what we do is important and that our behavior can have a big influence on how our children will turn out as adults. But for me, setting a good example is much more about the being than the doing.
If you want your child to be an ethical person, treat others (and themselves) with respect, and make the right choices even if they’re not the easy ones, you’ll have to do more than demonstrate behavior. You’ll have to talk about the issues and point out examples of good—and bad—behavior around you, and in movies, TV shows, and books. And you’ll need to discuss with your child why people make the choices they do and what your child would have done instead. The goal is to lead your child to a point where he or she will make good choices even when you’re not there.
That said, being a role model isn’t all in your head, and how you behave is still important. Here are a few ideas: