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Parental Influence & How To Be A Good Parent Role Model

What is a Parent Role Model

A parent role model is a parent who serves as a positive example for their children to follow. Their actions and values set a standard for their children to emulate. Parental influence can have a profound impact on children’s development.

Positive role models include demonstrating qualities such as honesty, kindness, hard work, responsibility, and respect for others.

mother parent role model for daughter dress alike black hats and jackets

Intergenerational Transmission

“Like mother, like daughter.” “Like father, like son.”

“The seed doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

“Continue the family legacy.”

Family traits are depicted succinctly in these sayings, some good and some not. 

It is common for children to take after their parents in many ways. Research has uncovered certain patterns repeated from generation to generation.

Children who grow up with parents who drink or smoke are more likely to do the same​1​.

Parents tend to emulate the parenting styles they were brought up in by their parents​2​.

Emotional difficulties in parents tend to reflect in the difficulties that their children face in managing their emotions​3​.

In psychology, intergenerational cycles, the perpetuation of negative patterns across generations, are widely observed. 

Negative role models can have a lasting impact on children.

Positive Influence From Parents

Parents’ influences on their children are not limited to negative influences or bad qualities.

The converse is also true.

Healthy lifestyle behaviors are often passed down from generation to generation.

Families with healthy eating habits are more likely to have children with similar diet quality​4​.

Secure attachment in parents is more likely to result in secure attachment in children​5​.

Children of parents who engage in enjoyable activities grow up to pursue activities for pleasure, too.

The importance of healthy role models for children cannot be overstated.

Boy is motivated to do homework

Have trouble motivating your child? Check out: How To Motivate Kids

How To Be A Good Parent Role Model

Parental role modeling means acting the way you want your child to emulate.

Your action, rather than words, is what makes a good parent.

This is the most obvious choice of role model, but it is also the most challenging because so much of what we want our children to adopt is difficult even for us.

Basic behaviors such as being polite, working hard, or not drinking excessively are relatively easy to adopt.

Practice, however, is harder than preaching for some everyday behavior that isn’t as obvious.

Instilling values and behaviors into children cannot be achieved through words alone. Research shows that direct instruction and indirect influence are ineffective when the parent’s actions contradict their messages​6​.

Here are some personal qualities parents must model for their children but tend to overlook.

Emotional regulation

Model emotional regulation in our daily life.

We often talk about disciplining our children, but it is equally important for us to discipline ourselves.

When our children are upset, most of us want our kids to be able to calm themselves down without tantrums or aggressive behavior.

So when children mishave, and you are frustrated, do your best to calm yourself, don’t yell or berate (tantrum), and don’t punish punitively (aggressive).

Consider what you want them to do in that situation and then do it yourself to demonstrate how it’s done​7​.

For example, take deep breaths to clear your head or show kindness even when you are frustrated.

Keeping calm when upset can be a challenge for parents, but that’s a good reminder that it’s hard for children too.

Positivity

Use positive discipline or other non-punitive disciplines to teach children acceptable behavior.

Parental positivity is found to correlate with prosocial behavior in children​8​.

Positivity includes positive feelings and positive, non-coercive discipline.

The development of emotional regulation in children is also associated with a positive home environment.

Empathy

Parents are often quick to blame children for inappropriate behavior. Misbehavior, however, always has a reason.

By not trying to understand things form children’s point of view, we model lack of empathy and dismissal of others’ perspectives.

We can, however, teach children empathy and problem-solving skills by turning bad behavior issues into life lessons.

Explain the issue patiently while helping them come up with alternatives to their problematic behavior. Besides teaching them how to solve problems, this builds strong relationships which also promote empathy​9​.

Involving your child in family discussions is another way to help them gain perspectives from both your and their point of view. Allowing their input into family decision shows them you respect and value them.

Respect

Respect isn’t just for adults. To teach children respect, we must first show them respect. We cannot ask children to earn their respect if we don’t earn ours.

Parenting is hard. Many parents sacrifice a lot to raise their children. They understandably feel they’ve done their part to earn children’s respect.

The reality is having kids was a choice made by the parents, not by the children. We knew parenthood would be hard when we decided to take on the responsibility. Our kids didn’t force us to do this.

Acting like our children owe us will not earn us respect.

The best way to teach them how to do it is to do it ourselves.

Resisting peer pressure

Children aren’t the only ones who are susceptible to peer pressure.

Think about a recent instance when your child threw a tantrum in public. What were your thoughts and reactions in that moment?

Were you uncomfortable, frustrated, or embarrassed, and tried to stop them through methods such as bribery, threats, yelling, or leaving the scene? Perhaps a friend encouraged you to use those methods.

How did these actions impact your child’s ability to regulate their emotions?

Parents often feel apprehensive about how others perceive their parenting abilities. They may prioritize external validation over finding ways to help their children manage their emotions effectively.

Those methods do not develop children’s self-regulation capabilities but aim to quickly suppress tantrums in order to avoid perceived embarrassment or judgment.

So what can parents do instead in those situations?

Being a good parent means putting your child first. Focus on what’s best for your child and how to help them learn to self-regulate. 

If you’re doing that, you’re a good parent no matter what anyone else thinks. You are modeling how not to succumb to negative peer pressure and not allowing influences from peers to cloud your judgment.

Final Thoughts On Parental Influence

No parents are perfect. They may not always be excellent role models in every situation. But what matters is understanding their key roles in children’s development and striving for more healthy behaviors every day.

Need Help Motivating Kids?

Online course How To Motivate Kids is a great place to start.

References

  1. 1.
    GREEN G, MACINTYRE S, WEST P, ECOB R. Like parent like child? Associations between drinking and smoking behaviour of parents and their children. Addiction. Published online June 1991:745-758. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.1991.tb03100.x
  2. 2.
    Kitamura T, Shikai N, Uji M, Hiramura H, Tanaka N, Shono M. Intergenerational Transmission of Parenting Style and Personality: Direct Influence or Mediation? J Child Fam Stud. Published online February 3, 2009:541-556. doi:10.1007/s10826-009-9256-z
  3. 3.
    Bridgett DJ, Burt NM, Edwards ES, Deater-Deckard K. Intergenerational transmission of self-regulation: A multidisciplinary review and integrative conceptual framework. Psychological Bulletin. Published online May 2015:602-654. doi:10.1037/a0038662
  4. 4.
    Vepsäläinen H, Nevalainen J, et al. Like parent, like child? Dietary resemblance in families. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. Published online July 3, 2018. doi:10.1186/s12966-018-0693-1
  5. 5.
    Belsky J. The Developmental and Evolutionary Psychology of Intergenerational Transmission of Attachment. In: Attachment and Bonding: A New Synthesis. Boston Review; 2005:169–198.
  6. 6.
    Huta V. Linking Peoples’ Pursuit of Eudaimonia and Hedonia with Characteristics of their Parents: Parenting Styles, Verbally Endorsed Values, and Role Modeling. J Happiness Stud. Published online January 19, 2011:47-61. doi:10.1007/s10902-011-9249-7
  7. 7.
    Hajal NJ, Paley B. Parental emotion and emotion regulation: A critical target of study for research and intervention to promote child emotion socialization. Developmental Psychology. Published online March 2020:403-417. doi:10.1037/dev0000864
  8. 8.
    Knafo A, Plomin R. Parental discipline and affection and children’s prosocial behavior: Genetic and environmental links. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Published online January 2006:147-164. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.90.1.147
  9. 9.
    Boele S, Van der Graaff J, de Wied M, Van der Valk IE, Crocetti E, Branje S. Linking Parent–Child and Peer Relationship Quality to Empathy in Adolescence: A Multilevel Meta-Analysis. J Youth Adolescence. Published online February 27, 2019:1033-1055. doi:10.1007/s10964-019-00993-5

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