Your influence begins the moment your child is born. He needs to learn how to live and function in our complex world -- he begins this education by observing you, according to the University of Nebraska Extension Family Living Department. Your child learns more from what you do than what you say, so when a choice in behavior must be made, your child is more likely to choose what you do than what you say. You influence your child’s moral character, faith and perspective on people and the world.
As your child matures and becomes more aware of the world around her, she might choose celebrities as role models, including athletes, performers and political personalities. Those people have no responsibility for your child, and might have little concern about the example they set. Youth and teens can imitate these celebrities in behavior, attitude and character. A 2013 study by the Barna Group, a California-based research organization that explores the intersection of religion and culture, found that a majority of people in the U.S. say they believe that professional athletes have a more significant influence than religious leaders. The study notes that athletes who talk about their faith can positively influence others for Christianity.
As a parent, you have an advantage most celebrities don’t have -- you can make a conscious effort to influence your child one-on-one about whatever is most important to you, including cultivating qualities such as respect, kindness, fairness, honesty and self-control. Your contact with your child is more concentrated and interactive, and your child knows what you want. Talk about those issues with your child and be a strong role model as he constructs his moral foundation.
Discussing Celebrity Role Models
If you think your child’s celebrity role models aren’t having a positive effect on him, talk with him about your objections. Reinforce the values you want your child to have. Tell stories about people and characters who you believe provide the kind of modeling your child needs. With teens, learn about your child’s interests and be aware of what he finds interesting and desirable. An open dialogue with respect for your teen’s feelings and interests will probably get you a more favorable response than simply forbidding your child from following a particular celebrity.
Make good choices. According to Robyn Silverman, speaker, teen development specialist and writer, every decision you make affects not only you, but your teen, too. If you want to be a good role model for your teen, remember that she is watching and waiting to emulate your behavior. For example, if you forgot to walk the dog, resulting in the dog urinating on the living room floor, you could lie to your teen by telling her you did walk the dog or you can tell her you forgot and accept responsibility for your mistake. The decision you make affects your ability to be a positive role model for your teen.
Finish what you start. One way to be a positive role model to your teens is to commit yourself to whatever it is you start, according to Silverman. For example, if your teen sees you follow-through on your commitments despite them being far tougher than originally thought, he’s more likely to stick with his decisions.
Go outside your comfort zone to have your teen see you as a well-rounded person, according to Silverman. In order to become a positive role model for your teen, she needs to see you live a multifaceted life. She shouldn’t simply see you in the house or in your office. Being a positive role model means showing your teen that she can be successful in life doing more than one thing and not being afraid to accept a challenge or an adventure. Let her see you conquer your fear of heights by taking the family zip-lining or your dream of learning to ballroom dance.
Watch your words and your treatment of others. To be a successful role model for your teens, you must treat others with the kindness and respect that they deserve.
Role of the Parents
Berk believes that teens become psychologically distanced from their parents, the role of parents and other adult family members in promoting good behavior in their children is very strong. According to Berk, although a teen's friends have greater influence over day-to-day matters like dress and choice of music, parents have a far greater impact on a teen's life choices and morals -- and so parents should try to be a good role model and encourage good behavior.
Behavior of Adults
Hopkins believes that although teens are searching for their own identify they are highly influenced by the behavior of adults they have regular contact with. Berk also notes that children who come from unstable homes and who see adults engaging in antisocial behavior might think this behavior is part of the adult world and copy it. So if a teen witnesses another adult hitting another when angry, they may regard violence as the accepted adult way of resolving conflict, but if the teen sees adults talking together about their problems, the teen will copy this behavior.
Positive adult role models can also be found outside the family, and can include teachers, sports coaches, church leaders and community leaders like Boys and Girls Clubs leaders who install self confidence and hope in teen lives. Teens are also influenced by adults they do not directly know, such as political leaders. According to a survey by the Burma Group, teens view President Obama as a role model, and are inspired by his self-confidence, determination and hard work.
Berk claims adolescents look for role models from Television shows. If a teen watches shows with positive adult role models, such as a hard working single mother raising her children, the teen is likely to be influenced. However, a report in USA Today shows a link between aggressive behavior in teens from watching violent TV shows. The Nancy Carlsson-Paige website also claims that teens who watch a lot of violent and aggressive TV shows and movies can become desensitized to violence and Berk believes there is then an additional danger of the teen displaying violent behavior thinking again it is the "normal" accepted part of adult life.
Unresolved Parent Ambitions
Often, parents will subconsciously use this influence and power over their children to fulfill their own unresolved ambitions. This can in some cases push the child towards an area where he will succeed and find his purpose. In other cases, however, it might prevent him from exploring other fields and discovering a great talent somewhere different. The parent's unfulfilled desires can encourage the child's talent or suppress his potential.
Understanding the child's desires and offering plenty of incentives that will allow him to find his purpose, is crucial. Children need to shape their own ambitions and parents play a chief role in allowing this to happen. They have to allow space for and give value to their child's talents, inclinations and taste. They need to put their own aspirations aside and encourage their child to choose his own path, taking him to a place where he can grow, build his own personality and effectively shape his own being.
The Importance of Confidence
The child will only be able to express himself and achieve his full potential in his chosen field, if he is able to build up confidence. Parents again play a vital part in encouraging their child to become confident and strong, through recognizing the importance of his desires and the weight of his goals. Instead of stressing their own wishes regarding the child's future, parents should encourage their little one to develop his own personality and stay true to his personal aspirations.
A Joined Effort
Although parents will always undeniably influence their children's ambitions, they should allow space for their child's own desires and personality to shine through. They should offer multiple incentives as well as carry out research that will give the child the chance to determine the fields that he has a talent or inclination for. Setting objectives and goals for the child's future needs to be a team endeavour, constantly adjustable and respectable of both sides.