You are your young child’s role model.  Even as they grow older, they still look to you for an example of how to behave (even if they’re also influenced by Zendaya or Rihanna).  So, one of the best ways to get your kid to behave well is to model what you’re looking for in them.  Do as I say, not as I do is a very weak message because auditory learning (from what they hear) is only one way in which children pick up information.  Children also have eyes, feel things and learn from experience.  As an effective parent, your actions should be consistent with your words as far as is possible.  We’re only human (I struggle with frustration and a short fuse) but try your best!

“Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning.”

― George Bernard Shaw

Albert Bandura conducted the now famous Bobo Doll experiment in 1961 into how children learn from observation.  In the experiment, some children watched an adult beating up the doll whilst other children observed the adult playing gently with it or ignoring it altogether.  Largely, the children copied what they saw: some hit it violently, some played gently and some ignored it.
So, how can we as parents model what we would like to see from our children?  As always, it’s easier said than done!  Here are 18 ideas (in no particular order) and I bet there’s at least one that you could start working on today:


  1. Be polite – Say please, thank you and model good manners.  If you don’t want your children to swear, don’t do it in front of them!  Look closely at the music you listen to and the shows that you watch together.
  2. Don’t spank / smack them.  Especially not to correct violence in them!  You’re teaching them that hitting is OK if you do.
  3. Obey laws and follow the rules.  Sometimes this can be frustrating, such as waiting for the signal before crossing a road when there is no traffic.  But if you jaywalk then your kid may too.  (5 students known to me over my 10+ year teaching career have died from not paying attention when crossing roads.  The problem is real.)  Similarly, wear a seatbelt / helmet / other safety equipment when you expect your child to do so.
  4. Be mindful of your smartphone use.  I know sometimes you really have to look, but please keep it to a minimum.  Phones hold a fascination for children of all ages because of the attention given to them by most adults. Break the mold and show that there is another way! 
  5. Be honest – If you do something wrong or make a mistake, admit it and apologise.  It is healthy for a child’s mindset to understand that even their parents are still learning.
  6. Be trusting – Let children make choices and take responsibility.
  7. Be reliable – If you make a promise (or threaten a consequence of poor behaviour), you should keep it.
  8. Be mindful of your body confidence.  “I’m wearing my fat jeans”, “They really shouldn’t be wearing that!” and other statements that are critical about body image are perhaps not a message that you want to relay to your kid(s).  Particularly daughters (although males are increasingly vulnerable to this too).  Whilst obesity is not desirable, you can approach healthy eating in the positive: what to do, rather than body shaming others or yourself.  And yes, it”s another reason why I dislike screen time for young kids.
  9. Hold yourself to the same health standards.  Eat well, exercise and don’t smoke or drink excessively in front of your children, if that’s the message that you’re trying to get across!
  10. Show respect – by your words and actions, show that you respect yourself and
    others (especially important if you are going through a separation or divorce from the other parent.  Just try your best!  I’m sure it’s a huge challenge.). Use respectful tones and words and speak as you would like to be spoken to.
  11. Model skills – use a knife and fork correctly, tie your shoelaces where your kid can see, brush your teeth thoroughly, read your book (instead of looking at your phone!) and write something rather than typing it sometimes.  (I make notes on upcoming blog posts in a notebook or solve printed killer sudoku puzzles while Billy plays in the park, for example.)
  12. Be fair – Listen to all sides of the story before reaching a conclusion.
  13. Be caring and mindful of prejudice.  I hope we’re agreed that we don’t want our kids to become racist, misogynistic, anti-semitic, homophobic, disablist…
  14. Be a good listener – Find time to give each child your full attention.  The timescale on this depends on how many children you have and/or how many parents there are.  As always, just do your best.
  15. Avoid poor role models where possible – when you see examples of disrespect, discuss them.
  16. Be a positive person, on the whole.  Come up with solutions to problems as they arise and explain your thought processes.
  17. Be prepared to lead the way.  Eat something unusual first, climb that wall, speak in that foreign language!  It’s healthy for kids to see that we’re frightened as well sometimes, but that we can prevail in the face of difficulty.  Of course, sometimes we feel fear with good reason, so it’s good to discuss the difference between an actual threat and a perceived one.
  18. Be mindful of your white lies.    I’m sure we’ve all been tempted at least to claim that our child is younger than they really are to get a discount.  Or that we’re unavailable to do something when we’re really not.  Consider whether the white lie is worth the moral lesson it’s teaching your child or whether you need to explain yourself to them afterwards.  Billy and I have had several conversations about the difference between a lie, a joke and being tactful.  But that’s a story for another time…

A Woman Less Ordinary lives, parents, purchases and thinks differently. With 10 years of teaching experience, she has many effective techniques for managing kids’ behaviour (and a lot to say about finance if you’re interested) BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANY OF IT!

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