Being a good parent means more than just providing for your child, it also means setting the right example for him or her to learn from. Because young children look up to their parents, they are more likely to imitate your actions and behaviors. By watching their parents, kids learn everything from how to feel about their bodies and abilities to how they should treat and behave towards others.
One of the most impactful ways a parent can teach their child healthy habits isn’t through reward or punishment, but by setting a positive example and acting like the role model they are. Becoming a good role model for your child will help her become happier and healthier as a whole.
While most parents strive to become the best possible role models for their children, many parents can inadvertently display negative behaviors to their children through how they view and act themselves. Here are a few of the bad habits that parents unconsciously display in front of their children
Whether it’s how much they weight, the size of their nose, or the number of wrinkles around their eyes, everybody has some problem with their appearance. It’s also perfectly normal to verbalize complaints about yourself out loud. However, parents must keep in mind that their kids will hear these complaints and use them when creating their own opinions about appearance.
Focusing on the negative and criticizing how you look sends the message to your child that self-esteem should be based on appearance. Children, young girls especially, can be heavily influenced by what they hear mom say about her appearance. Setting an unrealistic standard of beauty for a child can cause her to develop problems with body image, which could lead to a lifetime of self-esteem issues.
Emotional eating occurs whenever an individual uses food to make themselves feel better during times of sadness or disappointment. Demonstrating emotional eating around your children could set the example for them that food is a way to feel good about yourself. Instead of grabbing that pint of ice cream when you’re feeling blue, try finding other ways to get an emotional boost. Letting your child see you talk out a problem with a friend or go for a walk during times of stress will help them pick up healthier ways of dealing with emotional problems than eating.
Parents with children old enough to have their own cell phones can spend a lot of time lecturing about too much talking, texting, or emailing, especially at the dinner table. However, a parent’s message about cell phone usage is only going to resonate with a child if the parent follows those same rules and standards. Telling your teenage son not to text at dinner, only to shoot off a few work related emails of your own between bites, sends a mixed message. Try setting family rules about when everyone can use electronics and sticking to them.
Many parents use special times, such as father/son or mother/daughter, to help further create a unique and special bond. Parents need to be careful that they don’t emphasize the superficial, while reinforcing gender stereotypes, during these moments of bonding. Mother/daughter time, for example, that is always spent at the beauty parlor or out shopping can teach a young girl that her appearance is the most important part of being a woman. Father/son time always spent watching or playing sports can limit what interests a young boy believes a man should have.
Instead of using “girl time” to take a trip to the mall, try going for a walk or teaching your daughter how to play a sport. During times when it “just the guys,” visit a local art museum, work on a puzzle, or have a conversation. The more diverse the interests your child is exposed to at a young age, the less likely they are to think that certain activities are for girls and others for boys.
Even if it’s just between you and your spouse, criticizing how a neighbor, coworker, or family members looks, acts, or behaves reinforces to your child that it’s okay to talk disparagingly about someone else. Teaching your child to respect others means watching what you say about others when they’re around. And since you can never really tell what a young child might repeat, it’s probably best to save the critique about your mother-in-law’s new hairdo until you’re in private anyway.
Author Bio: Timothy Lemke blogs about child development for Dr. Donald Lanahan, a dentist at Grants Pass Family Dental.