Are you a "do as I say but not as I do" person? Do you expect those around you to listen to your words, but not your actions?
What values are you promoting to those closest to you, especially your children through your daily actions or lack thereof?
Representing yourself one way to adults but acting another is offensive enough but when you do this around children, whose minds are like little sponges, drinking and absorbing all that's said and done around them, the damage increases tremendously.
The best and surest way to raise happy, healthy, self-confident, successful children is to model these virtuous actions yourself.
You cannot say one thing and be another. If you want them to enjoy a certain new food taste, you must be enjoying it first for them to even consider it. If you want them to stop sitting around and be more active, you must be doing these things yourself.
In other words, you must "practise what you preach".
Without a doubt, the clearest, most direct way to teach children positive values, is by being a positive role model. Children are born impersonators; they copy and repeat everything.
And, their memories are almost scary sometimes! You don't dare make promises you don't plan on keeping. Children are authentic, they will hold you responsible and call you out on it while an adult may look the other way. But a child wants answers.
Children learn attitudes and adopt behaviours primarily at home. You, as their parents, have more effect on their value system than any other adult and the programming starts young.
As soon as their senses kick in, their programming starts, so you can't wait until they are teenagers and sit them down and espouse loving, healthy values and expect them to change overnight if you've lived your life in reverse through their formative years.
For example – when a parent has continuous negative feelings about the way they look or feel, most children will pick up on this and end up with a similar, damaged, self-image. After all, if you are not satisfied with your personal self-image, how can you expect your child to be?
The reality is children follow by example not by advice. You can preach all you want to your children about how to handle a situation, but if they observe you handling a similar situation in a different manner (and, they are always observing), you can be sure they will follow your actions, not your advice.
Focusing on positive thoughts and actions and learning to eliminate the negative ones is key. You must model the behaviour you want to see in them.
While being a stellar role model won't guarantee that our children follow our footsteps and act accordingly, it's leaps and bounds better than telling them to "do as I say but not as I do". Because they are authentic, they are quick to recognise hypocrisy.
Tips on being a healthy role-model:
Eating properly and exercising regularly top the list of healthy living habits that need to be nurtured through action and not just words.
If you send your child to school with a super-healthy lunch but he comes home to find you snacking on cookies and potato chips, which programme do you think he is buying into?
If you push your children to get outside and get some fresh air and exercise, but don't espouse these same values for yourself, who do you think they will emulate?
Childhood obesity has become a worldwide issue. It's not something to be swept under the rug. Adopt a healthy eating plan for both you and your children (including snacks) and include them in the activity from purchase to table.
Children love to eat what they create, so get them involved.
And, don't sit at the kitchen table and watch them play outside, go outside and play with them!
Positive attitude and self-control
Controlling our emotional side is mandatory, especially around children that are so malleable. It's not about pushing our emotions away, bottling then up or denying their existence.
It's about handling them in a healthier, controlled way such as going for a long walk, practising some form of yoga or mindfulness, deep breathing, or even a trip to the gym. There are numerous ways to handle stress in a healthy way, just find what works for you.
Handling stress in a positive manner around our children is essential if we want our children to be up to their own, upcoming, stressful challenges that we know life has in store for them.
When they observe us handling a challenging situation with positive words/attitudes and actions, they repeat this in their own lives. If we are negative in our words and actions, they adopt those as well.
Use part of your time to help others in some way, whether it's personal (something nice you've done for your neighbour?) or business. This teaches your children that meeting the needs of others is what builds and fulfils their own storehouse. Giving will always be part of the equation of receiving.
Setting, reaching for and achieving our goals teaches children the importance of self-discipline and organisation in their own lives. It gives them an "end-point" to reach for and you an opportunity to praise them when they do.
The feeling of accomplishment they will feel when their goal is met is minor compared to the boost in self-confidence and self-esteem they'll enjoy.
Being a proud "role model" for your children in all these areas and more is not always easy, but it is the strongest foundation and greatest gift you can give them. It helps them to grow into loving, self-confident, compassionate and generous adults ready to tackle the world with optimism, integrity and determination.
There is no monetary value you can place on that. "Well done is better than well said." - Benjamin Franklin
• Carolyn Hansen is co-owner at Anytime Fitness.