Children and teens always look for role models, even when they don’t realize it. Our youth observe our behaviors and model those same behaviors in relationships with peers, parents and teachers. We do our best work as parents by exhibiting positive behaviors when our children are looking. As I like to think about this concept, the phrase “Let them catch us being good” comes to mind.
The importance of a father’s interactions and role modeling is invaluable. Boys want to behave like their dads. And fathers, I hope you realize that you are being a role model not only for your sons, but for their friends. I have heard many teens and young adult men state that they want to be like a father of one of their friends. Remember, approximately 24 million children in America do not have a father’s influence in their lives. You can be such an important person in those children’s lives.
Girls take their cues about how men treat women by observing their father’s interactions with their mother. Modeling a relationship in which women are respected and treated as equals will lead your daughter to seek a man who behaves in like manner. Girls with strong positive fathers have a lower risk of marrying a man who is abusive or who treats them in an unequal manner.
The National Fatherhood Initiative, founded in 1994, promotes positive paternal interactions in families and emphasizes the importance of fathers interacting with their children and teens. So, how can you inspire children and teens?
- Develop healthy habits and model these for your children and others who may be watching. Balancing work with family, faith traditions and self-care (exercise and healthy diet) teaches our youth how to be a healthy adult.
- Talk about your values. Explain why you think families and youth are important. By doing this, you are promoting positive brain development and giving youth a template about a viewpoint.
- Engage your children and their friends in activities. Sports or other activities in which your teens participate can be an excellent way for you to better understand them and for you to engage with them in a fun way. Your family will remember the fun times they have with you.
- Treat other people well. Behave towards others by treating them in the way that you would like to be treated. Your child will learn by watching you.
Written by Debra Atkisson, M.D.