Walk the Walk

Have you ever told your child to eat a food that you were not willing to eat yourself?

Have you asked your child to not use their cell phone at a time when you did not use yours?

Do you expect your teenager to not exceed the speed limit when they are driving, but you do?

Has your child ever questioned you on why they have to do something that you don’t do and your response to them was, “Because I said so! That’s why.”

I’m guilty, guilty, guilty and…GUILTY…on all four counts!

The saying, “Your actions speak louder than your words,” rings so true when it comes to effective parenting. What you say to your child is important, but what you DO is even more important.

You are an important influence on your child. Your child is watching and listening to you. They can recognize when your actions align with your words and when they don’t. And, when they don’t, they will be quick to call you out on it.

One of the most important ways you can influence your child’s behavior is to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. You must do what you want your child to do by consistently imitating the actions you expect from them.

It’s hard to do – day in and day out – over the course of years. There will be times when you just talk the talk without walking the walk. I did and I even knew better.

Just remember…when you can talk the talk AND walk the walk more times than not, the more positive influence you will have on your child over the years.

And, if you think your child’s friends might have a stronger influence on your child than you do…the truth is… they do influence your child, but so do YOU!

The influence your child’s friends have is different from your influence. Your child’s friends are more likely to influence everyday behavior, like the music they listen to and the clothes they wear. As a parent, you can influence your child’s basic values and attitudes and the issues related to their future.

You can influence the IMPORTANT things in your child’s life. The things that matter most to their long-term success and happiness.

Research shows that a parent as a positive role model will have more positive effects on a child than any other variable.

This is SO important, so let me say it again…

Research shows that a parent as a positive role model will have more positive effects on a child than any other variable.

And the stronger your relationship is with your child, the more influence you will have. That’s because your child will value your good opinion, advice and support. In fact, it’s more likely that when your child becomes a young adult, they will end up with values, beliefs and behavior similar to yours.

There are many ways your actions as a parent can have an overall positive influence on your child, but the following behaviors are critical for you to model, especially if you want to reduce the chances your child will engage in risky behaviors:

Be involved in positive activities. It’s easy in today’s busy world to say, “No thank you”, to opportunities for being involved in your community or your child’s school. Taking the time to be involved in positive activities shows your child how important being involved is no matter how busy they might be. Find positive activities you can do together with your child. Kids who are involved in positive activities are less likely to become involved in risky behaviors.

Encourage positive and open communication. Kids who have good communication with their parents have a better chance of avoiding risky behaviors. Good communication isn’t something that just happens in families; parents make it happen. Modeling good listening skills, speaking with encouragement and respect and sharing your feelings shows your child how to positively communicate with you and others. Establishing good communication early on sets the stage for better communication in the teen years when it is most critical. (If you didn’t read my blog post, The Talk About It Chair, last week, check it out. It offers great tips on modeling good communication with your child.)

Make positive choices. The choices you make not only impact you, but also your child. Someday, they may be in the same predicament and think to themselves, “What did mom or dad do when they were in this same situation?” It’s not enough to tell your child what the best choices are to make. You must show them how to make the best choices.

Set an example about alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. How much and how often you use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is related to how much and how often your child is likely to use. Give serious thought to whether your behavior could be having a positive or negative influence on your child. Be willing to change or seek help, if needed.

The bottom line is…If you want to be a parent who positively influences their child you must be their positive role model. I’m sure this isn’t the first time you have heard it. The challenge is to take what you hear and know and do it. There will be times when you do it right and other times when you don’t. Give yourself a “pat on the back” when you do it right and when you don’t, use it as a learning experience on how to do better the next time. You do not have to be a perfect parent all the time to have a positive influence on your child – just most of the time.

So, go forth, and walk the walk.

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