Role Modelling Begins At Home

Role modeling is at the heart of parenting: it is essentially about setting an ideal example or pattern of behaviour that is worthy of following. It has been said that behaviour is the highest form of communication. Actions speak louder than words. 

Most parents attempt to be a good example for their children, although they may end up setting a bad one. An example, in other words, is a precedent for imitation, either good or bad. Most parents find it easier to provide a model for their children, which refers to a person or thing that is to be followed or imitated because of its excellence in conduct or character. Not all children regard their parents as an ideal to which they aspire, a word that suggests an imagined perfection or a standard based upon a set of desirable qualities; but young people’s lives often end up following the pattern established by their parents, meaning that their lives follow the same basic configuration or design.

Role modeling is where our children will learn from us most - both consciously and mostly, 
unconsciously. Sociologist Morris Massey described three major periods of child 
development that show how role modeling can impact them. 

1. The Imprint Period.  Up to the age of seven, we are like sponges, absorbing everything 
around us and accepting much of it as true, especially when it comes from our parents. 
The confusion and blind belief of this period can also lead to the early formation of trauma 
and other deep problems. The critical thing here is to learn a sense of right and wrong, 
good and bad. This is a human construction which we nevertheless often assume would 
exist even if we were not here (which is an indication of how deeply imprinted it has 
2. The Modeling Period.  Between the ages of eight and thirteen, we copy people, often 
our parents, but also other people. Rather than blind acceptance, we are trying on 
things like suit of clothes, to see how they feel. We may be much impressed with 
religion or our teachers. You may remember being particularly influenced by junior 
school teachers who seemed so knowledgeable—maybe even more so than your 
3. The Socialization Period.  Between 13 and 21, we are very largely influenced by our 
peers. As we develop as individuals and look for ways to get away from the earlier 
programming, we naturally turn to people who seem more like us. Other influences at 
these ages include the media, especially those parts which seem to resonate with our 
the values of our peer groups. 

Working through Massey’s observations, how often have you found your children ‘mimicking’ the behaviour imprinted from absorbing you? e.g. Have you heard your tone of voice and the exact words being used by an older child to a younger sibling? Role modeling as a parent is important to help our children develop in the formative pre-teen years. The foundation that has formed as a result of the role modeling will support the latter years of peer influence. 

Let’s explore some practical examples of what role modeling on a daily basis could be like:

1. Time for Self. I set aside 10 minutes for yoga postures every morning, and 10 - 30 minutes for a walk/bath or a read  - and the children respect that to be my time - no exceptions! 
2. Balanced eating. We eat home cooked healthy meals most of the time - seated together. We honour ‘the team that plays together, stays together’. We permit fun foods too - after all, ‘forbidden fruit’ tastes sweetest. So we have a motto of eating everything we want in moderation. My belief: Whatever is repressed is expressed. So there really is no contraband - and any possible ‘forbidden fruit’ thus loses its hold. We actually have a set time per week when you can eat all the lollies you want in one seating....Now my son Jett does NOT have a sweet tooth at all. Go for the sweet stuff - and only good will come of it! After all in nature, doesn’t the bee go for the nectar, and in the process the flower gets pollinated??
3. Music appreciation. My children since birth started listening to a spectrum of music from diverse composers - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to George Michael! I  wanted them to tune in to my world. In the last few years, Jett and Xian has introduced me to their musical world of Ne-Yo, Lady Gaga and High School Musical. I believe that in keeping to the same musical wavelength range, we can continue to keep our channels of communications open.
4. Continuous learning. My husband and I continue to attend courses regularly - both for professional as well as personal development. We also encourage our children to attend courses outside of their usual school curriculum eg took them out of school to attend the 14th International Conference on Thinking in Kuala Lumpur with us and when they returned to school they presented what they learnt to their teachers and peers. We signed them up for the Junior Leadership program when we both attended the Australian Annual Convention of the National Speakers Association. 
In leading a great life as role models, we hope our family will do as we do rather than do as we say. In living a great life themselves - it may be quite different to ours. However, our hope is that the legacy we leave is one where they live a life of purpose, vision and values that is true to them.
Can you think of who was the first powerful influence in your life? I would not be surprised if it happens to be a parent or carer. Would you not like to be the initial most impactful influence in your child’s life?
As a leader and a learning partner, notice what other role models who may have impacted you. My great- grandma,  whom I only knew for less than a decade, taught me 3 things as a role model that I observed:  
1. Strength to strive and thrive: ʻWhen the going gets tough, the tough keep going.” 
2. Self-belief: Donʼt let being a girl get in the way of being the best I can be. 
3. Self-drive : “If itʼs going to be, itʼs up to me”. 

So, questions for you to ponder:
-what have you learnt from your role model(s) that has made you who you are? 
- what are your children learning from you as their role model?

By Dr Yvonne Sum
Dr Yvonne Sum CSP transforms leaders of tomorrow today: through speaking, coaching and writing. Having been a dentist, RAAF officer, executive coach, leadership facilitator & speaker, author, business partner, wife and mother of two, Yvonne has first-hand experience transcending changes across various contexts. She consistently provokes senior business leaders to ‘lose their minds and come to their senses’ by integrating their leadership lessons at home successfully back into the work tribe in Australia, USA and Asia-Pacific. She has presented alongside Edward deBono, Howard Gardner, Tony Buzan, and David Perkins.  ‘Intentional Parenting - Learning Leadership from your Home Tribe’ is her first solo book due out in 2012.