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Emulate to Inspire Excellence

Updated on October 29, 2018
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Dianna is a writer with a background in education and business. She writes to inspire and encourage others.

Do you emulate qualities a child would want to mirror?
Do you emulate qualities a child would want to mirror? | Source

Emulate strikes me as one of those words that should glow, glimmer or sparkle when you say it. Well, in my mind anyways. People who reflect positive life choices inspire others. Children look up to adults whose actions set good examples to follow and they mirror what they see. Hence, people who emulate excellent behavior should have a shimmering light about them for the impact they make on young minds!

According to the dictionary, emulate means to strive to equal or excel, especially through imitation. The end goal of it is to arrive at perfection. Children identify with role models as a picture of what they aspire to be one day. They hope to replicate their accomplishments, perhaps even to surpass.

My question is: who do our children emulate in today's world? In a world where youth are subjected to adults with different lifestyle broadcasts through channels such as movies, music and sports, what impact do they have on a child's development?

People Most Admired by Youth

Sports Figure
Community Leader
Other Family Member
President of the United States or First Lady of the United States

Source: AACAP Families & Youth;

Traditionally, boys are expected to emulate their fathers.
Traditionally, boys are expected to emulate their fathers. | Source

Historical and Current Role Models

I don't remember my mother as having any color but gray to her beautiful long hair. Every night standing in the dim light coming from a solitary light-bulb hung over her dresser, she pulled the pins from her braided coiffure letting her long locks fall below her knees. Once in awhile she would ask me to brush out her hair while she told me a story or sang a song. She silhouetted what I wanted to look like one day. I wanted to be her. Until I got to know Cherry Ames.

Helen Wells and Julie Campbell, authors of the Cherry Ames mystery novel series (1943-1968), wrote to influence young girls to become nurses, especially promoting the war effort as a pathway to a worthy nursing career. I read every book published, resulting in my wanting to become a nurse. I often dreamed I was Cherry Ames! Cherry Ames was a perfect role model for girls at the time. She was a heroine of honorable character who wanted only to help others. Today, nursing is still popular with youth as a career choice but I would argue job security is a major decision factor.

Gallup's annual poll, pulled from Americans across the nation, traditionally lists most admired man and woman as the sitting President of the United States and the First Lady of the United States. US Presidents have captured the top slot in 58 of 70 years of surveys. Among other top mentions are Billy Graham, Pope John Paul II, Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton.

Other figures such as actors, athletes and artists tend to influence children as they are portrayed by media. Sometimes it is a very positive message, other times not so mentionable. Peyton Manning as a well known football MVP has earned the admiration of many people. Kids look up to him as a role model. He made a big impact on youth when he turned down an extra $1.4 million per year signing with the Broncos, expressing that he “didn’t deserve it”. From his own personal income, he has donated millions to at risk kids. His integrity impacts many a child's perception of what a true man really believes and does.

With so many people out there to identify with, do parents still emulate how a child wants to lead her or his life?

Who do You Emulate Most?

Thinking about those who encouraged you to excel, which person listed below was most inspirational?

See results

Parents as Role Models

According to a State of Our Nation's Youth survey, fewer than 25% of children emulate actors, sports figures and national leaders. Over 57% state they identify with a family member as a someone to mirror; 36% list mom as their top role model and 28% emulate their father.

I find this information hopeful. Good news parent, even with all the glitz and glamour of politics, movie stars and super athletic sports-persons … children still want to pattern their lives after parents.

As I mentioned earlier, children observe intently what an adult does and will mimic their responses in life choices. I laugh every time I view those Progressive Insurance commercials highlighting people who start acting like their parent. Seriously, how we react to situations is largely a result of our family relationships. How often do you catch yourself saying what your mom or dad used to say? I rest my case. We are mirror images of our parent.

For some of us, a parent may not have been the best example but psychologists believe you then form your thoughts and actions to counteract the influence, an oppositional response. Nevertheless, parents greatly model behavior children consciously or unconsciously absorb. Hmmm, may just be worth checking how you are wired.

Parenting to Inspire

Having a child shadow you as you work allows for bonding, helping to inspire good character traits.
Having a child shadow you as you work allows for bonding, helping to inspire good character traits. | Source

Characteristics Children Value and Emulate in Adults

Respects people
Outstanding Behavior
Hard working
Makes the right choices
Stands firm on decisions
Safe Person
Spends time with kids
No bad habits
Good example
Comfortable with who they are
Seeks to help others
Capable of action worth admiring
Someone to look up to


As humans, we don't know what we should do. We don't have those instincts like God gave animals. We have to see to know where we are going. It is just a natural human emotion to look for people to emulate.

— Tony Dungy, Former National Football League Player & Coach

Attributes a Role Model Emulates

Imitation or Emulation?

Oscar Wilde, Irish poet and playwright from the late 1800's, is credited with the proverb iimitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can play to greatness. He believed imitation cloaked the creativity of the individual. Although, for a child it is a form of adaptation as a he learns to interact within an environment.

Animals will change in form as a protective stance in nature. Living in Florida, the lizards are great at camouflaging tree bark. Not until you brush up against them and they leap out at you do you realize they are there. They get me every time! As humans, we also adapt in certain circumstances to achieve a goal. For instance, a child will copy another child's behavior in order to receive positive attention in a school learning situation. How many times did you copied a friend's attitude or mannerism because it got good results from the teacher?

Kohlberg's theory of moral development places imitation in the first two stages of development. A child wants to be accepted socially and will mimic others in order to gain approval. It isn't until the 3rd stage a child ( as a teen) or individual will begin to emulate a person, attempting to become their equal.

As children age, they will choose who they want to emulate, usually reflecting chosen behaviors with a spin of their own.

Children mimic parent qualities and actions they admire. Setting good examples inspires worthy traits.
Children mimic parent qualities and actions they admire. Setting good examples inspires worthy traits. | Source

Stay True to Yourself

Children emulate adults or older children because they are emotionally attached through close interactions. They eagerly follow examples to acquire knowledge of what it takes to succeed. As parents we must encourage our children to mirror people for their positive accomplishments and successes.

Young minds cannot gauge how unhappy the person may be or if the person is demonstrating poor habits upon observation. They regard the person as a worthy model based upon their actions, not realizing the person actually suffers from unobservable insecurities and poor self image.

We must teach our children to emulate the positive accomplishments and effects people have upon others. Encouraging a child to imitate characteristics of proven historical role models goes a long way in building character -- character worth emulating for a life of goodness and happiness.

If you desire to inspire a child, stay true to who you are but keep in mind that you are most likely who your child wants to emulate. Youngsters will catch on as you demonstrate living with hope, determination and integrity. They observe how compassionate you are with others, how you help people in need. You play an essential role in ensuring your child leads a meaningful life.

As a Christian, we always fail because we can't become Christ. But I can try to at least emulate the best qualities, even if I may fall short.

— Kelsey Grammer, American Actor and Director

© 2018 Dianna Mendez


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