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How A Parent Can Be a Role Model for a Child

Updated on May 19, 2014

The Pursuit of Right

Many people believe that to be a good parent, one must always be truthful, kind, and generous. This simply isn't human. No one is always right in every action; it's not possible to reach a standard that ethereal. Parenting doesn't require perfection on your part, despite what the media has been selling you for years. Perfection is a euphemism for stagnation: those who view themselves as perfect have no need to change. Perfection isn't truthful, kind, or generous. It's a fictional goal, created by those who want to control parents or by parents themselves who have ceased trying.

Rather than always being right, a good parent constantly finds herself in the pursuit of right. There should be a continual striving to find the good in ourselves and others, and this is what makes for meaningful parenting. More than almost anything else, our children frown on complacency. Children emulate and idolize parents who refuse to settle, because they understand unrest; it's a child's modus operandi to struggle against the grain. A true role model, not a Hollywood version, understands that "perfection" forever lies within a wonderful state of imperfection. Embracing this truth is key to becoming a role model for your child.

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The Balance of Near and Far

Some of the best teachers I've seen share a quality with some of the best parents, which is the ability to balance connection with meaningful detachment. Too many parents believe that in order to evoke a child's awe or eternal respect, they must always be connected on a personal level. You see this in the mother at the soccer game who seems more upset at that pushy kid on the other team than her son does; you see it in the father who gladly allows his daughter to have a sleep-over every other night. Parents who lack a balance of near and far try to be friends with their children's friends, and they are too quick to side with their children over any other adults in disagreements. This attempt at personal pacification ultimately confuses and disappoints children; they have friends already, and need their parents to be parents first.

Understanding that a role model is always striving to be right, a role model also knows when to shut me-and-you-time down. Children need boundaries, and many times need their parents not to listen. If this seems counterintuitive, remember that a child isn't a small adult. You need to model for your child how to be on his own and how to define his own space, and the only way to do this is to withdraw at times. Don't turn away coldly; simply explain what you need to do and then do it. In the long-term, your child will respect your ability to know yourself, and the connected moments between the two of you will become meaningful rather than unending.  This is a huge step towards becoming a role model for your child.

Hope Everlasting

All that said, the glue that holds together the admired and the admirer is hope. Modeling a desire to be better and an ability to stand on your own two feet are both critical to becoming an inspiration for your child, but the true measure of a role model is his ability to believe that the world will be better, too. A child worships a parent who is willing to believe that things are always improving. Think about the people in your life, aside from your parents, whom you may have idolized. Chances are those individuals energized your aspirations and lifted your sense of expectancy. They made you feel better for knowing them.

Ultimately, if you want your child to view you as a role model, you need to view the world as if its your role model. Show your children what it means to have faith in fortune and the goodness of others; your children, in turn, will display their gratitude by elevating you in their eyes.

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    • andibelle profile image

      Andrea Kim 

      4 years ago

      Wonderful! Wonderful words! A must read for every parent. :)

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      6 years ago from New England

      Thank you, Glen. I really appreciate the positive feedback, and I'm glad that you found some part of this useful. :)

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I read your Hub because I had a friend who, I felt, was a bad father towards his daughter. I found your thoughts and explanations very enlightening.

      "Finding the good in ourselves and others" is a powerful statement and something very important to understand. I have another friend who tells me his father never talked about anything good in him. And as an adult he is struggling with that now. So I know what you mean.

      The way you described everything can be very useful for anyone who is bringing up a young child. Voted up, useful and awesome.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Yes, or develop them to be strong enough to lean on themselves. That, I think, is a true gift.

      Thanks so much for reading, FaithDream. :)

    • FaithDream profile image

      FaithDream 

      7 years ago from (Midwest) USA

      Good article. As a parent you learn as you go. Children need role models that demonstrate integrity and honesty. Encouraging your child to believe in themselves and be there for them. So that when they need someone to talk to, you'll be the one they call.

      I have 2 adult children and both of them inspire me everyday. Thanks for writing this.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Thank you, eudociadavis. Wow, are you right. How often do you see parents expecting behavior from their kids that they aren't capable of themselves? I'm glad you stopped by.

    • profile image

      eudociadavis 

      7 years ago

      Children are excellent observers. Even as newborns, they imitate their parents,

      i love this hub superb, very good work.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Of course it's ok, and I'm sorry for going on about this publicly.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      7 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Shogan, I think I will send you an e-mail shortly, if it's OK with you. I think a little explanation is due you, my friend, as you appear to be a lot more concerned than I.

      Thanks for your concern... HP has provided some amazing friends, if nothing else. And I really appreciate what you have said.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Ian, you need to. Trust me. You can't let this pass. A son is a father's legacy. Regardless of whether you've been there all this time, you must make a connection before all you have left is regret. On some level, you know I'm right.

      I know this might feel a little heavy for a comments section online, but I'm moved by your story. You've probably grown used to ignoring the situation, but that doesn't mean you should.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      7 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      He is, but he doesn't know and I was thinking today about writing about it and it would perhaps open a can of worms.

      I think I can hear the sound of a dog snoring.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      You may have gotten used to leaving it be, but you need to address it so that neither of you is holding on to any pain. You may feel like it isn't important anymore, but whether he's 5 or 50, you're still his father. Do you have any other children? Is he your only son?

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      7 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Obviously I can't go into all the details; not because they're private or sacrosanct, but because they would be too tedious.

      Suffice to sat, I didn't know that my girlfriend was pregnant when we broke up and although we remained good friends, when I went back to Australia and asked to see him (many years later) she wouldn't cooperate.

      Letting sleeping dogs lie appeared to be the best course of action.

      But there is a short story in there somewhere... my life has enough twists and turns for there to be several short stories from it, so watch this space.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Ian, if he's fifty and you have yet to make peace with it, you've waited too long. If you had no more time, how would that feel? What if you lost your chance to make it right?

      You know how fleeting life can be. Whatever you're saving needs to be spent.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      7 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      I must improve my typographical skills... I am constantly telling a friend of mine, whose spelling is deplorable, that he should use the spell check facility, and I forgot to use it myself.

      Mea culpa! Mea culpa! Mea culpa!

      Fifty!

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Is that thirty or fifty?

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      7 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Time. Tha's all I need. He will be firty next year... I have time yet.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Ian, I thank you for your praise, but I'm sorry, too. What happened with your son? Do you mind me asking? Perhaps you should consider writing a hub about it. I truly believe that it is never too late to find peace of mind. There's so much more there...I can tell.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      DIFH, thanks so much for sharing your memories. Not showing Ariel that you were crushed was exactly the right thing to do. A child branching out is wonderful; too often, parents trim those branches needlessly and lose so much glorious growth.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      7 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Perfect hub, my friend. I have marked it UP and AWESOME, because it is both of those and more.

      I am not going to comment, as that would diminish its impact, because frankly, you have said all that I believe (although being the worst parent ever, as I had NOTHING to do with the upbringing of my son).

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 

      7 years ago

      Role modeling is the most powerful method I use to parent my daughter. It has also been one of the most difficult methods to employ!

      I agree that we need to step back at times, but this can be easier said than done depending on the situation.

      I remember when I was Ariel's whole world. Then it seemed like overnight she didn't want to spend time with me. Instead, she wanted to play in the dirt with her friends! I was like, "But don't you want to play with your dad?" She replied, in a child's plain, innocent way, "No. I want to play with Debbie."

      I was crushed! That was surprisingly hard to take, but she made an age-appropriate decision and I supported it. Then when she scuffled or argued with her friends, I stayed out of it most of the time.

      At first I didn't particularly care for this part of being a parent, but I knew this would pay dividends as she grew up.

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