More than 75 percent of America's children say family members, family friends, teachers, coaches and community leaders are their role models, according to the 2008-2009 State of Our Nation’s Youth survey by the Horatio Alger Association. Fewer than 25 percent say entertainment figures, artists, sports figures and national or international leaders are their role models. No matter how much television your child watches, he's most likely watching you or another familiar adult more closely to decide how he wants to lead his life.
Positive Effects of Role Models
The Los Angeles County Department of Health Service conducted a study in 2002 to “examine the relationships between role model characteristics, psychosocial functioning and health-risk behaviors.” The results showed that 56 percent of the adolescents identified with role models. Those who identified with role models they knew personally showed higher levels of self-esteem and stronger academics.
Who is Your Child's Role Model?
It is easy to assume, in a media-driven culture, that your child’s most influential role model is his favorite musician, actor, athlete or political leader. But according to the State of Our Nation’s Youth survey, only 13 percent of high school students claim their most influential role models are entertainment figures or artists. Fifty-seven percent say role models are family members. Of those, 36 percent say their mothers are their role models. Twenty-eight percent identify with their fathers. The other 36 percent identify with other family members.
Parents as Role Models
Although your children are busy with school, extracurricular activities and friends, they are still watching you and taking mental note. Two of the most important aspects of being a good role model are leading by example and keeping open communication. In leading by example, parents help their children make healthy choices. By keeping communication open, parents can help children deal with issues such as peer pressure and other negative influences.
Teachers and Coaches as Role Models
Teachers and coaches can be a positive influence in their students' lives. Teachers exemplify the value of education and intellectual curiosity. Coaches are important, as well, according to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. They instill the values of fitness, team effort and fair play. For young people who are not fortunate enough to have positive role models in their families, teachers and coaches can have a lasting and important influence.
Tips for a Positive Role Model
If you are one of the many parents who wants to be the best role model possible, Education.com offers some tips. Treat others with respect and kindness. Talk about your values and morals. If you take prescription medications, do so responsibly and talk about it with your child. Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation and discuss the consequences of abusing alcohol and other drugs. Talk with your children about school, activities, their friends and anything else they wish to discuss. Most important, show your love for your spouse, children and other family members and close friends.
- Horatio Alger Association: The State of Our Nation’s Youth
- Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine: Role Models, Ethnic Identity, and Health-Risk Behaviors in Urban Adolescents
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Children and Role Models
- National Association for Sport and Physical Education: 4 Reasons Why We Must be Good Role Models
- Education.com: Be a Good Role Model: Someone is Watching You