While nobody expects you to be a “perfect” parent, it is not that complicated to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children. Children need love, boundaries as well as someone to look up to and learn from.
Lately, in the pursuit of a “good life” many parents have transferred their parenting roles to the television and maids. As a parent one has to create time to interact with their child so that they can bond. Creating good habits in children depends on the environment and the person whom they grow up with.
Before a child chooses another person as their role model, parents should lead exemplary lives that draw admiration from their children.
Create time for children
Pastor John Alele of Gulu Full Harvest International, a father of two sons, says, it is important for parents to make time for their children. He says when a parent allocates time for their child, it is enough for that child to listen to the advice their parents give than accepting other people’s advice.
He says as a father and pastor he strives to balance church work and his role as a father. Alele says often he sits together with his children to nurture them because children imitate what their parents do. “Parents should not shift that responsibility to other people when they are still alive,” he says. He adds, “That is why you find families where most of the children follow the same career paths as their parents because they have observed and seen.”
He says parents are going to make mistakes. However, the key is to own up to them and then take steps to correct what was wrong to form a better behaviour.
Alele says although he is not a television fan he has had to adjust and watch cartoons with his children to identify what draws their attention.
Another parent, Margret Akello, a mother of three, says it is prudent for parents to communicate with children because that is the only way they will correct them. “It is hard for you to correct someone you do not have a relationship with. If you neglect that and think it is up to teachers and community to do your bit, then you will not like the outcome.”
She says opening communication lines have helped her to give age-appropriate sex education to her children, a topic that some parents shy away from.
Suzan Aber, a mother of one, says some parents cannot be their children’s role models because of the way they handle issues concerning their children. “They don’t have a good approach even when they talk to their own children. They are not friendly that is why they involve a third party who at the end will be considered as a good role model,” she says.
You are already a role model for your child. Every time you say something, take an action or have a reaction to someone or something, your child is observing your behaviour. As infants, this is how children gain language skills and eventually learn to talk. Preschoolers depend upon observation as they begin to understand and test the workings of interpersonal relationships. And even teenagers—although you might not believe it!—are listening to your words and observing your actions, examining how you handle everything from personal relationships to stress to career disappointments.
So whether you like it or not, you’re already a role model. The real challenge for parents is to provide a positive example as often as possible.
Ultimately, it is not about being a perfect parent—rather, it’s about being mindful that your words and actions are being watched and absorbed by your children. This is a good thing for parents, because it means that every day we have a chance to help our children become great people.
The counsellor’s take
Irene Alanyo, the youth counsellor at Gulu Youth Centre, urges parents to create an enabling environment to bond with their children. She says for parents who have busy schedules, there is need TO fix time for outings. These, she says, are a good platform TO monitor any behavioural changes in children as well as catch up outside the home setting.
She adds, “You are the parent and not your child’s friend. Discipline is usually the hardest area for parents. If you have set down rules for consequences, follow them. A child may balk at the rules but deep down, they are using your consistency as a foundation that makes them feel safe and loved.”
How to be a role model to your children
Children put their parents on pedestals. You are the first person who influences them for good or bad. They love, trust and seek your approval throughout their lives. You are the person they most want to impress. The gravity of this role can crush a parent…or a child. Here’s what it means to be a role model for your young ones.
Take care of yourself. Being your best starts with taking good care of yourself — getting enough sleep, making time to exercise, eating good food and finding healthy ways to manage negative emotions without lashing out.
Be dependable. You don’t want to raise a flaky child who lets people down — so make sure to model dependability.
That means coming through for your child (“I promised that we’d going to the park after you cleaned up your room, so let’s go!”) instead of letting work or other obligations always come first.
Be loyal. We live in an era where removing a “friend” from your life can happen at the touch of a button. Show your child what true loyalty looks like — showing up to help a friend in a time of need, or sticking with a local business owner who has served your family for years, instead of hopping over to the newest cheap-o mega-store.
Be attentive. As children get older, they push for more independence and that’s to be expected. But as a parent, your job isn’t to be a “cool friend.” Your job is to be a parent. Which means being attentive and making sure that your child isn’t in harm’s way — even if your child thinks you’re “annoying.”
Fess up when you’ve done something wrong. When you do something wrong — say, barking angrily at your spouse because you’re grumpy and hungry — don’t make excuses. Take responsibility and admit that you did something unacceptable.
It’s healthy for your child to see examples of grown-ups taking responsibility for their actions — and enforcing “consequences” to correct inappropriate behaviour.
Enforce consequences when your child does something wrong. So many parents are hesitant to enforce consequences when a child breaks a rule, but consistency is essential.
When your child does something unacceptable, you must implement an appropriate consequence.
Start now. The habits that children develop at an early age tend to stick with them as they grow older. Since bad habits are tough to break, one of the best things you can do for your children, from day one, is to model behaviour which positively shapes their character and values, and equips them to live responsible, productive lives.
That said, no matter what age your children are, it’s never too late to model the behaviour you want your children to adopt... raising awesome childs who grow up to become awesome adults!