Imitating our role models has always been a critical part of childhood development. In fact, the power of mirroring is “pre-programmed” into everyone’s brains — helping people navigate their early years and adapt to customs and beliefs around us. As children stay with their parents for most of their lives, it’s unsurprising that kids pick up habits and behaviors from them, whether good or bad. To ensure children grow up to make healthy choices, parents should not just tell their kids what to do but also set a good example. In this article, we discuss how parents can model healthy habits:
Engage in physical activity
While it can be tempting to let your children run off to play without you, parents should actively participate in physical activity can ensure everyone builds up an exercise habit. As found in a study on parental physical activity, parents are key role models for a young child’s physical activity — with children more likely to be active if their parent is engaging in physical activity with them. Considering how exercise benefits both body and mind, parents should create active games or routines for the family, such as going on a bike ride or taking a martial arts class together. Engaging in new activities also allows children to discover their preferred activities, encouraging them to exercise more in the long run.
Every parent would want their children to eat healthily, but parents should lead by example as with other healthy habits. It takes time and discipline to learn how to make good dietary choices, which is why undergoing a sustainable nutrition program can help prioritize your health — even when work is stressful and schedules are packed. Making healthier choices doesn’t mean you have to bar yourself from eating pizza or count your calories constantly; it’s more important to find the portion sizes and nutritious options that are right for you. When starting to make changes in diet, some families may have difficulty eliminating “unhealthy” foods like chocolate. Instead, promote nutritious swaps, such as a change from ice cream to yogurt, by making these options easy to reach in the kitchen or pantry.
Be consistent with hygiene
Younger kids can be lazy or careless regarding hygienic habits, creating a risk to themselves and those around them. As parents, it’s important to remind your children of the importance of hygiene. Visual reminders work best, so set up photo guides in critical areas such as the bathroom. In addition, parenting website Parents Canada visits some ways you can teach your child to break nasty hygiene habits and foster good ones:
- Sneezing or coughing – Set an example by coughing or sneezing into the crook of your elbow or a tissue rather than their hands
- Brushing teeth and flossing – Build the habit by brushing alongside your children and engage in positive reinforcement
- Washing hands – Parents can model hand washing even to toddlers to remind them to keep their hands clean
You can encourage your children to model after you by consistently showcasing these hygienic behaviors and building healthy habits.
Treat yourself kindly
Many adults set high expectations for themselves, but when they face a difficult challenge, they fall back into feelings of doubt and self-depreciation. Children are surprisingly emotionally intuitive and feel your frustration, which sometimes leads them to mirror your behavior when they face similar problems. To help your family get through challenging situations, our post on positive self-talk highlights the importance of learning how to cope with negative thoughts and reframing your thinking. Parents should be kind to themselves; it’s essential to recognize and acknowledge your strengths and focus on your efforts rather than fixating on the results. You can be a role model for excellent behavior through positive self-talk and proper communication with your children.
By making active changes in your lifestyle, you can set a good example for your kids to model healthy habits. For more topics on parenthood, make sure to check out our website for up-to-date information.