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The Importance of Role Modeling for Our Children

Social learning scientists have shown that much of learning that occurs during development is acquired through observation and imitation.  When asked, most of us would agree that children learn from role models and imitate behaviors of those they admire.  The question then is not, “Do children imitate adults?”  But, “Which behaviors of adults do children imitate?”  And, “How can we make it more likely they will imitate positive versus negative behaviors?”

There is no shortage of negative role models for our children in today’s society.  Children and adolescents imitate the actions and appearance of video, movie, and television stars.  However, today’s media is not promoting family values and modeling pro-social behavior for children.  Many parents would cringe to think their daughters would want to imitate some of today’s trendy appearances and behaviors.

While children do indeed look to the media for role models, parents still have a tremendous amount of influence in their children’s lives.  To increase their influence, parents need to limit the amount of time kids spend watching television and videos and increase the time children spend with them.  Children are more likely to imitate parents if parents spend time with them.  In addition, parents should be very intentional about what they role model for their children.

While most parents would agree children learn a great deal by imitating behaviors of others, some parents don’t always act as positive role models for their children.  Qualities that parents can intentionally role model include:  honesty, integrity, compassion, dependability, high standards and values.

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Nebraska Family Helpline: The Helpline is a free resource for parents who have concerns and questions about their child's behavior. Call 888-866-8660. Bilingual counselors are available.

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