13 Ways To Be a Good Role Model
Hey, big shot. You don’t have to be a celebrity or a superstar to be a role model. Chances are if you’re a parent, teacher, coach, religious leader, or manager, you’re influencing people every day. Make it positive!
Set the bar high. Have high expectations for others and yourself. Avoid the tendency to adjust the target downward just to accommodate mediocrity.
Inspire others. When you’re a role model, every message you send is critical. For example, people will notice whether or not you value a good education, the relationship that you have with your spouse, how you work under pressure, how you behave during the Little League game, and whether you’re confident enough to admit fault. Don’t wait for the stars to align to demonstrate good behavior. Deliver your message every day in small ways.
Look in the mirror. Look to see if you’re sending the wrong message. Here are some examples of behavior gone awry: cheating has become a substitute for hard work; you have become ruthless to get ahead; drugs are your rewards for success; life is about stuff, not people; relationships are disposable; the only thing that matters is winning.
Stand for something. Good role models are objective and fair. Furthermore, they have the strength of their convictions. They believe what they say and say what they believe. Mark Twain may have said it best, “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.”
Walk the talk. Ensure that your words and actions are consistent.
Integrity matters. Good role models are open, honest, and trustworthy. Make sure to finish what you start and follow through on commitments.
Be respectful. Treat others as you want to be treated.
Believe in yourself. Be confident in who you are and what you represent. But balance that confidence with a dose of humility.
Hold people accountable. Don’t accept bad behavior. Speak up against abuses. If you don’t condemn poor behavior, then you’re a co-conspirator. Life isn’t a spectator sport.
Nobody’s perfect. Accept responsibility for your actions. When you make a mistake, admit fault and show you mean it by taking corrective action.
You’re judged by the company you keep. Surround yourself with people of high character and integrity. They may rub off on you and provide extra encouragement when the stakes are high or the going gets tough.
Your soul is NOT for sale. Listen to your conscience. That’s why you have one.
Are You a Good Role Model?
This is adapted from Follow Your Conscience: Make a Difference in Your Life & in the Lives of Others By Frank Sonnenberg © 2014 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.
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When we were younger, most of us looked up to someone. For the majority of us that would mean our parents, but on top of that it wasn’t unusual to also find ourselves looking up to heroes on television and in films. Maybe we wanted to be Arnold Schwarzenegger or Optimus Prime or Britney Spears. These were figures who seemed to embody everything that we thought was good, all of the ideal traits that we would like to be able to possess for ourselves, and the kind of life that we would one day want to live.
Of course there were hundreds of great role models out there and there are countless examples of successful thinkers, artists, athletes, singers, writers and more for us to aspire to. For some reason though these people stood out among the crowd and were the ones that we really took notice of and tried to emulate. Perhaps we sensed a kindred spirit, or perhaps they reminded us of one of our parents. Either way, once the role models were chosen, this would become a long – sometimes even lifelong fascination that we would take into adulthood.
But is a role model always a good thing? Is it something that’s more applicable to children? And how do you go about choosing your role models and influencing who your children look up to?
The Positives of Role Models
When role models fulfill their… role… the way they’re supposed to, they can provide us with a range of benefits. For instance they can provide a model for living and for getting to the point we want to be at in our lives. For instance if you’ve always wanted to be a singer, then seeing someone who is successfully living that dream not only gives you a concrete example to aspire to and to show that it can be done, but it also gives you a template for how to go about achieving that. You can see how they approached their aim, and then you can see if taking a similar approach works for you. In this case that would probably mean finding an agent, getting singing lessons etc etc. This also gives you the motivation to keep going, and hopefully when you see that person perform you will be inspired anew, and you will be motivated to do your own training.
At the same time a role model can be a comfort and almost a surrogate parent in our own minds. For someone who has a true idol, seeking out their words of advice and their shared secrets is a great way to get guidance and advice in your own life.
Finally, having a role model can also make life more exciting in some ways. It’s great to have a ‘favorite’ and watching a sports game is made very different if one of your heroes is on the pitch/court and this can help you to get more involved in what’s going on in the game.
How a Role Model Can Be a Bad Thing
When a role model becomes a bad thing is of course when that idolization becomes more of an obsession and your affections become blind. If you have a role model that you really aspire to be like and they change their clothes or hair cut, then it’s harmless and gratifying to borrow some of that style advice yourself. Similarly if your favorite artist/writer/philosopher should influence your own work, then again this is normal and gives you more of a solid foundation to build upon.
The problem then though comes when you become so obsessed with that role model that you end up losing your own sense of self and your own identity. You don’t want to be the new David Beckham, you want to be the first you. And if you are blatantly following every fashion decision that the footballer makes then you are in fact being nothing like him – because the trait that you aspire to be like is the bravery to try new things and to create fashion trends, not to copy someone else’s.
Likewise there will come a time when your role model lets you down. This is true whether it’s someone in the media or it’s your own parents. In Hollywood in particular it’s not unusual to see your own hero go on a drunken binge, assault a cop and then get caught snorting some kind of drugs. Someone who can look logically at the situation will realize that it’s the person’s work/career/charisma that they are inspired by, and that their personal behavior should have no bearing on that. Someone else though who is less stable might decide to imitate that behavior too, or they might be crushed at the feeling of being let down by their hero and lose their direction. Remember that though the person is your hero, they are still human. How they achieve greatness despite their character flaws is partly what’s to be admired (though this is a benefit of a fictional hero – Optimus Prime rarely does go on drunken binges… ).
Finally you need to be careful not to compare yourself unfavorably to your heroes. While having a hero should give us confidence and motivation, there are times when it can have the opposite effect as we find ourselves asking why we haven’t yet achieved the same success, or why we aren’t as famous.
There are a couple of things to remember. The first is that your role models weren’t born successful. In fact they probably went through a time very similar to you and if you were to look at how they started out then you’d realize that they might too have one day thought they’d never make it. Look at Sylvester Stallone – before he had his hit film Rocky he had been turned away by almost every agent in the area and had barely two pennies to rub together. At that point he’d probably have gladly swapped places with you. The secret was perseverance.
At the same time though there are some things that aren’t just a matter of perseverance. For instance if you want to have the good looks of Tom Cruise then no amount of training and creative thinking is going to help you with that. The only answer is plastic surgery and that’s far from advisable. Instead then, consider the way your looks are different to his as a plus and don’t obsess over the ways you are different. Likewise remember that you are un-airbrushed and don’t have a multibillion dollar team behind your looks. If you do find that your role models are making you feel less confident though, then consider looking at role models more similar to yourself.
Role Models for Your Children
Your children are likely to pick up role models as well just as you might, and it’s important that they get more positive benefits from this than negative. So how do you make sure that they have a positive experience in this regard? First of all you need to ensure that you yourself are a good role model for them. If you can make them look up to you, then that will enable you to counteract many of the negative influences they might have from elsewhere in their lives. Likewise if you provide a good enough role model and they end up wanting to please you and wanting to be like you – then that will mean that they seek out more role models they think you would approve of.
To be a good role model, and to be the kind of role model your children will respond to, then you need to make sure that you don’t try too hard to win their approval. Doing so will only make you seem desperate and they won’t respond to that. Don’t try to appeal to your child’s sense of ‘cool’ but instead be secure in who you are and the confidence you exude as a result will show.
A similar truth goes for trying to encourage your children’s choice in other role models. If you try to encourage any role model for your children too strongly then it will instantly become un-appealing. Rather let them choose their role models mostly themselves then choose which choices you want to support. Take an interest in what your children are watching and listening to, and if you think it’s a good influence then encourage this behavior by giving them the financial means to continue.
Role models are highly important for us psychologically, helping to guide us through life during our development, to make important decisions that affect the outcome of our lives, and to help us find happiness in later life.
When we are growing up we look to our role models for inspiration and use this as a blueprint for how we should behave when we’re older. This is likely a survival function designed to help us to mimic the traits of those successful members of our society and thereby help us to be successful too. At the same time in later life its thought that our happiness is very much based on our perception of how our life should or could be and the gap between that and how it is in reality. In other words it’s striving for that same kind of success and achieving it that brings us happiness or otherwise when we’re older. This is called ‘actualization’ by Goldstein.
As such then, having the correct role model will ensure that we learn to be successful and adaptive in later life, and that we are happy when we are older having achieved that aim. It’s very important to get the right one then for yourself, and to provide one for your children.
Of course the most obvious role models for any child are the parents, followed by other immediate family and teachers. This is why it’s so important in these roles to provide a good role model – as children will be imitating your behaviour. That means that if you smoke, you can expect your child to take up smoking either now or later in life. If you swear meanwhile they too will swear, you are their blue print for living.
At the same time though they will find other role models elsewhere as they grow older, just as you probably have different role models today. This is even more the case if you or they are somehow lacking in immediate role models. For example a child whose Father has died is going to be missing a big male role model in their life and as a result you can expect them to be particularly impressionable by other males. If you or someone you know is in this situation then you need to make sure that those males are the correct ones.
When we look elsewhere for role models we are spoiled for choice. We have our peers be they work or school colleagues, we have characters from the media – comics, films, books, the music industry, sports… and all of these can become a big influence on us and the way we present ourselves. This might mean they affect us in a minor way leading us to alter the clothes we wear and our habits, or in a major way, leading us to make important considerations in our career or love life that make us closer to our idols, or changing our views on politics or religion.
If you’re choosing a role model for yourself or for a child then, it’s important to make sure that they have good morals and don’t indulge in self-destructive behaviour. A good role model should be someone hard working, creative, free thinking and moral. While you can’t choose role models for your children as such, you can make sure that they are exposed to a better selection to choose from. For example encouraging your child to read ‘Superman’ rather than ‘The Punisher’ (who murders his enemies and has a general bad attitude) might have a good impact on the way they turn out. Similarly if you find that they’re hanging around in what you deem to be ‘the wrong crowd’ then these can serve as bad role models. To solve this problem, try introducing them to other groups and encouraging them to mingle more while keeping them at home more nights they want to go off with their wrong group. Meanwhile if you find that your life is currently not going the way you want it to and you are growing distant from your friends and family, then look at your own priorities and who your current influences are.
At the same time though a role model must be fairly similar to yourself. This is one reason why Superman can make a slightly unfortunate role model. Fictional characters such as Superman make great role models, particularly for impressionable children, as they won’t start behaving unusually or getting attacked in the press. This means they can maintain their veneer of perfection unlike any ‘real’ heroes. The downside of this fact however is that it means you won’t ever be able to achieve that level of perfection. Someone wanting to be like Superman is never going to fly and they’ll find it’s not always possible to tell the truth in every situation ala Christopher Reeve’s Superman. This gulf can then lead to a sense of hopelessness and depression.
It doesn’t have to be Superman either – even a cover model can be a bad role model if they make you feel bad about your own body image. If it means you strive to improve yourself then great, but if it leaves you depressed and defeated then this is not a suitable role model. A role model should be someone with similar skills and assets to yourself, but a bit further along in life where you’d like to be at their age. If you’re overweight but a genius then, try choosing an overweight genius as a role model who’s successful and morally upstanding. Meanwhile if you’re disabled, Christopher Reeves or Stephen Hawking could be great influences and might also help you to get through any difficulties – again being a ‘blueprint’. For a blueprint to be effective it needs to be relevant…
At the same time though it’s important not to put role models on a pedestal. If they’re human and real then they need to be recognised as such. Everyone makes mistakes and so to follow anyone blindly is a mistake. Recognise that this is a ‘guide’ for you and not someone you have to follow exactly. One good way to prevent this from being a problem is to have multiple role models. This way if one of them does something you don’t agree with then you’ll still have others you can look to. At the same time it can be sensible to have different role models for different areas of your life.
Whether they’re professional basketball players, esteemed scientists or billionaire investors, all high-achieving individuals have one thing in common: They all have role models.
A role model is more than just a person you look up to and admire. It’s someone who can help you unlock your potential by showing you what’s possible and providing examples of how you should — or shouldn’t — behave.
Regardless of your industry, if your goal is to take your career to the next level, having role models is essential. Role models offer the ultimate shortcut for leveling up your knowledge because you’re able to learn vicariously from the positive (and negative) experiences of people who’ve come before you.
Of course, the trickiest part when it comes to role models is identifying the right ones. And that’s exactly what I’m going to help you do here.
1. Positive Role Model
For most people, when they hear the word role model, they immediately conjure up images of a positive one — a successful person whose values and behavior are worthy of imitation. For aspiring basketball players, Michael Jordan and (for younger readers) Lebron James are the archetypes of positive role models. But even Michael Jordan, a legend, had his own positive role model in David Thompson.
But there’s more to consider than just success. How has someone achieved that success? A positive role model shouldn’t just be someone who accomplished what you want to accomplish; they should be someone who shares your values and who uses an approach you want to emulate.
As former U.S. Navy SEAL Officer Chris Fussell explained to Tim Ferriss, there are three levels of positive role models you can follow:
1. A peer who you think is better at the job than you are.
2. Someone subordinate who’s doing the job you did a year, or two, or three years ago, better than you did it.
3. Someone senior to you that you want to emulate.
To quote Fussell, “If you just have those three individuals that you’re constantly measuring yourself off of and you’re constantly learning from, you’re going to be exponentially better than you are.”
2. Reverse Role Models
Not all role models have to be positive. The reality is having reverse role models is just as (if not more) important.
Reverse role models check a lot of the same boxes as positive role models: they’re successful, they’ve achieved something you want to achieve and they provide models of behavior you can follow to achieve the same thing. But their values are different. When you look at the behavior of a reverse role model, you realize that imitating their behavior would not be in your best interest.
My favorite example of someone who’s learned from having reverse role models is our company’s VP of Marketing, Dave Gerhardt. When Dave joined our organization, I was invited to a CMO dinner at some fancy restaurant in Cambridge, but I sent Dave to go in my place. He was hesitant and felt like maybe these CMOs would be way out of his league. But I pushed him to go.
After the dinner, I asked him what he thought. He told me about it, but I could tell he really didn’t want to say what was on his mind. Finally, I explained that the reason I sent him is that I wanted him to look at reverse role models. Those are all CMOs, but they’re also all muckety-mucks. They’re mostly interested in themselves and having their fancy CMO dinners. Sure, they’re all accomplished, but how much more do they actually know than him?
The answer: Not that much. And for Dave, being able to see what this elite level of marketers looked like helped him overcome impostor syndrome because he was able to recognize that even marketers in the upper echelons aren’t always as knowledgeable as they make themselves out to be.
By observing reverse role models, you’re able to see the status-quo approach for reaching the next level in your career, which in turn gives you the opportunity to figure out how you want to do things differently.
3. Anti-Role Models
Finally, the anti-role model. While it may sound similar to a reverse role model, there’s a clear distinction. An anti-role model is someone who has not achieved what you want to achieve, despite being on the same career path.
So, why study the people who have, thus far, failed at accomplishing their goal? Because the values and behaviors of those people will help you create guardrails for avoiding a similar fate.
This is the inversion principle — something billionaire investor Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett’s long-term business partner) is a big proponent of.
Anti-role models allow you to uncover (and avoid) the biggest blockers to success. And when it comes to advancing your career, those blockers often include “. sloth, envy, resentment, self-pity, entitlement, all the mental habits of self-defeat. Avoid these qualities, and you will succeed.” Munger said. “Tell me where I’m going to die, that is, so I don’t go there.”
Andrew Rocha — October 1, 2017
Everyone in society should be a role model, not only for their own self-respect, but for respect from others. — Barry Bonds
Want to be a better son, father, daughter or mother? Trying to be a better employee, boss, boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse? Want to be a better leader for others? Want to be someone who others look up to for strength and motivation?
It’s all about being a better role model. We all play various different roles. At work, we are fulfilling our role as an employee, and at home, we are contributing to our family. When we become a better role model, we can improve all our relationships and our quality of life. We can get closer to achieving success, happiness, and help others. So how do we become a better role model?
Look at your own role models
Who inspires you? Who do you look up to, and go to for advice? When you consider your different role models, consider their strengths. What do you admire about them, and what qualities do they have that you would like to also have? Use your role models as your guidelines to take you in the right direction.
Consider your strengths and weaknesses
We all have strengths and weaknesses, so what are they? Consider your weaknesses, and which ones you would like to improve. Take your strengths, and think about ways you can use them to be a better role model for others.
Ask for help
If you want to become a better listener or more patient, ask for help. Do some research and let those who are already doing well pass along some advice. Try getting constructive feedback from someone you trust, and constantly work on improving your skill.
Consider what you would want
If you had the perfect role model, what would they be like? Maybe your current role models don’t possess all the qualities that your ideal role model would have, and that’s okay. No one is perfect, but you can use your ideal role model as a source of inspiration for how to become a better role model. When we are working on becoming the best version of ourselves, we will naturally grow and help others in the process.
Benefits of being a better role model
As with many things in life, there is always room for improvement but with some of these tips, we can work a little each day in moving in the right direction. Being a better role model can help our relationships, our self-esteem, and help us find better role models.
Even if you do not know who you are inspiring, I urge you to keep going. Most of us don’t acknowledge our role models because we think they already know, or we are embarrassed to tell them that they inspire us. With that being said, it’s important to keep doing your best, as you may be inspiring more people than you think. If you have the courage to thank your role model, go ahead and do so, I’m sure they’d appreciate it. Otherwise, just use them as a teacher and learn from them. We can all be a role model for someone, and make this world a little better for one another.
Last modified on Mon 10 Nov 2008 15.13 GMT
Steve Morrison, Headteacher, London
It’s quite interesting listening to people saying who they admire; it’s not always who you think. It’s important for people to see themselves reflected in the people who make decisions. From talking to a group of children, the observation of the role model in action may not be to do with the relation between you and that person. I’m a black headteacher and it has become clear to me that children look at how other staff react to me; they can now visualise a different sort of world. For some people, their role model won’t be a person who looks like them, it will be someone completely different who inspires them. It’s a mistake to assume that because someone is from a particular ethnic group, or is male or female, that they will respond in a generalistic way. For young people who are confident, Barack Obama will inspire them. Others need someone they can actually communicate with. Some children ask me “How much do you earn, how did you get to where you are?” One of our former pupils who is now a successful lawyer wanted to come back because when he left school he was seen as average and was in an SEN [special educational needs] class. He started off by saying “When I left I was in an SEN class, now I hope to be a millionaire by the age of 26.” He wanted to tell the students something simple: that when he went to college, he felt he was the weakest – but when he worked with others he realised he could succeed. And their own dreams become a little more real. It’s about the opportunity to choose, and for some ethnic groups there are fewer opportunities. This has been a good week, with Barack Obama and Lewis Hamilton, but what about this week last year or this week next year? Obama’s success is nothing to do with role models as such; it’s about how it makes you feel. It’s emotional, about hope and possibility, and there’s an element of reflected glory. It has done so much good for black people’s view of white people as a whole; he has done wonders in terms of community cohesion.
Laura-Liz Partoon, Aged 17, West Midlands
A good role model, for me, would usually be someone in a young person’s local community, not necessarily a celebrity: people who are good citizens or teachers, people who get involved and have time to help others, who make time for other people. Celebrities make you judge other people and make everybody want to be the same, but everybody should be unique and different. Before the election in America, the candidates were portrayed as role models for young people. But in my opinion it just made young people pick sides, and made them stereotypical and judgmental. I think that teachers are good role models and the best do not just teach to an excellent standard, they have time, and they talk to students. There are good role models in my school, teachers who don’t just teach to the curriculum, but teach to individuals. I think school is the place where young people first look at adult behaviour, the place where people become socialised and learn about values and behaviour. By looking at teachers and even at older students, people make their own judgments on what they want to be like.
Pete Warren, Parent, London
It depends who they are. Obviously Obama is going to crop up all the time now, but thinking about it has hardened my instinctive view that public figures, and politicians in particular, are poor role models. I believe the best and most enduring role models are in your own family or people you know: people that you encounter in a real way. The basic problem is that with politicians, sportsmen and entertainers you don’t see their lives in the round. Sportsmen have a particular, special skill that you don’t have; success is at least partly an accident of birth, so it’s not something to aspire to. Politicians’ success is due to all sorts of machinations. Entertainers’ primary job is to entertain us, which is not the same as nourishing in a spiritual way. But the overarching problem is that all these people will disappoint you. If they show any frailty, you feel robbed. If you have a hero and something happens to tarnish them, you feel bereft in a way you would not if your role model was a relative or a friend, because you see their lives in the round, you understand how they got where they are, and you understand their advice is through experience or love, not gleaned from a stranger in an abstract way.
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Everyone has a role model in their life to admire and inspire them in making a decision. Whether it can be a parent, superhero, or just someone they admire. For me, my role model is my father, who inspired me. He is the one I always admire in my life. When I have children, I want to be similar to my father to do for my kids how he takes care of me. He is very knowledgeable, successful, and he has always been by my side to encourage me to be more vital to overcome every difficulty and support any goal I tried to reach.
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The first thing is my father is knowledgeable. He is as a handyman in my house. If some electronic devices in the home are damaged, he will fix them by himself. Also, my father is a good chef. He always treated me many delicious foods such as Vietnamese food, Thai food, and Chinese food since I could remember.
Moreover, I think he is never exhausted. He seems to work all days and gets only 4 -5 hours of sleep. For example, he always wakes up at 5 AM to do exercise, and then he runs us business, takes me to school, and cooking. He is an excellent example for me to follow in my life. My father is not only knowledgeable, but he is a successful person, too. When I was a child, my father told me his story about how he started his business. He used to go to school and work 10 hours a day. He worked hard and saved money to start his business. As a result, he achieved success, earned his employees’ admiration, and his family is proud of him. Also, he is smart. He has finished and received a pharmacy degree. Besides running his business, he also works in a hospital. I thought my father is super hero. He inspired me to be successful. For instance, when I came to the USA, I almost restarted everything again. I was scared that I could do that, but I thought about how my father got success, which has encouraged me to keep going.
Finally, my father has always been by my side to make sure I overcome difficulties and progress towards my goal. In my memory, my father was the first person to go through my troubles. I remembered a heavy rain day. The roads heavily flooded. I was stuck at elementary school with thunder, dark sky. It scared me a lot. Suddenly, I saw my father was wading into the water to pick me up. That incident made me love him so much. The other one, I am fortunate to have my father to push and help me through the hard times. When I was seven, I found it hard to understand and solve my competition problems. However, my father stayed with me all day to help me figure out my problems. As a result, I passed that competition, which motivated me a lot for my future.
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In conclusion, many people have someone to look up to as their model. For me, that is no one else but my father. He is very knowledgeable, successful, and he is a person who has one of the biggest heart I know. If I did not have him in my life, I would not be me today. Someday, I will have children. I hope I can be as great a father to them as my father has been to me.
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Setting a good example for your girl goes beyond teaching good manners and time management skills. Here’s how to be a role model who raises a resilient woman.
“I want to be a writer when I grow up,” my daughter said to me recently. Clearly, the scribe gene runs deep in our family, I thought to myself. But then I paused. Or. maybe Charlotte’s just copying my career choice? The moment was poignant; it made realize that how I behave and navigate choices are her first lessons on how to take on the world.
“Children learn good behaviors by copying good examples—and moms play a huge role in that,” says Michele Borba, Ed.D., parenting expert and author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. And it’s during the regular, everyday moments when our children pick up on what we moms do or say. The problem is you never know what they’re tuning in to. “That’s why it’s important monitor your own behavior and intentionally start to model the type of behaviors you hope your daughter copies,” says Borba. Ready to set a good example for your growing girl? Here’s how:
1. Put on your oxygen mask first. This emergency flight mantra is the perfect metaphor to describe how moms need to take care of themselves before being able to properly take care of others. Sure, you’ll be a happier mom if you take the time to enjoy activities you love like yoga, bike riding, reading, or jogging. But you’ll also show your daughter the importance of taking care of herself. “There is so much pressure to put other people’s feelings and needs ahead of our own—and we need to change the messaging for the next generation of women,” says Simone Marean, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Girls Leadership. “Simply put, you have to have empathy for yourself in order to teach it.” So book that massage or manicure or sneak off to the library or coffee shop for an hour or two. Just be sure to tell your daughter where you’re going and why: To be happy and healthy.
2. Take off the super-mom cape. Trying to tackle everything on your own not only leads to burn-out, it shows your daughter that it’s okay to run yourself ragged. So ask for help—including from your girl. “By asking your daughter to help you, you’re not only getting much-needed assistance, but you’re also showing her that it’s okay to ask for help and to speak up for what she wants and needs,” says Marean. Teaching self-advocacy might mean making things harder for your daughter today (say, by doing chores), but in the long run it will free her of the expectation that she has to do everything herself, ashamed of asking for help, says Marean.
3. Get comfortable with your bad-self. Most of us grow up thinking that to be a cool, good girl, you’ve got to have lots of friends—as well as conflict-free relationships, says Marean. “For many of us, we were raised avoiding conflict and we pass this mentality on to our daughters,” she says. The danger: when girls don’t learn to express disappointment, frustration, anger, or embarrassment constructively, they often turn to toxic behavior, such as gossiping or social media bullying, to deal with their emotions. “Conflict in our family, at work, and in our personal lives is going to happen so it’s important that we show our daughters that dealing with it head-on can actually bring about positive change,” says Marean. If you have a disagreement with your partner, let your kids hear you calmly talk it out. “You have to be able to show your kids that you you’re not always happy and that you sometimes make mistakes,” says Marean. When’s the last time you told your child that you were sad, felt embarrassed, or left out? “Share some of your negative feelings,” advises Marean. “That gives your girl permission that she doesn’t have to be happy and pleasing all the time.”
4. Have courage and be kind. It’s important to show your daughter that you treat and talk to your friends and peers with respect, says Borba, who is working with Beech-Nut on an anti-mom-shaming campaign. “Avoid gossiping or shaming other moms—especially in front of your daughter.” Borba adds that we also need to stand up for other moms who may be facing a mom-shaming incident. “Mom-shaming cascades down to children—and then they learn that judging or bullying others is acceptable when interacting with their peers.” Being kind also applies to how you speak to and about yourself. Mumbling self-depricating comments is a form of self-shaming. “Teach your daughter to love herself,” says Borba, who suggests making an effort to replace comments such as “I need to lose ten pounds before the reunion” with comments such as “I love my hair and makeup today.”
5. Put down the phone. Our girls are learning how to navigate technology by watching us. When you’re having a conversation with someone, be mindful to put down your cell phone. “Your daughter will see you having deep, face-to-face conversations, and she will replicate in her own life,” says Borba. And be sure to practice self-control and social media etiquette. When you receive an irritable email or read an upsetting social media post, instead of instantly responding in an angry tone or shouting at your phone, count to ten or walk away from it for a minute. “This will help teach your daughter not only patience but to not fight fire with fire,” Borba says.
6. Lose the mom guilt. We want our daughters to find their future path that will bring them joy and fuel their passion, says Marean. Whether we stay-at-home, work full-time, or something in between, we should share our successes with our daughters. Talking about what you love about your life—whether that includes a career or not—can reduce your guilt or conflict surrounding it. Plus, it will help your daughter recognize that girls have choices. And that might be the most important lesson yet.