When my 18 month old picked up my make up brushes and started brushing his face, it hit me that he is watching everything that I do. From things like makeup brushes to the way I deal with conflict to the way I treat strangers in public. He is absorbing all of it and has set me as an example. That pushed me to really look at what kind of example I am currently setting for my kids and what kind of example I want to be setting for them. My goal with this post is to push you to step back and do the same.
1. Be where your feet are
Be present when you are with your family and friends. Get off your phone. Don’t constantly think about the next thing you have to do or checking up on what everyone else on social media is doing in that current second. Instead, take in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, of the current moment so that you can truly enjoy it. This is a valuable lesson that will help you kids fully enjoy life as they get older and it also shows your kids that they are important to you.
2. Admit when you're wrong
If you mess up, apologize to your kids and explain to them that you made a mistake. Teach them that it is okay to make mistakes and that the right thing to do is apologize rather than try to cover it up. Maybe next time they mess up they’ll own up to it too.
3. Volunteer and take your kids along
Volunteering is a powerful way to get outside of your own world. Taking your kids to volunteer with you will help them learn the art of serving others and help them realize they aren’t the center of the universe. They will also come to know the amazing feeling you get when you help someone in need. If you don’t have somewhere you can physically go serve, take your kids along to the store to pick out toys for programs like Angel Tree and Operation Christmas Child.
4. Don't be stingy with compliments
Just a few years ago, I realized how often I thought something nice about a friend or stranger than I would then hold back because I felt awkward saying it. I took a step back and realized that it would make my day if I heard that same compliment from someone, so maybe it would make theirs too. Even if you feel a little awkward at first, embrace the awkward to try to make somebody smile next time you have something nice to say 🙂
5. Don't put yourself down or compare yourself
Comparison never ends well. It either leaves you feeling superior or inferior and neither is healthy. While I don’t want my kids to grow up prideful, I also don’t want them to grow up constantly putting themselves down. When we speak poorly of ourselves our kids learn by example to be hyper critical of themselves and what they do. I know I don’t want that for my kids and I would take a bet that you don’t either.
6. Celebrate others' success
Teaching your kids to celebrate the success of others is a highly important lesson to help them not be sore losers. Kids need to learn by example that celebrating the success of others does not take away from anything that they have accomplished.
7. Make family a priority
Staying in touch with family takes effort and persistence, especially if they aren’t right down the street. But the way that you handle your relationships with family shows your kids how big a priority it is to you. I hope that our kids will still get together and enjoy family when we are gone, but we have to teach them how valuable family really is first. We have to demonstrate how to make it a true priority.
8. Never stop learning
If we are encouraging our kids to continue to learn, grow, and try new things then we should do the same. Set a good example for them by reading instead of scrolling social media. Try watching educational shows like National Geographic with them instead of always watching cartoons. Try new things and show them that it’s okay if you aren’t the best at everything or if you don’t like something as long as you give it a chance.
9. Follow through when you say you're going to do something
Actions speak louder than words. If you really mean something, don’t just talk about it. Act on it. Teach your kids how important it is to be true to your word. It’s important that your kids know you mean it when you say they’ll go in time out if they do it again. It’s also important that your kids know you will be at their baseball game when you say you will. Following through on your word will make them a much better friend, spouse, and employee someday.
10. Be consistent in the things that matter
When I think back on my childhood, I remember my dad getting up every morning to read his Bible and pray for his kids. I still think about that stuff almost daily and strive to have the consistency he had. So, whatever that very important thing may be for you, set an example of consistency in the things that really matter.
11. Make your health a priority
If you want your kids to grow up making their health a priority in their lives, then you must first set an example for them. Make exercise and healthy eating a priority in your life and offer your kids ways to eat healthy and exercise too. Teach your kids what moderation looks like. Teach them the good things that different foods do for their body. Help them get their body moving each day. Even on the days you don’t feel like it and the days you get off track, your kids are still watching you to see what you do next. So the next time you want to quit, remember who is watching and do it for them.
12. Be generous
I personally hope that our children learn from us that money is meant to help people, not to be kept solely for yourself. You can demonstrate generosity to your kids in a lot of ways. If you go out to eat, don’t give the waitress a crappy tip to make your bill smaller. Be generous to strangers who need a little help up or to friends who need a coffee pick me up today. Bring food to those in hard times. The list goes on because generosity is something the world needs more of today.
13. Demonstrate boundaries
While giving generously of your time and money is appropriate at times, kids also need to be taught that there is a line. Demonstrating healthy boundaries to kids is highly important in a society that seems to walk all over people more and more.
14. Hold doors for people
Holding the door for the people behind you is a simple way to say, “you matter.” Set a good example for your kids by holding doors for people when you are out and about and they will soon copy you too.
15. Be kind to workers in the stores
Always make an effort to be kind to the workers at the stores where you are shopping. You have no ideas what’s happened in their day up to this point or what is going on in their lives. Even when things don’t go your way remember that they too are a human being that deserves respect. You wouldn’t allow your children to yell at the workers, so you shouldn’t either. Set a good example so they grow up and are kind to those workers too.
16. Be grateful
Be grateful for things both big and small to remind your kids that nothing is to be taken for granted. You may want to even challenge your kids to give you three things they are thankful for each day. Having a roof over your head and food to eat is more than many have and teaching your kids to be grateful will take them far as they get older.
17. Be a good citizen
Part of being grateful means also being grateful for the country that you live in and treating it with respect. Always show respect to the flag, be intentional to thank those who have served when you see them, exercise your right to vote, and teach them the history of our country.
18. Don't complain
Recently my husband and I were talking about how we want our kids to see us act and his comment was, “I don’t want them to see me complain.” We want our kids to see us live grateful lives and live with grace in the hard moments. Children learn to complain from us so let’s teach them gratefulness instead.
19. Demonstrate forgiveness
If you are openly mad at someone and talk about them in front of your kids, your kids probably won’t be so inclined to accept their friends apology next time something happens. Demonstrate forgiveness for them and explain to them how much forgiveness will actually free them up too.
20. Build a community around you
Teach your kids to not try to go through life alone or “independent” as our world now likes to call it. Connect with your neighbors, join groups, and find friends nearby. Take meals to people who are sick or having a hard time. Help people move or clean or whatever it is they need. They will be there for you when you need it to.
21. Chose joy
As much as it can be hard to believe at times, joy is a choice that we make. Some days it is a much more difficult choice, but it is always a choice. Show your kids how they can choose joy when things don’t go their way by setting that example for them on the rough days.
22. Demonstrate patience
The most obvious way we set a good example with our kids is in the ways that we interact with them directly. When our kids misbehave or even unintentionally do something wrong, the way we react is something that they absorb and remember down the road. Calmly explain to your kiddo what they did and what they should have done and develop a fair consequence that isn’t based on your anger levels. Your kids will definitely pick up on the way you handle these situations.
23. Show them what love looks like
How you interact with your spouse will become the relationship model for your children. You both will be their model for what a healthy relationship will look like later on in their lives. Even when they are little, they are soaking it all in. So, amidst the craziness of children and life, don’t forget to work on your marriage and make each other a priority too.
24. Take life one day at a time
In life, there will be plenty of obstacles and set backs. Teach your kids to see a little bit at a time and not predict too far ahead. I personally love the saying, “see a little see a lot, see a lot see nothing.” If you try to see everything and do everything at once, you will get overwhelmed and not be able to see your next step. But, if you just see a little bit at a time and chip away at it, you can accomplish big things. Our kids have big dreams and they will have big obstacles too. Set an example for them so they can take on both one bite at a time.
25. Don't take yourself too seriously
Even with all the pressures that come with parenting and learning how to set a good example, don’t take yourself too seriously. Show your kids that it’s okay to laugh at yourself and act goofy because life is also meant to be enjoyed.
I hope this article made you step back and evaluate the example that you are setting for your kids. Acknowledge not only what needs to change, but also acknowledge and be proud of what you are doing well. Never stop growing or trying to become the best parent you possibly can!
If you have any more big or little ways to set a good example for your kids, please comment them below! I’d love to read them!