“Bring us someone famous! Someone we can follow!”
This is the cry of many young people. Adults are often frustrated when children don’t follow their instructions, but rather listen to what pop stars, famous sports heroes and actors who made it, have to say. We know how dangerous that can be. The famous are still human, make mistakes and can lead their followers into deep trouble.
I recently met with several people working to bring positive change in different communities. All of them agreed that their communities lack good role models. It made me wonder about our parenting programmes because parents are the first role models for their children. Teaching children right from wrong means training them to be good role models.
So Parents, can you answer these questions truthfully?
1. Do you teach your children right from wrong?
2. Do you practise what you preach?
3. Do you praise and encourage your children?
4. Do you talk to your children?
5. Do you show them your love by spending time with them, hugging them and looking them in the eyes?
If you answered 5 times yes and doing it consistently, your child might test what other “role models” offer, but will return to your teachings and lifestyle. If you are in doubt, you should work on becoming your child’s best role model. Make good choices, do the right thing and always strengthen your most important relationships.
The influence of a good role model is much stronger than you can imagine. Thabo was 11 years old when his parents got divorced. It troubled him and he became involved with gangsters who did one wrong thing after the other until they began stealing cars. A young car dealer, Bheki, lived in their street and often spent good times with Thabo. He was aware of the gang’s wrong doings and talked to Thabo about better choices. He warned him against stealing from his dealership. But he continued being a friend – a big brother watching over the young fatherless boy.
Bheki’s friendship and example stayed with Thabo and he decided to cut himself loose from the rest of the gang. He grew up as a responsible adult and learnt from Bheki what his father never taught him. He is now a committed parent with two children and he earns an honest salary. Above that, he became a positive role model and is part of an organisation who models and encourages involved fatherhood. Both Bheki and Thabo are the kind of role models our children and communities need. Not famous, but strong and consistent!
The thing is that our children seldom believe they can influence others positively. They rather follow the bad influence of others.
Recently I took 3 co-workers to a high school where the children were divided into 4 groups and we talked about good choices. We ended by asking them to raise their hands if they believed they could influence others – in other words, that they were role models. Only a few raised their hands.
Parents: It is in praising good behaviour that we build character and teach our children to believe that they have value and can influence others. They can do it while they are still young. Teach it to your child and in the next generation, our children will be the role models the community will want to follow! Teach your child what is right, live the example, praise good behaviour, talk to them and love them.
Enjoy good role modelling!