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The Influence of Role Models

by Darlena Cunha

Role models from an early age are important to children and their development as the models set an example of behavior -- good or bad -- and show their influence over others in a way your child will want to emulate. While parents are looked at as the first and most important role models, there are other people who can influence your child's behavior, so seeking out positive role models for him now can help him later in life.

Parents

Whether she acknowledges it or not, you are your child's biggest role model and hold the most influence over her life and decision making. From when she was a baby until long after she's left your home, the behaviors you've exhibited will remain part of her subconscious and help guide her as she wends her own way through life. Though most kids go through a rebellious stage, this doesn't mean you've lost your influence over her, according to experts with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, but quite the opposite. In order to pull away from your influence, after all, your child has to very clearly know what that influence is and what you would do in that situation. As she grows, she will again model herself after what she has learned from a young age, provided you remain calm, loving and consistent.

Friends

Although friends are not typically thought as role models for kids by their parents, a 2011 study put on by the University of Derby and published by the BBC shows that kids feel their friends have more influence over them than celebrities, starting from a very young age. Peer pressure is a large factor in many decisions, says lead researcher Simon Brownhill, and it is something you will fight against over and over again as you struggle to help your child grow into his own individual self. Your child will want to fit in, and you can help him do this by setting reasonable boundaries and opening up communication lines so that he can allow his friends to influence him in positive -- or even negative -- ways without rebelling against you. This way, no matter what happens, you can use it as a learning experience as well and help your child reshape the role models in his life.

Successful People

Throughout your child's life, she will come into contact with people she considers successful. As such, according to a 1988 study by the University of Kentucky published in the Journal of Extension, she will sometimes attach the title "role model" to that person. These people can include teachers, doctors, politicians or anyone exerting power in a given situation. While not always a good influence, many times role models outside the family or peer group can help expand your child's view of the world around her and see opportunities in herself for improvement.

Media and Celebrities

While not as big a factor in life influences as once believed, the media and the personas within are still role models for many children. The Common Sense Media website says this rules advertisers' decisions to run certain celebrities with certain products. According to the Journal of Extension study titled "Influences on Teen Decisions," teens say athletes often serve as role models for them. To make sure these models have a positive influence on your child, limit screen and Internet time and engage your child in real-life conversations about his celebrity admiration. By keeping up to date on the hottest star and latest trendsetters, you will be more in tune with the messages that public figure is sending.

About the Author

Darlena Cunha has been a writer and editor since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Connecticut. Cunha is also completing her master's degree in mass communication.

Photo Credits

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