Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD on December 21, 2020
Parents as Role Models

Parents as Role Models


Kids learn how to feel about their bodies, abilities -- everything -- from what you say and do. The most powerful way to teach them healthy habits is not with rewards or punishment. Instead, act in a positive way and model healthy behaviors.

When you set a good example, you’ll help them learn good ways to feel happy and make healthy choices. Have changes to make yourself? That's OK. You can do it together.

Bad Habit # 1: Criticizing Yourself

Bad Habit # 1: Criticizing Yourself


Negative comments about the way you look send the message that self-esteem should be based on how your jeans fit or how much you weigh. It can train kids to find flaws in what they see in the mirror, which can set them up for self-esteem issues and poor body image.

Cut out the critical remarks. Instead, talk about how good you feel when you exercise, eat healthy foods, or get enough sleep. Those are the lessons you want kids to remember.

Bad Habit # 2: Emotional Eating

Bad Habit # 2: Emotional Eating


If you use food to feel better when you're sad or disappointed, you could be passing on unhealthy messages to your kids. You're showing them that food is the way to feel good about yourself.

Instead, work on other ways to boost your mood when you're feeling down. Let them see you talking to friends or going for a walk to feel better.

Bad Habit # 3: Too Much Texting, Emailing, Talking

Bad Habit # 3: Too Much Texting, Emailing, Talking


It's not fair to tell the kids not to text at the dinner table if you're there on your phone. What you do sends a stronger message than what you say. Set family rules about screens, and everyone, including parents, needs to stick to them. Use the time away from devices to have a great dinner conversation or go for a family bike ride.

Bad Habit # 4: Emphasizing the Superficial and Material

Bad Habit # 4: Emphasizing the Superficial and Material


Many little girls like to play dress-up. But experts say be careful about making pedi parties more important than other quality time.

Use "girl time" to have fun with healthy habits -- go for walks or teach them a sport. They'll learn that being a girl means being strong and powerful. Plus, they'll see that exercise is a great stress reliever. Also be sure to tell them they are smart or kind as often as you compliment their beauty.

Bad Habit # 5: Drinking to Perk Up or Feel Better

Bad Habit # 5: Drinking to Perk Up or Feel Better


If you come home after a bad day at work and say, "I need a drink," you show your child that alcohol is a good way to relax and feel better about yourself. The same goes for relying on tons of coffee or soda for energy.

Instead, find healthier ways to relieve stress or get energized. Try exercise, meditation, or a relaxing hobby and get the whole family involved. Those are good ways for everyone to relax or recharge.

Bad Habit # 6: Making Everything a Competition

Bad Habit # 6: Making Everything a Competition


Pointing out to your child that other kids (neighbors, classmates, siblings) are more athletic is rarely a good motivator.

Instead, praise them for doing their best. Help them focus on the fun of being outside or on how they are getting better. You can also help them find an activity they are passionate about and help them practice. Talk about how you need to move every day and how it makes you feel good. 

Bad Habit # 7: Always Arguing

Bad Habit # 7: Always Arguing


If you and your spouse constantly snipe at each other, your kids are learning that it's OK to act that way. Stress is often a trigger for arguments.

If you need help handling everyday strain, look into some stress management techniques. Arguing may make you feel better at first but worse later. Plus, stress from fights has a negative effect on kids.

Bad Habit # 8: Gossiping

Bad Habit # 8: Gossiping


Criticizing the way someone looks or acts can be a sign of poor self-esteem. About to blab? Stop. Ask yourself if there's good reason. Chances are you do it out of habit, so opt not to.

The same goes for indulging in a lot of Hollywood gossip TV shows and magazines for a pick-me-up. Instead, turn off the TV, put down the mags, and show your kids how to unwind and re-energize in healthy ways. Get everyone outside for a bike ride or game of hopscotch.

Catching Yourself

Catching Yourself


If you find yourself behaving in a negative way around your kids, don't ignore it and hope they didn't notice. Point out your mistake. Use it as a teachable moment.

Get the kids involved by asking them to help you stop. They'll probably be more than happy to point it out if you do it again, and you'll all be more aware. Family members are more likely to find success if they support each other in their healthy choices.

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