The reality of being a good role model
Being a good role model to your kids—especially in the area of healthy eating and an active lifestyle—begins when your kids are young. From offering a variety of foods each day to taking care of yourself through regular exercise and sleep, these daily activities show your child what it means to be a healthy, active person.
On the contrary, your actions can teach your child the opposite. Eating alone (without the kids), skipping breakfast, overeating, not having a physical activity plan, or sneaking sweets on the side may eventually be noticed by your children. As a result, they learn to mimic your negative actions. No doubt, the job of being a primary role model can be a heavy burden at times, but the truth is that it pays off in the long run.
As a mom of four—three teen girls and one pre-teen boy—my kids have seen plenty of healthy examples of food, exercise, sleep, and other positive lifestyle behaviors from me. But I’m not perfect; even I am not healthy all the time, every day, because I can’t be, and I don’t want to be.
Yes, I have fed my kids less-than-healthy food. I have let them sit in front of the TV and eat. I’ve let them go overboard at parties. And they’ve watched far too much TV in one sitting. I know I get lax in the summertime with food, drink, and late bedtimes.
When my kids were younger, we had a routine: meals at scheduled times, a set bedtime, and minimal screen time. This structure and the rules I had in place helped me be a good role model and a good mom. It was really the only way I could stay sane, organized, and keep everyone on track.
As my kids have gotten older, my structure has become looser, so they can make choices for themselves and test the waters before official adulthood. I believe those early lessons and routines set the tone for healthy living, providing a foundation they can lean on when they make their own choices. Sure, they will make mistakes. That’s part of the learning curve.
I have found that good role modeling is not about focusing on the nutrition mistakes you make…because you will make them. Nor is it about tallying all the “bad” foods, or the number of late bedtimes, or the missed days of exercise. Being a good role model is about setting the table with a wide variety of tasty, healthful food on most days. It’s about sitting down for a meal with your family and eating. It’s moving your body most days and enjoying it. It’s about showing how well you can take care of yourself, so your children know how to do it for themselves.