Parents are the first, and most important, role models for their children. Children possess the incredibly powerful skill of observation and will model their behavior from what they see at home. The best way to raise children with positive self-esteem and healthy habits is to practice what you preach and lead by example.
Here are seven ways you can model healthy habits for your children:
1. Never eat in the pantry, at the fridge or in front of the TV
Always sit down with a plate, even if you’re just having a snack. Sitting down and taking the time to eat helps you connect with the food you’re eating. Making yourself a plate will help you think about what and how much you’re going to eat, instead of mindlessly eating without even realizing how much you’ve had.
2. Build your plate around healthy choices
Whenever possible everyone at the table should have the same food on their plate- or the same options available to them. Make sure 50 percent of everyone’s plate consists of vegetables and then add on proteins and starchy vegetables or grains. Even if they don’t eat all the veggies, children are more likely to be willing to try new foods if they see others eating and enjoying them.
3. Discuss the health benefits of food and avoid conversations about food making people fat
Focusing on the positive aspects of food and how the vitamins and proteins help our brains function, give us energy and make us strong and healthy can help make children excited about eating healthy foods. Negative food or weight-related comments increases the chance of poor eating and body image issues as they get older. Limit access to junk food and make healthy options readily available.
4. Exercise because it’s fun and makes you feel good, not because you need to lose weight
Researchers at Duke Medicine found that children whose mothers modeled healthy behaviors, such as exercise, were more likely to be active. Making exercise a fun, family activity can turn it into something everyone looks forward to and will encourage children to want to do more. According to the National Institutes for Health, children whose parents were both active were 5.8 times as likely to be active themselves.
5. Model healthy ways to regulate emotions
While you can’t keep your children from getting angry, overwhelmed, or sad, you can certainly model tools that they could use to help make them feel better. When we yell, our children learn to scream; instead, always speak respectfully and take a minute to calm down, no matter how angry you are. Being empathetic about your child’s emotions helps them understand that these feelings are acceptable and that they will pass. Teach your children that even though it feels like we don’t have a choice about the way we feel, we always have a choice about the way we choose to act.
6. Create positive relationships with family and friends
Children will take cues on how to build relationships from the relationships you model in your life. Think about the kind of messages you want to send to your children and then act accordingly. Having close relationships, whether with friends or family, can help teach the importance of friendship, being able to count on somebody and having somebody count on you. Model respect so that your children can learn what respect looks and feels like.
7. Create positive attitudes with daily affirmations or positive self-talk
The way we speak to ourselves has an undeniable effect on our self-esteem and attitude. Our thoughts can help us believe in ourselves and achieve goals. Hearing regular affirmations and positive words helps children feel more positive and confident and the more they hear them the more they will be able to relate to them. Start your child’s day by repeating affirmations with them, such as, “I am special, I am confident and happy, I am brilliant, and today is going to be an amazing day.”