Moms as Role Models - You're Teaching Your Kids How to Live

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Kids are like parrots. They hear a word on TV and use it - for weeks! They see you engaged in some activity, and they mimic your every move. Moms are role models. Are you teaching your kids what they need to know?

It’s true: kids learn how to be adults by watching other adults - primarily mom and dad. Parents are called "socializing agents" by psychologists, anthropologists and others who study human behavior. In fact, there are many socializing agents in the lives of children - classmates and friends, TV and other media, teachers, other relatives - but the most influential socializing agents are moms and dads.

Socialization is an important part of growing up and becoming a decent, compassionate, law-abiding, healthy citizen. The socialization process includes learning about rules, laws and manners - the social conventions of our culture. Teach your child to say 'please' and 'thank-you' (What's the magic word?) and you've taught her a bit about how to behave in our society where 'please and 'thank you' are not just 'magic words', they're social conventions to which we all adhere. People who don't say 'please' are considered ill mannered.

In addition to social conventions, you're teaching your child the traditions and customs of our culture - everything from the importance of family to the importance of baseball. Every culture has its own traditions and customs - sometimes called 'cultural lore' and this body of information is handed down from parent to child through the generations. That's why we all know the same nursery rhymes, Mother Goose and childhood games. They're a part of our cultural lore. (Is there a child who hasn't played peek-a-boo?)

Personal values come, primarily, from parents. If your child sees that you're kind to animals, the child will learn to be kind to animals. If the child hears mom cursing up a blue streak, the child will learn that this is acceptable behavior, despite the admonition to "Do as I say, not as I do!" Your children will model their behaviors after you. Believe it.

Eating habits, formed very early in life, are learned by those who buy and prepare the meals in the home - the parents. So, if your idea of a quick supper is a bag of pork rinds and a can of soda, your child will learn to eat the same foods and suffer the same health problems that you face on such a diet. (And there are a lot!)

Hobbies and habits, courtesy and consideration, ethics (right and wrong), morality (more right and wrong), what to eat, when to exercise, how to behave around others, the cultural rules and regs - in fact, how to be a human being - are all learned from you.

So, think about that the next time you light up a cigarette, or shout at someone who cuts you off in traffic. If you want to know how your kids will turn out when they reach adulthood, just look in the mirror. If you like what you see, if you like who you are, no problems. On the other hand, if you see the need for improvement, make the changes necessary. You can stop the bad habits from moving to the next generation. Awareness of the problem and awareness of you as role model are good first steps to changing your family's future for the better.