Photo: Anna Nahabed via Shutterstock

There’s an old saying that children are like sponges, they tend to soak up everything and every influence around them. Whether we realize it or not, we parents are the primary influence in our kids’ lives and they mirror our attitudes and actions.

Most of us expect our children to behave in certain ways. We want them to be patient, honest, respectful and so much more. Unfortunately, we also make the mistake of failing to model the kind of behavior we want to see reflected in our children.

When my kids were young, I realized that some virtues and qualities were hard to ingrain in a child’s nature if they weren’t exposed to them constantly. My wife and I then made the decision to live our lives in such a way that our kids could learn from our example in both small everyday things as well as larger ones.

Here are some of the ways we decided to be positive role models for our kids:

Good manners. It’s easy to fall into a trap of complaining that kids these days don’t have good manners. But how will they learn if we don’t model manners? I set a good example for my kids both at home and in public by being polite to everyone I meet, regardless of the circumstances. Additionally, words like “thank you”, “please”, “excuse me”, “may I” feature regularly in our daily conversations.

Respectfulness. Other than teaching my kids good manners, I also model respectfulness and kindness. I make an effort to be respectful to everyone around us from the postman and delivery guys to the neighbors. I watch how I speak to them and also how I speak about others when they’re not around. It’s also important for my kids to see me treating their mom with kindness and respect.

Generosity. From the time my kids were toddlers, they joined us in volunteering at the local animal shelter, homeless shelter, old people’s homes or veteran groups in our community. I also encouraged them to set aside part of their allowance as donations to any charity or course of their choice every year. As a result, generosity is part of my kids’ lives and they’re always psyched about giving back to the community.

Being a Good Listener. One way we keep growing is by learning to genuinely listen to others, even those with different opinions to ours. While it was difficult to learn how to be an active listener, I persisted because I wanted my kids to notice me paying attention and being considerate of other people’s points of view. This way, they’ll learn that it’s okay to have differing opinions and that they can still listen even if they don’t necessarily agree with them.

Healthy Eating. I wanted my children to not only learn to eat healthy but also how to prepare nutritious meals for themselves. To help them learn to make healthy food choices, I made it a habit to include them in meal preparation, especially over the school holidays. We’d sit down, come up with a menu together, go shopping for groceries and then we’d prepare the meals. They were more likely to eat healthy meals and snacks if they had a hand in preparing them.

We also exercise as a family whenever possible. We go out to play in the park, ride our bikes, go for hikes or swimming. Exercising together has helped us bond as a family while instilling a healthy lifest‌yle in my kids.

Prioritizing Family Time. To show my children that I enjoy spending quality time with them, I make a point of scheduling weekly one-on-one dates with each of them. We also have dinner together daily, no matter how busy my schedule gets and we have a weekly game night where the kids take turns choosing the games to play. I’m hoping that by doing this they will learn to value and prioritize family time.

As parents, we can give a thousand lectures to our kids on how to behave but these will never have as great an impact as the examples we set.