Remember all the commercials that show children copying what their mom or dad are doing? A girl dressing like Mom and going to work with her. A boy following the steps Dad takes to wash the car or cook a meal. We see it all the time. Why? Because it is true, children observe and imitate adults’ lead. All adults become role models, positive and negative, whether they realize it or not.
Parents may say that peers are more influential than parents. They support that by listing off words and behaviors “picked up” from friends and classmates. That is true, but having an adult interested in you as a youth and watching that adult’s positive behaviors builds a protective bubble of positive behaviors around a youth. This is especially true when the role model is the same gender as the youth.
Inspired by role models
Inspiration is a necessary component in the development of young people. Teens are drawn to both negative and positive role models and studies have shown why this is so. The research boiled it down to the mindset a youth has adopted toward achieving goals – or dealing with the world around them.
Teens with a growth mindset are more likely to be inspired by role models that exhibit active learning and achievement through hard work and perseverance. These youth can see themselves as active learners and achievers. When they can see themselves in a positive manner, they are more likely to strive to achieve their best selves.
Teens with a prevention mindset are those who approach life trying to prevent or avoid disaster and negative outcomes. This mindset leads them to follow role models who exhibit avoidance strategies. Some of those avoidance strategies might include lying, cheating, or using drugs or alcohol to escape the problems around them.
How to find positive role models
Finding good role models is not something that just happens. Youth are attracted to people who think and see the world as they do. That being the case, what can parents and other adults do to encourage them? Here are a few things every adult can do to help youth develop the growth mindset that is most likely to connect them with positive role models:
Give children and youth the opportunity to achieve a meaningful goal.
First, help them set a goal and plan the steps to achieve it. Then encourage them through the process. Celebrate reaching the goal and remind them how they worked hard and persevered.
Give children and youth the opportunity to fail – and try again.
Every child or youth needs to understand, personally, that everyone experiences failure. They need to understand that failure is often necessary to eventually have success. Learning to accept a failure, assess a failure, and plan to make changes that may prevent future failure is a critical life skill.
Help children and youth understand the difference between a desired outcome and internal strength.
For instance, getting an “A” on a test is a desired goal. Cheating to get that “A” makes getting it a hollow victory.
Point out and talk about inspirational role models in books, movies, and in the community.
People and characters who overcome challenges and encourage strong values are heroes that youth can emulate. They need to be able to recognize positive traits and behaviors of people around them.
Commend positive behaviors and decisions.
Demonstrate to youth how to approach and think through a problem or situation. Ask questions that guide them through the process to do the same with their own problems. Then acknowledge when they do that.
Provide youth with the opportunity to be around good role models.
Participating in events or activities promotes active learning. Being part of a sports team, playing in the band, or being a member of a youth group at school or church broadens exposure to good leaders and role models. Attending a summer camp at Jameson Camp is another example. Surrounded by successful staff people and counselors while participating in camp activities gives youth the opportunity to strive toward goals and learn for themselves what success and confidence feels and looks like.
Not all children have the same opportunities in life. That is one reason Jameson Camp is supported by individual and corporate donations. Jameson Camp works to provide opportunities to children and families for youth by providing programs that inspire, teach, and benefit young people as they grow into good, positive role models themselves.
Learn more about Jameson Camp programs at https://www.jamesoncamp.org
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