Role modelling the behaviour you want in your kids

In last week’s newsletter I wrote about the importance of role modelling the behaviour we want to see in our kids.

So far my testing has showed me that this approach certainly leads to greater family harmony. No one likes to be nagged or told what to do all the time and I don’t like being the bad cop all the time either. It actually allows me to enjoy the kids more. It doesn’t mean free reign of course, we still have key and firm boundaries on big issues, but I am handing over the independence they are able to handle.

It doesn’t work perfectly. They do still make poor choices, but they learn so much more from that decision, than if I had just told them what they should have done. I try to lead by example with my behaviour and hope they notice it!

I then went on to share some ways I am consciously role modelling the behaviour I want to see in my kids and some behaviours of my own I need to work on:

Managing technology use

I limit my time on devices by setting myself boundaries. I don’t go on any device until the kids are at school and then again from after school until the younger two are in bed. I don’t use a device in bed or the toilet! Something my older kids would do if I let them (and I am sure they do when I am not around!).


A key driver for me adopting not complaining as a habit to develop this year was to show my kids that it is possible not to complain. It doesn’t mean you have to be happy about everything, but simply complaining about things only creates negative energy. If they have an issue with something, I encourage them to propose a solution or calmly explain their predicament without blame and anger.

I am still some way from achieving my goal of 33 consecutive days without complaining, but the habit formation itself is a talking point in the house and the kids know I am working on it.

Giving back

While we are not a wealthy family, we have everything we need plus more. Our kids have a great life, attend good schools and I want them to give back to those who are less fortunate than themselves. Our eldest volunteers each week during school term on Friday afternoons, tutoring kids in the inner city. Our second son will start doing this next year as well.

Through the blog each year I have a major fundraiser to support a not for profit I believe in. I have also registered to become a volunteer this year as well and will undergo training in the next month or so. I want my kids to see that I also give back in terms of my time and skills.

But there are things I really need to work on and sometimes through the behaviour of the kids I can see exactly what it is! They can very often mirror my flaws, which can be quite confronting. Here are some behaviours I need to role model in a more positive way:

  • Moving on after an issue has been resolved – sometimes I hold on too long to emotions tied to an issue. Once it is settled I need to truly move on. I have been working on a mantra during some of my meditation sessions of “let it go”. While it is slow progress I think it is helping.
  • Saying yes more – when I have a lot on, my default position can be to say no to anything I think may require even a tiny bit of work for me, e.g. mum can we eat dinner outside? mum can we make a cake? In reality they aren’t huge things and they are reasonable requests. I am working on saying yes more to the kids’ requests like this.
  • Expressing my gratitude to other members of the family – while I have been keeping a gratitude journal for over a year, much of what I have written I haven’t expressed out loud. I want to hear the kids practicing gratitude and the best way to do that is to express mine out loud too.

At the end of the newsletter I asked readers if they could please send me two brief lines covering:

  1. What behaviour do you role model well?
  2. What behaviour do you want to role model in a more positive way?

I had a fantastic response to this. I loved that other parents were also thinking about this and were happy to share what they are doing. Here is a selection of what other parents are doing:

From Anna:

One thing I think we roll model well is staying calm when angry – we label our feelings of frustration and anger & explain why, in a calm way, rather than blowing up & yelling etc. One of our children has had a lot of trouble regulating when he’s angry & can lash out with physical aggression. The way we model our reactions and talk him through what we do when upset has helped enormously. We say that it is ok to be angry, but it’s not ok to hurt others & provide some alternative ways to manage strong emotions – leave & spend time in your bedroom, jump on the trampoline, punch a pillow, rest with some screen time.

We could definitely improve on things like modelling tidying up behaviours. It isn’t something I have prioritised as with 3 kids 5 & under doing it all is just unrealistic for me. As they grow tho, I hope we improve on this! It doesn’t help that my husband is pretty good at leaving stuff lying around also.

From Lisha (in Qatar!):

I find I model the attitude to ‘do things well, whatever I do’ to my children. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I like to really give things my best shot. My elder one knows that and I keep reminding him to do his best to and try modelling it as well.

However, I am not very patient and when things don’t go my way or there is an unexpected turn of events of any sort, I tend to lose myself and not face the situation quite well. I really need to work on this firstly for myself of course and then so that my kids can know how to handle themselves and the situation when the unexpected happens!

From Susan:

I have gone back into study, it teaches my kids that education is continuous.

Time management: I am late for most things, due to distractions. I have set my self a goal not to be late for swimming lessons next term.

From Ellen:

I endeavour (and I think succeed) to model respect for all other people no matter who they are and what age. We only speak respectfully to each other in our house (98% of the time)

I’m appalling with screens and really would like to model better behaviour not because use of screens in such a big issue for my kids right now (they’re still small) but because I’m not sure I’m always modelling my first goal of respect, with my face in my phone all the time!

From Zoey:

I think I role model giving to others well – I love being able to help at school and sports, and raise money for various charities (eg Mother’s Day classic fun run etc). The kids love donating gifts at Christmas and seem to view giving as a really positive thing.

I really need to work on managing my emotions – I wear my heart on my sleeve and need to be a little calmer around the kids as they copy my/our outbursts similarly. Wish I could fix it but I know I’m at least conscious of it!

From Magdalena:

Volunteering, looking after friends and their kids, reading, work and juggling, gratitude (great to read about your son volunteering, that is amazing!)

Me speaking in a respectful tone, as opposed to “barking orders” as we’ll as rushed speech/elevated voices… Def need to model more calmness. Also tech use – when and how often they see me on the computer and boundaries around this (reminds me of the great newsletter post you did re managing tech use)

Exercise/sports – my kids watch my husband do this but not me, so I am trying to work out way of changing this…
Routines and clearing up – as a team! Also and trying to make sure I talk about what I do do and enjoy – book club and reading in general, art (don’t always get to it), live music, gratitude and anything that is a positive!!

From Joanne:

For my 5yr old twins, I want to teach them how we can show our appreciation of others in a way that doesn’t involve shopping and buying stuff. For example, I want to show them how visiting family is much better than texting, and how making a birthday cake is much better than buying a birthday present for Grandma.


Thanks so much to everyone for sharing. I found it gave me a lot more to think about in terms of what behaviours I am role modelling. What about you? Feel free to share below in the comments what you think you role model well and what you want to work on.