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06.13 - June

Children's health and parenting
Parents: 8 ways to be a better role model

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By Ronald D. Snyder, M.D., and Arleen Fitzgerald, L.I.C.S.W.
(Click for author bios in About us)

Kids see, kids do. Our children look to us to know how to navigate the world. That's how babies learn to smile — by grinning back at beaming parents. It's why toddlers want to push the grocery cart or help wash the car.

It's also why, as a mom or dad, you want to set the best example you can for your children. Even as teens, kids don't outgrow their parents' influence — even if it seems they're not watching.

Positive patterns to pass on
Here are eight ways to help your kids develop great habits — by doing as you do. See how many you can put into play in your home. And, who knows? You just might become healthier and happier in the process.

1. Be adventurous with a fork. Sample healthy foods you haven't tried before — maybe that's arugula, pomegranates, quinoa or tofu. And, praise your child for trying something new, too — even one bite. You'll help a picky eater warm up to new, nutritious choices.

2. Let your child see you in action. When you enjoy being active, you set a wonderful example for your kids. Let them know how great you feel when you exercise. And, look for fun activities you can do together.*

3. Get lost in a book. And, help kids find books they'll enjoy. You'll pass down a love of reading — and a valuable life skill. For starters, good readers tend to succeed in school.

4. Show kindness. Go out of your way to help others. Open a door, drive a neighbor to a doctor's appointment or let someone cut in front of you in the checkout line. Suggest small ways your child can pitch in, too.

5. Practice gratitude. It's contagious. Acknowledge favors with a smile and a sincere thank-you. Show kids how you write personal thank-you notes — and help them pen their own. Talk about how good it feels to let others know they're appreciated.

6. Let off steam the right way. When you're stressed or upset, be careful how you react. Remember who's watching. Take a few deep breaths — or a brisk walk. And, encourage your child to try these self-calming tricks, as needed.

7. Spread a love of learning. Be curious and excited about the world around you. For example, take turns around the family dinner table sharing something you each learned today.

8. Rise up to challenges, big and small. Do your best to solve problems in a healthy way — for example, by taking responsibility and working well with others. And, praise kids when you see them solving problems independently. You'll be building their self-esteem — helping them feel more competent and confident.

A legacy of love
Being a positive role model may affect future generations, as well. Your children learn from you — and they can pass on those caring, good ways when they're parents, too.

*Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.
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Quick tip

Talk the talk
Speaking to your child in a respectful, positive way says a lot. You'll be modeling how to treat others. And, it can help your child develop an inner voice that says, "I'm valuable and worthy of respect."

Steer your child toward safe driving

Backseat watchers — that's a good way to describe kids in cars. So, show them safe habits by always buckling up. And, never:
  • Speed or weave in and out of traffic
  • Text or chat on a cellphone at the wheel
  • Drink and drive
  • Lash out at other drivers