4 Steps to Becoming a Role Model

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How to Be a Role Model to Younger Relatives

Three Methods:

Young kids look up to older relatives because they want to act and be like adults, too. Through your actions and words, you can model what good behavior looks like. Younger relatives are impressionable. By demonstrating strength, maturity, and reliability, you can help them become stronger, happier, and kinder. Show them how to be giving to others by lending a caring ear and listening to their concerns. Be passionate about what you enjoy doing so that they feel inspired to do great things.


Showing Maturity

  1. Work on your self-confidence.Try going about your daily tasks with a confident, positive energy. Work on meet your goals. Chances are your younger relative already looks up to you. By putting your best foot forward in your daily life, you can help be a good role model.
  2. Keep your word.One of the most important things that you can teach a child is being reliable as an adult. Many young kids may not have parents or other relatives that are dependable. Adults may promise one thing and then do something else. They may not be there on time, or at all.
    • When you make plans to spend time with your niece or nephew for example, be there when you said you’d show up. Set aside time to be with them. If a friend invites to do something else, prioritize your time with your niece or nephew first.
    • If your young cousin has a soccer match coming up, and you agreed to go, then make sure to put that down on a calendar. If something else comes up, make sure to contact them at least a day in advance to let them know you’re not coming. Avoid accidentally forgetting to show up.
  3. Instill core values.As a role model, you are a source of wisdom and inspiration. You help others to understand what matters in life. Many children may have role models like professional athletes, singers, or actresses, but they also need real-life role models that help them to understand morals and ethics.
    • Talk with them about real-life people that you admire, and what qualities make those role models special.
    • Give your younger relatives examples of people who have made an impact for good. Use examples of people in your community. Sometimes historical figures can also provide a good perspective.
    • Demonstrate to them what responsibility, respect, and integrity look like. Take this to heart in your own daily actions. If you’re taking a trip to the store with your younger relatives, think about ways you can model behaviors of respect when interacting with other shoppers, or when making purchases that show responsibility.
  4. Treat mistakes as an opportunity for growth.Help your younger relatives think of mistakes as an opportunity to become a better and stronger person. Talk about times you’ve made mistakes and in the past and let them know what you’ve learned. By seeing how you’ve grown from the experience, your relative will learn that it’s okay to make mistakes in life.
    • For example, you could say. “When I messed up at the recital, I thought my life was over. Turns out, band really isn’t my thing. Taking time off from band really enabled me to discover my love for painting. I’ve met lots of new people and created cool work that I am proud of.”
  5. Use your past failings as life lessons for younger relatives.For example, let’s say that you got in trouble back in high school for skipping classes to hang out with friends. Explain to them the consequences of your behavior. Maybe you got disciplined by the school administration? Or had low grades that semester? Tell them how you overcame the situation and what you learned.
    • If you’re having some arguments with your relatives, think about how you would react if your younger relatives were in the room. Be calm and focus on ways to be mature in your opinions when talking with your family members.
    • Talk with your young relatives about mistakes that you or others have made. Ask them how they might have handled the situation themselves.
    • For example, you could approach a topic about mistakes in this way—"What do think about when getting caught for being tardy to class? I used to get sent to detention after being late three times. How do you think you'd handle the situation after being late?"

Being Selfless

  1. Accept others.Focus on similarities rather than differences between you and your relatives. Even if you don’t have similar lifestyles or upbringing, there may be ways to connect them in a loving and accepting way. Give other people the benefit of the doubt, rather than assuming the worst.
    • For example, let’s say that your relatives watch certain TV shows or love certain video games. Maybe you have a different taste in things. Be willing to try these new things that they enjoy.
    • Let them be “the teacher” about certain things they like. Consider asking them things like, "I see you like playing this video game. Tell me about some of the characters you like. What kinds of powers do they have?"
    • Avoid being negative about certain activities just because they are kid-oriented. Let’s say you’re in high school and you are hanging out with your eight year old cousin who wants to play with dolls. Avoid making them feel bad about what they like even if you think that playing with dolls isn’t fun or cool.
  2. Show commitment to your community.If you’ve got some one-on-one time with your younger relatives, or maybe you’re baby-sitting them, consider taking them to different places other than just shops or play places. If you’re active in your own community through small business, local government, or the creative arts, show them what you do.
    • For example, let’s say that you’re an artist, and they are planning to show your art class’s works at a local community center. Consider taking them to see the community center and the art work.
    • Explore local history with your younger relatives. Maybe there are old factories, stores, parks, or museums in your town that highlight what life was like many years ago. Help them to appreciate their community through history.
    • Teach them to appreciate and respect others in their community.
  3. Be an emotional support.Being a role model may also mean giving your support and undivided attention when you’re available and able to do so. Some young kids may have difficulty coping with stressors at school or at work. Focus on what they need and talk about what’s bothering them.
    • Use active listening skills. Keep good eye contact. Provide validation if they’re talking about something difficult for them. Consider saying, “It sounds like that’s difficult” or “That’s a tough situation.”
    • Provide reassurance that they have support through you and others. Open up about what you can do to help or what support you can offer. Consider saying, "I know you're going through a difficult time. Just know that I'm here for you. You can come to me if you need to talk about anything."
    • Give hugs when they’re hurting. Give high-fives when they do something well. This helps to build their confidence.
  4. Make them feel safe.Give young children a “secure base” where they can feel safe. If you’re visiting your younger relatives, and their home life is chaotic, then find other places such as your home or safe public places that make them feel secure. And vice versa, if they are anxious when in public, find out ways to make them feel protected in those public spaces.
    • With young children under 10, keep a watchful eye on where they are and what they’re doing particularly in public spaces. Don’t let them wander too far without supervision.
    • Avoid taking them to places that may involve vulgar behavior or make them feel uncomfortable.
    • Don’t have them watch movies or TV that is mature in its content, particularly if it is scary or violent.

Inspiring Creativity

  1. Do activities that promote confidence and personal growth.Find activities that are fun but challenging. Find things that are age appropriate. Be confident in what you’re doing with them. Make them feel special by including them in something that you both can enjoy.
    • If they’re under 6, find toys and activities that help them to learn basic problem-solving and creative thinking skills like building something out of wooden blocks or learning how to do basic dance steps.
    • If they’re under 12, find activities that might involve exploring the outdoors or teaching them how to build or make something using craft supplies.
    • If they are teenagers, it may involve helping with a class project, taking them to a local art show, or volunteering together with a local non-profit.
  2. Laugh and have fun.Be a friend to your younger relatives. Don’t act like you’re smarter or better than them. Make them feel at ease.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    How can I plan things for my younger cousin without being a helicopter-cousin?

    Licensed Master Social Worker
    Tasha Rube is a Licensed Master Social Worker in Missouri. She received her MSW from the University of Missouri in 2014.
    Licensed Master Social Worker
    Expert Answer
    This would need to rely on your best judgment. Only you would know what your little cousin has set for personal boundaries. Do your best to find a happy balance between spending time with your cousin to show guidance and allowing for your cousin to be independent. Being a role model doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be with your cousin every second. Your little cousin likely watches you for guidance even when you're not looking.
  • Question
    What if my brother is so annoying that I lose my temper? Should I yell at him?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Try reasoning with him and tell him to quit doing that if it seriously bothers you. If this doesn't work try buying some noise cancelers, closing your door, or turn on music next time he makes some annoying noises. You should yell at him as the last resort if this doesn't work.
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  • Remember that kids repeat what they see and hear. Be mindful of that. Avoid using vulgar language or swearing.
  • Avoid talking about sex, violence, or traumatic events, particularly if they are younger than teenagers. If they bring up the subjects themselves, be delicate in how you talk with them. Even if they act or talk in a mature way, they are still children.

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