Gone are the days of \”do as I say, not as I do\” parenting. Today\’s youth are strong-minded and demand alignment of words and actions. Teenagers are not afraid to call out injustice or inequality, forcing those of us in older generations to take pause. These forced reflections can be beneficial instead of becoming agitated over seemingly disrespectful behavior. As we seize the opportunity to be better role models to the youth, don\’t we risk becoming better ourselves? Don\’t we begin to take better care of ourselves when we want to model them to take care of themselves as they become adults and contributors to society? There are three areas in which we can be positive role models for the youth, and it begins by asking some uncomfortable questions.
LESS SCREEN TIME
I imagine this is making some of you cringe. It seems the youth today are constantly in their phones. I intentionally use the word \”in\” here because it looks like their faces are buried \”in\” the device! It seems like an uphill battle to encourage less screen time when the youth must use technology devices for school, work, socialization, and more. It is no longer the exception but the norm. Let\’s also give ourselves a break. When COVID-19 hit and schools shut down, parents and caretakers were forced to have students learn online. As they always do when it comes to technology, they quickly figured out what an incredible tool the internet and computers are for their education. Although we celebrated their successes during lockdowns, now, we find fault in their approach as schools reopen. Here is the uncomfortable question. Are you ready? How much screen time do you use? Do you work at home, sitting in front of a computer most of the day? Do you respond immediately when a notification pops up, confident you must check it immediately? Do you participate in social media for shopping, staying in touch, or get caught up in the latest news feeds?
As you answer these questions, it is worthy to consider modifying our own habits and behaviors that are undoubtedly observed and mimicked by the youth we influence.
GO OUTSIDE AND EXERCISE
My husband is an introvert. He would tell me that when he was a child, his mother would punish him by making him go outside and play with other kids in the neighborhood. He would have much preferred staying indoors and reading a book or playing with Legos.
I remember having a physical education teacher in junior high school who had very little mobility and could not do basic exercises with the class. I can clearly remember having less respect for what she was teaching since I didn\’t feel she was not practicing what she was telling us was important. She was not practicing what she preached. Although the generations are undoubtedly different, I am confident that children still call our bluff, even if in silence.
The uncomfortable question is, are we staying fit and prioritizing an exercise routine above our device time? Do we require our youth to stay involved in a sport or an activity while sitting on our phones in the stands? I can say with certainty, if you were to exercise with the youth in your life, they will respond positively and believe its importance. Find a routine that works for you. If you are a grandparent, it does not make sense to do flag football with your grandchild. However, some options work for all ages and physical abilities. Martial Arts is one example. An established studio understands the value of role modeling. Families can take classes and train together. Start by finding a reputable and family-friendly studio to attend, creating memories, bonding, and fitness.
Whether the youth in your life seems to constantly eat or nibble like a bird, I often think the diet we expect out of them is unreasonable and more a product of effective commercialization. The classic chicken nugget and macaroni and cheese meal were more than acceptable for the younger years, but now (and I am speaking to myself!) we expect this perfectly balanced and food group inclusive menu. The uncomfortable question is, are we preparing and eating healthy and balanced meals ourselves? I have witnessed many youths, with even more insight from substitute teaching at high school, who eat a bag of marshmallows for breakfast and share with the class because most haven’t eaten anything. I have heard the constant complaints of parents and caretakers who are mortified by what is served in the school cafeteria. Instead of making demands of the youth that we cannot control in other settings, why not choose to role model sitting down at the table and eating a healthy meal together? As the youth become young adults, and then parents themselves, making this extra effort can pay off in incredible ways as they observe us acting on our words and not just saying what we want of them, but refuse to do ourselves.
So, as we make these requests of the youth in our lives, it would be more impactful if we role modeled positive choices and behaviors. Instead of demanding less screentime, put your own devices down, get physical and share a technology-free meal together. The youth watch us, and they mimic our behaviors for the first several years of a child\’s life. We are their role models. Whether they see what they like or are opposed, what we do is a factor in how they ultimately behave themselves.
SwiftKick Martial Arts, San Diego, has two locations – Rancho Bernardo and Carlsbad. Brian Cowell, the founder, offers something other studios do not. He ensures a welcoming and encouraging environment for all ages. As a role model, Brian has graduated many younger students from his balanced programs to become teachers themselves. The team of instructors is caring, and they continue to be exceptional role models. Contact SwiftKick for a free trial class and begin the journey of becoming a more positive role model for the next generation.