Role Modelling and Social Skills



As a child did you ever play with dolls or toy soldiers?  Did you ever “play house?”.  What did you want to do when you got older – perhaps what your Mom or Dad did?  Often the way we think and the way we act is very similar to the way our parents thought and behaved.

Role modelling is setting a good example or teaching by example. And learning by example is how children learn best.

What do children learn from the examples of other people?  One important thing they learn is actions. Children also learn the unspoken rules about how people are expected to behave. Also, children learn complicated ideas about roles, powers, values, beliefs through role modelling.

There are many role models in most children’s lives. But in the early years, parents are the most important ones.

As children approach their teen years, they will consider other role models.

How are you a role model?

Children imitate and learn by example.  As a parent, you are in an extremely strong position to be a role model because you’re likely to be imitated by your children as they grow up.  By setting a good example, your actions will allow your children in your footsteps.

Children are wonderful imitators, and can learn to do what you do, believe what you believe, and value what you value just by observing you.


Parents can teach their children values in four main ways:


1. Moralizing

Moralizing is telling your children what values to believe.  Children may see moralizing as insincere if parents don’t demonstrate the values they claim to be in favour of.


2. Letting Children Decide for Themselves

Parents who let children decide for themselves believe that no one value is right; so their children have to decide their own values. Children often need direction and guidance. Left on their own, children may feel lost and confused.


3. Modelling

Presenting oneself as a model of a set of values allows a parent to set a living example for their children.  Modelling is very important, but not complete.  Children also need your help to clarify the different messages they hear each day.


4.  Helping Children Clarify Their Own Values


Helping children clarify or sort their own values encourages them to think through the consequences of possible actions when they face a dilemma.

Parents do this by asking questions like:

How do you fell about this?

What would happen if you…?

What other choices do you have?



How Can You Model Learning?

One of the key values that you can role model for your children has to do with their learning and schooling.  Now think about your own children. How is learning modelled in your home?

Children realize the importance of learning when they see their parents take an active interest in learning.  For example, when your read a book, you teach your children proper attitudes about reading.

Being active in your community, a good neighbour, joining a community organization, or being involved in your children’s school life, all set a good example for your children.



Additional Resources:


Robert Coles (1990). The Spiritual Life of Children. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.  It’s been observed that children have an intuition for religious life at an early age.   Book review here



When you thought I wasn’t lookingpdf )


How can we teach kids responsibility if we don’t give them responsibility?



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