My wife and I have been blessed with seven beautiful grandchildren--seven lives we absolutely cherish. Like most conscientious grandparents, and parents for that matter, observing the times we live in can be very disconcerting and troublesome. What will their future hold? What are the negative influences permeating their innocence? Who will they model after? These are just some of the thoughts that haunt us.
I was raised with the axiom, “We are living letters seen and read by all people”; Which translated can mean: “Live in such a way that if anyone should speak badly of you nobody would believe it!” I believe our culture has lost its sense of responsibility of the importance of stellar deportment; on modeling the kind of conduct that we’ll be proud to see our next generations emulate. When I look at the way our “leaders” behave, I certainly do not want my grandchildren, or any children, to behave this way!
There is a ton of current research which demonstrates clearly the importance and value of Positive Role Modeling. Seriously, I’m concerned that we have more negative role models polluting our living space and bombarding our kids. And we need to bring balance--no, we need to overwhelm the negative influences with a revolution of Positive Role Modeling! Remember, children learn through modeling and it is foolish to expect they’re going to get the right kind of modeling if we are not the ones actively engaged in doing it!
In my mind, there are seven attributes that we must Positively Model.
First, Respect and Compassion for Others. If we want our children to be kind, we need to model kindness. If we want our children fair, we must model fairness. If we want our children to be respectful, we need to demonstrate respect. It is critical that we model acceptance, forgiveness, grace and mercy--all character attributes which seem to be fading within our culture. How we treat others is mirrored in the lives that observe us.
Second, Honesty. I am absolutely appalled at the degree of dishonesty and out-and-out lying that is on display in the halls of our government. There seems to be absolutely no moral compass at play; no internal conviction about right or wrong. Everything is driven by what is expedient and self-serving. We need to stop this by living rightly ourselves.
Third, Passion and Inspiration. Children need to learn that there is meaning to life by the passion we demonstrate in pursuing our dreams and goals. If you project a “ho-hum, life’s a bummer” attitude, guess what? Regardless of what we do, we need to remember to do it 110%, without complaining, disputing or grumbling. When we fall, we get right back up and go for it again. Our lives are to be inspirational to the next generations, so they can become passionate in pursuing their dreams and goals.
Fourth, Clear Values. Again, research has shown that children admire and want to emulate their Role Models, especially when it comes to a clear set of values. Values reflect the quality of character that is being demonstrated and lived out in front of them. Honesty, integrity, bravery, joyfulness, courtesy, humor, enthusiasm, dedication, and the list goes on and on. It’s good for us all to re-examine our values to see if we’ve begun to shift away from strong, affirmative beliefs. Our culture certainly has drifted radically away from a clear set of values to an amorphic, “anything goes” value system. Without Clear Values there will not be strong positive behaviors.
Fifth, Commitment to Community. We need to be other-centered and not self-centered. We need to demonstrate a concern for the wellbeing of everyone and not be self-serving. Having worked in the Human Services field for nearly 50 years, I have observed that individuals most likely to succeed in this industry are those who were raised with a strong sense of community wellbeing and a genuine concern for others. We all need to “walk the walk,” because children learn by doing. Involve them in experiences that entail them helping others, (i.e., collect food for food drives, visit the elderly and sick, deliver meals, and raise funds to help those in need).
Sixth, Tolerance and Acceptance. It is a definitive statement that people who have strong racist and discriminatory views, learned such an attitude primarily from their parents or significant adults in their lives. We will continue to have significant social conflict and “battle lines” until we can raise a new generation of children who have learned to accept diversity, cultural and ethnic differences, and are essentially “colorblind.” Children need to be taught by example how to remove social barriers, not erect them.
Seventh, Overcoming Obstacles. Booker T. Washington once said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which one has overcome.” I was blessed to have a mother who not only taught this principle, but lived by the belief that obstacles are only opportunities to create solutions for success. What a tremendous gift we can give the next generation by teaching them to be innovators of success and conquerors of obstacles and challenges. Nothing good gets accomplished by whining, complaining, self-pity or disengagement. Our children need to learn not to give up, but to press on towards achievement. Once again, they are much more apt to learn this skill when they see it practiced in our lives!
It is always good to remember, that when you are around children, you are under their microscope. They are watching, observing, processing, and they will eventually model after those whom they most admire. Being a Positive Role Model is not only an opportunity to shape a new generation, but it is a responsibility we shoulder in order to ensure a better world and life experience for those following in our steps!