Being a role model is a privilege. (Allyson Felix)
– Desiree Panlilio
Role models are great examples for your teenager to look up to and aspire to be. Everyone needs a positive role model. Role models provide a vision, living proof, for who your teenager aspires to be. Role models have desirable values, traits, language, and behaviors that your teenager wants to copy. The question for the role models your teenager looks up to becomes, “Is your teenager consciously and strategically choosing role models that align with their personal mission statement, goals, objectives, values, and principles?” Role models can drastically impact your teenager’s behavior and growth. They help them to achieve their goals by seeing what their role model is pursuing and achieving their goals by following the same values and principles that your teenager has identified as important to them. It is important to discuss with your teenager who their role models are and the reason behind choosing that individual to be their role model. Asking what values, traits, characteristics, and abilities your teenager admires in that individual goes a long way in creating understanding for you, the parent, and your teenager as to why they hold that person in such high esteem.
While not all teenagers have role models, I believe having role models is crucially important. It allows for your teenager to identify with other individuals who are creating success in their life by following the same principles, goals, and values that your teenager is learning to internalize and follow. Your teenager may have a few role models all specific to something your teenager wants to achieve. However, your teenager should be intentional, and really look at the entire person they are role modeling. How do you go about finding a role model?
The first thing your teenager should do is to examine their personal mission statement, their goals, principles, and values. Once your teenager has these in hand, they can move onto researching people that may share some of those values. I like to stress that teenagers can have many role models. Often a teenager may have an athletic role model and a role model that embodies their academic goals or role they wish to play in society. For example a swimmer may have Michael Phelps as an athletic role model and Nelson Mandela as a role model to look to for steadfastness in beliefs and philanthropy. The role model can be a parent, uncle, anyone in your teenager’s community. Often role models that are close to the teenager take on a dual role, both role model and mentor. I believe it takes a village, and the more villagers you have encouraging your teenager the better.
Once your teenager adopts a role model, especially if they are famous, it becomes part of your teenager’s life to “watch” what their role model is doing and achieving. This provides inspiration and encouragement. I talk about helping your teenager develop intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is where your teenager is motivated by their own goals and not by parents asking over and over for them to do something or having a parent provide such detailed oversight that the teenager does not learn to schedule their own time. Watching their role models reach goals and achieve success is very motivating. Another way to be inspired by their role model is to write quotes down by their role model. For example a swimmer may have this quote in their swim locker, “If you’re not serious about training, conditioning, and practice. You’re not serious about being your best.”( Michael Phelps), or “When I feel tired, I just think about how great I will feel once I finally reach my goal.”( Michael Phelps). That same teenager may have this quote to inspire their humanity, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. Live life as though nobody is watching, and express yourself as though everyone is listening.” (Nelson Mandela). Whatever the quote, it is important for your teenager to understand the context that made that quote famous. It is often a great opportunity to communicate with your teenager on a quote they have selected about one of their role models. It gives you the parent an opportunity to gain insight into what is important to your teenager and creates communication which builds trust and love and builds the relationship between you and your teenager. After all, communication is the relationship, and each opportunity to build that relationship should not be overlooked.
If the role model is someone close to your teenager, perhaps you the parent, a teacher or a family member, the conversation is the same. What is it about that individual that your teenager values and wants to emulate? It may be the kindness their teacher shows their students, which may be a trait your teenager wants to show more. It is then the opportunity for your teenager to work on a goal and objectives to create that trait. It all circles back to following their personal mission statement, principles, values, and goals. When your teenager is focused, success comes their way. Having positive role models is just another tool to help your teenager achieve the success that they have outlined for themselves.