As parents, we intuitively know that we play a critical role in our children’s lives. Is this true? Or do friends, peers, teachers, and the media play a greater role? For the most part, research supports what we as parents already know: we have the largest influence on how children think, feel and act. We have tremendous impact in helping children and adolescents grow up healthy. We want our children to be competent, have a sense of autonomy, make them feel connected, have problem solving skills and to have positive attitudes about themselves and learning. We teach them the positive values we hold dear and the necessary skills for success. We nurture who they are and what they will become as adults by being good role models.

What values do you want your children to know? Values are a set of beliefs and ideals that guide the family as a unit. Values define how family members interact with each other and with others in society. A family’s culture may guide the selection of values that guide their everyday life and a view of what is right and wrong. Some examples of family values include:

1. The importance of family and family traditions. Each member of the family is loved, that they belong, and that they matter. Spending time together, coming together for holidays and special occasions and having family traditions build the sense of belonging.

2. Caring, love and support for each family member.

3. The importance of education, the arts, music and cultural events.

4. The importance of communication. When families feel that they can talk openly about anything – hopes, dreams, fears, issues, successes or failures- all without judgment strengthens family bonds.

5. Respect – To respect each other means to acknowledge and value feelings, thoughts, needs and preferences into account. The only way to earn and keep someone’s respect is to first show them respect for yourself and others.

6. Honesty- This is the foundation of any relationships. A deeper connection will form when we are honest with each other. Encourage honesty by practicing understanding & respect.

7. Others would include Creativity and Individualism, Responsibility, Forgiveness, Persistence, Flexibility, Strong work ethic, Religious values, and Political views

Does your child have the right attitude? Attitudes are the views a person has over people, places, or things. Attitudes are important because they predict behavior and have impact on children’s school performance, health, happiness and relationships.

The following are the attitudes and feelings they will need to internalize with your help:

· I am lovable.

· I like learning.

· I am good at doing new things. I am capable. I am an achiever.

· If something seems hard at first, I can get it by trying. I am a problem solver.

· Adults will help me if I need it, but leave me to learn something on my own.

· It’s fun to play with other kids. I know how to cooperate with them.

· I can’t have my way all the time. Sometimes I must listen to adults and do as they say.

· I like to be helpful.

· My choices matter. I am responsible for my success.

Children copy our behavior and do as we do. This is the way children learn about themselves and the world. Scientists have discovered “mirror neurons” in our brains that respondidentically whether you perform an action or witness someone else perform the same action. There is a real scientific basis for “monkey see, monkey do”! And children are very impressionable. Parents are powerful models for children! So we have to model the specific actions we want our children to imitate. Attitudes can be changed and your attitude has a lot to do with it! What we do every day – our looks, our choices, our words, and the way we treat others- have a major influence on our children in more ways than we realize!

The ways parents influence the development of children and adolescents are many. We “wire” their brains by how we interact with them and by the experiences we provide them. When we are bonded to them and monitor what they do, we show support and security. When we are “attuned” and “warm” in our response to them, it helps them develop socially. We need to ask ourselves frequently: “At this moment, what is my action teaching my child? What kind of actions can I do to promote positive behaviors”?

Your ability to influence your child by your example will never be greater than it is right now and will ultimately impact their success in school and in life. While it is also true that peers, friends, teachers, other adults, and the media play important roles, we are the most powerful influence in our child’s healthy development!

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