Kids naturally look up to the adults in their lives. It’s a large part of how they learn and grow. So even if you don’t intend on being a role model or model parent, you’re setting an example.

If you want to raise well-adjusted kids, let that example be a good one.

Here are some areas where your behavior is important:

Showing compassion
You may have encountered some adults who seem to lack compassion. This is probably because they weren’t shown a great deal of empathy when they were in their formative years.

While some households are run like dictatorships, this doesn’t help your child to learn compassion. To teach your child compassion, talk about how you may change your behavior based on someone’s feelings. So-and-so is sad, so I’m going to give him a hug. Or, this person is angry, so I’m going to give her some space.

Your child should learn to think of others in most situations before they act on their own thoughts and feelings.

Eating and drinking well
If you’re telling your child to eat broccoli while you’re noshing on a donut for dinner, you’re sending mixed signals. Kudos to you for serving up the broccoli, but if you want to be a good role model, you actually have to eat it too.

When you don’t practice what you preach, you’re sending the message that your rules aren’t that important. Your kids may suck it up and eat broccoli for a while, but soon they’ll be downing donuts for dinner just like their role models.

The same holds true for your relationship with alcohol. If you’re telling your kids not to drink, but you’re having a beer or two every night, you’re sending a mixed message.

And if your kids are already experimenting with alcohol, it’s not too late to turn things around. Young people in recovery have a great chance of turning their lives around. Be the role model they need to get through the transition.

Communication is one of the most difficult and most important skills we have to master. Most adults aren’t great communicators, but we expect our children to be masters.

If you want to set a good example, identify your communication weaknesses (we all have them) and work on them.

In addition to working on yourself, let your children know that you’re a work in progress. To be good role models, we don’t have to be perfect. In fact, your children will be much better off if they view you as the flawed human you are. They will still look up to you, but their beliefs won’t be shattered when they become adults and realize that you’re not always right.

Talk to your kids about how to communicate effectively. Teach them the same techniques you’re learning, so they can start practicing them now. Everything in life is easier when you can properly communicate your wants and needs.

Processing anger and sadness
Toddler tantrums teach us that our kids need guidance to control their emotions. They aren’t born with these skills, so they’re going to look to you to find out what to do when they’re angry.

If you have a habit of throwing things, they’ll do it too. If you’re calm and handle your anger in a healthy way, they’ll eventually get there. It can take a lifetime to learn how to effectively manage these difficult emotions, so don’t lose patience. Even if it seems like you’re getting nowhere, your kids are picking up on your cues.

Handling anxiety
Anxiety is a major issue in our society, and it can be crippling to a person’s social life.
If you’re someone who suffers from panic attacks or regularly lets stress get the better of you, it’s time to find a solution. You probably don’t want this life for your kids, so show them what it’s like to effectively manage stress. Experiment with various healthy outlets for stress, including things like meditation, yoga and any type of exercise. Eating more fruits and vegetables may also help.
You don’t necessarily have to follow anyone’s rules to be a good role model. Just act in a way that you want to see your child act, and you’ll be just fine.