Being a good role model through the toddler years

If Baby wants to know how to do something, guess where they look? You! You are Baby‘s role model for pretty much everything, and they are soaking up everything you do like a sponge. Well, like a sponge that soaks a lot of stuff up but also releases a bunch of it. Baby isn’t going to remember everything they hear or sees over the course of their childhood, but they will be learning things based on watching you do them.

As Baby grows, you’ll start to see little pieces of your behavior reflected back at you. So how do you make sure you’re being the best role model you can be? Use the advice you’ll probably give them a thousand times over the next several decades of your life: do your best.

You can focus in on what you want to teach Baby right here at the start by examining your priorities, what you find important, the things you want to accomplish, and the kind of person you want to be. Just like at any other point in you life, you can use this information to make your day-to-day decisions, but making a point to especially do so when Baby is around will help to make sure those values are some of the things they pick up. If you have time to pause before doing something, take a moment to ask yourself if you’d be happy to have Baby see it. Do you still want to roll past that stop sign, or walk away in a huff after a game of Monopoly gone wrong?

While Baby is still little, it can help to talk through the choices you’re making so they can better understand why you’re making them. “I’m washing my plate because I want it to be clean next time someone else needs to use it.” Is cleaning up after yourself revolutionary? No, not for you, but it is for Baby. You want them to grow up into the kind of person who leaves a place better than they found it, and that can start with something as simple as modeling good dish-washing behavior.

This line of thinking can apply to nearly every little task throughout your day: what you choose to eat and why, how much effort you put in at work, how nice you are at the grocery store, how you apologize to your partner for stepping on their toe, how you admit you were wrong about directions, how long you spend using your phone, when you go to sleep, etc. “I’m finishing my dinner before I eat a cookie so I get all those important nutrients and don’t fill up on sugar!” “I thought it would be a good idea to let this woman go ahead of us in line since she’s in a hurry, do you agree?” It can be helpful to involve Baby in your decisions when you can, but it’s just as important to make your best effort when you’re not sure if they are looking!  

You’re not perfect. Not every action you take is going to be exactly what you wish Baby would do in your shoes. That’s okay. Baby is pretty amazing, and you’re going to help make each other better people. You’re going to continue learning, and being thoughtful about your words and actions now will make it easier when Baby gets older and role modeling gets more complicated. For now, a “Please” and “Thank you” attitude can go a really long way.

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