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Do children need role models besides their parents?

Role models matter. Children piece together their worldviews based on their experiences with the people around them. And so, even though you’re their favorite person, you might be thinking about how to include additional positive influences in their life. Having a diverse range of people for you little one to look up to will help them develop into a kind, empathetic person.  

There’s a reason we say it takes a village! 

How can a role model help?

Your child’s basic physical needs are pretty clear at this stage, but figuring out how to support them emotionally as they grow can be trickier (and it can vary a lot from child to child). 

One thing that is clear is that having someone to look up to — particularly someone of the same sex or race — can have a positive impact on children. When your little one gets older, a role model can offer support at challenging times, help them make decisions, and show them what it looks like to be a positive member of their community. 

Role models can also help kids develop new ways to see themselves in the world and encourage them to explore as they grow.

Another reason to include multiple positive influences in a child’s life is simply familiarity and understanding. For the same reason that many parents try to expose their kids to a varied menu of food, making sure they get to know a wide range of people can help them grow into more empathetic people. Not every influence needs to be as big of a part of a child’s life as the term “role model” implies. But the more diversity they encounter, the more they’ll feel comfortable and confident meeting new people as they get older.

How can I make sure there are positive role models in my child’s life?

Finding role models for your little one’s life is easier than you may think. They can come in many forms — from family members to famous figures, like professional athletes, musicians, or cultural and historical icons. Anyone that your child looks up to and identifies with can be a positive role model. 

However, the best role models will be the people they feel comfortable with — especially while they’re very young. Most likely, these will be the same people you feel comfortable with, who feel like a natural part of your family life. That means your siblings, parents, and friends are all pretty ideal candidates for the position of “role model.” Since they’re already a positive part of your life, all they have to do is keep showing up. 

As your little one gets older, you can also make a point to include a range of teachers, babysitters, and coaches in their life. Before you know it, your little one will start picking out their own role models. Then, you have an excellent opportunity to start a conversation about the qualities they admire in their favorite figures.

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