We all want our kids to grow and develop into the best version of themselves, and whilst we try our best to encourage them to do whatever they want to do with their lives, deep down, we all have an idea of what we feel is best for them.

The truth is, one of the hardest but most effective forms of parenting is to let children make decisions for themselves – particularly as they grow into teenagers, yet it’s not always as simple as that, for we can’t help but influence their decisions with our words, suggestions and reactions to their decisions and behavior.

Yet, the most fundamental way you influence your children is subconscious – indeed, kids don’t tend do what you say, they more do what you do… meaning, if you have chronically untidy children that never tidy their bedroom they are much less likely to listen and respect your instructions if your own bedroom is untidy.

In psychology, there’s something known as modelling and one of the most fundamental and pervasive ways children learn is from observing their parents and copying; the idea is sometimes described using the term “monkey see monkey do”.  

Therefore, if you want to influence your children to get into good habits, you need to lead from the front and set a good example to your children.  For instance, if you are constantly telling them about the importance of school and academic education – they are much more likely to listen and respect what you’re saying if you were undertaking a course yourself.

This doesn’t have to be an advanced course such as a master operations management, it could be something as simple as learning a new language on an app like Duolingo – the critical factor, is that they will see you “doing” your homework – thus, they will model this behavior.  If, on the other hand, you come home from work and just sit in front of the TV – they’re going to model that behavior too.

The term “role model” comes up a lot in parenting literature, as we all know the importance and power of being a good role model to children.  That said, as adults we do have our own lives to deal with and can’t always be on top form. It’s therefore important to give yourself a bit of a break on this front, from time to time, as nobody is asking you to be super parent.

The key point is that if you want to influence your children to do something, such as their homework when they get home from school, to keep their room tidy, or even manage their own finances responsibly – then you need to be doing the same.  

You need to “show them” the way rather than just tell them the way… and the worst thing you can do is “tell them” how to do something, without following your own advice, and setting a good example for them to follow in the footsteps of.