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How to Teach Your Child by Example

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Teaching your child by example isn't about being a perfect parent. True, it's about showing, or modeling, healthy choices and good behavior. But it's also about showing your child how to handle mistakes and recover from bad choices.

It's easy to help a child learn from their own mistakes with questions like, "What didn't work this time? How can you do it differently next time?"

What about helping your child learn from your mistakes? That's harder, isn't it? It means drawing attention to your flaws and missteps.

But using your mistakes as a learning tool helps both you and your child. And it helps build your child's respect for you over time.

Here are some tools to help you.

For a serious problem like depression or substance use disorder, you can tell your child the basics—that you need help from other adults and that you may need treatment and time to get well and change. Keep it simple. Tell your child that you want to help them avoid having the same problem.

How can you be a good role model?

The tips below can help you look at your own behavior and begin to make any changes you might want to.

What about other role models?

You may have heard the saying "It takes a village to raise a child." There's some truth in that. As much as you want to set a good example for handling life's many choices, you can't do it all. Fortunately, the world is rich with people your child can learn from. These include:

As your child gets older, you can't choose or control the many types of role models in your child's life. But you can help your child learn from these role models' successes and mistakes.

Credits for How to Teach Your Child by Example

Current as of: August 3, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics

Note: The "printer friendly" document will not contain all the information available in the online document. Some information (e.g. cross-references to other topics, definitions or medical illustrations) is only available in the online version.

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