I Don’t Want to be My Child’s Role Model

When your baby is little, you are so careful around her! You watch what you say, how you sit and stand and talk, how you behave with others. You do it mainly so she can learn the ‘right’ things. Like it or not, you’ve become her role model. 🙂

It’s easy when she’s little, but as she grows, she enters more and more areas of your life. Now that she can walk from room to room, she follows you around. She’s listening when you’re on the phone: being impatient with your parents, trying to be patient with someone from work, flirting with someone, turning the air blue with your comments on how your favorite baseball team performed at the last game, having an argument with your partner, laughing crudely at crude jokes (yes, women do this as much as men do), making snide remarks about people.

You can’t watch yourself all the time – not for months and years on end. Eventually, the ‘role model’ image develops cracks and the cracks starts showing.

But you haven’t given up on your baby! She is your wonderful, special girl, the love of your life, and you’re determined she will be PERFECT!

Look at it from your child’s point of view:

You have shown him how to do be sit stand speak sleep dress eat brush bathe play – everything he knows, he knows from you. He tries first to copy you, and then to make that imitation faultless. Now, all of a sudden, you want to sheer off and do stuff that he is not supposed to imitate! Worse, you seem displeased or discomfited or both if he even notices you doing certain things (like banging a fist against the wall when you’re frustrated, for instance).

Obviously your son is confused. When are you in ‘role model’ mode? And when is he supposed to pretend you’ve faded into the woodwork?

To make matters worse, you don’t explain it to him. You can’t! If he’s supposed to ignore certain behaviors of yours, your calling attention to them is not exactly going to help him do that, is it?!

As he grows, you begin to feel the burden of this ‘role model’ business. “Finish your homework before dinner. You can watch TV after dinner” you tell him. But you want to watch a program while he’s doing his homework; you don’t have homework. Besides, you’re not a child; you’re an adult, and it’s perfectly alright for you to watch TV all evening if you want to, so long as you don’t neglect your chores (you might think). Why should you give up watching TV because he isn’t supposed to watch it at that time?

“Eat your vegetables” you tell him at dinner. But you don’t want to eat yours because you eat a large vegetable salad for lunch every single day, while he carries a sandwich to school. At dinner, you want some bread and meat. And dinner is the only time your child will eat vegetables (if at all he does). Why should you forego your nutrients to ensure he gets his?

You can be sarcastic with your friend. It is totally inappropriate for your child to be sarcastic with your friend.

You’re getting the drift, aren’t you? If you are a role model, you have to do be say what you want your child (or whoever else) to do be say. I’d say this is a foolproof way to introduce an incredible amount of stress into your life. How can you possibly live your life as an example of how you want your child to live his life?

And there’s something else you’ve forgotten. Your child is her own person; she is not you. Her nature and personality may be similar to yours, but they will never be identical. How, then, can you expect that you will be a role model for her?

Real life doesn’t allow for role models; at least, not on an ongoing basis. You can be a role model for someone who sees you for a short while, who shares a small slice of your life or your experience. But when someone is as much a part of your life as your child is, it is almost impossible for you to be a role model for them.

This is why I say: I don’t want to be a role model for my child.

Most people can’t believe it. “Don’t you want your child to learn anything from you?” they ask me.

Sure I do! I want her to learn from me.

I live my life according to my beliefs. I am true to myself. More accurately, I try to be as true to myself as it is possible to be. (If I’m in a group that’s praising someone for something they did, and I think what the person did is reprehensible, I won’t criticize that person, but I won’t say a single word of praise either. I’d be non-committal, poker-faced.)  

I want my daughter to learn from me: to be true to her own beliefs (which might be –and are, in some instances! 🙂 – different from mine). I want my daughter to be true to herself.

Would you call that being a role model?

11 Responses to I Don’t Want to be My Child’s Role Model

  1. vinita upreti November 9, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    Great article….very much agree with you…..life is dynamic and every moment we grow ( ideally we should…,consciously).and just as it happens in Nature ,the creator nurtures it’s creation at all levels ,giving it all the potential and the opportunity to grow holistically,we too as parents participate in the evolution of our progeny

    .As little kids ,…their mental slates are clean and they are the most vulnerable and impressionable and they indeed do unconditionally love and admire their parents, we do have a responsiblity to present the ideal image as we would want them to learn and to Be…..just as in the nursery the gardener lovingly tends to his little saplings and gives them the utmost TLC and the environment to grow strong…..and as they grow and evolve physically,mentally,emotionally,spiritually …we too should keep pace with their growth (as we too as parents should be ideally growing and evolving,learning ,experiencing and imparting the knowledge) to the child.

    As life presents each and everyone of us as unique individuals a unique experience…..we enable the child to learn 1: the core values….such as
    Honesty,truthfulness,character,integrity,Love,Compassion,patience,tolerance, faith…etc..by first hand experience ( by observing ones immediate surroundings,family,school etc.).and 2: by Imbibing knowledge through books,media etc and 3: most imp…by self introspection and self analysis ,self motivation and deep thinking…which we should as parents encourage.
    In every dimension of growth the role of the parents is prime….the lion’s cub grows up to be a lion and not a lamb,and so on …and in our human world we often we observe the that humans beget inhuman humans…..studies in psychology too endorse the effect of early childhood in a persons life….often hardened criminals can be traced to have had cruel childhoods as opposed to other examples of great souls who credit their early influences in life.

    Parenting requires sacrifice,patience,tolerance above all should be inspired by Love…….
    I do not mean to sound pompous but we do not see TV it’s been almost 4 years now and we do not miss much but we gain phenomenal quality time together as a family,.We have given up on all junk food (on Birthday’s only)and have the food we want all of us to have .

    We try to bring in ourselves the Change which we want to see in others or the kids…as they say “Change and the world Changes for you” so the change begins with me….then it radiates to the rest of the surroundings………..as we believe that we are not fossills but dynamic evolving beings…..and we need to work to be relevant and effective enough for the present and the future…..

    We let our children realise that the Almighty creator has given us a body ,mind ,heart and Soul with a certain purpose…….the body with it’s senses…are not to be misused but to be used as filters to effectively phase out the undesired negative elements and absorb the positive inputs to be used for for growth.similarly the importance of Mind regulation ,or mind management,(not to let the Mind Master you …but You Master the Mind…..and the most inportant the Soul….which is the reason for our being alive………
    To find one’s purpose .mission in life and to fulfill that…..to leave the world as a better place than what we came to…..we must strive……..
    Not to be a role model ( as there is no such a perfect static condition)…but to be a living example of an ever Evolving self………..

    • Vinita Zutshi November 9, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

      Wow, Vinita! Thank you for sharing so generously. So many pay lip service to some of the ideas you’ve written about, but that’s all it is – lip service. What is deeply impressive is that you are one of the few who ‘walk your talk’. With people like you and so many others that I am blessed to have in my life, there is hope yet – for us, for our kids, and for the entire world.

      I have a strange feeling that when we finally catch that coffee, we won’t be saying much, but we’ll be having a conversation alright…. Let’s meet soooon. Hugs,

  2. Rashika November 10, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    Hey Vinita, I am reading a blog of yours after a long time, and I must say this is a very interesting and discussable topic. I love it. Children learn by observing us more than by what we say and teach and so I think at different ages, parents are role models in some way or another. It is so true that we cannot put up an act and we are what we are, and we are seen very carefully by the kids, like it or not. As parents we do play the most important role in our children’s lives and so I think being a role model is the most natural thing.
    We are kids too, and reflecting back, I can definitely remember times when I wanted to be like my mom, though in the process of growing up and identifying myself, drifted away, and surprisingly now came around a full circle where I can relate to my mom, my role model.
    I am sure my children also will learn what they want to be and how, by observing us at younger ages and then evolving their unique selves, definitely keeping what they thought they needed from us.
    I hope I am making sense here.
    Keep writing Vini, and I am looking forward to your book.
    Love
    Rashika

    • Vinita Zutshi November 10, 2011 at 2:48 am #

      Great to hear from you, Rashika. I agree completely – like it or not, in some way or other, we are role models for our kids. I guess problems crop up when parents take the ‘role model’ stuff too seriously, and forget to be who they are… Thanks for writing in. I hope all is going well with you! 🙂 Hugs,

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