Parenting teens: Role model

Parenting teens: Role model

Be the kind of person you want your teenager to grow up to be.

Key points to remember

  • be the kind of person you want your teenager to grow up to be
  • act the way you'd like your kids to act - lead by example
  • your example is one of the best ways to raise a child

Be the kind of person you want your teenager to grow up to be

Photo of teenage girl boxing against a punching bag with male adult looking on.

Strategy: Act the way you'd like your kids to act. Lead by example

Seeing is believing - be the kind of person you want your teenager to grow up to be.

Kids in general tend to grow up to be a lot like their parents. They know who you are and what you do. The way you act plays a major role in the way they will behave. Kids who live in homes where parents smoke are more likely to become smokers. Parents who do drugs or abuse alcohol are more likely to find their kids do the same. Just as our kids can learn and copy our bad behaviours, they can also learn good ones – when we make the effort to show them.

Teach your teenagers how to handle difficult situations, how to be honest, how to be kind, how to be brave, how to say sorry, how to communicate effectively and how to love. Help them to say ‘no’. Remember a stubborn child is one that knows their own mind and values. As that stubborn child grows into a teenager, and eventually an adult, that stubborn streak will help them to say “no” and to be their own person.

Be an imperfect parent. No one is perfect. Admit your mistakes and don’t be afraid to say, “I am sorry.” Share stories about when you were a teenager. Be real.

Think about what you say ….

Be aware of how you speak about, and behave around, alcohol. If your kids see you stagger in the door each night moaning, “I need a drink!” or reaching for the booze and shouting, “This calls for a drink!” every time there is something to celebrate, they are receiving strong messages about the role of alcohol.

“Dad comes home everyday with a six-pack of beers. He says it helps him relax…. But after a while, he just starts shouting at mum and she gets upset.”

Think about what you do….

If your kids know you’ve had a few drinks – and then drive – you are modelling that it is OK to drink and drive. And if you think you can sneak a cigarette when they aren’t looking, you are wrong - they smell it.

“Mum hides her booze in the boot of the car. She doesn’t think we know its there. There’s never any food in the fridge but always she has her booze stashed away. She doesn’t really care about us kids……”

Think about how you respond….

When you react to people and situations by using harsh words or violence, your kids get the idea that it is OK to disrespect people. And in turn – it will be you who they show the same to.

“My dad told me I couldn’t go to my mates place but when I asked him why, he just swore at me and told me to f*** off. I told him to do the same – and then he hit me. I don’t ask him no more.”

Your example is one of the best ways to raise a child

Photo of father with child (can only see the child's back)All the advice in the world to a teenager will count for little if you don’t walk the walk.
  • find healthy ways to relax after work or to have fun on weekends without alcohol or other drugs
  • let them see you model sensible drinking behaviour such as ...
    • sometimes refusing a drink when it is offered
    • counting the number of standard drinks you are consuming
    • enjoying non-alcoholic drinks
    • refusing to drink when you are driving
    • not drinking till you are drunk
  • eat healthy and exercise – even if it’s just going for a walk together
  • share your thoughts and feelings
  • admit when you are wrong and apologise

You may find that some of these are not always easy. If we expect our young people not to drink at all, or to drink sensibly when they are older, we need to show them how it is done.

The content above is based on pages 23-26 below (PDF, 961KB) from the Whānau pack: Tools for families and parents with teenagers.

Image of pages from "Whanau pack" booklet

Acknowledgement and copyright notice

The Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation are very grateful to Northland District Health Board (NDHB) for permission to reproduce this content from the Whānau pack: Tools for families and parents with teenagers (PDF, 4.16MB). NDHB own the copyright in this material and it must not be copied or reproduced except as expressly permitted by NDHB. 

Image of the cover of "Whanau pack" booklet

This page last reviewed 25 February 2015.
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