What Makes a Good Role Model? 7 Characteristics that Make a Real Impact
What Makes a Good Role Model? 7 Characteristics that Make a Real Impact

What Makes a Good Role Model? 7 Characteristics that Make a Real Impact

Role Models are people who others imitate, emulate or look to for guidance. There are good role models who inspire greatness in others and bad role models who are what we call "bad influences." There are even anti-role models, pegged by the media as "bad girls" or "bad boys" who serve as good examples of what NOT to do if you want to become a successful, respected person.

Every parent wants their children to have positive role models who have the characteristics that inspire them to want to be (and become) their very best. While there is some variation in every parents definition of what it means to be a good person, the following 7 characteristics remain constant.

Positive role models;

(1) Model positive choice-making: Little eyes are watching and little ears are listening. When it comes to being a role model, you must be aware that the choices you make dont only impact you but also the children who regard you as their superhero. Someday, they will be in the same predicament and think to themselves, "What did s/he do when s/he was in the same situation?" As a role model, you cant just "talk the talk" and tell others to make good choices. You must show them how its done.

(2) Think out loud: When you have a tough choice to make, allow the children to see how you work through the problem, weigh the pros and cons, and come to a decision. The process of making a good decision is a skill. A good role model will not only show a child which decision is best, but also how they came to that conclusion. That way, the child will be able to follow that reasoning when they are in a similar situation.

(3) Apologize and admit mistakes: Nobodys perfect. When you make a bad choice, let those who are watching and learning from you know that you made a mistake and how you plan to correct it. This will help them to understand that (a) everyone makes mistakes; (b) its not the end of the world; (c) you can make it right; and (d) you need to take care of it and be accountable right away. By apologizing, admitting your mistake, and repairing the damage, you will be demonstrating an important yet often overlooked part of being a role model.

(4) Follow through: We all want children to stick with their commitments and follow through with their promises. However, as adults, we get busy, distracted, and sometimes, a bit lazy. To be a good role model, we must demonstrate stick-to-itiveness. That means; (a) be on time; (b) finish what you started; (c) dont quit; (d) keep your word; and (e) keep going even if things get difficult. When role models follow through with their goals, it teaches children that it can be done and helps them adopt an "if s/he can do it, so can I" attitude.

(5) Show respect: You may be driven, successful, and smart but whether you choose to show respect or not speaks volumes about the type of attitude it takes to make it in life. We always tell children to "treat others the way we want to be treated" and yet, may not subscribe to that axiom ourselves. Do you step on others to get ahead? Do you take people for granted? Do you show gratitude for others? Its often the little things you do that make the biggest difference in the way children perceive how to succeed in business and relationships.

(6) Be well rounded: While we dont want to spread ourselves too thin, its important to show children that we can be more than just one thing. Great role models arent just "parents" or "teachers." Theyre people who show curiosities and have varied interests. You may be a father whos also a student of the martial arts, a great chef and a treasured friend. You may be a mother whos a gifted dancer and a curious photographer. When children see that their role models can be many things, they will learn that they dont need to pigeon-hole themselves in order to be successful.

(7) Demonstrate confidence in who you are: Whatever you choose to do with your life, be proud of the person youve become. It may have been a long road, but its the responsibility of a role model to commemorate the lessons learned, the strength amassed, and the character developed. Its true; we can always improve, however, children need to see that their role models dont suspend their confidence until they achieve "one more win" or "lose 5 more pounds." We must continue to strive while being happy with how far weve come at the same time.

While it may seem like a great deal of pressure to be a positive role model; no one is expecting you to perform like a flawless superhero. We certainly wouldnt expect that behavior from the children who are looking to us for guidance-nor would we want them to expect that kind of flawless behavior from themselves. You can only do your best. And, if you mess up today, you can always refer back to tip #3 and try again tomorrow. Good role models earn multiple chances from the children who believe in them.


Known as "The Character Queen," Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman is a child development specialist, success coach, and parenting expert. Her tips-based style makes her a favorite among parents and teachers. Shes the creator of the Powerful Words, a life-skills system used in childrens programs. For more information or to contact Dr. Robyn, visit her Powerful Parenting Blog at


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