Sep 26th, 2011
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 social care workers wants their young people 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 social care worker’s 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 don’t only impact you but also the young people 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 can’t just “talk the talk” and tell others to make good choices. You must put them into action yourself.
(2) Think out loud:
When you have a tough choice to make, allow the young people 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 young people which decision is best, but also how they came to that conclusion. That way, the young people will be able to follow that reasoning when they are in a similar situation.
(3) Apologize and admit mistakes:
Nobody’s 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 young people to stick with their commitments and follow through with their promises. But as adults it can sometimes be difficult to demonstrate follow through when we’re tired, distracted, busy, or overwhelmed. To be a good role model, we must demonstrate stick-to-itiveness. That means; (a) be on time; (b) finish what you started; (c) don’t quit; (d) keep your word; and (e) keep going even if things get difficult. When role models follow through with their goals, it teaches young people 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 young people 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? It’s often the little things you do that make the biggest difference in the way young people perceive how to succeed in business and relationships.
(6) Be well rounded:
While we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin, it’s important to show young people that we can be more than just one thing. Great role models aren’t just “social care workers” or “teachers.” They’re great learners and challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zones. You may be a father who’s also a student of the martial arts, a great chef and a treasured friend. You may be a mother who’s a gifted dancer and a curious photographer. When young people see that their role models can be many things, they will learn that they don’t 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 you’ve become. It may have been a long road, but it’s the responsibility of a role model to commemorate the lessons learned, the strength amassed, and the character developed. It’s true; we can always improve; however, young people need to see that their role models don’t 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 we’ve come at the same time.
While it may seem like a great deal of pressure to be a positive role model; nobody is expecting you to be superhuman. We certainly wouldn’t expect that behaviour from the young people who are looking to us for guidance