As part of the leadership program I teach, the grade 11/12 students in the class are required to spend time in a classroom at one of the 3 primary schools in our area. When I initially created this component of the course, I figured it would be a good way for the students to get some quality, albeit basic leadership experience. They’d get a chance to work with younger students twice a week, and as a reward, they’d get some solid material to add to their resume.
What I realized though, was that while the intent was to provide the students with leadership experience, what it actually provided them with was a new perspective. Through our conversations, it became clear that working with these younger students was giving the older ones a new sense of purpose outside of their normal high school responsibilities. They would talk about these kids as though they were “their students” and they would fondly share stories of the students hugging them when they left or asking when they were coming back.
What I soon started to see was that these experiences were actually getting them to view themselves as role models. The more they shared, the more it became apparent that they were seeing themselves not just as high school students, but also as influencers. They started to become more aware of the importance that they play in the lives of others.
All of this got me thinking about how important role models are in the lives of our children. Looking at my own kids, I am starting to see that they are going to need positive and effective role models in their lives, especially as they enter their pre-teen and adolescent years. Based on my leadership class, I am also realizing that adolescent role models can play a huge part in helping them learn to navigate the world they will soon be experiencing.
Role modelling can play an essential role in giving our kids new perspectives and ways to think. Whether its cousins, family friends, or other relatives – getting younger kids connected to older ones can provide many benefits for both parties. Keep reading to see how role model opportunities can help both older and younger kids continue to grow and develop.
Being a Role Model
Having worked with high school students for the past 17 years, I have found that their overall success is often linked to how consistent they are. It is difficult, though,for young people to consider the importance of consistency when they are only accountable to themselves. Putting them in role modelling situations encourages them to be responsible, reliable, and dependable because all of a sudden, someone is looking up to them. There is nothing quite like the expectations of a young child to motivate one to be on time and act in a consistent manner.
According to developmental psychologists, one of the fundamental tasks of adolescence is establishing an identity. Putting a teen in a position to be a role model allows them to identify as a leader/mentor. This can, in turn, can result in them developing the confidence that they can be leaders in other areas of their life. Seeing themselves as something different from what has been established amongst their peer group can often times lead to new perspectives and new options for establishing their identity moving forward.
Having a Role Model
As much as we, as parents, would like to believe that we can provide all the guidance our kids need, the fact is we need help. In terms of role modelling, we can model how to be productive, responsible, and happy adults but our kids probably won’t consider that as they are going through their teen years. They will need to have positive and supportive teen role models to help them see how to navigate through the diverse and unique experiences that adolescents go through.
As our kids get older, they will inevitably be introduced to the online world and social media. As it stands right now, most parents and older adults use social media in significantly different ways than younger people. Having our kids see how to be responsible online citizens from people who use social media in the same ways they do could potentially provide a more authentic learning opportunity. Our job as parents often times turns into one of monitoring rather than teaching, and so giving them an opportunity to learn from someone else could prove to be beneficial.