Parenting Teens - Being A Good Role Model

Parenting Teens - Being A Good Role Model

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


Key points about being a good role model for your teen

  • 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

A teenager boxing

How can my actions affect my teen?

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.

The way you act plays a major role in the way they will behave.

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
  • be honest
  • be kind
  • be brave
  • say sorry
  • 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.

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 mate's 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."

What are some tips for being a good role model for my teen?

All the advice in the world to a teenager will count for little if you don't walk the walk. Ways to be a good role-model include:
  • finding healthy ways to relax after work or to have fun on weekends without alcohol or other drugs
  • eating healthy and exercising – even if it's just going for a walk together
  • sharing your thoughts and feelings
  • admitting when you are wrong and apologising

Let them see you model sensible drinking behaviour such as:

  • sometimes refusing a drink when someone offers you one
  • counting the number of standard drinks you are drinking
  • enjoying non-alcoholic drinks
  • refusing to drink when you are driving
  • not drinking till you are drunk

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 to do it.

See more KidsHealth content on parenting teens

Check out KidsHealth's section on parenting teens

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Image of the cover of "Whanau pack" booklet

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.

NDHB own the copyright in this material and it must not be copied or reproduced except as expressly permitted by NDHB.

This page last reviewed 12 March 2024.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it