Parents as Role Models

Who is your role model? Who is your child's role model? You? Yes.

Whether you know it or not, you are a role model for your child. Research shows that an overwhelming number of young people look up to their parents and other family members as examples to follow.

  • Nearly half of young women respondents say they look to their mothers as their role model, according to one online survey.1
  • Almost half of the teens in another survey say their role model is a family member, not a pop icon or sports star.2


Show and Tell

What does this mean for you? As a parent, you may have more influence for good than you thought you did. By setting a good example of healthy living, you can help your children make healthy life choices. You also can talk to them about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse so they know where you stand on this issue.

Youths who have positive role models are more likely to do well in school and have higher self-esteem; they also are less likely to abuse substances.


Families as Teachers

You can set a good example by putting time and effort into your relationships with your child and other family members. Family life provides meaningful opportunities to demonstrate healthy behaviors every day. When you and your family show caring and respect toward each other, you provide excellent examples for your child to follow4:

  • Talk openly, honestly, and respectfully; think before you speak, and acknowledge your child’s point of view, especially when there is conflict.
  • Praise your child’s positive qualities and behavior.
  • Spend time together regularly; do things your child enjoys.
  • Have family meals together and engage in family activities on a regular basis.
  • Make some family gatherings alcohol–free to show your children that you don’t need alcohol to have a good time.


House Rules

Give your children guidance to make healthy choices and take responsibility for their actions by setting house rules. Household rules also remind you and other family members to model healthy behavior for your child. You set a good example when you enforce rules consistently: it shows that you care, are reliable, and stand by what you say.5

  • Don’t allow your child to drink, smoke, or abuse other substances. You can make it official by writing a family contract.
  • Protect your children from alcohol or tobacco use within your family. For example, don’t allow them to get a beer or a cigarette for you or other family members.
  • Never drink and drive or allow other family members to do so.
  • Set additional “house rules” for matters such as curfew, unsupervised time, homework, chores, driving, cell phones, Internet use, and entertainment including movies, television, and video games.


Set clear rules, and discuss in advance the consequences of breaking them. When your child breaks a rule, respond with an immediate consequence each time the problem behavior occurs. Calmly explain to your child why the behavior results in that consequence. The consequences for breaking rules can be supportive so that the focus is on teaching rather than harsh punishment. For instance, if your child broke the family rule by staying at an unsupervised party, you might ground your child for some specific length of time; others might restrict instant messaging and have their child read online about the harmful effects of drugs.6 Each family has differing priorities when negotiating and agreeing on rules, expectations, and consequences for rules broken.

Your values, opinions, and example carry more weight with your child than you may have thought. By providing a positive model for your child to follow, you set a good example on how to successfully navigate life’s conflicts and negative messages—and to choose healthy behaviors that will follow into adulthood.

Conversation Starter:

  • Do you have a role model, someone you look up to?
  • What about them inspires you?
  • In what ways do you want to be like them?