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How Parents Can Model Healthy Behavior for Their Kids & Teens

Parents want their children to grow up healthy, both physically and emotionally, but are unaware that the best path for achieving this is for them to model these behaviors. Parental influence is powerful and lasts well into adulthood.

Your children are always watching, and while what you tell them is important, your example has a stronger impact on them. What you do serves as a template for your kids’ behavior, and they often emulate it.

This goes for anything from how to cope with emotions, dealing with others, taking care of yourself, and more. So, when it comes to teaching children, your actions really do speak louder than your words.

Influencing Your Teen

If you’re raising teens, it’s easy to assume that their friends and peers have a stronger influence on them than you do. Truth is, your teen is influenced by both you and their friends, albeit in different ways. Their friends’ influence extends to everyday behavior, e.g., how they dress, where they hang out, what hobbies they pick up.

Parental influence, on the other hand, goes to a deeper level and impacts a teen’s basic values. Your influence determines things like your teen’s religious values, their education choices, how they express and handle their feelings, and other core beliefs which will shape your children’s lives.

Your teen values your opinion — even though they loathe to show it — and the stronger the relationship with your teen, the more influence you’ll have in their lives.

Modeling Behaviors You Want Your Kids & Teens to Learn

The easiest way to influence your kid’s or teen’s behavior is by doing and saying the things you say they should do. You have to walk the talk.

Here are some of the ways and areas you can positively influence your kids:

1. Respectful Relationships

Modeling healthy and caring behavior towards those you’re in relationships with teaches your kids to do the same. So does being kind and respectful to others. If you find yourself caught in a disrespectful relationship, then let your teens see you modeling positive conflict management, e.g., talking things over with the other person, being assertive, standing up for yourself, etc.

2. A Healthy Lifestyle

Our society is veering towards being overweight and obese, and our kids are learning these unhealthy eating habits from us. Change things around and start teaching your teens how to make healthy eating decisions. You can start by replacing take out with home-cooked meals, asking your kids to help in food preparation, and also stocking up on healthier snack like fruits instead of junk food.

Additionally, you can also teach your kids to take care of themselves by choosing a more active lifestyle. Playing a round of tennis or soccer together, biking, swimming or going for regular family walks shows your children that exercise should be part of their lives.

3. Expressing and Coping with Emotions

Teens have a hard time dealing with the myriad of feelings that they go through each day. Part of your duty as a parent is to help them learn how to cope with their emotions and how to resolve their feelings in a healthy way. You can do this by finding moments to share your thoughts, perception and even memories. Including your teen in family discussions and encouraging them to share their views teaches them that their opinions matter. Also, apologizing when you make mistakes shows them that mistakes are part of human and one should own up to them.

4. Alcohol and Other Drugs.

Alcohol and drug abuse are some of the risk factors young people face today. Peer pressure drives most teens to take that first sip or experiment with drugs. However, studies show that teens are less likely to drink if their parents disapprove. Expressing your opinion on drugs and alcohol will help your teen make the right choice. Even better, set a good example by modeling safe, responsible and moderate drinking habits.

5. Healthy Tech Use.

We live in an era where tech has taken over most of our lives. Our teens spend more time texting and communicating via devices and parents feel that this has taken a toll on their social skills. The best way to combat this is to model healthy technology use by striking a balance between screen and family time.

Set rules around the use of tech in your home, e.g., no phones at the dinner table, that everyone has to adhere to—including you. Additionally, have boundaries by making time for your family where tech isn’t allowed to interfere. This way, teens learn that technology is meant to complement life, not dominate.

Being a positive role model for our children is easier said than done. No parent is perfect, and we each have some unhealthy habits we could do without. But, by remembering that our kids are always watching and learning from us can be the motivation we need to change and become better role models.

How Parents Can Model Healthy Behavior for Their Kids & Teens

Tyler Jacobson

Tyler enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative designs. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on: Twitter or LinkedIn.

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APA Reference
Jacobson, T. (2019). How Parents Can Model Healthy Behavior for Their Kids & Teens. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 10 Mar 2019 (Originally: 10 Mar 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 10 Mar 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.