By: Kristen Brown, LCSW

When you hear the word model do you think of Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner, or perhaps, Tyson Beckford, Cindy Crawford or Christie Brinkley come to mind?  Women and men in opulent clothing walking a runway or smiling from the glossy pages of a magazine or catalog selling an ideal and elusive image.

When I think of modeling, what comes to my mind first is actually children. Children of all ages, but particularly those under six years old.  Modeling in psychology refers to “observational learning or imitation, a behaviorally based procedure that involves the use of live or symbolic models to demonstrate a particular behavior, thought, or attitude that a client may want to acquire or change.”

If as a parent you’ve had that moment when you think “I have no idea what to do?!”  (who hasn’t had that moment?), I’d ask you to consider modeling as your first intervention.  For example, if you want to teach your child to calm down, ask yourself the questions:  Am I calm?  Am I showing them calm?  In a regulated voice (yes, I’m suggesting you try not to yell) give words to your feelings “I am angry” or “I am sad” and of course don’t forget “I am happy.”

Then share what strategy you are going to use to calm down or in the alternative to celebrate your joy.  This may include things such as:  I’m going to take a deep breath, I’m going to count to 10,  I’m going to walk away to the other room for a couple minutes, I’m going to read a few pages of a book, I’m going to do some yoga poses, I’m going to listen to a song and dance or sing,  I’m going to cook, I’m going to look at the clouds or look at the stars, etc.

The list of strategies that may be a good fit for you based on your individual personality and interests and those of your children is nearly limitless.  You can create the list together.  As your children watch you, they will have the opportunity to learn several things.  It is ok to feel your emotions, feelings have a name, and even when emotions are so strong that you can feel them physically those feelings can still be managed in a positive way.

Who needs a runway, magazine, or catalog?  To your children, you are the supermodel.

If you are interested in a viewing additional video information on the effects of modeling:

Serve and Return – Center on the Developing Child -Harvard University.

Children See. Children Do. Make your Influence Positive created by NAPCAN and available on Utube.

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