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Because kids mimic their parents, behavior modeling key to development
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Because kids mimic their parents, behavior modeling key to development

It’s through what’s known as observational learning or behavior modeling that children imitate the behaviors they see.

Parents can use that method to help their children pursue healthy lifestyles as well as have good manners and behavior.

L.J. Mattraw, a wellness manager for Franciscan Health Fitness Centers, said exercising around and with your children sets a good example for them to follow.

“Children model a lot of their behaviors after their parents,” Mattraw said. “If they see their parents exercising and having fun while doing it, they will be more inclined to want to join them in those activities.”

When it comes to motivating children to get some exercise, there are a variety of activities parents can do with them.

“Playing catch is a great way to get outside and be active,” Mattraw said. “Even things like playing basketball or volleyball together, going for family walks or bike rides are great activities you can do together, and they are fun.”

Mattraw said making activities fun is key.

“The most important thing for kids when it comes to exercise and activity is to make sure they are having fun,” he said.

If they aren’t having a good time, they could want to abandon the activity.

Exercise should be routine, with parents and children encouraged to get moving several times each week.

“A good rule of thumb for everyone is 150 minutes of exercise per week,” Mattraw said. “Depending how many days per week you want to exercise, you are usually looking at 30 to 60 minutes a day.”

But it’s not just physical activity that children can learn from watching their parents.

“When you use manners and good coping strategies, you teach your children to do the same,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

When feeling frustrated around your child, you can ask them to help you calm down by taking deep breaths together. Parents can also help their children learn how to share by pointing out when adults share items with each other and praise them for doing it.

If parents regularly express the emotions they are experiencing around their children, it can help the youngsters do the same. It’s also important to avoid taking out your anger and frustrations by saying something harsh.

“This teaches children to say what they feel instead of making critical or hurtful statements,” according to the academy.

When looking for ways to help your children improve their behavior, it’s important to avoid a common misconception.

“If you are like most people, you’ll leave your children alone if they are behaving well, but when your children are misbehaving, you’ll direct your attention to them,” the academy says. “This tends to backfire.”

Parents should praise their children when they are showing good behavior and reduce attention if they aren’t.

“When children get enough positive attention from you, they don't need to act out to get attention,” according to the pediatric academy.

Giving attention can be accomplished by playing with your children or exercising. Letting our child pick the activity is another behavior to model — decision making.


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