Using role models and stories to teach kids makes the job of a parent or coach easier, and learning more interesting and enjoyable for kids.
There are many other benefits to using role models and real-life examples. Here are a few:
• They help motivate youngsters to continue working hard and striving toward success. Also, they are excellent teaching tools that can help kids who are struggling or are overwhelmed to stay on course and remain upbeat about learning.
• They reinforce your teaching and make it more credible. Real-life examples give the principles you’re teaching (effort, determination, etc.) a “face” and set of specific actions that show youth what to do.
• Kids learn how to go about handling similar situations in their own lives. The circumstances might not be as dramatic or exactly the same as the example you share, but there are usually common elements young people can relate to and solutions they can use with their own problems or issues.
• Role models give youngsters another voice of experience. Some kids get tired of hearing one voice all the time, and they might sometimes tune out what you’re trying to teach. Telling others’ stories provides you with new and fresh voices that grab their attention.
• Girls and boys hear about people doing the right things and succeeding. This helps them make connection between what they do and what happens as a result. In other words, they learn that “right” actions are needed to achieve goals.
• Searching for good role model stories keeps adults fresh and current and helps them stay in tune with what appeals to young people.
• Role model stories show the differences between what it takes to succeed and what leads to failure. Stories can provide clear-cut examples of the right and wrong actions to take.
It is important for adults to find and share with youngsters stories and examples of people – both famous and those in your own backyard – who are making positive contributions in whatever way they can, big or small. As parents, teachers, coaches and mentors, we need to be stabilizing forces in young people’s lives. We have to constantly reinforce to them that positive values and pro-social behaviors, such as being kind and loving, helping others and working hard, are what really define and lead to success.
So, do your homework and provide your young people with true and accurate examples of real people who have lived and succeeded in honorable ways marked by integrity and character.
Kevin Kush of Boys Town wrote this guest blog for momaha.com. Kush has been a teacher and coach for more than two decades and is widely recognized as an outstanding motivational speaker. He has been honored as an ABC News “Person of the Week” for leading his Boys Town High School team of at-risk youth to an undefeated regular season. He is also the co-author of "Competing with Character," where he examines the good and the bad going on today on youth playing fields, along the sidelines, and in the stands. "Competing with Character" is a guide to creating an environment where character, sportsmanship and fun are once again priorities youth sports.