Have you noticed that your child is like a little mirror, reflecting what you say and do with amazing accuracy? While it’s delightful to see a little one turning into a ‘Mini Me’ who sweetly echoes your gestures and habits, this is also an important reminder that kids learn from an early age to imitate the behaviour of their parents – both good behaviour and (oops) not so good.

That’s why it is so important that you, as a parent, strive to become the very best adult you can be, and to remain a positive, uplifting influence on your kids throughout their childhood and teens.

Being a great role model who behaves and acts responsibly, ethically and kindly is one of the most precious gifts you can give your kids. Research has shown that kids with parents who are good role models tend to have better chances in life, and that they are protected from problem behaviour in the future. In other words, you can hugely influence how your children’s individual characters develop simply by making sure you always set a good example. br> Here are seven smart strategies you and your partner can adopt now that will help you raise happy, healthy, confident children who blossom into well-adjusted grownups resilient enough to cope with the various difficulties of adult life.

1. Lead by Example
‘Practise what you preach’ is a well-known saying that means it’s not good enough just to tell your children how to behave. You also have to show them. It’s no use banning swear words or shouting at home, for example, if you’re in the habit of yelling or using bad language yourself. The same applies to so many other aspects of behaviour: if you’d like your kids to be respectful of others, you must lead by example and be polite and considerate in all your daily interactions with friends, colleagues, employees, teachers and strangers. If you want your children to know that physical violence or any type of verbal abuse is never acceptable, make it clear through your own actions that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated. For sensible tips about discipline at home, read our article When Kids Misbehave.

2. Talk and Listen
It’s so important to set up open lines of communication in a family. Make sure your kids know they can talk about anything to you, at any time, no matter how tricky the subject matter. If you’re open and relaxed with your children, they will know they can trust you and confide in you. Show an active interest in what your little ones are up to, and encourage debate and discussion – family dinnerss are a great time to do this!

3. Be Hones About Who You Are
It’s also important to be open with them about who you are. Share your achievements, your victories and your faults with them. No parent is perfect – so own up to your mistakes and let your children know you are willing to make amends and change your behaviour. This way, they’re more likely to follow your example and do the same themselves when they slip up. Be careful, however, not to burden your kids with adult problems such as money or marital issues – these are matters that must be discussed behind closed doors.

4. Expand Your Personal Horizons
If you want your kids to grow into successful, well-educated adults, it’s important to set a great example by showing them how you are investing in your own self-growth, whether this means learning new skills, taking up interesting hobbies, or simply showing great curiosity in the world around you. If they see how much you enjoy watching world news, or cooking, or gardening, or reading books, for example, they’ll want to find out more, and then join in the fun.

5. Adopt A Healthy Lifestyle
Good nourishment and regular exercise are crucial to the health, development and wellbeing of children. Instead of nagging children to eat nutritious food and get more exercise, show them by taking excellent care of yourself and insisting on a healthy lifestyle for the whole family. If the kids see you tucking happily into good, fresh food and thoroughly enjoying your daily walks or visits to the gym, they’re more likely to follow in your footsteps.

6. Be A Good Citizen
Let your children see that you are an active member of your community. Get involved in school functions, help with charity drives and take care of the environment by saving water, using electricity wisely, and recycling your household waste. This is a great way to show children how important it is to co-operate with others, and to be a helpful and responsible part of society.

7. Stay Positive
A positive, calm attitude to life will make your home a happier place. Remember: children are like eager little sponges who soak up what they see and hear. If you don’t cope well with stress, and you find yourself often voicing negative or anxious thoughts, your kids will pick up on these ‘vibes’ and perhaps even echo them in their own behaviour. We’re not saying you have to be 100 per cent cheerful all the time – no one’s perfect – but taking an optimistic, enthusiastic approach to school, family, society and life in general will set a shining example to your little ‘mirrors’.

Who are the most positive role models in your children’s lives? A granny? A teacher? Or YOU? Tell us on Facebook, or leave a comment below.