Children Need Good Role Models: See Why

Children need to have good role models, as they help them shape their personality and provide them with possibilities for the future.
Children Need Good Role Models: See Why
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 13 May, 2023

Chances are, when you were pregnant with your little one, you imagined what they would be like in the future. Maybe you dreamed of a brave and funny little girl or a sweet and charismatic little boy. The truth is that, now that they’re here in the world, your little one will create their own identity and develop a life of their own. However, they’ll do this based on the models they observe and the options they consider available to them. This is why children need to have good role models.

Role models are those people who inspire us, those who represent what we want to become. For the youngest children, their parents are their main reference figures, as they see them as superheroes and tend to look up to them and imitate them in every area and aspect. However, as they grow up and learn about other realities, they take on qualities and attributes from other important people. So, are you exposing your children to quality role models?

Role models influence the formation of personality

Throughout our lives, we look to others for inspiration, ideas, and ways of living that they possess and that we’d like to incorporate. However, childhood is a particularly critical stage because the personality is developing. Children acquire values, attitudes, and beliefs that will lay the foundation for who they are. What they learn during their early years will remain deeply rooted and will tend to be reproduced in the future.

Moreover, at this time, children are like sponges: They absorb everything they see and don’t have the ability to discriminate what they want to keep for themselves. Therefore, the influence on them is much greater, so it’s worth paying special attention to this issue.

What elements make a role model more powerful?

Learning that’s acquired by observing other people is called social or vicarious learning. This was proposed and developed by psychologist Albert Bandura. Therefore, the models to which children are exposed teach them how to think, feel, and act and what lifestyle to put into practice. And all this is achieved effortlessly and without deliberate intention, simply by observing the actions of the other.

However, not all the people children observe have the same influence on them. There are several characteristics that make a model more powerful:

  • Shared time and emotional bonding. The more time a child spends with another person, the more influence that person has on the child, as the child has a greater opportunity for observation. In addition, the emotional connection makes that person occupy a preponderant place in the infant’s mind and life.
  • Similarity. The more similar the role model is to the child, the more impact they’ll have. Therefore, if they share the same age, sex, race, and economic status, they’ll have greater influence.
  • The competence shown by the role model. A role model who starts from a low level of ability and progresses is more striking than one who shows success from the beginning.
  • The prestige of the person. In other words, they should produce confidence and positive feelings and be successful in their field.
Parents hugging their daughter and smiling.
Parents are the first reference figures for children, so it’s key that they set an example with their attitudes and behaviors.

Who are good role models for children?

If you want your child to have the best opportunities for development, it’s important to provide them with good references. These come from different areas, and attention should be paid to each of them.


Parents are the main agents of socialization during childhood and the first figures in which the child is reflected. In this regard, it’s important to be aware of the example we offer and try to model the best attitudes and behaviors. If you want to transmit optimism, humility, perseverance, or emotional intelligence to your child, it’s important that you first work on it in yourself. Remember that your child is always watching.


Teachers create important bonds with children and spend a lot of time with them, so their influence is noticeable. Make sure you choose a school that is aligned with the values you want to convey and whose teachers are child-friendly. From them, your child will learn not only mathematics or music, but also how to behave, how to treat others, and how to solve problems.

Family and friends

Siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are also important references. In this regard, you may want to talk to these people and ask them to adjust their behavior around children to provide good role models. Keep in mind that there are certain expressions, conversations, or behaviors that may not be the most appropriate to have in front of infants.

A grandfather walking with his young granddaughter in the forest on a cold but sunny autumn day.
Grandparents, as well as other people close to the child, often arouse affection and admiration in them, so they’re one of their first windows to the world.

Peers and peers

A child’s peer group becomes especially important as they grow up and begin their school life. These peers are mirrors through which the child looks at themself and from which they learn attitudes and behaviors. We can’t limit our children’s friendships, but as parents, we can guide and provide opportunities for bonding with healthy people. Having a group of responsible, sensible friends with good values can have a positive impact on a child’s development.


Finally, in addition to having natural references, it’s important to expose children to diverse realities that may be far from their immediate environment. In this way, they’ll be able to understand that there are multiple opportunities and ways of living. Learning about great inventors, scientists, musicians, or artists can be very inspiring and open their minds to different possibilities for their future.

For this, stories, movies, and documentaries are very useful. And also the media, if it’s used properly. However, you should monitor and be aware of the content that your child consumes in networks and you can talk to them about it. The goal is that they choose to admire those people who really make a positive contribution.

Varied and quality role models

Ultimately, children need to have good role models. These range from their immediate environment to people who have a background or personality that’s appealing to them. Enjoying varied and quality role models during their growth will be very positive for children, so it’s an important task to take care of.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bandura, A. (1969). Social-learning theory of identificatory processes. In D. Goslin (Ed.), Handbook of socialization theory and research. Chicago: Rand McNally.
  • Soler, S., & Alegret, M. (2020). Mujeres compositoras: un enfoque pedagógico sobre cómo presentar al alumnado de secundaria referentes femeninos. El caso de Ethel Smyth. MUSAS. Revista de Investigación en Mujer, Salud y Sociedad5(1), 98-115.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.