A 2018 survey by the Institution of Engineering and Technology found that over 50% of parents worry about their children’s choices of role model. Parents want their children to look up to positive and successful presences in their immediate orbit, rather than remote celebrities, social media influencers or reality TV stars.
The challenge here is twofold. Firstly, parents need to identify external role models who can be relied upon to conduct themselves with consistent propriety. Secondly, the IET study also found that nearly half of children would turn to YouTube for advice on careers or schoolwork before they asked a parent or teacher. Parents must find ways of convincing children to look up from their devices and pay attention to a real person, instead of a Twitch streamer.
Ungluing your child from the latest PewDiePie broadcast to make them engage with the wise words of an authority figure might seem like a fool’s errand, but it’s so important that you try. Positive role models can play a vital role in children’s social, emotional and educational development.
Here are just a few ways your child could benefit from the presence of a real-world role model close by in their own life.
Role models instill the right mindsets
Young minds are impressionable and malleable, which is why the job of an educator is so freighted with responsibility. Teaching isn’t just about instructing children what to know, but how to think. Great educators will instill healthy mindsets and ways of thinking that will stay with a pupil long after they’ve forgotten the specific details of a given lesson.
Yet there is a limit to the influence of teachers, parents, and other formal authority figures here. Some research points to outside role models having much more impact on young people’s motivation.
Management experts Michael Brown and Linda Treviño propose that people’s individual ethical standards are the result of ‘vicarious processes’ that begin in childhood. The involvement of a trusted and successful mentor figure, independent of the pressures of school or the ties of the family home, can mold a child’s perception of their place and priorities in life for the better.
Strong role models are a bulwark against bad influences
At some point in their youth, your child will inevitably encounter people who exert an undeniable pull on them in the wrong directions. These might be public figures, immediate peers or even authority figures. Unfortunately, children can be as susceptible to these negative role models as they can to more stabilising influences.
The good news is that positive role models can build children’s resilience in the face of bad influences. Psychologists have demonstrated that the presence of positive nonparental adult role models has a ‘protective effect’ on adolescents who have been exposed to negative adult behaviour.
If your child has a role model to believe in and look up to, they will be more likely to stick to a positive course over their formative years.
Role models can help children overcome barriers
Children’s performance at school can, sadly, be overdetermined by cultural preconceptions and stereotypes. What should be trifling details of a child’s background like ethnicity or gender can laden them with unwelcome psychological baggage that creates obstacles to success. This problem can be particularly acute when it comes to pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.
For women, a strong link exists between the presence of a role model and achievement in these subjects. A survey by Microsoft in 2018 found that the number of girls interested in STEM almost doubles when they have role models, with girls also 15% more likely to imagine themselves ultimately working in STEM fields.
At university level, the attainment gap in these subjects between white and BAME students has been ascribed to a lack of immediate role models. Students can struggle to reach their full potential and retain motivation without the positive reinforcement provided by visible, relatable examples of success in their field.
Ready-made role models
The power of constructive connections between children and trusted mentor figures is central to everything we do at TuitionWorks. Our sophisticated learning system builds a holistic picture of a child’s personality and baseline maths skills in order to pair them with the right tutor for their needs.
Drawn from a rich diversity of backgrounds, our tutors are all qualified maths teachers with distinguished histories of success and attainment. Between them, these inspirational figures have written Cambridge University exam materials, arisen to the level of Head of Maths at prestigious schools, tutored in China and even taught Christian Bale as a child!
Your selected tutor will lead your child through a carefully-personalised course of one-to-one, weekly online maths lessons that will build their confidence and set them up for exam success. If you think your child could benefit from the mentorship of an experienced figure to learn from and look up to, get in touch with TuitionWorks today.