We may all fall back on the old "Do as I say, not as I do," approach once in a while, but ideally, a parent teaches a child by example. Here are five ways to bring out the best in your kids by showing them the best parts of yourself.

  1. Practice empathy and respect. If your daughter hears you bad-mouthing your father-in-law, what's to stop her from bad-mouthing her little brother? Show your child that even though the things other people do may upset us, it's best to try to understand someone's motives and to discuss your feelings directly with that person, rather than complain behind his back. See Teaching Kids Respect for more tips on raising polite kids in a rude world.
  2. Make a difference. Show your child that our actions matter by finding a cause you can wholeheartedly support, and get involved. Then, take your children along -- whether it's volunteering at a senior citizens' center or handing out leaflets for a school board candidate. You'll be doing good and demonstrating to your kids that there are plenty of positive ways to make an impact on the world. Check out www.volunteermatch.com for organizations in your community that need your help.
  3. Value your time. Be living proof that life is too precious to be spent channel-surfing. If your kids are accustomed to seeing you collapsed in front of the TV, let them catch you in the act of reading a book, gardening, doing an art project, or even practicing a musical instrument instead. Want more ideas for fun things to do that don't involve pressing buttons on a remote control? We've got 20 simple ways to reconnect and make your family happier.
  4. Keep your word. To raise a trustworthy child, be a trustworthy adult. When you make a promise, follow through. What happens when you've promise to be at your daughter's swim meet, but end up stalled in traffic while she's racing toward the finish line? Explain what happened as honestly and clearly as possible, then vow to make it up to her -- and, by all means, keep that vow. Remember, your words have incredible power with your kids -- even your toddler understands more than you think. Find out why in Watch What You Say.
  5. Take joy in the simple things. Kids today are bombarded by materialistic messages; it's easy for them to think that their happiness depends upon acquiring the latest robot-pup or the hippest pair of jeans. How to counteract this belief? Demonstrate that the best things in life are free. When your birthday rolls around, tell your son that, rather than a gift bought at the mall, you'd like a Saturday spent just with him, cooking up a special meal at home or hiking in the woods. For more ways to celebrate life without racking up major credit-card debt, take a look at our list of 14 powerful family rituals.

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