By: Casey Parr, Community Outreach and Marketing Specialist, Penfield Children’s Center
Hector is an Early Education teacher at Penfield Children’s Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a male, he is rare in his field. According to the National Education Association, more than 75% of teachers in the United States are female and more than half-worldwide. Those percentages increase with younger children. “It is extremely important to have positive male role models in children’s lives,” Hector states, “It affects how children grow and how they perceive what being a positive male in other peoples’ lives means. Some children unfortunately don’t have an example of it, and that’s why it is very important for [male teachers] to set the example for the children that we see every day.”
Anyone can be a role model. Male role models for children are found at school, church, or a community group. They can be immediate or extended family members. Some nonprofits exist solely to provide free mentorship to children in need of role models. Here are some things to keep in mind as a male role model.
Give back to your community. Pick a cause that you care about and do something about it. You could volunteer at a homeless shelter, give to an animal shelter, or call up your favorite nonprofit and ask them what donations they need. By showing up for the community you are a part of, you show the child in your life that being manly means giving back.
Be respectful to others. Children will always model the behavior they observe. When they see you being polite and considerate, they are more likely to treat their friends the same way.
Show your emotions. By being honest about what you are feeling, you normalize the reality that boys and men have feelings. It is healthy for children to be able to express what they are going through and you, as a role model, can help listen and affirm.
Talk about your real life. Especially without father figures, children might not have a great representation of different aspects of life. Talk about what it is like to buy a house or get a new job, help them see things from a different perspective that they might be able to look back on with increased knowledge and confidence.
Have fun together! Play basketball, see a movie, or check out a local festival. You can teach skills and give them a chance to relax and unwind.
Whether or not you realize it, you have an impact on the children you interact with in your daily life. “We’re shaping the youth that will one day become the future of the world. That makes me feel honored and privileged,” Hector said. However, that does not mean you should feel a lot of pressure to plan special activities. There is a lot you can teach a child just by showing up and including them in your life. Hector explains, “Our job as teachers is to be the best versions of us that we can be and that will further develop the growth of the children we serve.” Even just showing up as a positive person is helpful to kids in need of role models. “As long as I’m able to guide children and put a smile on their faces every day, I feel like I’ve done my job,” Hector said.
What do you look for in a role model?
Statistics from Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development