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All About Modeling

Modeling healthy relationships

Young people have been calling adults on the “do as I say, not as I do” problem forever. And they kind of have a point. Our behavior demonstrates the values that we’re willing to take a stand for. It might work best to start by simply noticing.

How do we interact in our relationships and what do we see in the relationships around us? As adults, we tell young people that healthy relationships are characterized by equality, honesty, good communication, fairness and trust. Are we promoting these values in our interactions with the people who are close to us? How well do we relate with our partners, family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues? Are our relationships a good example?

Here are some questions to guide our observations about the relationships that we engage in:

  • How well do we share in our intimate relationships?
    • Responsibilities?
    • Decisions?
    • Resources?
    • Are we honest with our feelings (and facts)?
  • How do we manage conflict?
    • How well do we listen?
    • Do we give our honest attention to dissenting points of view?
    • Are we assertive?
    • Do we communicate in a way that is safe and fair?
  • Do we have the same expectations for boys and girls?
    • Why or why not?
    • Do these expectations make sense?
    • Are they fair?
  • How do we interact with people who have less power (including youth)?
    • Are we aware of the power differential and how that probably impacts the less powerful person’s communication?
    • Do we listen with that lens?
  • Do we have the same standard of respectful communication when we’re on Facebook and other social media sites?

By exploring these questions about our own relationships and by intentionally using our answers to guide our behavior, adults can work to make sure that our advice to teens about respectful relationships and our behavior line up.

What if my own relationship isn’t great?

The Indiana teens we spoke with said that the adults in their lives would be most credible if their own relationships were safe and respectful. But they also recognized that we all bring a lifetime of relationship experience to this conversation—some great and some not so great. The teens we spoke with encouraged parents to evaluate the health of their own relationships, but they said that if their parents had honest conversations with them about their own mistakes and experiences of abuse, they would still be guided by their advice.

The Kids Are Watching

Relationship abuse—among adults and teens–is a normalized part of our society. Forms of abuse are all around us in the media, popular culture, social media sites and hallways. Changing that culture sounds like a tall order, but after all, society is us. And most of us can identify at least one person whose example moved us.  As individuals, we can be catalysts of cultural change and the ripple effect of our behavioral influence can help to activate all of those who agreed with us all along, but didn’t know how to take a stand.

In the past, teen dating abuse (TDA) prevention efforts have focused pretty exclusively on words. Talking about TDA is a good place to start, but to really influence teens’ relationship expectations, we are most effective when we back up our words with actions. We can be really intentional about the values that we are modeling in our relationships, and we can show our commitment by stepping up when we see abusive behaviors. As leaders in organizations, we can demonstrate that respectful relationships are our priority by creating space in the schedule for prevention education and activities.

Together, we can end domestic violence.

We believe that violence is preventable. When we come together, we create real change in the lives of individuals and in our communities. Join us in the movement to make Indiana a state that is safe, inclusive, and equitable for everyone.