There are certain traits children will simply inherit from their parents—their eye color, their hair, and their genetic make-up.  However, children learn many behaviors by simply watching their parents.  Setting a good example is a great way to steer your own children towards healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
As a pediatrician, I would much rather prevent illness than have to treat it later on.  And as both a parent and a doctor, I have learned that it’s much easier to instill good habits from the start, rather than have to break them further down the road.  A simple way to guide your children to a healthy lifestyle is to lead one yourself.  You serve as a powerful role model for your children, whether you want to or not.  So when you make choices, know that you are not only making them for yourself but for your children too.
For example, if you want your children to drink milk or water with meals, don’t pour yourself a soda.  Teach your children the importance of exercise by getting our there yourself—or better yet, do it together as a family activity.  If you want to teach the importance of reading, let your children see you reading for pleasure.  Avoid plopping down in front of the TV during downtime, but rather go for a group hike or organize a family game.
The concept does not only apply to diet and exercise.  Studies have shown that role modeling has the strongest impact on a child’s behavior.  Whether or not you (and they) realize it, you are modeling behaviors for your children all day long.  When you walk down the stairs, do you hold the railing?  If you do, you will increase the chance that your child will do the same when he descends the steps.  Do you cross the street in the middle of the road or do you always walk to the crosswalk?  Are you polite and kind when speaking and interacting with others? A parent’s every day interactions have a significant impact on a child. 
Take a moment and think about it.  Are there behaviors in yourself that you wouldn’t want you children to copy?  Perhaps the answer will help both you and your little ones!