Many of us know what it’s like to have that cool, fun and loving uncle in our lives. While it’s true that aunts can be just as important as moms, especially for young girls, uncles also play an important role in the lives of children. We’ll go over the qualities of a good uncle in a bit, but first, let’s look at the unique way uncles can help improves the happiness of the kids in their lives.
Qualities of a Good Uncle: More Important Than Ever
Uncles play a supportive role for their “niblings,” AKA nieces and nephews, but they also care deeply about their wellbeing — and it shows. From attending soccer games, to going to the movies and running around outside, uncles offer a sense of positivity that can make a lasting impact.
Uncles have the important role of being positive male mentors in the lives of their nephews and nieces. While a father sets an example for his children, an uncle offers a different perspective. The qualities of a good uncle include someone who is laid back and brings a sense of fun into a child’s life, showing them what it means to be part of a loving, caring relationship.
We know that children benefit from interactions with positive male role models. This is especially true in a time when the concept of “toxic masculinity” is getting a lot of attention. This term refers to a form of gendered behavior, and not masculinity itself. Really, it’s what occurs when expectations of what it means to be a man goes wrong, according to an article published in Teaching Tolerance.
Why Science Says Uncles Are Important
Science shows that an individual’s happiness is related to the number of healthy relationships formed. This begins early in life, when children learn about healthy, supportive relationships from their parents and relatives.
A study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that role models created protective effects on externalizing and internalizing behaviors, and reduced negative school behaviors.
The study included more than 650 African American ninth graders and indicates that positive role models contribute to the resilience of these adolescents, especially those who are exposed to negative non-parental adult behavior.
Of the role models reported in the study, a majority comprised of family members. For young males, the role models were:
- 37 percent fathers or step-fathers
- 14 percent brothers
- 13 percent uncles
- 8 percent grandfathers
- 3 percent cousins
After immediate family members, uncles appear to play a significant role in the identity and behavior of young boys. This makes understanding and striving toward adopting the qualities of a good uncle more important than ever.
Researchers also found that gender-matched role models are critical for adolescents because these relationships help young boys develop their identity and establish their role in society. Studies suggest that access to role models who share their gender may be especially beneficial for adolescent males.
Key Qualities of a Good Uncle
1. Show Your Support
Soccer games, school plays, art shows, graduation — these moments are a big deal for a young boy or girl. To be a great uncle who serves as a positive and influential role model, it’s important to show up and display your support.
As an uncle, talk to your sibling about upcoming events in your nephew’s or niece’s schedule. Add a few of them to your calendar and make a surprise appearance. If their parents can’t attend an important event, support your niece or nephew by being the one to represent the family and show your commitment.
2. Get Involved
You’ll want to get involved in the many physical activities and events that take place in the life of your niece or nephews, but it’s also important to get involved emotionally.
Do you know your nephews hobbies and interests? What makes him nervous, sad, joyful and proud? A great uncle asks questions, offers a fresh perspective and offers sound advice when it’s needed.
Remember that it may be easier for a young boy to talk to his uncle about his emotions than his mom and dad. This is the perfect opportunity to help your nephew develop his identity and place in the world.
3. Be There in Hard Times
There will undoubtably be moments that your nephew or niece has to deal with hard times. Family deaths, trouble in school, bullying, relationship problems, financial issues — we know that life throws plenty of obstacles that often face young people.
A great uncle isn’t only there for the fun, he’s a shoulder to cry on, too. He’s an open ear and heart that can help his nephew deal with his emotions in a healthy way. It’s possible that these trying moments can be even more influential than you cheering at his football games.
4. Lead by Example
A great uncle walks the walk. He teachers young people about respect, love, joy, loyalty and strength with his actions. Children absorb so much of adult behaviors and often mimic them.
An uncle has the amazing opportunity to teach his nephew about what it means to be a good man. And he’ll work to show that in the way he speaks and treats others.
5. Maintain Your Relationship
Even as your nieces and nephews grow up, leave for college, become adults and start families of their own, your bond is still important. Maintain your relationship with visits, texts, emails and phone calls. Don’t forget birthdays — send a thoughtful card or gift that reminds you of your relationship and show that you’re always thinking of him or her.
Even grown adults need positive role models and rely on the special bonds that they forged as children.
- Uncles play an important role in the lives of their nieces of nephews. Qualities of a good uncle include not only being a playful and fun figures in the family, but also a supportive and loving family member that serves as life-long role model.
- Research shows that adolescents benefit from positive role models, especially when they are the same gender. For young boys, an uncle can be a powerful example of what it means to be a moral, respectful and loyal man.
- Great uncles are involved, show up for activities, show support during life’s troubles, lead by example and maintain a relationship through all of life’s stages. They remain an important source of love, even as children enter adulthood.