Helping our Children Choose Role Models

role modelIn a famous 1993 Nike commercial featuring the former NBA basketball star, Charles Barkley, he states, “I am not a role model. I’m not paid to be a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” There was much controversy at the time this aired, because many argued that professional athletes are role models whether they like it or not. Impressionable kids are excited by the thought of celebrity, fame, riches, and respect and will be emulating the behavior of their heroes, whether it is good or bad. And with the pervasiveness of media, role models and heroes are ever present – on television, at the movies, on our computers, and on our phones and tablets.

How do you direct your children toward good role models? The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has a few suggestions:

  • Have your child identify what qualities he admires in his role model
  • Give examples of people in your community who you feel have positive qualities and are a good influence on others
  • Talk about people you look up to for guidance and inspiration
  • Encourage your child to become involved in activities that reflect your values, such as religious programs, athletics, after school programs, clubs and volunteering.
  • Remind your child that he or she does not have to do everything that the role model does. Your child can copy what he or she likes but still be him or herself.

Another important step is to talk to your child about negative role models, possibly those celebrities that have demonstrated poor behavior and made mistakes.

  • Remind your child that all people have good and bad qualities and that anyone can make a mistake. Explain that it is important to apologize and to learn from our mistakes.
  • Ask your child what he thinks of the role model’s behavior.
  • Ask what he would have done differently in the situation.
  • Give example of more positive and healthy ways to handle the situation. (2011)

Charles Barkley certainly had one part right in his famous commercial. Parents are the ultimate role models and are the ones who raise their children. Children watch you and copy what you do. In the movie, “42”, there is a scene that really hit home with me. It takes place at the ballpark, as the crowd begins to boo Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play in major league baseball. As the harassment begins, the camera zooms in on a father and son. The boy looks to his father for a cue as to how he should behave. After all, the Brooklyn Dodgers are his team, and Jackie Robinson is a player on his team. You can see the indecision on his face. His father joins in the booing and name-calling, and this young boy follows suit, confident that he has made the right choice. After all, he is only copying his dad, the greatest and most important role model in his young life. CAUTION: Video contains the “N” word so viewer discretion is advised.

As a parent, what example are you setting? What values do you teach your children through your actions?

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1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMzdAZ3TjCA

2 http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Children-and-Role-Models-099.aspx

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