Every kid needs a hero, and it’s not always the kind with a flowing cape. Children are constantly on the lookout for role models of all kinds, and it’s important for you, as a parent, to help your children choose the right ones. Idolizing celebrities, fictional characters, and other kids is natural, but it’s fraught with the potential for disappointment and can easily get out of hand. Check out these helpful tips for helping your children choose positive role models.
Kids sometimes look up to actors, pop stars, and characters just because these figures happen to be on TV or the Internet a lot. You may think these kinds of role models are meaningless, but should you tell your child that? Probably not. Better to emphasize the positive attributes of the hero your child has chosen. Say your child’s role model is a pop star with killer dance moves and really annoying songs. You can still point out the hard work the star must have gone through with all those dance rehearsals. Better yet, ask your child to identify the qualities they admire in their role model. Their answer may surprise you.
What do you do if your child’s role model goes down in flames? Sometimes celebrity role models make poor personal choices, landing them in court, rehab, or worse. Remind your child that everyone makes mistakes. Ask what your child thinks of their role model’s behavior, or what they would have done differently in the same situation. Ask if they think their role model has learned anything, or become a better person from the experience. Most importantly, tell your child they shouldn’t feel they must do everything the role model does – only what they admire.
Many children look up to a schoolmate, friend, or older sibling. It’s great for kids to actually know their heroes, but it’s also important to keep peers off too high a pedestal. Occasionally, a school bully or class clown can become an object of admiration for their power or popularity. If you have concerns that your child is emulating the lesser qualities of a peer role model, work with your child to identify why those qualities aren’t cool. Explain that a role model should make them feel good about themselves, not afraid or lame by comparison.
Despite all the heroes out there, parents still have a tremendous influence as role models. Even if your child won’t readily admit it, they probably look up to you a lot more than anyone they see on TV. So make sure you’re offering an example they can emulate with pride. That way, when kids go looking for a hero, they don’t have to look very far.