RULE OF PARENTING #11: Heroes and Models: 5 Steps for Talking to Your Children about Role Models

Heroes and Role Models Of Kids

Rules Of Parenting - # - Teenagers Young Kids On Computer SmilingAs they grow up, children are often exposed to different forms of media from where they pick up role models and heroes. Often, these role models are celebrities who may not necessarily have desirable attributes. It is important for loving parents to take the time to help their children identify role models with positive and imitable traits. Here is how you can get started:

1.    Talk about the Cool Factor

Children as young as 3 years have heroes whom they admire. It could be their teachers and other people in the community, but most of the time it is characters they come across in the media. If you do not know who your child’s role model is, ask her. Then ask her to point out two or three positive aspects of her role model or hero. Talk to her about her feelings about her chosen role model(s). This first step will let you in on your child’s hero and the role that he plays in your child’s life.

2.    Don’t Trash It

When your child tells you about her role model, do not spite her choice. You might prefer Mother Teresa to Rihanna, but there is a reason why your child may see Rihanna as a good role model. Let her tell you the reasons why this person is her role model and you might be surprised about some positive aspects of your child’s role model that she can espouse. If there are any negatives about a role model of hers, point out these negatives and urge your child to focus more on the positive influence of her role model.

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3.    Demystify Their Hero

Children, especially the younger ones, cannot tell acceptable behaviour from unacceptable behaviour more so by people they consider heroes. Take for example 6-year-old Shawn who sees or hears that his favourite baseball player was involved in a murder case. Shawn might be disillusioned for a while but he will chalk up his hero’s behaviour (murder) as something heroic that he had to do to fight off the bad guy, even though the truth is that his sports hero did kill someone out of rage. It is important for parents to talk to their children about the complexities of heroes’ and role models’ lives. Explain to your children that these people make mistakes and sometimes, bad choices that your child does not have to copy. Encourage your children to see role models for who they are- humans with bad and good qualities.

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4.    Notice the Modelling

Children, whether toddlers, school-goers or teens will tend to act out a behaviour that their role model espouses. It could be the way they dress, dance, play, talk or relate to each other that is significantly influenced by their role model. If the behaviours modelled are not desirable, point this out to your child. Encourage her to seek out the positive aspects of her role model. If your child is espousing the positive aspects of her role model, notice this and congratulate her. You can say something like “Wow! You really pulled off that Rihanna song! You sounded as great as she does!” she will certainly feel that you notice her efforts and that you are encouraging her to choose helpful virtues in her role models.

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5.    Encourage Multiple Heroes

Teach your child that it is acceptable to have more than one person to look up to as a role model. The truth is that the more role models your child has, the more socially and mentally informed she will be. It is possible for her to pick up different positive qualities from different role models. Also, by having more than one hero, your child will feel less disillusioned if this single hero does not leave to your child’s standard; after all, there are so many other great people she can look up to even if one lets her down.

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