Choosing Good Role Models

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Having a role model isn’t child’s play – both kids and adults look up to other, influential people for guidance. From a young age, we all watch others for direction on decision-making, ethics and inspiration.

Children often choose a parent or close relative to be their first role model. Throughout development, choices in role models shift to teachers and peers so that kids learn how to behave in new environments like school. As social influences like pop celebrities grab children’s attention, people in the spotlight may become an attractive person to emulate.

A recent study released by the UK government, "Body confidence: findings from the British Social Attitudes Survey - October 2014,” states that 87 percent of girls aged 11-21 believe that appearance trumps ability in terms of how others judge them.

“When children develop a perception that their value is based on appearance, or even on accomplishments, it is difficult to establish healthy self-esteem,” says Dr. Danielle Wiese, Riley Physicians pediatrician. “This lack of confidence leaves kids ill-equipped to deal with future challenges, like peer pressure or academic hurdles.”

Talk about the important characteristics of role models.

With the red carpet season in full swing, Hollywood’s “beautiful people” are a hot topic. When your child says, “I want to be like Taylor Swift when I grow up,” or “Pharrell Williams seems so cool,” you have a teachable moment and an opportunity for open conversations.

Here are some ways to talk about role models with your children:

  • Ask your child to name specific characteristics and qualities about their chosen role models.
  • List what you believe to be important characteristics of a role model. Avoid using any qualities related to a person’s body.
  • Share examples of your role models and why you look up to them. Focus on this person’s abilities and achievements.
  • Remind your child that celebrities are people, just like them. This means they may make poor decisions from time to time and display behaviors not to be emulated.
  • Help connect your child with role models in your local community.

For example, the media often report on how kind and engaging Taylor Swift is with her fans. Many musicians and performers admire Pharell Williams’s innovative artistry. When those in the spotlight inspire your child, dig a little deeper into exactly why. Help your child recognize a person’s abilities more than their appearances.

We’re here to help you navigate how to identify good role models with your children. 

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