The bad role models that have the greatest impact on a child, tween, or teen are those people in our immediate world – not celebrities. I’m referring to the adults who act badly and who model questionable values and injurious ways of living. For instance, you might know someone who behaves badly – drinks too much, is aggressive rather than assertive, is defensive rather than open to constructive discussion, assumes the role of victim when faced with conflict and as a result escalates the conflict and so on.
There are values embedded in everything we say and do and don’t say and don’t do. If you don’t talk to your children about the consequences of bad behaviour, you are unintentionally condoning it. This is the same as saying the value you walk past is the value you accept and reinforce. When adults do not challenge assumptions underlying questionable behaviour, there is a genuine risk that children will adopt and mirror that behaviour.
The community that you live in and the values of the people in it have an even stronger influence on your child than any one person. Nowadays, that community includes images and values sold to young people through the entertainment industry.
The difficulty is having any discussion about bad behaviour is the risk of appearing wowserish (a puritanical or censorious person). To avoid being cast as such, ask your child, tween or teen what they thought of the bad behaviour. Get them to reflect and think through to the effect on them as well as others. Ask them if they thought another type of action/reaction was possible in that situation. Develop your young person's ability to be discerning.
A proven successful strategy when attempting a discussion is for you to put the bad behavior in an event in context. If that person is also a celebrity, it’s important to also discuss the way the event is covered in the media. Bad behavior is an opportunity to explain that, yes, people mess up, but it's how we deal with the aftermath that matters. Discuss the aftermath as well as what choices the person faced before the person messed up.
Of real concern to me is the Culture of the Looking Glass perpetuated by the mass media. For commercial reasons, the mass media sell women and girls on the importance of being a particular shape, size, age, and on the need to look sexy. We are bombarded by those images on a daily basis. They have become subliminal messages that encourage inadequacy and the lowering of self-esteem in order to make money and that detract from what really matters – a person’s inner qualities.
So we need to challenge and discuss with our children the images being sold to us on a daily basis. We should speak up and protest against objectification of women and unrealistic portrayals of them and instead reinforce the value in diversity as well as women’s traits, qualities, and achievements.
I recommend http://theresilienceproject.com.au/corporate
© Christine M Knight