There’s been a lot of talk lately about the upcoming presidential election here in the US, and I’ve seen a lot of comment from parents bemoaning our options for who to vote for. It’s a disappointing election cycle for many reasons, I think almost everyone will agree. What surprised me, though, was how many people I saw on facebook talking about how terrible it will be if this candidate or that becomes president, because they will be a terrible role model for their children. Wha??? Since when is a president automatically a role model?
I recall back to times when celebrities or sports stars were found to have done something criminal or morally reprehensible, and I’d see angry mothers on the news saying something like, “Hey! My kid looks up to you! You can’t act that way!” And I’d think, “Why does your kid look up to a total stranger?”
I mean, sure, you can appreciate that someone is talented or accomplished, but that doesn’t mean that their entire personhood should be admired as a role model for children.
But we’re a society of people that do this, even adults. How many times have you or someone you know looked for parenting advice from a stranger that got a book published, instead of asking someone that you know in real life?
I think one part of this is that we tend to idealize that which we cannot see. It’s the imaginary ideal! We don’t know how author XYZ actually interacts with their kids, or if their family seems happy and functional. We’ve not been in community with them to see how they’ve weathered the storms of life. A book, blog post, tweet, or facebook comment is only giving you a piece of a much bigger picture, and when we try to build this into something that we can endorse and admire, we are getting onto shaky ground.
I recall years ago chatting with a friend and she was getting all swept up in her admiration for the president at that time, saying, “And I just KNOW he is a Godly man who only wants to do the right things for our country!” and I remember thinking, “Friend, you don’t know that guy at all. Get ahold of yourself!”
As parents, I believe we need to shift our perspective on this and get our thinking right.
I have never held up famous people or strangers as role models for my children, and I won’t be starting now. Just because someone holds an elected office or is good at sports or is in the movies doesn’t mean they are automatically admirable.
Your children’s role models should be YOU,
and hopefully some other
trusted and well-known
family members or community members.
Family is where everything starts. Parents have an incredible opportunity to guide and influence their children, regardless of what is going on outside your home. Be wise. Do your best to create the culture you believe in. Invest your time and energy in building strong relationships with your children.