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What Teens Can Learn from Celebrity Scandals

Outrageous Outbursts
temper tantrums and violent outbursts
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Sean McCabe

Tirades, temper tantrums, hissy fits, giving the finger -- hardly a day goes by without some celeb acting up like a spoiled brat. Remember Serena Williams threatening to shove a tennis ball down a line judge's throat at the U.S. Open, or Christian Bale's movie-set meltdown that contained 39 F-bombs? Everyone from Lindsay Lohan to Jude Law has brawled with the paparazzi at some point. Stars sometimes even turn on their fans, like the time singer Avril Lavigne unleashed a torrent of curse words at autograph seekers as well as photographers.

Our kids aren't appalled, but amused -- for them it's just another TMZ or YouTube moment. In part, it's because they identify with celebs as cool rebels. "That's why kids troll the Internet and turn these incidents viral," says Farley. "They also do spoofs and parodies of celeb screwups online, since being funny is a sure way to impress their peers."

But beneath the smirks and sniggers, teens need public figures they can emulate. "Kids do take cues from their parents, so it's important to help them decode all that bad behavior," says Celeste Gertsen, PhD, a clinical psychologist and professor at Adelphi University in New York. "Talk to them about how to distinguish professional accomplishment from personal integrity. Ask whether the celeb made a one-time slipup and seems genuinely sorry, or if the mistake is part of a larger pattern that shows a sense of arrogance and entitlement."

Parents can point out that in the case of both Williams and Bale, the outbursts weren't just rude; they were abusive and tantamount to bullying. And while celebs often escape fallout -- Williams was smashed with an $82,500 fine but not suspended -- your kid won't be so lucky. Tell him that if he pulled the same stunt at Friday night football he'd be booted off varsity for good.

Finally, give your teens a step-by-step plan for staying levelheaded in tense situations. "Remind them to stop and think things through when they feel themselves getting upset so they can control the impulse to act out," advises Gertsen. "It's really all about teaching your kids to have empathy and respect for others. If they realize how someone else is affected by their words and actions, they're much less likely to lose it and get aggressive."