close ad

Are Your Tween's Role Models Too Raunchy?

More On What Parents Can Do

  • Accentuate the positive. Motivational speaker and author Stedman Graham, whose nine books include Teens Can Make It Happen (Fireside), advises parents to teach their kids “to not buy into the whole image [of someone they admire], but rather, what that person does well.” Potty-mouthed Kelly Osbourne of the famously dysfunctional Osbourne clan bravely bucks celebrity tradition with her body shape and size. Talk about her in terms of healthy body image.
  • Be your child’s best influence. When the Kaiser Family Foundation surveyed children 10 to 17 about their role models, 73 percent of respondents named sports figures. Television or movie stars snared 56 percent; rock or rap stars came in with 32 percent. But a whopping 92 percent of kids named their parents. That’s right, you are your child’s strongest influence. So make sure to use the opportunity wisely. Your children are listening to you. The question is, what are you saying?
  • Look for teachable moments. Along with learning from the experiences of those they know, children can learn from the headline-making mistakes of famous figures. When the chance presents itself, take advantage and engage your child in a discussion. Skeptical parents can take a cue from youth-oriented publications such as Sports Illustrated for Kids. Acknowledging that it can be tricky covering today’s world of professional athletics (and its myriad bad boys), managing editor Neil Cohen says they look for teachable moments. “We try to find opportunities to write about athletes who have had trouble in the past and want to turn their life around,” he explains.
  • Encourage your kids to read about their heroes. Books and magazines can provide a more in-depth antidote to the sound-bite-saturated electronic media. And who knows? A search of the bookshelves might even lead to the discovery of new and better role models. That’s how Maddie Williams, 12, of Cleveland, Ohio, came to admire Gaia of the Fearless books. “She’s strong and brave…I think that makes her a good role model,” says Maddie, whose parents strive to give their four children alternatives to TV. “There are so many mixed messages being shown, especially in rock videos,” says Maddie’s mom, Martha. “You really do have to help your kids navigate through it all.”

With media emphasis on the rich and famous, it’s easy to forget that a role model can be an ordinary person doing good deeds. “People who think of others instead of just themselves are role models,” says Maddie. “People who work real hard and don’t give up are role models too.”

For more information on parenting preteens, talk to your child's school principal about ordering the brochure "Raising Tweens" from the National Association of Elementary School Principals. This brochure is a joint collaboration between Family Circle and the NAESP.