What no role model. Do teenagers need role models?

Role models
What, no role model?

Young people have an abundance of celebrities, actors, athletes’, business entrepreneur role models to look up to.

Jess Ennis, David Beckham, Adele, the late great Steve Jobs and Sir Richard Branson the entrepreneur.

These people have become synonymous with success through hard work, commitment and dedication.

Today’s children are exposed to violent acts and sexualised behaviour. Sexual innuendo and violence is prevalent in songs, pop videos, films and television and this pervading influence can have a profoundly negative effect on children and teenagers who perceive celebrity behaviour as the norm and want to emulate their heroes or role models.

role models
Positive or negative role models can have a profound influence on the way teenagers behave. [Source: www.rihannadaily.com]
Celebrity culture has permeated society via television, magazines, advertisements projecting everyday people to celebrity status almost overnight without having achieved any major or notable achievement and are “famous for being famous.”

Teens are influenced not just by their peers but by the behaviour they see on the television via social media and through the behaviour of others whether good or bad.

When values are institutionalised and behaviour is structured in terms of them a state of social equilibrium is achieved. But this can only happen through socialisation whereby society’s values are passed on from one generation to the next.These values become an intrinsic makeup of the individual personality. In other words these values are part of our very core. The family and the education system are primarily responsible for making sure these values are passed on. (Talcott Parsons, american sociologist, Harvard University)

Sue Atkins “The parenting coach” says that as parents it helps to be involved with our children and to encourage them to choose who they look up to as role models.

Teenagers by their very nature are feisty, demand to be independent and certainly don’t want to be dictated to when it comes to whom they choose to follow or hang around with at school.

role models for teenagers
Most teenagers are feisty, demand independence and will follow who they want to.

Most teens during their developmental years look up to and idolise pop stars, footballers, film stars and athletes and Ms. Atkins goes on to say that choosing a role model or a hero says a lot about who you are as a person.

Ms. Atkins’ courses for Parents and Children include the confidence classes she takes into schools teaching youngsters the value of having goals or aspirations.

She says ‘it’s a good thing and helps teens focus on work and life goals.’

But she shares her concern ‘it worries me when I show them a timeline and get them to think about goals and what they want to achieve in life, often many of them see being on X-factor, achieving fame, fortune or marrying a footballer as their ultimate goal and often all they talk about.’

Ms Atkins goes on to say ‘that the importance of working hard, dedication, application, hardship and overcoming obstacles doesn’t register with some teenagers but achieving fame is and not necessarily for the right reasons’.

She explains the importance of ‘talk and teach’ whereby if we see bad behaviour for example a footballer swearing, spitting or making racist remarks that we discuss the incident with children and explain that just because a footballer is good with the ball doesn’t necessarily make them exponents of good behaviour.

Talking through and explaining with teenagers why that action happened and that it doesn’t reflect well on the individual is a positive way to enforce in youngsters the importance of values and qualities.

Positive parenting and reinforcement of good behaviour in turn promotes high self-esteem. Good role models don’t make teens feel inferior because they are not stick thin or may not have model looks.

Teenagers copy what they see. Even with good parenting they will want to be seen acting a certain way to ensure they are part of the “in” crowd or at the very least not singled out for being different.

If they see their parents swearing at the television during a football match or getting drunk then they see this as the norm.

Teenagers watch a parent’s behaviour too, so if we slip up naturally they think its okay to emulate similar behaviour.

Parents can also serve as positive role models since children mirror the behaviour of their parents; parents’ can’t ask their teens to refrain from behaviour they themselves engage in.

They remember what we do rather than what we might want them to do.

Parents have an enormous role and influence in child upbringing, after all aren’t children the by-product of parents?

A survey of teachers in the UK conducted by the Association of teachers and lecturers in 2008 found that young people chose sports and pop stars as role models.

Teens are influenced by what they see whether the role models are positive or negative and they can have a major effect on young peoples attitudes during their most formative and impressionable years.

If the media projects the very worst of celebrity role models do teenagers really need them?

Tabitha, Jemma, Anya and Olivia (surnames with-held) are 15 year old school girls who have their own view.

They have aspirations to do well at school go onto University and have a career but they’ve also got their own views on how they see role models.

Positive role models are important but there wasn’t one individual they singled out although they admired Jessica Ennis because she had worked so hard to achieve her gold medal at the London Olympics.

Respect is there for people who work hard and achieve celebrity because of hard work rather than being famous for the sake of it.

But the pressure to behave and look a certain way runs deep and becomes evident from 13 years and upwards.

Wearing the same clothes, looking and behaving the same, wearing make-up is the safest way to get through school unscathed.

Tabitha describes her school experience as ‘it’s about blending in rather than sticking out. If we don’t do our hair or we go to school without make-up the other girls and boys look at us’.

Teenage behaviour is often presented in a negative way by the media and there is an automatic assumption that all young people behave the same way this was one aspect of being a teenager that all the four girls felt very strongly about.

‘Just because newspapers depict photos of 18+ girls or boys throwing up in a high street after having gone out drinking doesn’t make us all the same’ says Olivia.

Does the behaviour of these high profile celebrities influence teenagers? 

Teenagers by the very definition are not fit for human participation!

The girls were adamant, ‘no, as teenagers we are going to try different things even if parents have warned us against it but we do know the difference from right and wrong and the good from bad. It’s about growing up and learning, how else do we learn if we don’t try. We know getting drunk is a bad thing we know what harm it can do but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to ever try alcohol.’

Jemma says, ‘we’re not bullied into trying anything whether it’s smoking or drinking but subconsciously I want to so I’m not the odd one out. At the end of the day we will do want we want to do. Between the ages of 15 and 19 school work is hard with lots of work and by the time we are 19 years old we just want to have fun thereafter we know we’ve got to start behaving responsibly.’

A positive role model establishes a sense of identity, defines a sense of purpose and gives teenagers confidence in which case the person to whom they aspire to doesn’t necessarily have to be a celebrity.

A great teacher or sports coach can equally inspire young people giving them confidence, self-esteem and the belief that they can achieve their goals.

Adolescence brings with it a major change in appearance, temperament, attitude and the conflicts associated with taking on responsibility of becoming an adult.

Teens are on a voyage of self-discovery and are trying to make their own way in life with the steadying guidance of the parents.

They have a way of selecting their role models to follow consciously or unconsciously.

Although some teenagers are in danger of not having realistic ideas of what hard work is but rather harbor unrealistic dreams of fame and fortune.

Whatever the influence of the role model it is down to the parents to take every opportunity to reinforce values that are important to them to ensure young people have confidence and are secure in their own skin.

Sue Atkins says, ‘I think teenagers represent our potential and unlimited possibilities so I think it is important who they look up to’.

Positive parenting and positive role models are contributing factors to teenagers with high self esteem, fostering hard work ethics and a determination to succeed.

What do think? Do teenagers need role models? What are you’re children like?

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