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Who Are Your Kids' Role Models?

I was prompted to write about this topic because of recent TV awards shows.  Mind you, I’m not watching them, but I do see the fashion photos and see articles about the shows online.  Also, the internet has provided pop stars, actors, and athletes about ten times the exposure they used to have twenty years ago.  Kids are seeing all kinds of people in the entertainment and sports industries around every corner.  You may know that your kids look up to their uncle or their helpful neighbor.  But who else are they being exposed to?

The spectacle, the weirdness, the over-the-top-ness of these award shows.  I guess I’m not their target audience anymore because I really don’t care enough to turn them on.  But certainly many kids and teens watch these kinds of shows, whether or not their parents approve.  Elvis may have been controversial in his time, but put his dancing up against the antics of Lady GaGa.  I mean, seriously – her weirdness has to be more shocking than Elvis’ hips.

I can’t remember the athlete’s name, but I remember what he said when someone asked if he was a role model. Basically he said he didn’t intend to be one (even though he was really famous).  In his mind, that may have absolved him of any need to present himself as a responsible person.  But here’s the fact – you don’t really decide whether or not you are a role model for kids. If any kid anywhere could possibly see what you are doing or hear about something you have done (good or bad), you could become their role model. This likelihood is about a thousand times stronger if you are even somewhat famous.  When this athlete said he didn’t intend to be a role model, it didn’t really mean he wasn’t one. And that’s what makes “famous people” role models so dangerous.

Here’s the $64,000 question. If you asked your kids who their role models are, what would they say? Who do they like and want to be like? Are you surprised or did they give an answer you expected? Every now and then, it wouldn’t hurt to ask.  Kids grow and change all the time, meaning that their role models can change, too. The answer they gave when they were ten might not be the same as it is when they are twelve.

I am not suggesting that you put your kids in a little bubble. That is actually a pretty bad idea. If they are ever to be independent quality people, they need to understand that weird self-serving people are out there.  They need to have the skills to compare their own life track and see if emulating certain people would help or hurt them. So skip the bubble, but don’t let them watch ridiculous stuff or listen to off-color music when you think they aren’t really old enough to handle it.

You can’t control every single thing they see or hear, but you can put more great role models in front of them.  Make regular visits to their uncle who is really fun and responsible.  When quality people are highlighted on TV, let your kids see how others give these folks praise and respect.  Let them see how these quality people conduct themselves – their discipline, their kind nature, their helpfulness, etc. Closely monitor who your kids spend time with on an everyday basis.  Highlight good qualities of these people to your kids on a regular basis. “Remember how Mrs. Smith stood up for you when you said you were being bullied? She really cares about others and does the right thing.”

So I’m curious – who are your kids’ role models? You can just jot a name down here in the comment box if you wish, or you can offer a longer description. Also, share your ideas of how you’ve guided your kids towards good role models.  As usual, my posts reflect my own ideas, and I always welcome input for others. Thanks!

Who Are Your Kids' Role Models?

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2010). Who Are Your Kids' Role Models?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Feb 2010
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