There has always been a need for heroes.
Who were your role models when you were in middle school? High School?
Whether you grew up in the nineties, 1980’s or 1880’s, young people have always found heroes and role models.
As humans we have done so since the beginning of time. Teens typically don’t have much control in their lives, and heroes can give them a template for behavior (in a “What-would-Buffy-do?” kind of way) - AND helps them to escape their own forest for brief periods and focus on the trees.
Sports figures are among the most common heroes for boys, followed by super-powered individual who represent power and performance. Girls are more likely to reference family members, people close to them and or influential women who command attention or help others.
In adolescence, specifically, role models help young people explore strategies for achieving their goals, feelings, choices and different aspects of their personality – including sometimes unfortunate haircuts. The FRIENDS template I remember MY friends and I overlaying onto our own relationships are still in play to some degree today (I’m a Monica/Chandler hybrid by the way, thanks for asking).
A substantial number of studies have shown us that humans learn through modeling others, and through adolescence, role models help t/weens decide what is socially acceptable behavior is and what is not.
Though not all young people can identify a role model for themselves, the ones who can identify a hero generally grow up to have more stability in their lives, and when you ask successful people, they can usually look back and identify people, figures or characters (both fictional and non-fictional) that inspired and motivated them.
Qualities of a positive hero/ role model include;
Inspiration and a code of conduct for engaging in the world in values-driven way.
Role models show passion for their work and others. This quality often factors into leadership abilities on grader scales, though even the ability to encourage even just one person is important and rewarding.
Whether it’s solving the latest crime in the beach town where your dad used to be sheriff, refusing to use a gun while fighting criminal in a big, east coast city where your dad was gunned down on the way to the opera, or working to change gun legislation in the wake of a shooting at your school - Role models live their values in the world, and help kids form their own values as they form their relationship with the world.
Courage and the ability to overcome obstacles.
There are so many transitions, things to be learned and new hurdles to overcome. Throughout adolescent development. It’s not necessarily the Tri Wizard Tournament or hiding in an attic from the Nazis, but seeing someone else face and move past challenges can give kids the encouragement to do the same on their own, personal, real-world yellow brick roads.
Leadership and a commitment to something larger than themselves.
Role models are usually active in their larger community. Using their time and talents to benefit others - sometimes dressing up in tights and fighting crime in their friendly neighborhood, sometimes kneeling during the National Anthem or perhaps learning that they are connected to everyone in the universe, and not just the kinda-whiney hayseed from a galaxy far, far away they thought they were yesterday.
These qualities illustrate for youth ways and methods of making choices, having confidence and finding hope.
We are also powerful role models for our kids – in fact studies show parents are often are the MOST influential. And, yes, it is in our kids’ job description to resist it, and I think they sometimes fear some kind of legal repercussion if they ever dared let us catch them behaving like we do, but they do use us (good and bad) as behavior models. What we do and say guides our children’s behavior, attitudes and beliefs, now and in the long term.
We model by including our child/ren in family discussions, taking responsibility for our actions- both good and bad, loving each other and ourselves, staying educated, trying new things and living as healthy lifestyles as we are able.
We cannot forget what an important influence we have on your kids’ values, self-esteem and long-term choices.
There has always been a need for heroes