Saturday, February 25, 2006

Thinking about role models

Labelling role models


Robert L. Fielding

A lot is said about role models – how they are the wrong ones, mostly, or how we should all become better ones for our children to emulate.  But the probable facts are that children adopt the ones they want despite our worries, and model themselves only in part on what they see in their parents.

Let’s face it, most children probably don’t know what role models are until some well meaning social commentator labels one.  That’s not to say they don’t exist, but most likely not in the ways we think.

And people change role models as they go through life – adults might not have them – they might just fulfill the needs of impressionable minds that aren’t fully aware of their own identities, or at least their fully formed ones.

For young boys, we think footballers fill that role.  For adolescent males, similarly aged film stars could play a part.  The probable fact is that, even with today’s blanket media coverage, the young only ever get part of a celebrity’s persona.

Before the media took over our lives, we were exposed to even less – I liked Bobby Charlton, the Manchester United center forward of the 60s and early 70s when I was a lad, but I hardly ever heard him speak, let alone air his views on anything.

Now though, everybody can lip-read Wayne Rooney’s ‘comments’, listen to film stars talking off the set, and read about their innermost secrets.

All this doesn’t mean that young people are necessarily adversely affected – let’s give them more credit than they usually get – a teenager is just as likely to think someone is behaving idiotically as anybody else is.  It’s just that being older we can sometimes forget what it was like to be young.

Having said that though, youngsters have many more people to choose from than I did, I think!  But still, a person you know is more likely to be a role model for you than someone you only see for five minutes several times a week on TV.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – youngsters mimic their peers – watch what they do and you’ll have a handle on what your own sons or daughters are getting up to.

Robert L. Fielding


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