Role model

Do You Know Your Child’s Role Model

This is a question I like to ask parents; do you know your child’s role model? Most parents either say no, or they are not sure. Very few can answer confidently as to whether or not they know who their child’s role model is.

Next I ask; have you ever spoken to your child about what a role model is and how to choose one? Should they even have a role model? Many times again the answer is no.

The way people loosely use the phrase “that person is my role model” is quite interesting. You see, the idea of a role model is someone who you admire and generally want to imitate! As impressionable children, it is very important to guide and shape who they call their role models, though I prefer them not to have any.

Recently social media has been busy with comments trailing the photos revealing that Linda Ikeji is pregnant. I didn’t think much about the announcement aside from a silent simple wish of safe delivery for mummy and baby.

linda ikeji pregnant child's role model
Disappointment in Role Models

I was surprised though by several memes, jokes, comments, tweets and more stating varying levels of disappointment and judgement; people sharing that she should not have gotten pregnant outside of wedlock.

Comments such as “I wish she hasn’t done this; she should know she is a role model” were common. The angst was more especially since she has been quoted as allegedly advising young people to practise celibacy.

I did come across a comment that pointed out that the way she concealed her pregnancy till she was ready to announce it to the world, is the same way she might have quietly gotten married for all you know.

Tiwa Savage and her singing codeine diet at the recently concluded Headies, musical awards ceremony came under some fire. Comments such as “I expected better doesn’t she know she is a role model to kids”? have been cited. It did come at a bad time, especially in wake of BBC’s video on the codeine epidemic in Nigeria.

I have also heard of children who confess to substance abuse because they are emulating their role models. [Read: Note to Parents – Artists are not your child’s role model]

These are just some of the recent chatter on the matter of role models and our youth.

Who is your child’s role model?

Is it a fad? Should your child have a role model? In this borderless world, we live in, one can follow, emulate or copy anybody; without their permission.

If person A, is living her life, doing what she does based on her thought process, are you allowed to turn her into your role model? Should you turn her (or him) into someone to emulate and based on what criteria?

A role model suggests putting the said person on a pedestal whether they asked to or not. However, we must remember an artist is growing his or her business and making decisions not thinking of the effects on your child or family.

Have this conversation with your children early. No one should be blamed if your child puts the wrong person on the pedestal and emulates their life.

Change the Narrative – rather than a role model introduce the idea of mentors.

I cannot remember having a role model growing up and feel this language has seeped into our language and culture.

A mentor is a person who gives a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time, especially at work or school
Definition from Cambridge Dictionary. 

There is a natural curiosity to learn from other people. While this can be done in a positive way, our concern should be when people, especially children, make decisions based on what a specific “role model” decides to do or share on social media.

The Role of Parents

The job starts with parents not glamorising the idea of a role model but rather talk about having the right mentors.  A mentor simply has experiences you can learn from.

The day it clicked for me was many years ago when I heard a popular artist on the Ellen Degeneres show. She shared that it was not her problem if children call her their role model…that is the parents’ job. As a cousin of mine would say #GBAM (a.k.a spot-on).

It really helped me to intentionally control how much control an outside influence has on my children. They are not thinking of the effect of their actions on my children, that is my job as a mother and their father’s job as their dad. Children can not necessarily separate an artist from what she does to sell records versus what her day to day realities might be.

The responsibility lies with us, and we need to ask what behaviours we are condoning. What kinds of music are we listening to? These things are essentially a signal of what you as a parent are putting your stamp of approval on.

Ask yourself this [Tweet “who is a more influential role model than parents”]

People are simply living their lives and did not ask for that seat on a pedestal. You still have the ultimate responsibility to decide what you copy and who you learn from.
Encourage your child to #BeYourOwnRoleModel
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