Dear Parents and Older Students (5th grade up),
From time to time a problem comes across my desk that is worth sharing with you. A few weeks ago an older student spoke the praises of a particular entertainer as a positive role model. Now, this isn’t me yelling that Backstreet Boys or One Direction will never be as cool as The Beatles. And this particular entertainer may have a positive message for some, but certainly not for students in an elementary school. He spoke about turning his life around, and I truly hope he did as I have had to turn my life around a few times over the decades. But his foul language directed at children was totally inappropriate. If one of my kids had played this music in front of me I would have asked what they found positive and challenged them to deliver that positive message in a far less offensive way.
But I think that young people need to find good role models. Now the best role models are, of course, parents and grandparents, and I hope teachers and priests are up on that list too. Certainly Catholics and other Christians put Jesus on the top of the list of heroes. But realistically, kids are going to look for “heroes” in the fields of entertainment or athletics. We need to encourage them to differentiate between people who do something heroic and the real heroes. Too often “professional heroes” are very flawed in their personal lives and we adults who commit to loyalty and love are considered too boring to be heroes. Help them to grow beyond that. Help them by telling them stories about the courage and love of family members. There really are a few “professional heroes” out there too. Tell the kids about them as well. But don’t make the heroes perfect because they never were perfect. Tell the kids their flaws and how they overcame them or were loved in spite of them.
One of my favorite saints is Peter. There he was, hanging out with Jesus for three years and even when Jesus told him that he was about to mess up, Peter promised he wouldn’t and then turned around and blew it within a matter of hours. Not once, but three times! It is certainly not a heroic act to deny even knowing one of your best friends. But between Jesus offering forgiveness and Peter understanding his own flaws, they got through.
Last week my daughter, Kelly came home from college after seven years. For the first time in ages both of my kids are within a thousand miles of me. Besides being over-joyed, I am struck by the fact that after all these years, I am still not done being a parent. It takes a lifetime and even then there will be work left to do. So as parents, we do the best we can and pray that others fill in the gaps. Let those others be good people who will set good examples and love our kids. Let’s teach our kids that they can be good examples to others as well. And show them that real heroes forgive the mistakes of others.