Common Ground: Be your child’s first role model

Sometimes I wonder just how much of an impact pop culture artists have on children these days.

Fortunately, I was relieved to learn it’s very little, at least according to my pre-teen daughter. Once a Hannah Montana fan, she did not mince words following Miley Cyrus’ performance on the MTV Video Music Awards.

The once squeaky clean Disney star whose television show kept my daughter and countless other little girls laughing has now joined the ranks of raunchy and negative. If you didn’t watch the awards program, you probably saw her when news outlets inundated the airwaves replaying clips of Cyrus, in her underwear, gyrating on the stage and dancing with oversized teddy bears.

My daughter saw clips of her former child star idol and shook her head. “That’s immature. You’re not supposed to wear your underwear to an awards show,” she said.

I was so proud to hear her opinion.

So often, the very celebrities we admire on screen engage in negative behaviors in their private lives and in public. Using drugs and alcohol, and promiscuity are the rule rather than the exception lately. Actress Lindsay Lohan’s promising career was disrupted for years following her drug and alcohol addiction.

As parents, it’s our job to be our kids’ first role models. Our behaviors, words and actions are what our children are truly watching and imitating. I’m by no means perfect. My temper has been known to slip. But all in all, I’ve tried, along with my husband, to guide our children in the right direction, arming them with common sense tools to help them think through their decision before acting.

After MTV aired the Miley Cyrus performance, the Parents Television Council accused them, and I agree, with “marketing sexually charged messages to young children using former child stars … while falsely rating this program as appropriate for kids as young as 14. This is unacceptable.”

There was a time when I, too, was mesmerized with celebrities. During the 1980s when Janet Jackson sang the song, “Let’s Wait a While,” her message encouraged young women to stay celibate. Several years later, in “Someday is Tonight,” the message became, “the wait is over.”

And, of course, who can forget Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show or her half-naked cover on “Rolling Stone” magazine in the mid-1990s.

Whether it’s Miley Cyrus or Janet Jackson, celebrities can sing a great song or act a great part, but, ultimately, it’s the behaviors they engage in that determine whether they are good or bad role models.

The same is true for parents, it’s our behaviors and actions that our children pay attention to.


Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at