September 03, 2007

Help Kids to Select Worthy Heroes – Revisited due to Mike Vick

Michael Vick - Role Model?

In light of the recent case involving Mike Vick, it seems pertinent to revisit the article that I published in this column last year about helping children to select worthy heroes.

In Mike’s public address that he issued following his conviction of a felony he apologized to any children who might have looked up to him as a role model. That is a nice thought, but for parents I would just ask, “How would a parent allow their child to select Mike as a role model in the first place? What had he done to be selected? Would it be because he is famous? Was it because he was gifted with great talent as an athlete? Was it because he seemed defiant of most rules and authority? Why pick Mike Vick?”

Get Involved in the Process of Choosing Heroes with Your Kids!

I would again like to caution parents to guide children to set extremely high standards for selecting heroes. Be careful of allowing your children to fall into the trap of selecting heroes and role models based upon fame or talent. Teach your children to select role models based upon sound values, morals, ethics and standards that you have discussed openly and honestly with your children. If you discussthe standards for selecting their heroes with them, that they will learn as much or more from the process of choosing their heroes as they will from the heroes themselves!

Selecting Heroes

In today's society like in the past, kids have heroes. This is a good thing if they choose carefully! However, in modern society it seems the process of selecting heroes has become rather muddled or confused. Fame should not necessarily make a person a hero. We, in our family, have experienced this from both sides: first as parents of two sons who chose heroes while growing up, and now with two sons who have distinguished themselves as outstanding athletes, who are often the object of hero worship.

Please hang in here with me on this one so there is no misinterpretation of what I am attempting to say. We do believe that both our sons are worthy heroes. Both are moral, ethical, kind, honest, and admirable people with a strong sense of family. Both are civic minded and both give back to their respective communities.

What is alarming is to see how so many young people have selected them as heroes who know nothing about them. Many children have been taught to, or at least allowed to, select their heroes/role models based upon nothing more than skill at a game or fame. Few of these kids have been challenged to know much about their heroes beyond some perceived skill or fame. If children had been taught some criteria or standards for selecting role models, it would be different; and Michael Vick would not be needing to apologize to any children.

Diligence, Honesty, Loyalty, Integrity

Allow me to illustrate with a personal example. Barbara's Father, Dick Matthews, died suddenly a few years ago. His five grandchildren delivered the eulogy at the funeral. It was obvious to all in attendance that "Grandpa Dick" was a hero to all five. As they spoke of him through their tears, they all mentioned his hero status in their eyes and used words like loyal, dedicated to his wife, hard-working, honest, a man whose word was his bond, as well as describing a fun Grandpa who always had a smile a mile wide.

Dick Matthews was quite a fellow. Nobody could outwork him outside his home. He built houses for a living but he also ran a 120-acre farm and did odd jobs on the side as was needed for extra money for the family. If necessary, I'm certain he would have taken a night job to provide for his family and he did all of his work cheerfully, and with a bounce of purpose in his step.

Inside their home it was a different story. In his house, Dick was the "king" and Maxine, his loving wife of 56 years, waited upon him and hand foot. It was not a "modern" romance but rather one from a previous generation and it worked beautifully for them. Dick earned a living and Maxine kept up the home.

Then, ten years before Dick's death, tragedy struck that loving couple and Maxine was stricken by a severe stroke. Overnight she became in need of around-the-clock care rather than being the caregiver. Without the slightest blink, Dick became the 24-hour, 7 days a week caregiver; and on top of that, he began to do all of the housework! He did all of the laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping and everything else Maxine had done for all the years of their partnership of love. He even did her hair and put on her makeup!

A Real Hero Worthy of Imitation - A True Role Model

During Dick's last year of life, they came to visit with us up at our home in Montana. While out to breakfast alone with Dick one morning, I was struck by the enormity of the change he had made on behalf of his loving wife, Maxine, and I asked him how he made such an amazing change so suddenly and so cheerfully. His answer really affected me that day and it will always be in my memory. He looked back at me, got tears in his eyes, and then quietly said, "One day 56 years ago, I said 'I do'..."

Man, I think that everyone deserves to be loved like that just once!

At his funeral each of his grandkids said that one thing they had learned from Grandpa Dick was to honor commitments! They each got the message. He was not famous but; he was a hero to all.

Help Children to Pick Heroes; Carefully and Precisely

We, as parents and as adults, need to hold people like Dick Matthews up as heroes to our children! We all know people in our families and in our neighborhoods that are so worthy of being heroes to our kids. We must not be so careless as to think that kids will seek out these remarkable but often quiet people; we need to teach them what a real hero is and point out some in their immediate surroundings.

Sure an athlete makes a flashy hero and many are worthy of the status. Some musicians, actors, and public figures are worthy also, but let's be careful to teach our kids what makes a person worthy of “Hero” or “Role Model” status. (More on our website: Teaching Values to Children )

What are the criteria for picking your heroes in your family? Make tomorrow "Hero Day" in your family and talk about what makes a real hero! talk about it daily. Pick some heroes for your whole family. then challenge your children to pick some people who are worthy of being their onw role models. The process of choosing will work well to teach some pretty valuable lessons.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mac -
Great piece. My husband and I are Hokies and are heartbroken to see someone we had hoped would be a positive ambassador and "hero" behave so poorly and we had the same thoughts. We all know Mike Vick did not develop these traits while in college or the NFL, but long before. Sadly, he was rewarded for or inspite of these behaviors for 25 years. Therein lies the message here for all of us - if we sacrifice our dignity as parents, educators and coaches to lay claim to one-dimensional "heroes", we will be left with a world full of Mike Vicks. Tragic on a personal level, catstrophic as a civilization.

Ginger Hill