Every fall as we pass 9/11 and are in the thick of storm season, I sit and process the amazing sacrifice our first responders and their families make. I can’t imagine weathering a storm knowing that your father/spouse is at the station preparing to go protect and serve the community. What a truly heroic act. Then it makes me stop and think about my kids and who they look up to… Who do your kids look up to? Who are their heroes? Is it even important to think about who our children look up to? Only to the extent that we as parents realize that our children will want to emulate their heroes.
You tend to want to be like the person or people you look up to. If they are your heroes, they are probably also your role models. Parents can’t afford to miss this because our children attempt to model their lives after their role models.
It becomes apparent that the people our children choose to look up to will have a huge impact on the direction they take for their lives. That leads us to the second question for this topic: How does a parent impact their child’s choice for heroes?
What makes a hero?
Some parents might feel like it is hopeless. There’s just no way a parent can possibly compete with the media and cyber barrage of celebrities and YouTube personalities. The idea that our children and teens are being inundated should actually make parents want to work more intentionally at helping their children know who the real heroes are.
We have definitely turned a radical corner in our culture. The media would have us change a child’s role models from true heroes, meaning the people who have earned such status by sacrificing, to media-hyped celebrities. Celebrities are people who have gained notoriety and thus limelight often for little more than being born into a specific family. Worse, there are people who get to write books, appear on talk shows or gain celebrity status for deviant behaviors. Much of the time celebrities are people our culture celebrates less for heroic actions and more because the media chooses to make a cultural statement.
It’s time for parents to take back the establishing of their children’s heroes and role models. Make no mistake, it can and must be done. We have spent an entire generation of raising boys with the wrong role models. It is time to help our children refocus on who they should look up to.
Begin by taking the time to help your children know that heroes make sacrifices for others. Heroes love their neighbors (Luke 10:27). Spend time with your child and point out acts of heroism. Perhaps there’s a grandparent or uncle in your family who sacrificed. Surely there are stories of things that one family member of the past did for the rest of the family. Tell them and then label them as acts of heroism.
Watch and read stories about heroes. Every July 4th my family watches the movie “The Patriot.” A movie like that gives a parent the opportunity to talk about one man’s sacrifice that God used to change the course of history.
Read about the heroes in the Bible. There are men and women that trusted God for their own welfare by sacrificing for the needs of others. Moses left the comfort of his wilderness shepherd job. Abraham left the nice home in Ur. David risked trusting God to face the giant.
Affirm small steps
Our children need to know what it means to be a hero. Start by pointing out the sacrifices of others that got us where we are. Point out and affirm the sacrifices of individual family members. Obviously, as parents we must be intentional to look for acts of heroism our children perform and praise them. “That was very sacrificial of you to stop what you were doing to help your brother get his chore done. That’s what heroes do. Heroes sacrifice for the good of others.”
Sound superficial? We as parents have to start small. We have to affirm their sacrifices no matter how small they are as we begin applauding the steps toward personal heroism. Our culture teaches us to get all you can. Our culture celebrates those who get all they can. That might be one of the reasons our culture is in trouble today. It’s time for parents, especially dads, to teach the next generation to be heroes rather than celebrities. Heroes give it up for a greater cause, in our case the cause of Christ.
Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.