Things That Make Me Nervous10 Reasons Being A Role Model Makes Me NervousNicole Paulhus

This week, Reese Witherspoon got arrested. A few weeks ago, Justin Bieber wrote some questionable things about Anne Frank in the Holocaust Memorial guest book. A few weeks before that Lindsay Lohan was late for court, again. When these stories emerge, there’s typically an outcry from the public calling the celebrity a bad role model and a response from celebrity saying, “I never asked to be a role model!” And I get it. Your job is to act or sing, not to raise the children of the world. However, you chose a career that came with a giant spotlight and even if you didn’t ask to be there, kids are going to put you up on a pedestal. Unless you give it all up and start a new quiet life on a deserted island, every move you make is going to come under heavy scrutiny. It comes with the territory.

With that being said, I could never handle being a celebrity. The pressure of having to be “on” all the time and having the futures of a billion kids in my hands would be too much. I have a “Little Sister” through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and that alone can be nerve-wracking. Here are ten reasons why being a role model makes me nervous…

1. Pop Music Is Filthy

My Little Sister and I were rocking out in the car yesterday and all of a sudden I realized I was singing, “your sex takes me to paradise,” alongside a 12-year-old. It was completely inappropriate. So I casually struck up a conversation and switched the station to Taylor Swift. Then, Rihanna’s “S&M” came on. There’s no use. Pop music is filthy.

2. Accidental Swearage

I try to keep my potty mouth clean around the youngin’. However, when some [expletive] on the [expletive] highway is about to cross into my [expletive] lane, it can be challenging not to scream expletives. I’ve let one or two slip, but let’s be honest it’s nothing she hasn’t already heard.

3. Social Networking

My Twitter and Instagram accounts are public and I am in my 20s. I’m legally allowed to go out to a bar and have a few drinks with friends. Yet, I feel like if I post a picture of myself out at a bar having a few drinks with friends, it will glamorize alcohol and encourage youths to raid their parents liquor cabinet. I know this isn’t how it works. Kids aren’t parrots built to mimic your every move, but I just don’t want anything I do or say or post to ever encourage a kid’s poor life choices.

4. Snack Selection & Body Image

When I was in high school, I ate like a Gilmore Girl. Unfortunately, my metabolism has changed and I can no longer shovel down cookie dough and ice-cream the way I used to. This becomes an issue when selecting snacks with kiddo. I don’t want to force body image issues on her, but I also know I shouldn’t be eating Hot Cheetos and Takis like a tween. There’s such a fine line between encouraging healthy eating habits and inducing eating disorders. I’m terrified of crossing it. I usually just eat the Cheetos and balance them out with a salad later, she’s a kid, she has the rest of her life to worry about calorie content.

5. Forcing My Opinions Onto Her

When I was in high school, I begged my parents to let me go to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life. All my friends were going and I didn’t want to miss out, but my parents said no. They didn’t think I was mature enough to have a concrete opinion on such a complex subject. They didn’t judge me or try to force their views on me, but allowed me the time to grow up and learn for myself. I’m so grateful they did. This is how I try handle tricky topics with the Little, but if asked about something I feel passionately about, sometimes it’s hard not to persuade towards what I feel is right. It’s another fine line.

6. Stepping On Parental Toes

I never know how educated kids are in terms of sex, drugs and alcohol. If asked a question, I want to answer it honestly, but I also don’t want to give more information than their parents are comfortable with them having. It’s so hard to know what’s fair game and what’s not. I’m just waiting for the day I say something I shouldn’t to a kid and create drama at home.

7. Not Knowing All The Answers

When you’re a kid, you just expect grownups to know things. I took my Little to a science museum and it was so embarrassing. She had so many intelligent questions about animals and astronomy and it pained me that I didn’t have any answers.

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  1. I totally disagree with you. I don’t like to be in the center of attention, not even in my birthday party, and I never wanted to be famous, not even when I was a teenager, but I would totally be up to being a role model for young kids today, no pressure, the reason being, I am very well-adjusted and I truly believe in the values, principle, ideas I advocate, and I try to communicate them as much as I can.
    1.. Pop music is filthy, but that’s the point, why should it be? Why does it have to be filthy, and not poetic, but than again I listen to rock music, and I’m gonna make my kids listen to rock music as well. And if they find out about sex, what’s the big deal? I would be more concerned of violent games they’d be playing, or if they bully their friends at school for being different, than them hearing about sex.
    2. The same as with Point 1. What the hell is the big deal with swearing. Why do we make so much a big deal about words that do not harm, when we should be making a big deal about actions, and words like hate speech that do harm. We’re trying to protect our children against stupid things, instead of focusing on issues like hating on gay people, or hating on other races and religions which is going on because the media, the politicians and musicians are allowing it. Swearing is nothing. We should protect them against hate speech and bullying, both as victims and as perpetrators. After all, kids imitate their parents and the other adults.
    3. So I just heard that apparently Red Riding Hood wasn’t allowed in American schools because of the picture of a wine bottle in Red’s basket??? When guns are allowed??? Kids know that we drink alcohol, and they know that it is an adult thing. If I post a picture of me and my friends with a beer in my hands and I’m a celeb, I wouldn’t worry that a 12 year old would mimick me. I don’t worry that my young cousins would start drinking because they see my profile picture with a beer. I’m 26, the kid is 12. She knows very well she is too young to drink. And what if they drank? I started drinking when I was 12, I never did nothing I would regret while drunk, and now I barely have a beer once a month. As long as you put things in perspective, kids will understand and make good choices instead of ruining their lives. But kids are taught that alcohol is bad, and they cannot have it, simply cannot have it in the US, and of course they would want it more. That is why there’s so much binge-drinking in college in the US, because it’s the cats gone and the rats go partying. If you make something so forbidden, they’re going to want more of it, and also exaggerate and know no limits about it.
    4. Body Image. Look at Jennifer Lawrence, she’s being healthy and looking good. I would actually be totally happy to take the role of a role model, so that more girls learn that women have shapes, and top models and other anorexic celebs have the body shapes of children, and that is not ok, not healthy, and not pretty either. I’m not 22 like JLaw, I’m at that age where metabolism is not doing so fine for me either, and for the first time in my life I actually like eating broccoli, because it really makes me feel good. Just because I don’t eat anymore like a Gilmore Girl, even though I drink coffee like one, doesn’t mean that I’m starving myself. My eating habits, I wouldn’t be afraid to share them with young girls. I actually like advising my younger cousins to start eating healthier for better body image and skin and to feel more healthy.
    5. You know what, I think children today should listen to more good and full content and they should have more idols and people to inspire them about politics and social views etc, and be more outspoken. We don’t want to raise a generation of zombies, do we? I believe in everything I say, and I would be honored if kids would follow my views. If I were Justin Bieber, so many teenage girls would probably support gay rights, religious tolerance, peace instead of war, gun control, and many more other important things. Look at the great change I could provide for the world.
    6. The US is really a giant sex-hater and gun-lover, but that wouldn’t be a problem for me. I know I would be clean enough to talk about these subjects as I usually am without terrorizing kids, and they would probably avoid getting pregnant and getting STDs. More sex talk it’s better than less sex talk. Some parents may be against it, but some parents are just plain stupid. Sex education is important, actually crucial, and if some information comes from a celeb, if it’s good information, brilliant. I would also be able to say things like, girls don’t go doing anything you’re not comfortable with, just because you feel pressured by your boyfriends, your friends or the media. First of all respect yourselves and be healthy.
    7. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing everything. If an astrophysics question comes up, I wouldn’t be embarrassed to say that I don’t know much about it, but I do listen to a lot of interviews of Neil Degrasse Tyson and they should check him out. Jon Stewart is humble enough in every interview to say that he doesn’t know much about it, but he talks about the people who do. I’m expert on some things, and just skimmed through others. Kids today shouldn’t feel the pressure of having to know everything, they should understand that when you don’t know something, it’s not embarrassing. It is embarrassing to be a hipster who says they know the band Regis and Philbin on Jimmy Kimmel live because they’re too proud to say, they never heard of it. Pride is the real embarrasing thing.
    8. My idea of feminism is that it’s ok to do the things you like, be them sports, cooking, math or science, and expect the same respect, love and equal opportunity as guys. If girls want to make cookies, they should. Everyone must do what they like to do and not feel pressured by outside preconception of what the feminist movement should be. As long as they ask for the respect that they deserve and equal opportunities to pursue what they like, it’s enough. That’s what I would preach.
    9. Having to rat them out? I usually have a talk with the kid if they are doing something bad and explain what they have done. If they understood, and if it’s not something as important, the conversation ends there. But if it is something very important with high consequences, I would tell them that this is important and they need to talk to their parents about it, and convince them to talk to their parents together. It’s not good to rat kids out. They will lose the confidence of the one person they could open up with and lose that good role model, so it’s better to have an open communication and let them understand the reasons why that shouldn’t remain a secret.
    10. If communication is open you never forget that their feelings and emotions are real and you can be careful not to make them feel bad. On the other hand is better to treat kids as adults. My usual success with kids and teens is that I never talk to them from up to down and they respect me for it. They know that I’m not undermining them, and I am respecting them. That is the way with teens and with kids. The best part about being an adult is that you can be both your age, and the age of that younger person. You’ve been there, you can remember how it was. The key is to be a good listener, in every relationship.

    I hate that celebs don’t understand how important it is to be a role model and they don’t take their job seriously. But on the other hand there are young girls like Jennifer Lawrence who went and said, “I wasn’t going to starve myself for the role of Katniss, because I didn’t want young girls to look at a skinny Katniss, and starve themselves to look like her”. Being a role model, to young girls, to young boys, to young gay kids, is the best thing in the world, the opportunity to shape the future for the best. I know I would never feel the pressure, just the joy and pride in such a job. If you’re a well-adjusted adult, who feels pride in the way you are, and if you understand the main concept that kids aren’t stupid, and if they hear about life and the world from you, it is better than if they just speculate and get wrong ideas by just talking among themselves. We need more proud role models to balance against the Justin Biebers and Rihannas and Lindsay Lohans.

  2. I’m not convinced that family play that much of a ‘role’ in the role model part of a childs life any more.

    They get their ‘morals’ from family, but i think role models have been side lined, a lot – all i seem to hear of now is what their friends like. You know… the ‘cool’ kid down the road, who has a mobile phone, laptop, ipad, x-box 360, playstation 2, 50″ led TV in his room and all that lark, yet he’s only 13

    When i was a teenager (i feel old writing that!) i wanted to be a pilot in the RAF, or a doctor, or an author – not a singer off of MTV, or an actor.

    The thing is, if you tell a child they aren’t allowed to do something then i wouldn’t mind betting over half of them will do it behind your back. Teaching them a healthy life style at an early age though… i think it’s a brilliant idea. Things like going to Mac Donalds or Pizza hut when i was growing up was considered a treat – now it’s just as normal as carrying your keys in your pocket.

    Times have changed a lot and the way children grow up has also changed. My son (he’s 7) has already started learning about sex, at school.

    I agree with Mandy’s comment dated 4/24/13 – about giving kids responsibilities, so that they learn key skills at the right age.
    Then when the time comes actually be able to use the skills they learnt as a child / teen – rather than listening what ever Eminem has decided to swear about, or on the news about how the latest celeb has been arrested for acting like an ass on a night out, or how a footballer has behaved off pitch.

    At the end of the day, it’s down to you what you do or don’t teach your child. If you’re happy to let them watch MTV for a few hours a day, or if you decide to teach them how to cook, or knit or fix cars it doesn’t matter what any one else thinks !

  3. I think we stress too much about this kind of stuff around kids. Kids are adaptable and usually pretty easy to please. Baking cookies with a 12 year old girl shouldn’t be any different than the same thing with a 12 year old boy. It’s teaching the children life lessons that they will benefit from later on, this is ALWAYS a good thing. My mom made a point of making sure I started to learn to cook at about 12 and did my own laundry as soon as I was tall enough to reach into the washer. Giving kids responsibilities is massive – they need them, they crave them. We all wanted to feel like and be treated like adults as teenagers, even if we weren’t all mature enough to handle it.
    But really, no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Kids see that – I know they look up to us – but I think deep down they understand that we all make mistakes. It didn’t take me long to learn that my parents weren’t perfect human beings and always right. I think I was probably the age of your Little one.
    Anyway, it sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job. All you can do is keep doing what you’re doing and try not to stress too much about it. More fun and less stress makes you happier and it rubs off on the kid, they can feel that and usually in turn react accordingly.
    <3

  4. This is part of the reason that Steve left Blue’s Clues, he didn’t want to live under a microscope for the rest of his life. He’s talked about being terrified of drinking a beer in public, lest it upset someone.

  5. I have to say, that declaring Pop music as filthy is a little unfair. Its a fairly large genre of music and while there are a few bad apples, there are a few good ones too. It all depends on your taste. Pop ranges from Pink, to Britney Spears…Demi Lovato, Coldplay and even my favorite, Passion Pit. Some have targeted age groups, but they are not all filthy.

  6. I am a “Big Sister” too to a 9-year-old, and face all of these same fears. Thanks for writing this!

  7. I love this article! I have six younger siblings so I’m always being careful to be a good role model for them. It can be a lot of pressure sometimes but I would be so disappointed in myself if they did something negative because they were following my example. It sure gives me a reason to stay out of trouble! =)