Your Tahoe Health: Is being a role model to kids always positive? |

Your Tahoe Health: Is being a role model to kids always positive?

Helping Hand with a shadow on pavement of an adult hand offering help or therapy to a child in need as an education concept of charity towards needy kids and teacher guidance to students who need tutoring.
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TRUCKEE, Calif. — When we were younger, most of us looked up to someone. For the majority that was our parents, but it wasn’t unusual to also find ourselves looking up to heroes on television and in films. These were figures that seemed to embody everything that we thought was good, all of the ideal traits that we would like to be able to possess for ourselves, and the kind of life that we would one day want to live.

Of course there were hundreds of great role models out there and countless examples of successful thinkers, artists, athletes, singers, writers and more for us to aspire to. For some reason though our heroes stood out among the crowd and were the ones that we really took notice of and tried to emulate.

Is being a role model always positive? How do you go about choosing your role models and influencing who your children look up to?

The Positives of Role Models

When role models fulfill their … role … the way they’re supposed to, they can provide us with a range of benefits. For instance if you’ve always wanted to be a singer, then seeing someone who is successfully living that dream not only gives you a concrete example to aspire to, but it also gives you a template for how to go about achieving that goal.

You can see how they were successful, and whether taking a similar approach will work for you. That may mean finding an agent, getting singing lessons, etc. Admiring this role model gives you the motivation to keep going, and hopefully when you see that person perform you will be inspired anew, and you will be motivated to do your own training.

At the same time, a role model can be a comfort and almost a surrogate parent in our own minds. For someone who has a true idol, seeking out their words of advice and their shared secrets is a great way to get guidance and advice in your own life.

How a Role Model Can Be a Bad Thing

When a role model becomes a bad thing is of course when that idolization becomes more of an obsession and your affections become blind. You become so obsessed with that role model that you end up losing your own sense of self and your own identity.

You don’t want to be the new David Beckham — you want to be the first you. If you are blatantly following every fashion decision that the footballer makes, then you are in fact being nothing like him. In reality, the trait that you aspire to be like is the bravery to try new things and to create fashion trends, not to copy someone else’s.

Likewise there will come a time when your role model lets you down. This is true whether it’s someone in the media or it’s your own parents. Someone who can look logically at the situation will realize that it’s the person’s work/career/charisma that they are inspired by, and that their personal behavior should have no bearing on that.

While having a hero should give us confidence and motivation, there are times when it can have the opposite effect as we find ourselves asking why we haven’t yet achieved the same success, or why we aren’t as famous,. We often forget that our heroes most likely had to persevere through struggles too.

Role Models for Your Children

If your children can look up to you, then you will be able to counteract many of the negative influences they might receive from elsewhere in their lives. Likewise if you provide a good enough role model and they want to please you and be like you — then they will seek out more role models they think you would approve of.

To be a good role model, and to be the kind of role model your children will respond to, you need to make sure that you don’t try too hard to win their approval. Don’t try to appeal to your child’s sense of “cool” but instead be secure in who you are and the confidence you exude as a result will show.

Take an interest in what your children are watching and listening to, and if you think it’s a good influence then encourage this behavior by giving them the opportunity to continue.

Jill Whisler, MS, RDN is part of the Rethink Healthy Team, a service the Wellness Neighborhood of Tahoe Forest Health System. The B-FIT and Harvest of the Month program will be starting soon in the TTUSD. For more information on how you can get involved in our programs, email:

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