Celebrities Behaving Badly – Double Standard For Kids?

Justin Bieber. Photo courtesy of People.com

Justin Bieber. Photo courtesy of People.com

It’s hard enough to have good behavior – be kind to others, don’t lie, apologize if you make a mistake or hurt someone, say “please” and “thank you.” Our parents nag us about it daily. Why should kids be respectful and self-disciplined behavior when so many adults, the people we’re supposed to look up to,  give us a daily dose of “don’t try this at home” behavior in sports, entertainment & politics?

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on alcohol and drugs, LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling caught on tape making racist remarks, Dean McDermott cheating on his wife, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus acting out, and the decade-long bad behavior of Chris Brown – and that’s barely the tip of the iceberg. What should we think about this?

It’s A Betrayal of Trust. Especially in our politicians. We elected them to lead, to represent our interests on a local or national level. We do expect more of our leaders, and we should hold them to a higher standard. They should hold themselves to that higher standard, too.

It’s A Bad Role Model. While sports and entertainment leaders have not been elected, we “vote” for them every time we see a movie or sporting event. They are, for better or worse, role models for kids and adults. Even adults model themselves after celebrities. It’s my opinion that celebrities should take to heart their role model status and know that with the big contract comes the responsibility to behave in a manner exemplary for kids and other adults.

It’s Not News. Sad to say, most of the adult misbehaviour is recurring. That doesn’t mean adults shouldn’t change, but when you elected someone you know had bad behavior in the past, it’s not really a surprise when it happens again. That said, looking the other way the third time am athlete fails a drug test sends the message that drugs – and other bad behavior – are really OK.

Once A Cheater Always (Often) A Cheater. I’m not suggesting we just look the other way when our leaders and stars have bad behavior. It’s impossible to have a sliding scale of morality: “I don’t honor the agreements I made in my personal life, but I do everywhere else.” I don’t believe that. The more often you cheat, the more it becomes a habit in every area of your life, as you make excuses to yourself that it’s OK.

It’s Hard To Be Normal. I think it’s almost a miracle if a child star grows up to be a “normal” adult. There’s nothing normal about that kind of childhood. The boring discipline and limits required for non-celebrity parents and kids can be difficult to insist on in today’s culture, where “all publicity is good publicity” and the bigger the meltdown, the better. Sometimes, what’s best for a child’s long term development isn’t the “popular” thing.

Winning Is NOT Everything. Players who choke their coaches, coaches who throw chairs, tantrums, and other materials at their teams, and sports pros who repeatedly fail drug tests. These are all examples of behavior that we encourage, by looking the other way and tolerating, in the name of a winning season. Adults and kids must know that we can win (or give it our best) AND remain true to our ethical values and view our competitors as human beings, too.

Take Responsibility. “I have a drug/alcohol/sex addiction,” “We lied because we did anything we had to do to win,” “I have intermittent explosive disorder (road rage)”. Celebrities have developed some lame excuses for messing up and then make the problem worse by failing to take the heat. These adult misbehaviors are terrible examples for kids.

So what do we learn from these human weaknesses and mistakes?

  • Use The Skills Of Critical Thinking. You can admire some aspects of someone, without having to like, or accept, all aspects of their behavior or choices. Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and Chris Brown are all talented, creative performers, and the discipline and hard work they put in, at very young ages, to develop their talents and learn the music and business skills they needed to be successful are huge accomplishments. However, we need to be critical thinkers, able to say, “Even though I admire these people for some of their accomplishments, I disagree with some of their behavior.”
  • Learn The Risks. These misadventures are a good opportunity to talk about how drug and alcohol use can impair your judgment, possibly putting you in extreme danger. After too much drinking, even crossing the street can become a dangerous activity.
  • Give People Some Privacy In Their Worst Moments. It’s like a car accident – you can’t look away. But learn to stop following, reading, and talking about the negative behavior.The camera glare is relentless on these struggling celebrities. Give them some privacy and the chance to find their feet underneath them again. Especially the young ones.
  • Learn To Stop Polluting Your Own Brain With The Toxic Examples Of Others. Surround yourself with positive friends.

We ALL Make Mistakes – I Do & You Will, Too. Take responsibility, clean up our damage as soon as possible. Be genuine in our efforts to repair. Perhaps if I give others some slack when they make mistakes, they’ll cut me some space when I make my mistakes.

Learn More:

B Bolch, “Clippers Owner Donald Sterling In Firestorm Over Alleged Racist Remarks,” LATimes.com, Apr 26, 2014

R Maresca, “Tori Spelling Breaks Silence After Dean McDermott Cheating Scandal,” NYDailyNews.com, Apr 16, 2014

J Visser, N Alcoba, & P Kuitenbrouwer, “RobFord: ‘Yes, I Have Smoked Crack Cocaine,” NationalPost.com, Nov 5, 2013

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