It’s Not “What”, But “How” That Counts
I’m tired of adults shaking their heads about athletes and other celebrities who are in trouble, bigtime, with the law, drugs, and violence. These folks are grownups (ostensibly); let them take the consequences of their craziness. What really worries me are kids who are allowed and encouraged by these same moralizing adults to look up to these infamous fools, without being encouraged at the same time to 1) think about what attributes make for a good person leading a decent life, and 2) look close to home and identify adults they already know and can at least see, talk to and touch on a daily basis, and who deserve the title “role model”.
I say we ask our kids the wrong question when we ask "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Isn’t the far better question “How do you want to be when you grow up?” or even "What kind of life do you want for yourself when you grow up?" These questions make kids think about what constitutes good quality of life (things like self-respect, regard for others, decent human and family relationships, self-reliance, kindness to living things, etc.) and help them connect their own behavior and decisions to the kind of lives they build for themselves later. These questions also honor kids by encouraging them to look close by and identify folks that have the personal qualities, attributes, and behavior that are the hallmarks of decent living.
We can all name doctors, lawyers, movie stars, athletes, tycoons, politicians and priests who are no role models for our kids, or for anyone else. These are people with plenty of "what" but people who never learned that it’s "how" that makes the big difference in life. Let’s make sure our kids know that.