Children look up to heroes. Young children look at fairy tale or fictitious heroes. Harry Potter, Superman, and Batman – we can name hundreds of heroes in fiction. But as children grow, they graduate to real heroes. These could be sports stars or people in the news. This is a sad time for children since we have so many fallen stars. Barry Bonds, the biggest home run hero of our time, cheated by using steroids. An American cyclist, Floyd Landis, came back to victory in the Tour de France only to have his victory clouded under doping allegations. Our President is usually an obvious choice of a hero yet our last two Presidents failed our children. Clinton is famous for his cheating on his wife and Bush made up reasons for war and has made America famous for torture. Hollywood props up movie stars as heroes but then we hear about their drunk driving or their prejudicial remarks or both. Unfortunately, there are only a few Tom Brady’s around. We hope that our newly elected officials live up to there promises and reputations, though we are losing faith.
Kids need heroes. But more importantly, they need adults that they can look up to and respect. I once heard in a parenting conference that what children need is an “influential adult” outside their family who becomes their local hero. These “influential adults” can be teachers, coaches, or community leaders. They aren’t famous heroes because over time kids turn away from their infatuation with distant heroes and turn their attention to real tangible, respectable adults who are involved in their lives. To that end, adults in every community need to respond to this era of poor examples of heroes at the top. We have to become the heroes on the bottom. Every adult in every community needs to evaluate how he or she is demonstrating him or herself as an example to young adults. What child will look up to you as an “influential adult” in their lives? At home, are you there for them or do you disappear too often to ensure you have your fun? Do you provide examples of good community work? Do you volunteer or donate time or money? Do you expect returns for your good works or is it truly given like real heroes do? Do you simply act in kindness so children see and live kindness around you?
You can’t ask “what is happening with kids today?” without asking what is happening to heroes for kids today? We, the adults, can make a difference inside and outside of our homes. We need to start in our small communities. Do good work in your community. Donate time to worthwhile projects. Work with food pantries, or help the elderly. Don’t expect praise but let your children and other kids witness your good acts. Be kind. Live a well-valued life – especially those of us that work with children. If we start at home and in our communities we can be heroes for our children. They need them. We can build a community of “heroes” pitching in and helping each other. Maybe over time local heroism will filter up to where we need them for our children the most in the high visible places of our country.