Lots of "heroes", such as Bart Simpson, the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, and Michael Jordan, vie for our kids' attention on television and from the store shelves. In this media-driven era, children have a hard time telling the difference between celebrities, superheroes, and real-life heroes. How can parents help kids know the difference?
You can start by asking your children some of the following questions about their heroes, based on those advocated by Dave Jackson in Christian Parenting Today.
What made your celebrity hero famous, positive actions or negative ones? Cal Ripkin and Albert Belle are both sports legends and top-notch ball players. Cal is praised for his absolute professionalism and great love for the fans, while Albert is infamous for his hot temper and abusiveness.
What moral positions have they taken, and do they reflect the way Christ directed us to live? Director Steven Spielberg abandoned and divorced his wife, actress Amy Irving, after having an extramarital affair and fathering a child with actress Kate Capshaw on the set of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. Actress and entrepreneur Jane Fonda, who is active in many worthwhile charities, is vehemently pro-choice and sympathetic to foreign governments known for their human-rights violations (i.e., North VietNam). Look at the whole person!
Do your fictitious heroes exhibit traits you wish to develop in yourself? FBI Agent Fox Mulder on X-Files seeks to expose government conspiracy regarding unusual occurrences. Hercules, a pre-Christian character, battles with the pagan goddess, Hera, and recognizes her evil influences, but will not fight "dirty" even to win: the end does not justify the means.
What personal sacrifices have your real-life heroes made? Astronaut Neil Armstrong dedicated years to his training, and risked his life to ultimately walk on the moon. Olympic medalist Mary Lou Retton often practiced 14 hours a day.
What obstacles have they overcome? Following a serious auto accident, Gloria Estefan pushed herself through a difficult recovery to sing again. Christopher Reeves (Superman), who was paralyzed following a riding accident, is still acting, and has become a spokesman for others who have suffered severe spinal injuries.
Help your child distinguish between pretend TV superheroes and what's real. Superhuman strength, heat vision, and ability to fly are not God's usual gifts to us. Musical talent, the ability to draw or paint, athletic skill, being very good at math or science or languages these are some of the talents God has given to us, which he expects us to use in a "super" way for his glory. Protect kids from disillusionment by being honest about your own abilities and failures, and helping them to recognize their own.
So how do we help kids emulate positive heroes?
Control TV use. Evaluate your family's habits by keeping a log. Before turning on the television, ask: "What will I learn by watching? What example is being presented?" Preview an episode of a program your children want to watch.
Give your child good books about heroes. Look for biographies of the saints, European explorers, pioneers who opened the West, great inventors, astronauts, and athletes.
Teach your children about virtues and vices. Help your kids learn Christian virtues, such as faith, hope, and love. Help them to look for these virtues in their media heroes.
Honor heroes yourself. Help kids recognize the difference between people who aren't what they seem, and people who fail but repent and go on to do great things.
Based on "Heroes vs. Impostors", Children's Ministry Magazine, January/February 1996.
by Nichola Toda Krause
© 1996 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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