Joost and my kids
When role models wobble, your reaction is what counts for kids, says Tracy.
Much as it pains me, I’m going to write about Joost. Or at least use him as an example to make my point (stand by, it’s coming). By the time you read this, the man and his undies will be old news and the whole unpleasant business will have been sorted out. Secret evil twin, alien abduction, demonic interference or some such. The usual.

Sure its terrible, what-is-the-world-coming-to, bad-example-to-kiddies, etc. Truth is, I’m struggling to give a toss, really. It’s like, whatever.  It doesn’t affect me, or my children. Whatever the truth of the matter, it’s all just sad. To me, the frenzied slurping up of nasty pics by the Outraged Public is even uglier to watch. 

This thing we have with celebrities and insisting they should be good role models to our impressionable kiddies? I don’t know so much. They’re just human. Rich and talented, sure (some of them at least). Overexposed and over-Botox’d , yup. Are they good people? Smart or happy? We have no way of knowing, do we? But they’re still humans, with no margin for making mistakes, selfish decisions or giant screw ups in private, like the rest of us have. By all means, hold people accountable for their actions, especially the hypocritical ones, but dial down the supercilious glee just a little as you do it.

It seems to me that WE should be our children’s first and biggest influence, and the one they return to eventually. That’s our job, it’s what we do. Maybe we should stop worrying about Paris Hilton and what’s-that-swimmer-dude and ensure that the impression we make lasts longer.

Sure, children are affected by what they see. And yes, they are growing up in a completely different world to the one we knew, but they didn’t make the world the way it is now, did they? Nope, that was us, and the generations before. We can’t shield them from everything. The world is full of bad people, famous or not.  But we’re the ones they’re with every day. We’re the ones who will make the biggest difference to their little worlds. Not Paris or Britney.  

We teach our children every day, whether we’re trying or not.  That doesn’t have to be a scary thought, if you’re parenting with intention.  Just talk about stuff. Chat about what you’ve seen on TV. Talk about the behaviour of colleagues, friends, other drivers. Point out what you don’t approve of, and what you like.  And always, always explain why. Doesn’t matter how young the child, anything that comes with an explanation sticks longer.

Back to our Joost example: We could lecture on the perils of sex and drugs or the merits of always wearing the good undies. We could talk about letting him and his family deal with a horrible situation in private. Or humanity’s apparent enjoyment of other people’s suffering. See? Loads of teachable moments, if you look.  

This is what I truly believe: seeing you consciously leave that juicy People magazine on the shelf will have a far greater impact on your child than any eight-page spread of grainy naked photos. Why? Because it’s YOU doing it.

Do you think celebs have a duty to be good role models?

Read more by Tracy Engelbrecht

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