Who are your children’s role models?

When I was seven years old, just a few months older than Flea is now, I started my first ever diary.

I wanted to be either a forest ranger or a writer when I grew up. My heroes were David Attenborough, and Enid Blyton.

Fast forward a quarter of a decade and kids have moved on. Now they want to be Cheryl Cole or Kim Kardashian. Fame and money, that’s what life’s all about, it seems.

A PR recently sent me a whole series of Keeping up with the Kardashians to watch – and God, it’s depressing. Kim Kardashian says things like:

“White is actually one of my favorite colours. I have a white car. I love white.”

And that’s considered NEWS. It is NEWS that someone with no discernible talent or integrity thinks that white is one of her favourite colours. Doesn’t it make you want to poke your eyes out with a pencil, so you never have to see this crap, ever again? Or how about:

“Ever since the sex tape scandal, I have to be really careful about how I’m perceived.”

Wow. There’s a sentiment I want my daughter to live by.

And please Cheryl Cole, don’t tell young people that we’re wrong for thinking Chris Brown is a tosser, because he just made a mistake, and everyone makes mistakes. Leaving the gas on is a mistake. Beating your girlfriend to a pulp, tossing out homophobic insults on Twitter and chucking chairs round a TV studio? That’s just being a douche, Cheryl.

I was thinking about this last night, as I was watching 56 Up. If you’ve not heard of the programme, it’s a Granada TV documentary that started following a group of seven year old children almost 50 years ago. Every seven years, the programme makers revisit the group of (now) adults, and see what’s happened to them.

Do you watch it?

56 Up is a poignant reminder of how short life is, but I love that it shows the bravery and fun and sacrifice in even the most ordinary of lives. It shows that love is more important than money, and that “success” is really about finding something useful to do, raising a family, and being part of a community.

None of the people in the programme are ‘famous’ or ‘rich’ particularly. But seeing people work hard to escape difficult backgrounds, picking themselves up after loss or illness or divorce, creating new careers and giving back to their communities even when they don’t have much to give – it’s inspiring stuff. I think the show is a really, really important social document, in that respect.

And it makes Kim Kardashian and her cartoon-boobed, fake-tanned, glossy sisters look more than a little bit ridiculous.

But it does make me wonder – what do our children aspire to? And what should they aspire to?


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 22nd May 2012 / 9:03 am

    This is an issue that’s close to my heart as I was always horrified when I was teaching by the amount of children who, when asked what they wanted to do when they grew up, would say be on The X Factor or Britains Got Talent. I’d always follow up this response by asking what their audition would be, very rarely would they have an answer. Which always saddened me. Fair enough, aspire to be on TV if that’s what floats your boat, but think about what makes you worthy of being on their.
    At 7 I wanted to be one of those people who train dolphins at Seaworld (even though I’d never been) or to write children’s books. I still thought that being a fairy was a viable career option too I think. And I wanted to be a mum and get married. It really does worry me how children’s live have changed since I was that age, and how much they may change again before my little guy is 7 in 6 years time.
    I know it’s not all children, but I will be working my socks off to make sure that my son has aspirations beyond being famous or rich, and that instead he wants to be really good at something. X
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    • 22nd May 2012 / 8:02 pm

      Well, quite – but reality TV seems to be raising a generation that believes if you dream it, you’re entitled to it. Sad, really.

  2. 22nd May 2012 / 9:12 am

    You are too right. We’re swimming up a stream of crap when it comes to raising our kids w/ values that are a bit deeper than your fav color. When everyone is telling them that fame is the only true way to really “make it”. Squidge wants to be a clown when she grows up. I don’t know where she got that from but she says she wants to make people happy, so I say- Go for it kid!
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    • 22nd May 2012 / 8:02 pm

      Yes. I think I try really hard to give Flea loads of non-famous role models. And I often tell her how boring it must be to be a “celebrity”. Which I think is probably true.

  3. 22nd May 2012 / 9:26 am

    It’s depressing seeing how quickly our daughters move from Cinderella to Cheryl Cole. My 7 year old is seemingly entranced by anyone who’s good looking – which means a hell of a lot of sparkly Kardashian types (though thankfully she hasn’t actually discovered them yet..). Although I’d love her role model to be David Attenborough I don’t think that’s going to happen so I’ve settled on Kate Middleton – she’s beautiful enough to keep my daughter interested – (plus she’s a princess) – and although she may not be a hard-working-stand-up-for-your-rights feminist she at least portrays values clearly lacking in most of the celeb types. That’ll do me for the moment.
    Kate Takes 5 recently posted..Listography – Top 5 things I love about kidsMy Profile

    • 22nd May 2012 / 8:03 pm

      Well, we skipped Cinderella, but I know what you mean. I don’t think Flea knows who Kate Middleton is – at the moment her heroes are people in real life – her head teacher, the scout leader, and one or two athletes who’ve come to visit the school.

  4. 22nd May 2012 / 7:59 pm

    My idol was and is Doris Day and I’m trying to inspire similar devotion in my 9yo, but she insists on preferring Lady Gaga!
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    • 22nd May 2012 / 8:03 pm

      Well, who doesn’t love a quick sing-song about The Windy City?

  5. 22nd May 2012 / 8:15 pm

    We need to do something about this famous for being famous celebrity culture. I don’t know how but maybe it should be a national campaign. A Jamie Oliver style raising our standards type of campaign. We’ve already got dumbed down education, dumbed down eating habits, and dumbed down culture. What’s next?
    Midlife Singlemum recently posted..Blessing My Daughter And Bletchley Park, Part 2My Profile

  6. 22nd May 2012 / 8:37 pm

    The whole “celebrity” thing concerns me greatly. So many young people seem to grow up with ambitions to just be famous. Not famous for doing something amazing like being Prime Minister or finding a cure for cancer, but for just being famous. How is that supposed to inspire young children when there seem to be young adults who genuinely think that is a possible “career”. I spent time living near Leeds when I was 18 and knew some women whose only aim in life was to become a footballer’s wife and they spent all their time hounding Leeds Utd players in hope of a date!
    Until the media (online, magazine and newspapers) stops this silly fascination where they need to make every reality tv “star” into front page news then I fear this will continue.
    When I was about 7 I was reading Bunty and my dream job was to be a member of the “Secret Seven” or the group in the Enid Blyton Mystery Of series. Then again I’d probably still be happy to join the Secret Seven now if they’d have me!
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  7. 23rd May 2012 / 11:58 am

    We seem to have checked out our brains on this issue. It’s absolutely clear that fame does NOT = happiness, but as a culture, we ignore that evidence. The aspect of this that worries me most is that it seems to affect girls more than boys (am I right? perhaps not).

    I protect my kids from the celebrity culture in the media (as much as is possible) more vigorously than I protect them from images of drink or drugs or sex. I think it’s a really insidious poison in a child’s mind (in an adult’s too).

    Great post. I love the way you contrast the celeb culture with “the bravery and fun and sacrifice in even the most ordinary of lives”. How much bravery, fun and sacrifice do celebs reveal?
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  8. 27th May 2012 / 9:06 pm

    I totally agree, the current celebrity culture and worship that goes on at the moment is a joke, the whole chris brown thing and people saying to give him a second chance…

    1) He doesnt deserve one
    2) He has not changed in any way at all to indicate that he has turned anything around
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