Sunday, September 13, 2009

Who is my child's role model?

As often happens when a famous actor or athlete misbehaves, the public cries foul and complains about their bad example. Now apologies are being demanded from Serena Williams for her temper tantrum during her semi-final match against Kim Clijster. Serena, apparently should be mindful at all times of the little girls who look up to her.

I don't accept Serena's claim of passion for the game as an explanation or excuse for her bad behavior. Like John McEnroe said after the game, "I cannot defend the indefensible." She was a bad sport and behaved like a 2-year-old. But her bad behavior - which started with her destroying her tennis racket; long before she berated the lines woman - was an opportunity for parents to teach. It was a chance for them to point to what Serena did wrong and to talk about what she should have done differently. For parents who aren't willing to absolve their parental roles to famous strangers with questionable morals, it was an opportunity to teach a great lesson about sportsmanship and respect for others.

From Miley Cyrus' photo faux pas, to Beyonce's preference for as little clothes as possible on stage, to Michael Vick's dog madness - people our children recognize, and even admire, are often in the news for exercising poor judgment. With each incident, we worry about the effect on our children. These 'role models' are castigated for abdicating their responsibility for our children.

What about taking responsibility for our own children? What about teaching them right from wrong so that they can recognize inappropriate behavior when they see it? Part of the lessons we should be teaching our children is that everyone is fallible. We can admire people's work and accomplishments - even as we decry their bad behavior. Our children, with our guidance, should be able to do the same.

Serena should apologize - to her opponent, to the game officials, and to the people who paid to see her play. Not to my kids though, they are my responsibility.