The media pushes our kids into worshipping celebrities - and in case you have your doubts, the second and third most popular websites in the United States are Facebook and YouTube. The seventh is Twitter. Among the most "friended" people on Facebook are singers Shakira, Rhianna and Eminem, while the top people on Twitter include singers Katy Perry and Justin Bieber. Websites like people.com and tmz.com receive millions of page views each day, catering to our society's insatiable desire for celebrity gossip.
Throughout all the chaos, how can we point our kids toward good role models? For certain, they won't happen upon them on the Internet. As parents, we need to take a proactive role in introducing our kids to figures they can emulate. Here are three groups of heroes to teach your kids about.
Heroes of history
Kids with a strong sense of history will go far in life. Think beyond dry textbooks and documentaries, and make history come alive for your kids. There are many television series, movies, biographies and historical fiction books geared specifically toward kids. Teaching our kids to learn from the past gives them a sense of place in the world while providing heroes to pattern their lives after.
If you need some historical resources to get started, here are a few to consider.
Liberty Kids. These movies follow a group of fictional kids during the American Revolutionary War. Throughout the storyline, kids meet American greats such as George Washington. Benjamin Franklin's voice is the incomparable Walter Cronkite.
Biographies. Combine commendable heroes with a love of reading. There are thousands of great biographies for children, and the best part is that you can choose to read about people with interests similar to your child.
Kidspast.com. This entirely free website includes a kid-oriented textbook and plenty of educational games. The quotes are a great daily activity, and your kids can look up events that occurred within their lifetimes.
Heroes in the family
Looking for people to admire? Look no further than your own family heritage. Share family stories with your kids before bed, and hang pictures of your ancestors on your walls. Understanding their family line is grounding for children. Feeling like part of a legacy makes life more meaningful, and sharing family lineage is a quick way to accomplish that goal.
If you're unsure of your ancestry, start by talking to grandparents and great-grandparents. Family journals or Bibles are also good primary sources. Websites such as familysearch.org and ancestry.com are easy-to-use online options for exploring your family tree as a family.
Some of the most admirable heroes are those closest to home. Take a plate of cookies to the local police department or firehouse. Let your kids meet the workers who keep them safe each day. You can also volunteer your time at local homeless shelters or rescue missions, and get to know the other volunteers and directors. If your children are in school, teach them to respect and look up to their teachers. Also, don't overlook those serving in the armed forces. Help your kids write letters to soldiers stationed overseas through operationgratitude.com.
Another bonus of introducing your kids to hometown heroes is that they may discover a future career field. Meeting real live people to look up to empowers kids to become heroes in their own stories someday.
True heroes make up our past and present, and with a little encouragement, your kids will become the heroes of the future. Use a little creativity, unplug the social media, put a cap on the celebrity worship and give your kids someone worth emulating.