Kid’s need true, real-life heroes. Heck, we all need heroes these days. In a crazy, mixed up world full of uncertainty and strife we all want good to win, virtue to triumph, and love to save the day. But how do we teach the difference between true heroes and just plain stars?
As parents we need to be helping kids choose the right heroes and not to follow stars who will burn out when times get tough.
For our last family movie night my sweet ten-year-old girl chose to watch something we’ve seen at least a hundred times. I grudgingly participated.
Halfway through the movie it hit me like a ton of bricks. The movie we were watching is vitally important to my daughter’s life. It is the story of her hero, someone who has beaten the odds, experienced great trauma, and fully relied on God to see her through life-changing events.
My daughter’s hero is exactly the type of person I want her to look up to. We were watching Soul Surfer, the story of Bethany Hamilton.
In today’s world there are a lot of options for our children in terms of stars. Sports stars. Movie stars. Disney stars. Music stars. Very few of them have been able to stand the test of time. Almost none of them are real heroes.
So, how do we teach kids the difference between a star and a hero?
1. Heroes don’t start out that way
Stars often start out on a path for stardom. They are fun, cute, and successful and always trying to get more attention and more fame. And yet, many of them have had difficulties over the long haul. It’s exceedingly difficult to maintain that level of intensity over a long period of time. Many so-called stars fail. They either burn out or fall from grace.
Heroes, in contrast, start out as regular people doing regular things when suddenly they are put to the test. Nobody starts out a hero. Heroes are born through adversity and trials and hard work and by making the right choices at the right times.
Kids can learn how to properly look at those they idolize and determine if that person started out as a regular joe (or jane) or as someone walking the path to stardom. They can learn to discern between those who are showing off and those who have made hard choices in difficult situations.
You can help your kids learn how to discern. Be clear with them about who is a star and who is a true hero. Just as you would show them the differences between healthy food and junk food or good books and silly novels. Teach your kids how to look at the people they idolize and assess their true motive and ability to make good choices.
2. Heroes have to make hard choices
Stars make choices like which shoes to wear or which sunglasses to don in public. Heroes make choices like deciding to fight through adversity, to stay alive, and to push past obstacles that are standing in their way.
Kids are smart. When they learn to look for the differences between heroes and stars they will quickly see how different they truly are. Point out the differences and show them the people who have made the hard choices.
3. Heroes stand the test of time
Stars fade. Whether due to lack of fame, money, talent, or all of the above, it’s hard for a star to remain on top because they have to work at it.
On the other hand, heroes hardly ever choose the adversity that makes them amazing. They don’t have to try to be a hero, it happens because of life circumstances. Therefore it is easy for them to keep on living, not as people who want to be noticed but as people who show us what’s possible if we really try.
Kids quickly learn to see the difference. They know when people are being real and when they are just acting. They can spot an impostor sometimes faster than adults. Don’t underestimate their ability to know who is real and who isn’t.
My husband and I do not promote hero worship but we do understand that kids need good role models. We are teaching our kids that our ultimate hero is Christ himself and there are some wonderful role models in the bible they can look up to. But in a visual world they need someone to look at in the flesh. My daughter’s hero Bethany fits the bill.
This got me thinking about my own heroes. They’ve definitely changed over time. Age brings wisdom I hope, and my heroes have gone from being stars to being moms who love and fight and work every day for their kids with special needs. My heroes are the men and women who are defending our country and our cities.
My heroes are doctors, missionaries, and aid-workers who give up their free time and their comfortable lives to help people in need around the world. My heroes are families who turn to the foster care system and orphanages around the globe to adopt kids they can pour their lives into.
My heroes are teachers who invest in other people’s kids by educating, instructing, mentoring, and cheering them on. My heroes are those who show me what it means to be compassionate, empathetic, and loving in the middle of their own struggles. I learn so much from the people like this in my life.
Of course, there are so many more people who I consider heroes. I will always need heroes to encourage me and keep me pressing forward. And you need heroes too. Heroes push us to live the lives we have been given regardless of our circumstances.
My daughter’s hero, Bethany Hamilton, has proven over time to be much more than a star. She is a loving wife and mom. She’s a tough surfing competitor and a follower of Christ who is vocal about her faith. I love that my daughter looks up to her. I encourage her to watch her hero and applaud her successes. I also teach her to watch the lives of those she considers to be heroes. For through their lives she will see the kind of people they really are.
Who is your hero?