Parents Encouraged To Be Teens' First Role Models


UPDATED: Tuesday November 12, 2013 9:47 AM

From Peyton Manning to Miley Cyrus, kids choose all sorts of role models.  But as a parent, you have a bigger role in that decision than you may realize. Some local schools have joined hands with parents to help.

On a gray afternoon, shortly after Halloween, Tim Weber and his daughter Brea chose and discarded playing cards while they chatted about Brea's day at Thomas Worthington High School.

"Our chemistry teachers dressed up as wizards, and they were like, doing different experiments for us," she said. "One of them made something explode. And then we got to make slime."

Tim listened intently to his daughter and asked, "What's that made out of?"

He does a lot of listening and sees that as part of his job as a parent. He wants to be a good role model for Brea, and said that parents must set a good example.

"Being a good role model is being there for your child at all times, to educate them on the right and wrong you see people doing," he explained.

Tim said that he encourages his daughter to think about the kind of person she truly wants to be.

"What do you want?  What do you want around you?  Who are you? What are you about, because that's what people are going to see in the long run."

Brea is a junior and active in school and sports, and gets good grades. Though she lives with her dad, she says both her parents are great role models.

"My parents have always been there for me like, no matter what situation, whether it was good or bad," she said. "I think all kids should have good role models when they grow up. That way they like, have a good future and stuff."

The Worthington schools have an extensive program to help kids make good choices, whether it's avoiding drugs, alcohol, bullying...or promoting good role models.  Lori Povisil, coordinator for the district's Safe and Drug-Free Schools program, said while kids may not show it, they crave parents' attention. So she said parents need to remind their children why they're special. They also need to instill empathy in their children...and take charge.

"Your child is exactly that: your child, and someone you are responsible for, believe it or not, until they are 21 years old," she said.

Across town, in Grandview Heights, the gym at Stevenson Elementary was lined with 50 teenagers who volunteered to work with first, second, and third graders.  The district believes in building good role models from a young age.  Teenagers buddy-up with young kids after school for the Mentoring and More program. It is part of a larger effort started in the early nineties to cut juvenile problems in Grandview Heights, Marble Cliff, and Upper Arlington.  It evolved into the TriVillage Mentor League.

That day, high school students were introducing the younger kids to Venn diagrams.  Senior Ellie MacCleod drew two large, intersecting circles with a marker and asked a little girl questions.

"When is your birthday?" she asked.

"In February" the child replied.

"Mine is in January," Ellie told her.  "We both have winter birthdays."

She wrote the dates where the circles overlapped.  

Ellie said that she likes being a role model as a way to pay forward, because when she was in kindergarten, a fifth grader took the time to show interest in her.

"I think it's pretty important to like, look up to someone and be like...I want to be like that person," she said.

A few other districts have similar programs...to partner with parents in character-building.

"You are the most important person in your child's life," Lori Povisil stated.

Both Dublin and Gahanna-Jefferson schools also have programs to encourage good role models.  Other districts have told us they try and incorporate that idea into class work.

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