As society tries its best to give children the opportunity to succeed, one particular debate rages on. Just how important are role models and can role models within an family have a substantial impact on a child’s future success? Young people are forced to deal with a number of different influences. More than that, they are required to make many decisions over the course of their lives. If they make good decisions, they will often end up with success, while poor decision-making skills can lead to failure. Role models ensure that children have a good example to follow, and they can impress upon those children the importance of doing the right thing. For this and many other reasons, role models within the family are critically important to the future success of young people.
Young people benefit significantly from the support of role models who are willing to provide them with both protection and psychological backing. In “The Writer,” Richard Wilbur writes about his daughter and his desire to see her succeed. He discusses a daughter who is having trouble writing, and he does not even have to say anything to her in order to encourage her. Just by knowing that he is there, she has the strength to go on, picking herself up when things are not going well. He writes, “I remember the dazed starling Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago; How we stole in, lifted a sash And retreated, not to affright it; And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door, We watched the sleek, wild, dark and iridescent creature Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove To the hard floor, or the desk-top, And wait then, humped and bloody, For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits Rose when, suddenly sure, It lifted off from a chair-back, Beating a smooth course for the right window And clearing the sill of the world” (Wilbur). In Wilbur’s poem, the father displays specific values that can prove valuable for growing children. The father is patient, giving his daughter the space to work through her own problems. He is also caring. These two specific values help children gain the perspective necessary for growing up to be productive adults.
Role models are also important because they provide positive reinforcement for good behavior or good habits. Like all human beings, children respond best when they are rewarded for doing the right things. It takes a role model to know what the right things are, though, and without a good one, a child is left without this positive influence to give him confidence when he does something properly. In “The Inheritance of Values,” Pauli Murray writes about a grandfather who was strong enough to do almost anything with his hands. More than just leading by example, he instilled good values in his granddaughters. The author writes, “It was also part of Grandfather’s creed not to coddle his granddaughters. He expected them to make their way in life as he had done” (Pauli 491).
Role models, then, are people who can use their influential position to impress upon children the importance of both proper behaviors and proper overall values. The grandfather in Murray’s work displays strength, ingenuity, and even dedication to hard work. He shows his granddaughters what can happen when a person dedicates his life to providing for a family. This helped these young women grow up to be self-sufficient. This was somewhat rare for women at that time, and by watching the example put forward by their grandfather, these young women were able to develop unusual skills that must be have benefitted them in the future.
Role models matter in a complex world where uncertainty is the enemy. Children make mistakes, and when they do, they need to know that they have done the wrong thing. Quite often, children make the right decisions, as well. When that takes place, a role model can step in to encourage the young person to continue doing the right thing. In this way, role models can play an important role in a young person’s development, giving that young person an influence that will be there with support or criticism when the time is right for either of those things.
- James, Missy. “Reading Literature And Writing Argument (Myliteraturelab) Author: Missy James, Alan P Merickel, Publisher: P.” (2010): 704.
- Murray, Pauli. “The Inheritance of Values.”
- Wilbur, Richard. The writer. Godine Press, 1972.