The Cautionary Tale of Child Celebrities: Protect & Parent Your Kids While They're IN Your Home

Watching the spectacle of celebrities who have grown up in the limelight is always a disturbing and yet somehow intriguing thing. Perhaps because it's so unusual. Perhaps because each of us yearns to be noteworthy, and we get curious about what it must be like. Perhaps because we recognize the likelihood for problems that will develop because of the choice to put your teenager in front of the world for public consumption as an actor/musician/celebrity at some of the most awkward and formative years of life.

When I read this morning about Britney Spears' dad basically getting temporary custody of Britney, to provide security, control visitors to her hospital room, and possibly make medical decisions on her behalf, it struck me that he's basically re-gained permission to be her dad. Now. At age twenty-six.

I don't want to make this post about Britney in particular... and I'm not trying to be salacious or jump on a "hip" Entertainment-Tonight-sort of story. But how sad it is that now, as an adult, with several marriages under her belt, she is only now being protected by her daddy. Why are they only now, with suicide concerns and relationships with two precious children at risk, stepping in? Why don't parents have the sense to parent when their children are in their homes? Why was she being shopped out to various programs, record labels, and TV shows as a teenager, and now, as an adult, her life is in shambles? Because she was pretty? Because she could sing and dance? Perhaps because she had some talents that they felt obligated to nourish?

My point for us is this: we have a window of influence as parents. We can use it wisely, and prepare our children for life as adults during these roughly two decades we're given with tremendous influence and control over our children's lives and environment. OR we can use it for ill in their lives. Either way, it will be used.

Using this time wisely does require that we protect them from harmful influences that they aren't yet ready for, as youths. But it's not about shielding them from all potential harm or struggles--absolutely not! They need to be exposed to adult life, and have (in my view) at least several years of practice making adult-ish decisions before they leave our homes.

At the same time, we must be cautious in the size of the load we place on our children.
It's not just celebrity-kids' parents who are at risk for this. Parents of gifted students, for example, run the risk of encouraging their offspring to believe that intellect is the most important thing in life. Christian homeschool parents can (and too often, DO) place too big of expectations on their children, expecting near-sainthood and compliance with every rule and regulation while in the home, only to watch the unraveling of their children's morality and worldview as they enter adult life, with real world problems and decisions on their plates.

Giving our children increasing opportunities to make adult-type decisions and real choices while they grow up in our homes is a good and necessary thing, but we must also be careful not to forget that they are children, protecting and guarding them from the influences of the outside world.

It's such a balance, but clearly, the stakes are high, and it's worth our while to consider these things and develop a "game plan" of sorts-- to consider how much responsibility and what kinds of decisions each of our children is ready to take on.

What are your thoughts on how to go about this?

How do we balance introducing our children to real-world issues & choices while protecting them from the ever-deteriorating influence of the world around us?

How can we encourage legitimate gifts and talents to flourish and be displayed while our children are growing, without making the gifts/talents the focus?

How do you approach and deal with these challenges in your family? I look forward to hearing from you!


*~Tamara~* said...

Wow, I didn't know about the custody thing with Britney. Her story is so sad and everything points back to being shoved out into situations she had not been prepared to deal with.

Having just gone through a situation where we had to find a balance between being over-protective and being hands-off, I can tell you it isn't easy. I don't think there is an easy answer to this sort of situation, and if there had been, I would have gratefully embraced it a week ago. Although it bears no resemblance to Britney's situation, I found myself needing to really listen to my son and what his opinion was.

I can say that I'm very proud of him at this point, because despite how hard a position he was in, he told us straight-forwardly, "I think I should try to stick this out." I know the reason he was able to arrive at that point was because we had helped him prepare for challenges and choices he would have to make. I don't think he would have gotten there without our constant presence and counsel. I can't imagine tossing him out to the world without having already been preparing him for various choices and conflicts he might face long in advance.

As for allowing gifts to flourish, I think the important thing is keeping our "chief end" in focus. The chief end of man is to glorify God, and if your gift, talent, hobby, interest, whatever is hindering that, then it's time to get it back in balance. My daughter is an artist, she truly gets into a "zone" and loses herself in art. I have told her so many times how God has given her this talent so she can express not just herself, but God's glory. I have also told her that while she can glorify God through her art, that art can also be the very thing that gets her focus off of God. There is a balance there, and as parents it's our job to carefully guard their hearts.

While "Hollywood" headlines and sites like TMZ make fun of Britney and point out her latest faux pas, I feel so terribly bad for her. This whole fiasco was preventable. Maybe it will remind other parents that you can never turn back the clock.

Gina @Chats With an "Old Lady" said...

Each child is different,and grows at different paces. It takes a lot of prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit. We need to hold LOOSELY to our own many times God's is different than ours!

Anonymous said...

What do you do when the parents are at opposite ends. One parent seeks God will for the children and the other seeks worldly will? The child ends up making many mistakes and the courts refuse to help? What can a parent do except try to guide the child and PRAY A LOT. The more you try to guide a child (or adult child)in God's will the more they will pull away when being told their lives are their own to do with what they want. What what what can a parent do???
I heard reports that Britney was mad at her mother when she ran off the first time and got married and also when she shaved her head. She was warned beyond expectations about her current x husband. What was her parents expected to do??? Really? I know they are not the greatest parents but I do want to know what people expected them to do? No court would have sided with them legally, she is an adult making her own decisions. She wouldn't even listen to the courts yet somehow everyone else is expected to step in and do something. DO WHAT? I do not believe her situation is due to mental illness but rather poor choices. Everyone is looking for a way to try to save her reputation (as if she ever had one worth saving) they are taking the pitty road. Real life doesn't work this way for most people. You CAN NOT make someone except help if they don't want it or feel they need it. At what point do you become responsible for your own decisions? At what point do you take responsibility for the way you choose to live your own life. The way I see it until the court gave daddy gaurdianship she was the one making her choices and I really, really don't know what her parents (even had they been God fearing people) could have done diferently.

Kelly said...

Well said Jess! Britney's case is a sad one and I hope there is still a chance for her. It does seem her parents, her dad in this case, stepped in very late. Unfortunately her case is not unusual any more. I have so many parents I know who actively parent from birth to around age 8 or 9, then seem to think there is nothing left for them to do, and then in their child's late teens they seem confused as to why their child is making awful decisions.
As you said parent while the child is still in your home.
While my daughter is only 2 my hubby and I are already discussing some of the topics you brought up and we haven't found the answers yet either. Each child is different of course. I think that the only thing that we have decided on is that while we can't control the outside world we will do our best to make our/her home a haven for her. A safe place where she is loved and taught well.
We are also watching ourselves for placing to high of an expectation on her. She seems very bright and I know I forget she is still a baby at times.

Kimberly said...

Wow. This issue is close to my heart, too. We have decided to homeschool, especially early on, so our kiddos have as much God-centered influence as possible. Of course our children are only 5 and 2. Hopefully, by the time our children start making more of their own decisions, they will have a solid framework to work with. Thanks for a great post!

heather said...

Great post! I thought it was so sad that Brittney's dad had to go to court in order to gain a voice and influence in her life. Sad. This reminds me of Proverbs-going to the window and pointing out the woman and what her true motives are. We need to help our children see through the flashiness and outward, temporal appeal through conversations and loving, nurturing parenting.