The Dolphin Way

Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids Without Turning Into a Tiger

Justin Bieber's Influence On Your Kids

Why Beiber's actions should be learned from and not repeated.

Belieb it or not, Justin’s behavior can be a big influence on your kids.

I’d be lying if I said a big part of me wasn’t happy that my daughter has shown no signs of “Bieber fever”. Yet, she’s only four years old, so she does have a chance of catching the disease that research suggests is more infectious than the measles. I’m not kidding, researchers at the University of Ottawa, used mathematical models to conclude that Biebermania behaves like a real disease - one that is capable of turning into an “apocalyptic infection.” The symptoms include high-octane screaming, hysterics, and mimicking the star’s poor life decisions (like his haircut).   

For now, my kids are saving me from this plague but many other parent’s aren’t so lucky. With over 50 million followers on Twitter, the Bieb’s fan base has grown larger than the population of Canada. These super fans have done some pretty crazy things to show their piety for Bieber, like the 33 year-old male who went as far as spending $100k in plastic surgery just to look like the singer. The lovesick actions of these fans just show how powerful and influential Bieber truly is.

Millions admire him, yet Justin Bieber’s lifestyle is not a set of circumstances an average child or teenager can relate to. He is living in a world where the lines of morality and law are distorted by the fact that his negative actions carry minimal consequences. Although he lives with luxuries only large amounts of money can buy, he may not have access to the essential building blocks of a healthy human mindset.

If your child is a “Belieber” there are several important things you can say to your kids about Justin and why his actions should be learned from and not repeated.

Disrespectful Behavior Carries Consequences (for most people). I call permissive parents, spineless “jellyfish” parents because they lack direction, rules, and consequences. According to psychologist Diana Baumrind, permissive parents avoid confrontation, and “do not require mature behavior”. After a series of petty crimes that have gone unchecked by disciplinary measures of any sort, it is safe to consider that Bieber might have jellyfish parents. If you are not a permissive parent, you will no doubt encounter friction when enforcing the rules dictated by your values. When you speak to your kids about this, it is crucial to point out that following the family “code” as a kid is practice for living within the law as an adult. Most individuals who destroy property, spit in people’s faces, and relieve themselves in public usually wind up in trouble. Unless, of course, they retain a highly paid legal defense team at all times.

Jellyfish Parenting Is Toxic. Research suggests that kids with permissive parents lack impulse control and are more likely to partake in drinking and drug use. Diana Baumrind illustrates how this lack of involvement between kids and parents creates a void in the child’s life that drives them to experiment with alcohol and drugs. When discussing the Bieber situation with your kids, consider pointing out that parents need to be parents not “friends” who party with their kids before they get arrested.

Authoritarian Tiger Parenting is No Better. One opposing style - sometimes called Tiger Parenting - shackles kids with rules that when broken carry major consequences. Often times these punishments far outweigh the offenses. Children and teens subjected to extremely strict conditions are no better off than their permissively parented counterparts. Often times such kids develop low self-esteem and difficulty with independence and problem solving. When you find yourself in a discussion with your kids about Justin Bieber, you can point out that even though they don’t get carte blanche like he does, at least they aren’t under the thumb of a dictator.

Balanced Authoritative Parenting Holds Modern Solutions In my book, The Dolphin Way: A Parents’ Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids Without Turning Into a Tiger (Penguin), Iexplain that the balanced Dolphin style of parenting is defined by adults being firm yet flexible and positive role models who create meaningful bonds with their children. This balanced approach is based on authoritative parenting, which has been proven to yield children with impulse control, positive social skills, self-esteem, academic performance, and intrinsic motivation. It is designed to guide children towards balance and independence so they may seek success, happiness, and healthy relationships while avoiding the destructive results of Tiger and Jellyfish Parenting.

As a Dolphin parent discussing Justin Bieber with your children, you can encourage them to develop opinions on the matter and openly express them to you. You can listen to their ideas with warmth and create an open environment that shows your kids you care about their thoughts and feelings. However, you can also be firm about what your family code of behavior is and what you expect from them. 

Shimi Kang, M.D., is an award-winning, Harvard-trained psychiatrist and author of The Dolphin Way.

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