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We Don't Need Another Hero

Sure, Alex Rodriguez and Michael Phelps are probably pretty glum these days, but it's parents who seem to be taking these superstars' falls from grace the hardest. Soon after news broke of A-Rod's alleged steroid use and Phelps' documented bong hit, there was an audible collective sigh of disgust from parents everywhere.

Where have all the good heroes gone? Why can't these guys behave like proper role models? What will their adoring, young fans think?

Tear down the bedroom poster. Hide the box of corn flakes.

But don't blame some hyped-up sports star for your kid's behavior. No, the real culprits in this hero-worship culture of ours are parents who encourage their kids to idolize over-paid athletes and celebrities.

I have no problem with celebrating and seeking inspiration in acts of greatness. People who work hard and demonstrate amazing talent deserve applause. But you're walking on a river of grass as a parent if you don't teach your kids that people who perform acts of seeming perfection are not perfect.

It's not like we have to search hard for bad examples. Along with A-Rod and Phelps, this month we have Miley Cyrus pulling her eyes into a stereotypical Asian slant in a shameful Internet photo.

As parents, we should be pouncing on these recent displays of human foibles as teachable moments. See, nobody is perfect. People make mistakes. The idea of a hero comes from Greek mythology. It's a myth. In reality, the same person who does something really spectacular has the capacity to do something really stupid. We've all been there. Unfortunately for Phelps and Cyrus, their growing pains are taking place on a public stage.

Let she who has never been stoned cast the first stone. It's easy to blame celebrities for our kids' problems. But let's not ignore the research that shows that, above anybody else, kids most frequently name a parent as their top role model. Hero worship is black and white. It's our task as parents (and role models) to teach our kids that life is mostly all the dramatic colors in between. That the real beauty of being complex, complicated humans is that we're, well, human.

What's takes heroic effort is learning from a mistake and becoming a better person as a result.