Friday, November 14, 2008

Sow the Seeds of Style, Grooming and Good Behavior!

It is said that young people don’t know how to dress because they do not have good role models. Prove the naysayers wrong!

As we all know, we are attracted to people with whom we can identify and who have qualities we admire that we aspire to have ourselves. Subconsciously, these people serve as our role models. No matter our age. And as we see everyday, the young look to the superstars of sport, film and TV as their role models and idolize them in ways that can make our hair stand on end. But never underestimate the subliminal impact we have on our children. As mothers, sisters, aunts or just good friends, we have a profound influence on the young people around us in spite of all appearances to the contrary—especially during those crucial transition years from puberty to the teens right onto that sometimes perilous path to adulthood.

I call these crucial years the ‘seeding’ time. Every single seed we sow will grow sooner or later even though at times that is really hard to believe. Just think that each scattered seed is like a boost and eventually those young people around us will reflect on what they have witnessed and learned and more likely than not, we will reap the harvest of our efforts.

I say this with confidence as my children, now young adults in their early twenties, are finding their fashion legs and creating their own style. I am constantly delighted and surprised as I witness the sprouting of the seeds I sowed all those years ago. How proud I was when two years ago my son Nicholas, 21 at the time, asked for an Armani suit as a Christmas present. I was the happiest of Moms!

It is essential therefore, that we look at ourselves and ensure that as we pass on to our children our ethics and modes of behavior, we also pass on good grooming habits and a sense of style and appropriate dress. Even while our kids are idolizing super stars, they still look to their Moms and Dads to set the bar for them. We are after all their first teachers and role models and as a rule, children are more affected by what we do than what we say!

Think about it, we are the ones who buy the food they eat and the clothes they wear. As tough a battle as it was I never had food or drinks in the house that I didn’t want my children to consume. Needless to say I was not always the most popular mom on the block and, I had to put up with constant complaints that our fridge only contained healthy food and that it lacked sodas!

It was the same when it came to clothes. I never bought clothes for them that I considered inappropriate. I recall a morning when I was driving my younger son, Greg, to school and saw a girl dressed so down that my eyes just about popped out of my head. I mentioned this to Greg and to my amazement, he said, “Mom it’s ‘Pajama Day.’ I would never come to school in Pjs. I think it’s degrading.” That was an “Aha” moment for me as I realized a style seed had taken root.

Being consistent in setting examples is very important. If you tell your child to dress appropriately for his or her age and for the situation and then you go to the supermarket in pajama bottoms, your child will become confused by the mixed signals.

Being a role model for our children is one of the most important and rewarding things we can do for our children. As Mireille Guiliano wrote in her book “French Women for All Seasons,’” French women rarely give up on themselves and let themselves go. I feel fortunate to have these genes and that I am able to count myself among these women but, I must confess, it takes mindful self-discipline. (The good thing though is that self-discipline eventually becomes a habit.)

There is no doubt that being a role model to our children is a difficult path to follow, especially these days, but teaching my children how to be self-confident and decent human beings by respecting themselves and others is my legacy to them and the generations to come.

Michele Benza

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