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Role models – Big brother and Big sister

I never had a positive male role model growing up, and did not really even have one as an adult. As a kid my dad walked out on the family and my brothers, uncles and others in my life were often distant. I never had a role model as an adult either, not even a business mentor or role model at my job when I was in the corporate world. Maybe my mom was the closest thing to a role model I had, but I would not technically say she was one. If you fall into this category of not have a role model or positive influence, and want to try to help break the cycle in todays’ youth, Big Brothers or Sisters in one way to volunteer.

If anything, I would say I probably had negative role models.  While of course there were some positive traits and examples from people around me, in general I had many negative influences. Many kids face similar issues growing up, whether they come from an inner city and low income background or whether they live in a wealthy suburb or city.

As I said, while there were some positives, in general growing up I was around a lot of negative traits. My role models (whether family or others) physically fought, argued, were overly critical and made fun of others, only talked about money, were not always honest, and worse. I did not have someone to show me the “simple things” that a boy should learn, such as how to shave! There were limited or no shared experiences or people to take me places, even to a museum or park to share the event.

There were times growing up in which I watched people I knew threaten others, or in which I was threatened myself. The fighting and arguing was also constant. I had family members turning to alcohol as an escape or in an effort suppress their pain, and I had (have) family members with anger issues. That would also of course include my father abandoning his kids. Others in my “orbit” were self-centered, bullies, entitled and more. There were few instances of people reaching out to me to see how I feel, check in on me and if I needed help, which I think a role model can do.

While I think I did learn from those poor examples and I stay far away and flee from that type of abusing, violent behavior to try to break the cycle, it is an example of what negative role models can do to kids. Many children need help in navigating difficult backgrounds, or they need assistance in learning how to express themselves. Or they just need someone to do the simple things…bring them bowling, to a park, or anything. As bad examples can do more harm to children that having no role model at all as the children may feel like that is the way they should live life.

Maybe one of the biggest challenges was that I did have a role model who could set the example on communicating and expressing myself. Rarely was I asked how I was doing, or people did not check to see how I was. I did not have that person who showed me the importance of that, expressing my emotions and not holding things in. Many kids, especially boys, are “taught” the same thing…that a true man does not need help and they deal with things on their own. Big Brothers and Sisters helps show that it is OK to express yourself, and can expose kids to positive activities and experiences.

There are a number of experts that say that having poor examples is worse than having no role model at all. Having poor examples is especially true when the negative role model is a parent, as studies from psychologist show children often grow to mimic the behavior of their parents, ranging from anger, violence, substance abuse and more. This is why the Big Sister/Brother organizations are so important, as they can help reverse that trend, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods or for those kids that come from broken households. They can bring them on local trips, to a museum, help them study, and encourage kids among many other things. Children can be exposed to someone who is more positive.

I think that children, especially those from challenging backgrounds, poor educational systems, or who grow up in poverty really need to have a positive role model in their life. Otherwise they can follow the negative influences out there, from their family or society at large. As studies from Harvard, the The Motivational Theory of Role Modeling and others show that kids with a poor role model can develop anger or have self-destructive behavior, as they often learn it from that person they are “mimicking” or learned from. Or as kids or even adults grow up and mature, and they make mistakes (which in itself is not bad) but they will not have the positive role model or person around them to help them learn from those mistakes; and that can be bad.

It can be difficult to navigate life. It is hard to learn how to act or respond without positive people in your life. I wish I had more of that as a kid, especially a positive male role model. I would have loved to be able to get suggestions on how to grow and mature as a person, someone to bounce ideas off of or help guide/advise me, without trying to figure it all out on my own.

While people can have positive or negative examples in their life, there are some studies, including from the Prince’s Trust youth index, that show lack of role models is also very harmful. So even if a kid has no positive or negative examples, if they have “no one” that too is bad. It increases chances of unemployment, drug abuse, suicide, crime, low self-esteem as well as the child develops a lack of identity. It causes many other major challenges in children, including leading to a cycle of poverty. Big Brother and Sister volunteers may even save a child or teenagers life by giving that positive example and a little hope.

The stats around no role models is even alarming. It can impact employment, as Prince’s shows teenagers without role models are 67% less likely to work and are even twice as likely to turn to crime. Males are 3 times more likely to be unhappy and/or even depressed, anxiety, and panic attacks. Is there any good news with no role model?!

I just negative role models (or none at all); definitely not positive ones. I followed my mom’s example in doing what it took to earn an income and provide. I think I took from her example of surviving; not to give up or quit, no matter how bad things got or become. Somehow I had the drive in me to prove myself. As far as beyond her, I tried to, and if anything I learned from those poor examples around fighting and abuse, anger, and substance abuse to name a few. In fact I intensely dislike anger and turning to pills or anything in my body. But I am far from perfect and have other challenges.

There are ways to give back to those kids without parents or people in their life’s. Big Brothers and Big Sisters is one of the most well known organizations, and they want people to thrive. The non-profit has been known to change many a kids life for the better. Or you can volunteer in other ways to help kids, and try to help mentor them, serve as role models, and set them on a correct path. I wish I did have one of those while growing up.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

One thought on “Role models – Big brother and Big sister

  • June 30, 2019 at 8:43 am

    I firmly believe we discover our own path in life, and need to do that, because each of us is unique. That being said, the “role model” concept resonates with me more than “celebrity” or “star” or “idol.” Maybe one could be inspired by a role model for a short period of time, but in life each of us need to sooner (rather than and not later), we need to go on our own path sooner in life and figure things out. I’m currently in the process of going on my own path in life and embodying whatever I learned.


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