How to talk to your child about Ray Rice

How to talk to your child about Ray Rice

9/18/2014

In our book "Raising Your Game," we address the subject of role models, and which are appropriate for your children.

"Given the ubiquity, popularity, and prosperity of sports stars in today's ESPN's-driven culture, and the admiration that everyone from peers to parents expresses for those 'heroes,' it is understandable and perhaps even inevitable that many kids would idolize those athletes, seek to emulate them, and to dream to someday become them. 

Of course, not every athlete is an appropriate role model or source of inspiration. 

This means you need to pose questions.

You should learn more about the athlete's qualities, on and of the playing field, and dig deeper into why the child is drawn in that direction."

In light of the recent controversy involving now-former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, we feel compelled to add a bit more on this topic. After all, if a parent had posed some of the questions we proposed, he or she likely would have been satisfied that Rice was someone worthy of their child's admiration. He was an overachiever, overcoming a lack of size (5-foot-8) to lift a struggling football program (Rutgers University) to new heights, before earning three Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens. He was also well-regarded off the field: serving an anti-bullying ambassador, conducting himself with class in public settings, and raising a child with his fiancée Janay Palmer. 

So no one would have predicted what happened this off-season, when Rice got into a physical confrontation with Janay at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City. While Rice escaped harsh legal punishment – as he was granted pre-trial diversion – two elevator videos have irreversibly altered public perception, as it relates to his character. When most people think of Ray Rice now, they won't think of him racing for a touchdown. They will think of him knocking out a woman with vicious left hook, and then dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator. 

Was this a good person who made a horrible decision? 

Or was this the person he has been all along?

Either way, if your child had a Ray Rice jersey – or if he merely liked the way that Rice played – it can be difficult to explain why that's no longer an appropriate role model. This is especially true if you believe your child is too young to watch the videos of the incident. 

But your child may see it, or hear, about it anyway, since it has been so ubiquitous on the media. If so, it is important to explain that no matter how good a player he is, his actions in this case are never appropriate. And even while he isn't a worthy role model any longer, you can still use him as an example – an opportunity to discuss rage and violence with your child. 

The message to get across is that, no matter how upset another person makes the child, it is always better to use words to express that anger than to use one's fists. Anger in itself is not the problem; it is a normal emotion. But it must be checked and controlled, before it manifests itself in physical force toward anyone, and especially toward someone who, because of gender, size or disability, cannot defend him or herself. 

You can also explain to your child how much Rice lost by doing what he did: not only a job he loves for an indefinite period, plus the paycheck that came with it. But also, the respect of millions of previous fans. It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and less than a minute to destroy it.

Abuse Role Models

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