One of the great “takeaways” I got from a brief study of “Parenting With Love and Logic” a few years ago was the idea that behaviors that get reinforced get repeated. I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the past week.
Consider a recent Denver-area tragedy: the 6-game suspension of Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller.
One thing I heard in the days after that was that, according to union rules, the only way for that to be a possible penalty would be if this were Miller’s third offense. So a phenomenally talented player has already, by the time he’s 24, had three drug “events,” including one that happened after he knew he was going to be tested every three days.
This young man was drafted second overall, and handed $21 million, even though there was likely a drug event around that time.
He became one of the most dominant players in the NFL and earned fame and adulation, also while, apparently, enjoying his drug issues. So exactly where in this whole scheme is there incentive for him to change? Sure, the six-game suspension is going to hit him in the wallet, but all will be forgiven the first time he rides an opposing quarterback to the turf. Act, reinforce, repeat.
Then consider the odd phenomenon of Kim Kardashian. I have yet to figure out exactly what talents this young lady possesses, what barriers she has busted through or what accomplishments she has racked up.
And yet, there she is, staring back at me from the covers of five different magazines in the checkout aisle, and all because her very public life is a bit of a train wreck.
Of course, we’re talking about someone who vaulted to fame because of a sex tape and has remained in the public eye thanks to the phenomenon of “reality” TV, which, in the best traditions of Jerry Springer, encourages and rewards people for engaging in the most outrageous sociopathic behavior in front of cameras. We, the public, are the reinforcing mechanism.
So, consider how you would view the world if during your formative years your every word was greeted with a laugh track, you had instant fame without any accomplishments, and your slightly-above-average musical skills were the headline act of sold out concert tours all over the world.
Why, it’s just possible that you might think that the normal boundaries of decent behavior not only don’t apply to you, but don’t exist at all!
Miley Cyrus’ antics at the Video Music Awards are not the result of lax parenting, or exploitation by a media empire, though those both certainly contributed. No, I think, as easy as it is to blame Dad and Disney, I think we really should be looking in the mirror. Disney did not create Miley Cyrus — parents buying her albums and concert tickets for their kids, normal folks like us letting our young girls buy her style and watch her show, created this Miley Cyrus. In effect, we are all Billy Ray Cyrus.
And this sort of celebrity worship has consequences.
I mean, seriously, if we don’t get this under control, next thing you know we’re going to elect a president with no military or foreign policy experience, no executive experience, and no legislative achievements, all because he or she has a pleasant oratorical style. Oh, wait ...
Michael Alcorn is a music teacher and fitness instructor who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. He graduated from Alameda High School and the University of Colorado-Boulder.