“What our daughters can learn from Miley Cyrus.”

Miley Cyrus as a role model?

According to British parents, Miley Cyrus is the worst role model for children. In a poll of 2,287 parents with at least one child under 10, 78% deemed Cyrus to be the celebrity they would least like their children to emulate. Nicki Minaj and Kim Kardashian came a close second and third, while the Duchess of Cambridge took the top spot for the role model parents would most like their children to aspire to.

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Is the Duchess of Cambridge a realistic role model?

As dignified as the princess formerly known as Kate Middleton is, and she is, marrying a royal is hardly a realistic ambition for parents to foster on behalf of their children. Given there are so few royals to nab, with the exception of a teeny tiny minority, most of our offspring are going to navigate a different path.

And while there is plenty to admire about the Duchess of Cambridge, there is something irksome about parents hoping the pinnacle of their child’s future might lie in marrying someone, looking immaculate and behaving impeccably. Certainly they’re extremely palatable qualities but don’t they also strike at the core of a lifelong battle most of us – and our children – will encounter: balancing what is palatable, with who we are?

Certainly for women the pressure to be beautiful, placable, polite, not too opinionated and marriageable remains potent. And this is where I have developed some newfound respect for Miley Cyrus. As unlikely as it might seem, there is actually quite a bit about the young celebrity I wouldn’t mind my daughters taking on board.

Not the drug use, not the gratuitous nudity and not the hyper-sexual performances and photoshoots. And certainly not the abusive outbursts at hotel staff. Treating fellow citizens with respect is not negotiable as far as I’m concerned. But. I’m not convinced Miley has no qualities that warrant some respect and admiration.

onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Is this not a pretty unique woman?

She is an individual who marches to the beat of her own drum. She doesn’t seem fazed by making other people comfortable. She speaks her mind, she dresses how she wants and seems resolute on forging a path on her own terms. They are all qualities I’d quite like my children to develop.

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That isn’t the same as saying I want my children to follow in her footsteps or make exactly the same choices she has. I don’t. But there is a certain chutzpah about the way in which she makes her decisions that I like.

Living under the firm gaze of fame isn’t a fate I’d wish upon anyone, least of all my own children. Fame from a very young age hardly makes for a life without drama. Adolescence is a tumultuous time for young people even without the added intensity of being in the spotlight. It’s a burden few navigate without a few disastrous episodes, and certainly, Miley Cyrus has endured several of those.

When I say Miley’s not a terrible role model for kids, I don’t mean she is a beacon of perfection. No one is. But her ability to be uniquely ‘her’ isn’t worth dismissing.

In an ideal world, of course, I would love my children to live their lives without disasters, setbacks or mistakes. No broken hearts. No disappointments. No burning insecurities. No embarrassments. No troubles. In the real world, of course, that is completely unrealistic.

They will have to navigate those things the way everyone does. No one, not even their adoring parents, will be able to navigate those obstacles for them. As parents the only thing we can try and do is to help them develop the internal compasses that will guide them through the good, the bad and the ugly of life.

And more than anything else, I want my kids to be guided by who they are, not what they perceive to be expected of them. I want them to be comfortable in their own skin – in whatever way that manifests – more than I want them to tick any single box. And in that regard I’ve been thinking about Miley in a different light.

Honestly, if I had to choose between my children living life on their own terms or living on the terms they believe others have set for them, Miley would get my vote.

I don’t want my children – nor anyone else’s children – to feel pressured to routinely substitute clothes for nipple tassels, writhe around half naked on stage with men or use their nudity to create shock value. But if it’s explicitly and expressly their choice – as Miley insists it is – then I’d prefer them to go for it.

Where do you stand? Is Miley really the worst role model for children?

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