June 4

The Tragedy of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan

June 4, 2007

Parenting

Today Paris Hilton begins a short term in jail for reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol, all while on parole for a similar offense. Only days before this, Lindsay Lohan, another celebrity and media darling, was involved in an automobile accident and cited for drunk driving — this while underage and after multiple such episodes and after stints in alcohol and drug rehabilitation.

Although a great deal of media attention has been devoted to these young women — children really — there has been little to no effort made to learn anything from their behavior. Rather, we and the media have used the escapades of these children as sources of voyeuristic entertainment, as though we didn’t already have plenty already.

There is a great deal to be learned from the behavior of these two girls and from our interest in them, and if we don’t begin to focus on these important principles, we’ll only see a general escalation of these destructive behaviors.

First, we must understand why Paris and Lindsay behave as they do. We tend to blow it all off as a natural characteristic of youth. As long as we accept this rationalization, the real cause will continue to grow and perpetuate these behaviors. In order to be happy what we all want most is Real Love — to feel loved unconditionally — and when we don’t have enough of that essential element, we react in a wide variety of ways intended to fill our emptiness and protect ourselves from pain. We lie, drink alcohol, use drugs, get angry, see physical excitement, and draw attention to ourselves in any number of inappropriate ways.

Paris and Lindsay’s behavior is not mysterious, nor is it unusual. These two girls simply don’t have enough of the unconditional love they need most, so they attempt to fill their lives with approval, praise, flattery, alcohol, drugs, and physical thrills, like sex and driving fast.

Regrettably, we don’t understand what these girls need, so we tend to react in one of two ways. The first reaction is one of amusement, even admiring support. Many of us admire their ability to disregard the law and to live an irresponsible lifestyle that seems quite attractive. The tabloids portray their behavior frequently and in abundant detail because we enjoy reading the exploits of these children who are portrayed as cool, independent, and tend-setting.

Another reaction is to view these children as “bad”: spoiled, rotten kids who need a good spanking. We cluck our tongues and talk about what a bad example they set for our youth, and how somebody should “do something” about them.

Both reactions, unfortunately, miss the mark. They fail to identify the truth, that these kids are simply empty, lost, and confused, and their behavior is an attempt to fill their emptiness and diminish the fear in their lives. Now, I hasten to emphasize that I am not excusing their behavior, only explaining it, so we can finally do something productive in response to it, and so we can prevent such behavior in our own children.

Children need to be loved unconditionally. They need to be accepted regardless of the mistakes they make. But this is not to imply that they should be raised permissively or indulgently. On the contrary. Children must be taught and guided constantly, but without the disappointment and anger that are so destructive to a child. They must be taught what is true and right and moral, and then they must be required to live with the consequences that follow from making choices contrary to what is right. To learn a great deal more about that, read Real Love in Parenting.

We must withdraw our support of those sources of entertainment that display the boorish behavior of celebrities in a supportive or even amoral way, and we must not take the polar approach of condemning these misguided people as evil. Instead, we must address the root cause of these behaviors. We must address the need we all have — especially our children — for Real Love. If we’ll do that, we’ll be able to prevent in our own children the kind of behavior we see in children like Paris and Lindsay, and that is a goal worth pursuing.

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