The Bieber Effect: Parents Starstruck by Their Own Children

02/03/2014 03:26 pm ET | Updated Apr 05, 2014
  • Dr. Kate Roberts Child and school psychologist; couples counselor; relationship expert

Justin Bieber was charged Wednesday with assaulting a limousine driver in Toronto a month ago, police said. According to CNN, Bieber arrived at a Toronto police station for booking Wednesday evening. He is also to be arraigned on 14 February on charges of driving under the influence, resisting arrest and driving with an expired license.

Parents, know that this can happen to any child. This can happen to your child. For overachieving parents of highly talented youth, take my advice: You don't have to be Justin Bieber to be treated like a star. Many youth are idolized when it comes to natural talent and ability and they shouldn't be. That's why superstar athletes are notorious for pushing limits and getting away with it. No one ever said "no" to them.

Justin's Bieber's downward spiral is easy to track. There were so many minor instances in 2013, from canceling concerts to showing up late to breaking up with his long-time girlfriend, Selena Gomez, and now, smoking marijuana and speeding. Many of these aren't outlandish behaviors for any 19-year-old rich kids with access to a car, freedom, money and girls.

The event that revealed the most regarding Justin Bieber's inner world, to me, was his statement regarding Anne Frank. "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber," Bieber wrote. The tourist site posted the message on its Facebook page.

People had strong reactions to his statement-- mine is that it reflects his immaturity and lack of social and emotional awareness. His ignorant comments were not acting out or some legal violation-- just a true indication of his disconnection to anything meaningful. He intended to write something powerful to match the significance of Anne Frank's life and her remains, and yet what he displayed was his lack of appreciation for the Holocaust and its victims.

I get that many people his age can't appreciate the impact of that horror, on the other hand, they are aware enough to know its place in history and society and to refrain from commenting in the manner he choose.

As a child psychologist who works with overachieving families, Justin Bieber's story, to me, screams of an example of imbalanced social and emotional development. In today's society we are consumed with having young children be the best and brightest. Justin Bieber achieved his status because of talent and a slew of factors, but talent landed him the initial attention.

Talent in and of itself is a good thing and parents should hope that their children find their unique talents. Unfortunately, all too often, talented youth are typecast and given undo power and status. They are also handed decision-making power that belongs to adults.

How many times do I hear parents of 10-12-year-old talented youth tell me, "Well, he wanted to do it" -- the "it" being everything from traveling all over the country at age 8 to playing tennis, hockey or performing. Yes, it's true. Kids will say they want to do it all and that may be to please their parents, or because it feels good to be the best, or they are afraid to just be "typical" after they've heard they are a "star."

Most kids ages 10-12 have no judgment. Without parental guidance, a typical 10-12-year-old will stay up all night with his friends, eat only sugar, take only two showers a week or do his homework on the bus ride to school. Yup, that's how a typical 10-12-year-old thinks -- which is to say, they don't think, and that's normal for that age.

Now, if a child has all that freedom of choice long before they can exercise control, they will never learn moderation, judgment, balance etc. Your child is not above any emotional pitfall, no matter how good a football player they are.

Social-emotional development is the foundation for which all other actions stand. If your child has a great talent that is pursued at the expense of all other development, they will physically grow to become an adult, but remain at the emotional level of a 10-year-old.

Allow them to be children first. Say NO to their demands and put their needs for childhood, even before your own to see them super successful. When it comes to social and emotional development, the playing field is leveled. There are no stars.

Maybe the pain of over scheduling, one-dimensional development, social-emotional under development isn't obvious today or even tomorrow, but that's the lesson we can learn from Justin Bieber. And that's the only reason I care to write about him.