Justin Bieber: Downward Spiral or Just Growing Up?

Once upon a time, there was a boy who looked like this:

What a cutie!

What a cutie!

He had moppy hair and a talent for playing drums, he prayed with his mother, and he had sleepovers at his grandparents’ house back in Canada (I saw the movie. Twice). A few years later he turned 19 and looked like this:

Pull up your pants!

Pull up your pants!

His friends had names that started with “Lil” and he was caught on camera smoking something that looked similar to weed. He had a car that cost more than most peoples’ annual income.

When I watched “Never Say Never” a few years ago, I thought Justin’s mom and manager seemed to be doing a decent job of trying to keep him grounded and NOT letting him get mixed up with the wrong people. But some of the recent pictures and stories have me wondering how similar that is to his life today. Before a bunch of teenage girls start yelling at me, I really have tried to think about this objectively (and I have three kids between the ages of 17 and 20, so I am somewhat familiar with that age for a normal kid, which he obviously is not).

Here are the possibilities as I see them:

1. Possibility #1: Justin is 19
The stupid things that kids do in their late teens cannot be discounted. It’s a time for experimentation and making bad decisions. Most kids must only deal with their parents in the aftermath, while Biebs has the bad luck of having his misdeeds spread across tabloids, not to mention actual news wires. How much of what he is doing and how he is dressing can be attributed to the normal ruckus a 19 year old may raise?

If he was a regular 19-year old, Justin would be a freshman in college where he might possibly be smoking pot and even drinking (gasp). He might also wear his pants a bit too low as depicted above. Sometimes my son’s boxers are visible, although that’s mostly because he has grown so much in the past year that his jeans are too short. I wish Biebs would send someone to Old Navy for a pair that fits properly.

2. Possibility #2: Justin is spoiled
Kids need to hear the word ‘no’. They need to be reminded that they’re not all that. For the past few years the message sent to Justin has seemingly been the opposite: girls literally throw themselves at him, his products (from songs to scents) have been devoured by fans desperate for a piece of him, and he has experienced the world, literally. At the age of 19 he may well have been granted access to some of his gazillions and is likely able to buy whatever he wants with no real appreciation for value.

Last weekend, for example, Justin reportedly spent $20,000 to rent out a club (in London!) but was denied entry because his buddy Jaden Smith, age 14, was with the group and was too young to get in (why the equivalent of a high school freshman was out clubbing in London with the equivalent of a college freshman is material for a future post). Therefore, Justin and his entourage left after a mere five minutes, after which he famously tweeted “worst birthday”. Really, Justin? For some perspective, $20,000 is almost as much as a whole year of college, the price of a small car, and almost $3,000 more than the annual salary of someone who works fulltime making minimum wage in Illinois.

So there are some signs that point to spoiled.

3. Possibility #3: Justin is wandering off course
This one is obviously the biggest concern. Who is Justin hanging out with, besides little Jaden? I firmly believe that a kid is defined largely by the company he keeps. To some degree that is outside of a parent’s control, although steering a kid toward certain activities can help. Hopefully by the time kids are college aged they are secure enough to know who shares similar interests and values.

So if Justin is in the world of entertainment, who are his friend options? I’m sure that varies as much as the friend selection at any given high school or college. Since I don’t know Justin or his friends, I am not well positioned to weigh in on this one, but I’m going to keep my eye on the situation.

4. Possibility #4: A combination of #1, 2 and 3
Perhaps Biebs is in line to experience the perfect storm of celebrity downfalls (see also: Lindsey Lohan). It doesn’t seem like he’s there just yet, but I’m worried.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Or is Justin starting to derail?

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Filed under: Parenting

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