Raising Honest Youth in a Dishonest Society (Part 2)

(Editor’s Note: This is the continuation of Mr. Shulman’s article discussing  the honesty of youth in society today.)

We need to ask ourselves the following questions:

. How honest am I and how often do I follow or play by the rules?

. Has my child witnessed my dishonesty and, if so, what have I said/done about this?

. Do I hold double-standards for myself or other people or am I consistent?

. Am I physically/emotionally attuned/available to my children or do I need to improve this?

. Do I put too much pressure on my kid(s) to get good grades, achieve, never make mistakes?

. When my kids get in trouble or make a mistake or get a bad grade, how do I react?

. Do I convey unconditional love for my children or do I convey love only when they behave?

Here are some common reasons why kids (and adults) may break rules or take risks:

1. Not pro-actively taught value of following rules/being honest

2. Had too many rules/too many cautions against taking risks (rebelled)

3. Witnessed rule breaking/risk taking by others (poor role-modeling)

4. Had own boundaries violated/was abused or betrayed

5. Was let down by authority/saw hypocrisy of authority

6. Peer pressure-broke rules to fit in or taught rules were made to be broken

7. Attention deficit/hyperactivity-easily distracted/restless

8. Narcissistic tendencies – -rules don’t apply to me

9. Had to raise self; therefore, little respect for authority

10. Experience excitement, power, satisfaction from risks/rule-breaking

It’s not the dumb kids who cheat, it’s the kids with a 4.6 GPA who are under the pressure of keeping their grades up in order to get into the best colleges. CA teacher/parent

I was counseling a client recently – a woman in her 30’s, mother of two young boys – who had been struggling with shoplifting addiction for about ten years. She shared how she felt horrified to discover her 8-year old son has stolen some rope from a local store owned by a neighbor-friend. He, apparently, lied when they first confronted him but he finally told the truth. I asked her how she and her husband handled it. She said she yelled at her son – mostly out of fear that he’d develop a habit of stealing like she did – and that her husband gave him the whooping of his life. Then, she said, they prayed to God and asked their son to pray to God for forgiveness and marched their son over to the neighbor-friend’s to confess and pay him $5 for the rope.

The cover-up is worse than the crime. – Anonymous

I asked my client why she thought her son stole the rope? “He said he stole it because I never buy him anything and always say no when he asks – which isn’t true.” I asked her why he might feel this way then. She said that he’s probably just missing his Dad who’s been working overtime the last few months and, also, because she had been saying “no” more recently since she wasn’t just shoplifting things for her kids. She also stated that her son had a substantial amount of money in the bank from inheritance and allowances he had saved and that he didn’t like to touch it. We explored how he may be developing an obsession around saving and not spending his own money. She also denied that he knew anything about her history of shoplifting but was open to my suggestion that it’s possible he knew even on an intuitive level that she was engaging in dishonest or secretive behavior and was acting out as a cry for attention and reassurance. Then I asked her how she felt about yelling at her son and about her husband’s beating him. “Not good,” she stated plainly.

I’m not a child-psychologist or expert on raising kids but I believe when stealing or other dishonest behavior occurs, two strategies don’t tend to work well: “under kill” and “over kill.” I submit that a child’s disruptive behavior is an invitation for a conversation with him or her. Sweeping it under the rug or letting it slide sends the unspoken message that it’s not a big deal. On the other hand, if some discipline, punishment, or consequences are in order, it is important to teach why his or her behavior is inappropriate and not to shame the child into feeling like he or she is an awful human being, afraid to ever face making a mistake or displeasing the parent again. Parents, we must also take a hard look at ourselves to admit if we have directly or indirectly taught our children about dishonesty through negative example.

We may also do well to explore and discuss with our children why honesty is important – beyond what the law or the Bible says. Break it down for them. For instance, you may share stories from your own life along the theme that honesty promotes: trust, self-esteem, being given responsibilities, good relationships, serenity/peace of mind, others being honest with you, spiritual connectedness, and admiration and respect.

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Honesty is its own reward. – Anonymous

While none of us can watch over our children 24/7 (though many try!) and guard or protect them from the negative influences of the world, we can do what we can to work on ourselves and our own integrity and, hopefully, model and discuss it with our kids and, perhaps, others around us. It may seem that the world is a largely dishonest place but, we must remember not to give up hope. Also, it is common for the news to report 9 stories of doom and gloom for every one story of heroism and positivity. While playing by the rules and being honest is not necessarily a guarantee that life will work out as we want it to, it does increase the odds overall and that this will occur and decreasing the odds of experiencing trouble, chaos and humiliation. Besides, as they say: “thoughts lead to actions, actions lead to habits, and habits build character.”  $



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