Lying, Cheating and Stealing…it’s What Teens Do

A recent study showing an uptick in honesty among American teens prompted the founder of the organization conducting the study, Michael Josephson, to say “I think we have turned the corner.”

From 2010 to 2012, the changes include:

  • Stealing, down to 20% from 27%
  • Lying to a teacher, down to 55% from 61%
  • Cheating on an exam, down to 51% from 59%
  • Lying to parents about something significant, down to 76% from 80%

The percent of teens still, shall we say, “deficient” in character, is troubling.  It makes you wonder what you don’t know, doesn’t it?  Indeed, Josephson commented, “It’s a small ray of sunshine shining through lots of dark clouds.”

Mom and Dad…let’s not grow weary in educating our children to be young men and women of integrity.  We’ve clearly got a lot of work to do!  We CAN have hope that we can make a difference–Josephson attributed some of this significant uptick in teen integrity to parents who are increasingly concerned with teaching their children that honesty is important.   

Teen Ethics Report Card…D’s and F’s

A recent comprehensive national survey on the ethics of our nation’s youth revealed a shocking lack of morals.  It is disheartening to know that among high school students, in the last 12 months:

  • Nearly two-thirds (71 percent) admit they cheated on an exam at least once
  • Almost all (92 percent) lied to their parents
  • Over two-thirds (78 percent) lied to a teacher
  • Forty percent of males and 30 percent of females say they stole something from a store

What does this mean to us as parents and other caring adults?  First, we can’t naively assume that teens are telling us the truth.  Certainly, we want to believe the best, but it behooves us to have our parental antennae out for suspicious behaviors, or cagey answers.  When it comes to behaviors that threaten emotional and physical health (like sexual experimentation, smoking, drinking and drugs) we may want to put our teens’ health above our desire to respect their privacy.  Yes, that means it may be OK to snoop, especially when a teen is insisting on too much privacy, or is acting suspiciously.  Second, it’s time to have serious conversations about all sorts of ethical issues.  The online article reporting on this survey gives some guidelines that are really helpful.

If you assume that the school is covering these character issues, well, they may be.  But it’s not going to have nearly the same impact as a conversation with you.  Mentoring with an eye toward ethical adulthood is still best done by a caring adult.  Go on a walk after dinner, take an example from the news (there’s always some politician or media star acting badly), or tell a story from your youth as a conversation starter.  Be creative.  Help your child gain the backbone he or she needs to shine in a generation that too often doesn’t seem to know right from wrong.

House Rules

House rules let your son or daughter know what you expect. They should be clear and fair. You should expect them to be followed. Your pre-teen or teen might complain, but don’t give in. House rules make your child safe and they help your son or daughter make healthy choices.

Hardly any pre-teen or teen will admit that they like rules. But most really do. Rules make them feel loved and safe. They let them know what they can and can not do. Rules give them an easy reason to tell friends, “No, I can’t do that.” So put up House Rules in your house!

Check out your blog next week for a suggested list of “house rules. So do you a set of house rules for your home?

The Teen Brain: More on Morality

Hi Parents,

 A few posts ago I blogged about a recent study that talked about teens’ moral practices and their sense of self. Today I found another article that expanded on that topic a bit, focusing specifically on how teens’ brains develop morality in the first place. Here’s an excerpt:

 “What has gone wrong? The commission began with a vital question: How do human beings develop a moral compass and strong character in the first place? Instead of answering from a therapeutic or “treatment” perspective, it started by examining the latest brain science.

According to the report, recent brain research indicates that children require two kinds of connections to flourish. First, they need strong, stable bonds with family and adults in the larger community. Second, they need a vision of life that offers meaning and purpose.

Our kids are failing to thrive, in good measure, because the social institutions that used to provide both kinds of connections have weakened in recent decades.”

What do you think? To see the whole article, click here.

There’s an  article all over the web this week. It’s titled, Students Cheat, Steal, But Say They’re GoodI know it doesn’t have a very encouraging ring to it. But I read it, and I wonder what you think, parents.

Consider this excerpt from the first paragraph. “In the past year, 30% of U.S. high school students have stolen from a store and 64% have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are too apathetic about ethical standards.” Later on, the article states, “93% of the students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 77% affirmed that “when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”

I am bothered by these statistics. It makes me wonder what sort of behaviors and people are teenagers comparing themselves to? Just what activities are the “people they know” engaged in? This ought to tell us there is something seriously amiss in our teenagers thinking processes.

It also made me question myself – Have I cheated in some way recently? (Obviously not on a test, but in some other way?) When was the last time I lied, or stole something? (Time at work can count!) And am I satisfied with my own ethics? What sort of example am I giving to the teenagers in my own life?

Parents, how do you feel about this issue?

Is it like an allowance?

Parents, what do you think?

Check out this article I read today, which says that several schools in D.C. have set aside $2.7 million as a motivational tactic for student achievement. Yup, they want to pay kids to come to class.

 I don’t know about you, but I was never one of those students who was rewarded for getting high grades. I was told to work for them, expect them, and then be proud of what was written on my report card. Seeing that A or B was enough for me.

Are things so different today? Do our students really lack that much motivation to attend class (and be on time)? Send us your comments, parents. Should schools be paying students to attend class or not? Is this a brilliant example of “thinking outside the box”, or is it just… crazy?

Parents who say “NO”

When it comes to sexual choices, do you know what our kids need the most from us as parents? t’s not our friendship. It’s our confidence that they can say “No” to sex when confronted with hormones, peer pressure, and the desire for a relationship. Many voices in our culture say, “They’re going to do it anyway, so let’s help them protect themselves.” But if we give them condoms or get them a prescription for the pill, are we really protecting them? Let’s consider some sobering facts: 

  • The 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, supplemented by data from other sources, showed that 48% of women with an unintended pregnancy said they were using birth control during the month they got pregnant.

  • Some of the most common STDs (HPV, genital herpes, trichomoniasis, and syphilis) are contracted through skin to skin contact or through contact with an infected area. Condoms do not cover the entire genital area and are therefore much less effective in preventing the transmission of these diseases than they are in preventing other less common STDs.

  • No condom or pill can protect the hearts of our children. Sexually active teens are more likely to commit suicide, be depressed, struggle in school, and abuse drugs and alcohol.

The American Medical Association reported on a recent study that showed that children whose parents had higher expectations for them had higher school achievement and exhibited less risk-taking behavior. Also, children whose parents disapproved of early sexual activity postponed sexual intercourse. So, because we love them, we need to communicate that we expect them to make the healthiest, safest choice…to say “No” to sexual experimentation, and “Yes” to the future they dream of.