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Parenting After Weinergate Talking to Your Teens About Lying

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					With Anthony Weiner no longer front-page news now that he has resigned in
disgrace from public office, what's a parent to make of that perfect
storm - a mix of politics, power, sexting and lying? The media frenzy
over the ex-Congressman's behavior provides a clear teachable moment for
our teens. Given the dramatic effects of the inappropriate messages and
photos he sent and the devastating results of his untruthful words, we
can talk to our kids about the serious consequences of making bad
decisions.

As parents, we know that young children lie, apparently about once every
two hours. Sometimes they do it to get what they want or gain attention
but usually it's to avoid getting in trouble and being punished. Often
the lines between make-believe and reality become blurred.

But when do kids' little 'white lies' become teenagers' big destructive
whoppers? And how do these teens behave as adults out in the world?
Weiner provides an unambiguous example of the slippery slope of lying and
the difficulty of extricating yourself.

According to the Josephson Institute of Ethics, teens are five times more
likely than those over 50 to believe it is necessary to lie and cheat in
order to succeed. More than one in five admit to lying, cheating or
stealing in the past year, with 80% saying they have lied to their
parents about something significant. As they move out into the world at
large, these same young adults are two to three times more likely to
misrepresent themselves in a job interview, lie to a significant other,
keep money mistakenly given to them.

Anthony Weiner seems to have been stuck in this adolescent phase of
development. If you want your teens to move beyond this and recognize the
dangers of lying, here are four tips to get you started:

As in all aspects of parenting, keep the lines of communication open.
When your children are young, encourage and praise their honesty and let
them know clearly what is unacceptable. As they mature, continue a
dialogue that helps them recognize the real consequences of their
behaviors.

Be the role model you want you kids to emulate. And find other good
examples of adults behaving well. They can help reinforce the examples of
integrity, authenticity, and good citizenship that you want to encourage.
Since poor role models abound in the entertainment, political and sports
worlds, it's up to you search out those you want your kids to follow.

Talk about the difference between rules, ethical standards and flexible
guidelines. These distinctions aren't always easy for them to make. And
teens have witnessed the normalization of illegal activities on the
Internet - plagiarism of papers and reports, downloading pirated music
and videos. But you can make a case for controlling the blurring of these
lines. Have frank discussions about character and encourage them to
develop a set of values.

Teach them to focus on learning without obsessing about tests and grades.
Kids face high expectations and the pressure to succeed from parents and
schools. Let them know they don't have to be perfect to be competitive.
Help them learn to be resilient so they can bounce back from
disappointment. Cheating and lying increase when self-esteem is low. So
work to facilitate building their self-confidence, self-reliance and
self-respect.

Sir Walter Scott didn't know about Weinergate two hundred years ago when
he cautioned, "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to
deceive." But we can use his experience to initiate talks with our
children about lying and give them the tools they need to avoid the fate
Weiner brought on himself.

© 2011, Her Mentor Center

Parenting After Weinergate: Talking to Your Teens About Lying
by: Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D.

				
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