Noah needed an A on his term paper. A friend said that lots of kids recycled papers they didn’t write, and he offered to give him a paper his older brother had gotten an A on three years before.
When Noah asked his father for advice, his dad told him he hoped he wouldn’t cheat, but he didn’t want to be judgmental. “It’s your life, Son,” he said. “I can’t tell you what you should do. It’s a personal decision.”
That’s shabby parenting. Noah’s dad declined to provide moral guidance and lost a golden opportunity to strengthen Noah’s values and his own credibility as a reference point. Kids need parents to bolster their moral willpower and to help them resist temptations. His reluctance to intervene and influence was an abdication of responsibility.
What’s more, his noncommittal response wasn’t an expression of neutrality but a statement that conveyed the moral judgment that honesty and integrity are optional.
Yes, this was a personal decision. Noah could choose to be honest or dishonest, ethical or unethical – it was his call. But the real question was one of propriety. He didn’t ask his dad, “What can I do?” but “What should I do?” This was a question about ethics, and it shouldn’t have been dodged or evaded.
If we want our children to build good values and strong character based on virtue, we have to teach and advocate those principles. Sometimes that means saying, “That’s wrong.”
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.