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Teaching Values to Adolescents

"Analyzing Various Types of Dishonesty"

This kind of discussion can help older children to grasp the broader definitions of honesty and dishonesty.

Say, "There are really a lot of different types of dishonesty. Let's see how many we can list." With some encouragement children will list many of the following:

  • Cheating on tests.
  • Cheating on taxes.
  • Cheating on expense reports.
  • Calling a ball out in a tennis game that you're not sure was out.
  • Exaggerating.
  • Telling someone they look nice when they really don't (flattery).
  • Not telling the whole truth so you won't get in trouble.
  • Twisting the truth just a little so it won't sound so bad.
  • Lying to protect yourself.

Keep the list growing by asking sub-questions, such as, "What are some kinds of dishonesty to parents? What are some kinds of dishonesty to self?"

Saying you got in earlier than you really did.
Not being able to admit it when you are scared or worried or insecure.

Ask, "Are any of these forms of dishonesty okay? What about white lies or little exaggerations?" (Help them to see that even "little lies" are usually unnecessary: You can think a little harder and come up with an honest compliment; you don't really need to exaggerate, etc. If you're going to be honest, why not be completely honest?)

Share Your Own Honesty Dilemmas

This can help demonstrate to older children that you are willing to be honest with them -- even about your own struggles. Be brave enough to tell your children about times when you have had a hard time being honest. Tell them "positive" incidents when you were honest and negative ones when you weren't -- and tell them about any current situations where you are struggling to be completely honest.

This kind of sharing is quite a compliment to your older children because it expresses your confidence in their maturity. Nothing will inspire more trust from them or encourage them more to share their struggles with you.

The Scenario Game

This game will help children think through situations in advance. Define scenario as "a projected possibility with consequences." Then define possibility and consequences (appeal to the adolescent desire to use big words and "speak grown-up"). Then, in your own words, expand and elaborate on the following "case studies." The more dramatic and story like, the better.

Cheating. You're sitting in your English class, taking the final exam. You've studied hard, and the first two sections of the test are easy. The last section is much harder, and you realize it is from a book you forgot to review. You're pretty sure the teacher never told you to read that book. You feel mad at the teacher and that it's not your fault that you don't know the answers. The questions are multiple choice, and it's extremely easy to see Jim's answers across the aisle.

Exaggerating. Your family has just moved to town. You've started at a new school and made some brand-new friends. In the lunchroom they are asking what you did in sports at your former school. You were actually only a substitute on one team, but they don't know that. You wonder if you should tell them what you wish had happened, instead of what actually did.

Protecting yourself. You got in an hour later than your parents had requested. They had fallen asleep, so you didn't disturb them. It's now the morning after, and they ask you what time you came in.

Think of other scenarios (or use actual situations that you know of). Help your children (through discussion) arrive at the conclusion (and project it into each case study) that most dishonesty seems to solve a short-term problem or create a short-term benefit but leads to less confidence in self over the long run.

Opposite Word: Which Helps? Which Hurts?

This activity can help children grasp the effects of honesty and of its opposites on other people. Ask your children for antonyms or opposites of dishonesty (go beyond dishonesty to words like deceptive or lie or cheat), then ask how these words hurt and whom they can hurt. Ask how honesty helps and whom it can help.

(Note: There is a similar "help or hurt" method in each chapter dealing with that month's value and its opposites.)

The acceptance of "white lies" may be one reason that many people discount the whole notion of values. There is a feeling of inner confidence and security that comes with uncompromising honesty, and we should help our children to have that power even if we have not always had it ourselves.

Teaching Methods:


For Preschoolers (3-5)

For Elementary Age (5-12)

For Adolescents (12-18)


Listen to the parent discussion

Listen to the adventure


These files can be burned to CD or transferred to your mobile device.

Parent discussion in mp3 format

Adventure in mp3 format

Adventure in audiobook format (With this file, it will always play from where you left off. It will show up under audiobooks on your device.)


Who Are You? (Download)

Little Lies (Download)

Alligator Lunch (Download)

The Only Way Out (Download)

Tell the Truth (Download)

One Word (Download)

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