Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Teaching Ethics? Maybe yes.

It is difficult to know when to try to control our kids and when to let them make their own decisions.

It is not easy with kids you've had from birth, but it is easier. When they are tiny you make the decisions. As they get older you give them more freedom. Of course we almost never give them as much freedom as they want, but the gap (by comparison) is not that large.

With teen foster kids it is so much more complicated. Many of them have had very little supervision and they do not take kindly to someone trying to control them. The problem is they so often need it.

Dan (Other People's Kids) and I are currently in different places. He is dealing with a kid who desperately needs some control and he and his wife are providing it -- and entertaining the rest of us at the same time (thanks Dan!). I have been there.

I am at the other extreme (well, as close as you can get and still pretend you are being a parent at all) with Evan. Evan is basically not self-destructive. Most of his decisions are pretty good. With the approval of the social worker we have agreed that as long as he follows the rules that he agreed to (go to school, pass classes, do chores, be respectful, be where he says he will be, come home, etc.) we will trust that he is making good decisions and not try to monitor and control him. (You can tell already that Evan is a relatively easy kid because he has been keeping up his end of the bargain).

He has made some decisions recently that I really disagree with. I have been tempted to clamp down. I'm resisting though.

It appears to be working, I think. In any case there are signs of hope. He had his first "client" in his on-line psychic "job." He came to talk to me about it. We had a very interesting conversation. He said that he was more uncomfortable than he expected, lying to people for money. I told him that his discomfort showed that he had a conscience and that was a good thing. He said he wanted me to make him feel better about it because he could make lots of money doing it. I told him that I really could not help him feel better about committing fraud. He told me how certain he was that he would not get caught. I told him how irrelevant I thought that was to the ethical question at hand.

Interestingly this conversation was actually fairly light. We were talking about serious things, but there was laughter while we talked.

Here's the way I am thinking about it: Evan has been thinking in terms of what he can get away with. If I forbid him to do it, then I encourage that sort of thinking. He would either not be doing it because he couldn't get away with it or (more likely and much more terrible) getting away with it and feeling proud of how clever he is. By instead expressing disapproval and letting him choose I am giving him the opportunity to not do it because it is wrong.

Right now I am hopeful. Wouldn't it be cool if it worked?

So I wonder what the next post on this issue will be. Will I be feeling all wise and wonderful? Or will I be feeling duped and foolish?

I am breathless with anticipation.

Next: Thinking about lying


  1. Sounds like you mastered the situation. I'm in awe. We are indeed in different places. My current project demands...a tighter grip on the rein, shall we say.

    Keep us posted on this. It's interesting.

  2. I think I agree. Keeping the lines of communication open is important and at his age, forbidding doesn't do a lot of good does it. Even with these younger girls, I pick my battles and let them make their own mistakes.


Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.