Is Lance's confession a teachable moment for kids or not?

  • Blog Post by: Jeremy Olson
  • January 17, 2013 - 11:46 AM

Lance Armstrong's expected confession tonight seemed like an opportunity to blog about lying -- and how parents should talk to their kids about lying and incidents in which famous people are caught lying. Of course, when I typed "teaching kids about lying" into Bing, the first suggested web site on the subject was -- the health and fitness web site from which Armstrong has profited.

That's not to say that the web site didn't have good advice. It recycled guidance from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Disney:

  • Find Examples: Read stories; look at artwork; watch movies; or listen to music that offers examples of lying and the consequences, then discuss your own perspectives.
  • Be Honest: Be a role model for telling the truth, including admitting that you have lied if confronted by a child..
  • Convey Understanding: Try to understand your child's reason for lying, rather than focusing on the act of lying ... Ask your child directly for her motivation: What did she think would happen if she told the truth?

Still, being directed to an Armstrong-backed web site for advice on talking to kids about Armstrong's lies regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs seems twisted. Does it really send a message to kids that lying is bad when Armstrong walks away from tonight's expected confession with millions of dollars in the bank and celebrity status intact?  

Research psychologist Peggy Drexler offered some perspective in the Huffington Post on this complicated issue of boys having heroes who turn out to be cheats. A couple nuggets from her column:

"Offer perspective. Help kids realize that athletes and other role models are not infallible. Heroes are real people, and people are flawed. Like most of us, heroes will usually require forgiveness at some point in their lives. But also let them know that lying, cheating and disappointing others, no matter how famous a person is or isn't, is not normal, or excusable, behavior."

"Talk about the need for honesty. Most fallen role models not only do something wrong, which is bad, but lie about it, which is worse. Use the opportunity to teach kids how to handle mistakes. Take them through the steps: Accept responsibility, express remorse, ask for forgiveness, make amends and don't make the same mistake again. Let your child know that whether or not he decides to forgive a role model is up to him, but that how a role model behaves in the wake of his mistakes can, and should, play an important part in that."


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