CURRENT EVENTS are the most natural conversational stimulant we parents can use. You may have noticed, when you try to talk to your kids about general issues they sometimes think you've got an "agenda". Or, when you talk with them about their personal issues, they sometimes think you're lecturing them. But when an event is in the "news", it's easy and natural to bring it up and check in on what other members of your family think about it.
Just today, a lively brou-haa came to a conclusion and the news media has been all over it. This is the perfect type of issue that parents can use to find out what their kids really think. And, because this issue includes beauty pageants, judges, photographs, gossip it's just too juicy for teenage girls to ignore.
The "Current Event" is this year's Miss California (USA) flap. It's perfect to start up a conversation about past "childish" behaviors that can affect achieving one's dreams. But, it also is a great example of telling the truth.
The three big issues that have received all the noise are 1) Is someone a "victim" if questionable past behavior is exposed?…2) Should someone be penalized for their opinion?…and 3) Is it OK to mislead or lie on an application? –for a pageant or for a job?
If you've not followed closely, one side of the debate focuses upon "freedom of speech". Should she have the right to answer a question posed to her during the competition according to her own beliefs or according to what the judge wanted to hear? Some folks believe the investigation into her past was a retaliation for expressing her personal beliefs about gay marriage. Those who see her as a victim, say the "dirt" wouldn't have been discovered or "uncovered" without their over-zealous examination.
I'm not on a soap box to lecture about her beliefs one-way-or-the-other. It might just be me, but I assume that we've got a "free country" and the right of Free Speech in the US …and I think most of us believe people have a right to their opinion. And, in the case of the Miss California pageant, Carrie Prejean was asked a question and she gave her opinion. We may not all agree with her opinion but That's That!
My issue isn't with her opinion or beliefs–that's up to her. However, I've got a big BEEF with her behavior surrounding her APPLICATION for the pageant. Her application into the contest was similar to a job application. The promoters wanted to be sure that there were no "skeletons" in her closet that would blemish the pageant or compromise their choice for the final winner. The application included questions about her past behavior, particularly if she had posed for nude or semi-nude photographs in any publications. She checked the box for "NO". And therein lies the topic of discussion I think is worthy as a result of all this attention.
It's not about whether or not she should have posed for the pictures–that's her choice and her consequence. And, as it turns out, she admitted after-the-fact when the photos surfaced that they were "modeling" photos and were "not intended for publication" so (in her mind) they eeked just under the specific wording of the question. You could use her immature judgement for posing for photos as a discussion topic, but I think it would be hard to keep our natural parental judgement under "house arrest". Save that discussion for another time.
But If you want to maximize the value of the "news", you can use this event as a topic of discussion around the dinner table, here's some suggestions for questions to ask your kids:
"What is the difference between "lying" or "puffing" or providing "misleading" information on an application for a beauty pageant or for a job?" Does the "end" justify the "means"?
"Who does it hurt if an applicant lies or misleads?" A beauty pageant winner becomes a role model for other aspiring young women. Is it OK to "fib" or "stretch the truth" in order to win and become a role model for other young women? Or in the case of an employment application, if the employer hires an inexperienced employee, is that a problem for the company?
And, here's the toughie: "Do each of us have a moral obligation to tell the truth?" Do we have a responsibility to the other applicants to represent ourselves accurately? To we have a responsibility to a future employer to give truthful information about our experience?
…and finally, "why does it matter, anyway?"
Dinner time discussions are NOT the time to argue. A lively debate can occur if everyone is willing to listen to everyone else's point of view, but NO ONE needs to be the "winner". This particular conversation topic is somewhat SAFE for everyone…because the focus is "out-there" on someone else. You may be surprised at what your kids have to say. And, it's important that you step back, keep quiet and listen. Between the lines, you may discover what their thoughts and feelings are about "fairness", "cheating", "lying", "winning-at-what cost", and maybe even "morality".
This view inside your kids' beliefs and feelings may lead you into another discussion at another time. Consider this particular conversation as a fact-finding mission–it will open additional discussion opportunities if your kids discover (through safe experience) that you value their opinion even if it is not your own.
NOTE: you may wonder why this post is included in "the Homework Success Network". Kids who are comfortable and experienced expressing themselves are going to do better in school; they'll learn more; and they will become more successful employees. Open, honest, and lively discussions allow children to experience how to express their views, how to avoid arguments and (as important as anything else), they learn that their opinion is important and valuable. So it IS about learning how to be successful in school…and life!