Where Did They Learn It From?

We’re rightfully disappointed when we hear about a kid getting caught cheating. Whether it’s on a test or a violation of some NCAA policy, it’s good that we take these things seriously. The problem, of course, is the lack of self-awareness–on our parts.

Way back in the 1960s, the late, great Bill Russell noted the absurd hypocrisy with which collegiate athletes are judged. “So athletes are caught cheating and the educators, coaches and alumni suddenly go around with a long face saying, ‘That ingrate. He cheated us,’” Russell wrote. But the real question these folks should be asking about someone caught cheating, Russell said, was “Where did he learn to cheat?”

The answer is obvious: From the same people who are so aghast. And the same is true with our own children. They learned to yell…from us. They learned to hide their mistakes or screw ups instead of owning them…from us. They learned that the world was a cutthroat place where winning was more important than principles…from us.

Your children are not stupid. They are always watching. If you don’t want them to be cheaters, then show them what an honest life looks like–show what passing up shortcuts and competitive advantages looks like. Show them what respecting the rules look like. Show them that you love them for them, not for their grades or performance or ranking.

There is a famous, now cliched, admonition often attributed to Gandhi, that we should be the change we want to see in the world. There is no surer way to affect positive change than to impart the right values to your kids through your example, as they will be the ones carrying those principles into the next generation and beyond.

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