By Charis Denison, Prajna Consulting
Daily Dilemma — GoodCharacter.com

The Situation

Jay and his mom were on the way home from attending an evening at school for parents and teenagers. The event was designed for parents and teens to build communication skills around the issues that kids face during high school.

The night had gone so well that Jay decided this was a good time to ask his mom about drugs. He had been wanting to do that for a long time, but figured he’d just get a lecture. He wanted something more real than that.

Jay told his mom about a party he had recently attended where some of the kids were smoking pot. Jay had never smoked pot before, and he was tempted to give it a try, but he declined because he thought about what his parents might do if they found out. Now seemed like a good opportunity to find out exactly what they would do.

So he asked his mom.

She replied that she would be terribly disappointed in him. That she would feel she had failed as a parent. That she wouldn’t be able to trust him anymore. That she would seek professional counseling for the whole family.

Her answer seemed pretty clear, until—

A few weeks later, the family was packing for week of skiing. As Jay was helping to load the last of the bags into the trunk, he knocked over his mom’s bag and a small pipe fell out. He picked it up and saw traces of pot left in the bottom of it. Now what?

All the way to the mountains Jay replayed that moment of finding the pipe. The hypocrisy was too much. Now, what should he do? Should he stay quiet and assume this gives him a perfect excuse to smoke pot, or should he confront his mom and tell her what it felt like to find the pipe in her bag?

All Jay knew for sure was that he resented having to make this choice at all.

Notes for the Facilitator

Students will talk about the hypocrisy of adults forever. It is a favorite topic because it resonates so much in their current lives. They are in the middle of forming their own ethics while moving from seeing their parents as their primary community to seeing their peers that way. Since they are sort of emotional and ethical nomads at this point, they are quick to find and point out the signs along the way that are clearly incorrect or confusing. Also, there is nothing more satisfying that proving an adult wrong.

This case can foster a much larger discussion around the issue of adult hypocrisy, which is helpful. At the same time, I think it’s important to deal with the specific issue that Jay is facing. He is actively looking for his moral compass. He is asking some good questions and looking for guidance. And he got slammed. What do you do when you are trying to do everything right and you are betrayed by someone you are raised to trust implicitly? Finally, how do you follow someone’s rules when that someone is breaking the rules?

Discussion Questions (& Debate Topics, Writing Assignments, etc.)

  • What are the possible consequences if Jay confronts his mom?
  • What are the possible consequences if Jay says nothing and waits to use the information later?
  • Can you think other options Jay might choose?
  • What are some of the feelings Jay probably felt when he discovered his mom’s pipe?
  • What would you do if you were in Jay’s shoes?
  • Can you think of a time recently when someone you admired let you down?
  • What are some examples of hypocrisy that you see in adults? What do you think are some causes of why those examples exist?
  • How comfortable are you with your parents in discussing some of the choices you’re making in your life right now?