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

The Situation

Jennifer is a transfer student in her sophomore year in high school. By November, she had made some good friends through her soccer team and her classes, but still felt on the outside of the more popular students. She has a great relationship with her parents, and trusts their advice to just give it time.

The first weekend of Thanksgiving break, rumors started that a blow out party was happening at a sophomore girl’s house while the parents were out of town. Jennifer didn’t know the girl well but she was one of the most popular girls in the class and most of the upperclassmen were planning on attending, as well. One of the hottest junior guys had already asked her if she would be there. Everyone was saying this was going to be the best party of the year. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to break out of her small clique and hang out with the students everyone always talked about.

Her dilemma was that there was no way her parents would let her go to this party if they knew the parents were out of town, and she wanted to go very badly. Jennifer had rarely lied to her parents and never about anything big. She knew her parents trusted her and that made it even harder to lie to them. Because they respected her, she hated the times when she felt like she was letting them down.

Her friends told her to just not say anything and only lie if her parents directly asked her about adults being at the party. Easy enough for them to say, but her friends weren’t as tight with their parents as she was with hers. She felt that if she just went to this one party her social standing at school could be a lot different. She would get to know more students, she’d be seen as someone they can party with, and she wouldn’t be so shy about approaching the more popular students anymore.

Would it be worth it to hide the facts of the party from her parents and risk having to lie? And if they found out about the party, could she deal with the fact that they probably wouldn’t trust her anymore? On the other hand, everyone lies to his or her parents eventually. And if they never found out, what would it really matter

Notes for the Facilitator

I like this case because it gets students thinking and talking about the fact that what feels like an okay choice for one person might not feel so okay to someone else. And it is a good example of how listening to others may only confuse, rather than help us make the right choices. Every child has a unique relationship with his/her parents, and that relationship informs the ethical choices the child makes involving his/her parents. At some point we have to consider the potential consequences of our actions and weigh whether the benefits are worth the price.

I also like this case because often I find that teens are constantly talking about “if parents ever found out…” yet they share in class how awful they feel when they lie or hide things from their parents. It often makes them feel alone and vulnerable. Getting kids to formally talk about a case like this tends to shed some light on this point.

Encourage students to share a wide variety of responses. Sometimes, I split the room in two and have kids go to one side or the other based on whether or not they would go to the party against their parents’ wishes. Then, I have them state their points to one another. Chances are many of your students have already lived this case study and might share what it felt like for them to make that choice and whether it was worth it to them.

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

  • What do you think about Jennifer’s situation? Do you empathize with her? How does being new possibly affect her dilemma?
  • What would you do?
  • What do you think your parents would do if you told them about the party?
  • Have you or someone you know ever been in a similar situation? What happened?
  • What do you do when you are faced with a situation where there doesn’t seem to be a “good choice”?
  • Who do you have in your life (besides your parents) that you might go to if you were faced with this dilemma?