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Good Kids, Tough Choices: How Parents Can Help Their Children Do the Right Thing

ISBN: 978-0-470-54762-5
272 pages
September 2010, Jossey-Bass
Good Kids, Tough Choices: How Parents Can Help Their Children Do the Right Thing (0470547626) cover image


A practical analysis and inspiring guide for teaching kids "ethical fitness"

Parents are beginning to realize that deficiencies in ethics and character are becoming a big problem among our nation's children. According to the latest data, lying, cheating, and rampant insensitivity to other people are increasingly common. What can parents do? In this book, ethics expert Rushworth Kidder shows how to customize interventions to a child's age and temperament. He encourages parents not to give up, since what they do can always make a difference, regardless of how long or deep the bad habits of dishonesty may be.

  • Encourages parents to intervene early and re-establish children on the right course
  • Explores the keys to ethical behavior: honesty, responsibility, respect, fairness, and compassion

All of Kidder's practical advice is based on the latest psychological and neuroscientific research about how kids develop character and learn what's right and wrong.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: Three Lenses for Ethical Parenting.

How to Use This Book.

What If I Face Ethical Dilemmas of My Own?

1 Raising Kids in Today's Moral Environment.

What the Research Tells Us.

Why Parents Make a Difference.

2 Birth Through Age Four.

Branson and the Gold Coins.

Teaching Responsibility.

Playing According to Your Own Rules.

Loren Wrecks the Train.

3 Ages Five Through Nine.

Teaching Thrift in an Age of Opulence.

Teaching Ethics Through Principles.

Ethics and Peer Pressure.

4 Ages Ten Through Fourteen.

Resolving Ethical Dilemmas.

Zero Tolerance.

Avoiding Bystander Apathy.

Showing Moral Courage.

5 Ages Fifteen Through Eighteen.

Finding the Third Way.

A Sexual Crisis.

Caught Stealing.

Confronting Parental Weakness.

Explaining Divorce.

6 Ages Nineteen Through Twenty-Three.

Counseling, Not Controlling.

Supporting Your Daughter or Saving Your Grandchildren.

The Difference Between Courage and Stubbornness.

7 Conclusion.

How Emotion and Morality Interact.

Using the Moral Toolkit.

Top Ten Tips for Ethical Parenting.



Further Reading.

About the Author.

Questions for Discussion.


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Kidder (How Good People Make Tough Choices), founder and president of the Institute for Global Ethics, a nonprofit organization that promotes character and integrity in corporations and other groups, focuses on parenting issues in his latest volume on the subject of ethics. Kidder treats children from birth to age 23, with age-appropriate chapters that address such questions as how to respond when children lie or steal, how kids can overcome selfishness, and how to react when a child breaks school rules. Arguing that "ethical fitness" can be taught and requires the same kind of long-term commitment as physical fitness, Kidder considers common ethical challenges through the three "lenses" of knowing what's right, making tough choices, and standing for conscience. Using "extended narratives" developed from seminars and interviews, the author dissects a range of moral dilemmas and explains how, through discourse and conversation, modeling and mentoring, and practice and persistence, parents can help kids develop moral courage and make ethical decisions. Kidder maintains that good moral habits can be taught and developed when parents are willing to make a commitment to communicate and stay involved. (Oct.) (Publishers Weekly, September 6, 2010)
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Press Release

June 16, 2011
Good Kids, Tough Choices: How Parents Can Help Their Children Do the Right Thing

GOOD KIDS, TOUGH CHOICES: How Parents Can Help Their Children Do the Right Thing

“Rush Kidder’s Good Kids, Tough Choices is great for every parent who wants practical advice about how to raise kids with good character who do the right thing. He doesn’t offer platitudes or one size to fit all, but shows how to approach every moral question in the context of the individual situation. Rush has done his homework and has the research to prove it, from his own studies all over the world.”

--Michele Borba, author of  Building Moral Intelligence and  The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, and parenting expert for The Today Show

“Parents long to raise good kids—kids who live by sound guidelines, arrive at wise decisions, and have the courage of their convictions,” writes Rush Kidder.  Yet sound parenting in today’s world can be a daunting task.   Many parents are uncertain how to guide their children through ethical dilemmas without coming off as preachy or old-fashioned. Often, they end up saying nothing.  Good Kids, Tough Choices: How Parents Can Help Their Children Do the Right Thing, by Rushworth M. Kidder (October 4th, 2010; Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley; $16.95) explores how parents can overcome these obstacles and effectively support and lead their children from early years to late teens.     

  Based on four years of extensive research and on-the-ground interviews with parents about their real-life ethical dilemmas, GOOD KIDS provides clear, easy-to-follow guidelines for parents to navigate the sticky issues that their kids confront in the 21st century.  

We learn that:

  • Given the chance to fib their way out of tough situations, kids three and under don’t tend to lie—but those four and older do
  • College students who knowingly wear counterfeit sunglasses are twice as likely to cheat on tests as those wearing the real thing
  • Simple acts like playing with Legos can be used to teach important ethical issues

We also learn about the three “lenses” that help kids see and develop their own integrity:

  • knowing what’s right (their core values)
  • making tough choices (their ethical decision making skills)
  • standing for conscience (their moral courage)
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