THE BLOG
01/23/2013 08:22 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2013

Parents: Use the Lance Armstrong Disgrace As a Teaching Moment

It's all over the news. You can't miss hearing about it. After years of denying, lying and bullying, Lance Armstrong finally came clean and admitted the truth that he had been taking performance enhancing drugs -- cheating.

In his much-ballyhooed interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong offered this gem: "Everybody that gets caught is bummed out they got caught." Whether you break someone's trust or a Ming vase, you have to own up, take responsibility and pay the price.

Being a Citizen of the Household and a Citizen of the Community are an intrinsic part of my lessons on financial responsibility.

When my son was 5 and my daughter was 8, my daughter had reached the age that she wanted her privacy in the bathroom, and we agreed. We told my son that he couldn't go barging into the bathroom -- or any other room with a closed door -- without knocking. "Mom," he protested "knocking hurts my knuckles."

Instead of risking hurt knuckles, my son decided it would be more effective to kick the door to announce his presence. One morning he "announced" his way right through the bottom panel of the bathroom door. It couldn't have been much of a door if my 5-year-old was able to kick it in, but it was broken and he was responsible for the damage. Although he thought it would be a good idea to disguise the damage by painting petals around the hole and turning it into a daisy, it had to be replaced.

This was in New York City, and at that time, the cost of replacing and installing the door was $300. I couldn't expect my 5-year-old to pay the entire cost of the door, but I brought him into the process of the replacement. He understood what was involved in it -- the work, the hassle and the financial obligation -- and he contributed a portion of the cost. He paid 10 percent of the total price: $30. He also had to go with me to the lumber store, where he saw the price of a new door, and he went with me to the handyman, who discussed the job and his estimate for doing the job. I made sure my son was there to watch the door being replaced so he could see, firsthand, how much trouble he had caused.

We didn't discuss bathroom door insurance -- we'll leave that for another blog!

The door incident was a big hassle but a lesson was learned. Breaking something that doesn't belong to you is a problem both inside the family and outside in the greater community. Everyone knows that it's not good to break things; in most cases, nobody means to do it, and in most cases, the person who broke something is going to be sorry -- sorry about the accident, not "Sorry I got caught." But, restitution is also needed.

Tips to Remember:

1. Keep calm - yelling when something is broken sends a message that things are more important than people.

2. In the case of breaking something, an apology isn't quite enough. The reward -- or punishment -- for behavioral matters should be behavioral; the reward -- or punishment -- for material matters should be material. If you break something, you have to pay for it, in time, money or both.

3. Not taking breakage seriously enough sends a damaging message: that it's not really important to respect the boundaries of others.

4. The value of money is made apparent to the child by seeing how long it takes to repay out of his allowance. It hits home.

5. Younger kids can't pay full price of replacement, but it has to be a contribution that can be felt and should be paid on a schedule.

*5- to 10-year-olds should be responsible for an amount that can be paid in 3 to 4 weeks.
*10- to 12-year-olds should be up to two months.
*Older kids should have to make payments until it is paid in full.

6. Grandparents have to stay out of this arrangement -- no paying for the kids.

It may sound like strong-arming to prevent your child from Armstrong-ing, but what you are doing is teaching your child real-life skills. Actions have repercussions. For Lance Armstrong, a half-hearted "I'm sorry" is not enough. He has "broken" many lives and did not own up to his responsibility. Now he has to "pay the piper" monetarily. This is a lesson in honesty, integrity and respect for others.

Please share your thoughts or experiences in the space provided below.