example for childrenIn my previous post, I talked about Lance Armstrong as a narcissist, and about how his greatest emotion in the Oprah interview came when he described confessing to his children.   He instructed his son to no longer defend him; instead, his son was to tell people, “Hey, my dad said he was sorry.”

This struck me as extremely disturbing.  It showed no insight on Lance Armstrong’s part about what he was teaching his children about the world.  Apparently, we can bully people for years, destroy their reputations and our finances, and then just say sorry?

Also striking was what Lance reported as his son’s reaction: His son appeared to shrug off his father’s admissions and to affirm, “You’re my dad and I love you.”

While I, of all people, am certainly a proponent of the parent-child bond, this distresses me.  Children need to be able to learn from their parents–not just the positives, but the negatives as well.  Children learn by holding their parents accountable.

I know I’m not privy to the inner workings of the Armstrong household, but it seemed to me that Lance was glad he’d been let off the hook by his son, when in my opinion, he should have been encouraging his son to take what had happened to heart.  Lance can now serve as a strong example to his children about how power and money can corrupt, and how we can lose sight of the needs of other people in a ruthless quest to maintain our own stature.

Will he do this?  I’ll have no way of knowing.  But if the Oprah interview gave any indication, he won’t.  He’s stewing over other people getting lighter sentences while he “got the death penalty” (a ban from sports.)  He obviously feels he should be special in every way, until it comes to sentencing.  The timing of his interview–when he wants to be permitted to compete in triathlons–and the timing of his apologies to those he has wrong certainly indicate calculation rather than remorse.

Now, most of us can never commit wrongs on the scale of Lance Armstrong.  We simply don’t wield the power and the influence. I like to think that the vast majority of us would not want to, but who knows?  

What I know is that all of us, as parents, can learn something from this story.  We’re going to do things wrong in our lives, and sometimes our children will be witnesses.   We all have chances to take shortcuts, to gain advantages at the expense of others, and when we’re presented with those, let’s behave as if our children were witnessing.  

If we do wrong, consciously or unconsciously, let’s own it totally when we talk to our children.   Don’t rush to have them absolve us.  Our children will learn morality by grappling with what we’ve done wrong, not only by being told what is right.  Let’s support them in their disappointment and confusion, and move through it together.  Let’s be better people for it.

Father and son photo available from Shutterstock