Values Clarification: An Exercise for Your Teens

Joe Namath and Roger Staubach are former NFL quarterbacks who played in the late 60s and early 70s, and are now enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Namath was “Broadway Joe,” the superstar who lived the New York club life with a new babe on his arm each night. He opened a popular Upper East Side nightclub called Bachelors III, which not only drew big names in sports, entertainment, and politics, but also organized crime figures. To protect the league’s reputation, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle ordered Namath to divest himself of his interest in the venture. Namath refused and retired from football. But he eventually recanted, agreed to sell the club, and un-retired. In 1984, at age 39, confirmed bachelor Namath married Deborah Mays. The couple had two daughters, and divorced in 2000.

Staubach was a Naval Academy star (Heisman Trophy, 1963) who did his military stint after graduation, and then joined the NFL. He and his wife, Marianne, have been married 56 years and have five children.

I remember a TV interview with Staubach sometime in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. The interviewer was trying to draw Staubach into comparisons of himself and Namath with respect to their lifestyles, especially sex. At one point the interviewer even implied that perhaps Namath’s libidinal needs were more satisfied than Staubach’s. I’ll never forget how an irritated Staubach interrupted the interviewer and said, “Wait a minute. I enjoy sex just as much as Namath does. I just always have it with the same woman.”

Are you the parents of a teenager, and wondering where he/she might be heading on the morality wagon? You could share the stories above and ask them leading questions like, “Who do you admire more?” “Who do you want to be like?” But what about instead of focusing on their choice of identification, try this question on for size: “Which lifestyle do you prefer that we, your parents, follow? Namath’s or Staubach’s?” Suddenly, the context is not one of you telling the kid what’s right and what’s wrong. And, when the kids hear themselves telling you how they want their parents to behave, they open the door inside themselves for thinking critically about some pretty heavy issues.

For parents looking to discuss “character” with their kids – things like ethics, integrity, values, and honor – they might consider as a prompt two US Presidents, George H. W. Bush, and Donald Trump.

Bush was the 41st president who served one term from 1989 to 1993. In 1942, at age 18, he enlisted in the Navy and became an aviator during WWII. He flew his first combat mission in 1944 during the attack on Wake Island in the Pacific. Three months later his plane was shot down during a bombing attack on Japanese-held territory, but he was rescued. After the war, Bush married Barbara Pierce in 1945, a marriage that lasted until his death, 73 years and six children later.

In 1993 Bush lost his bid for a second term as president to Bill Clinton. In his concession comments he said, “Well, here’s the way I see it. The people have spoken and we respect the majesty of the democratic system. I just called Governor Clinton over in Little Rock and offered my congratulations. He did run a strong campaign. I wish him well in the White House. And I want the country to know that our entire Administration will work closely with his team to insure the smooth transition of power. There is important work to be done and we wish him well.”

Trump was the 45th president, and he lost his bid for a second term in 2020. He was educated at Fordham University and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in May 1968. In 1977, he married Ivana Zelníčková. They had three children and ten grandchildren followed. The couple divorced in 1992, and in 1993 he married Marla Maples. They had one daughter. They were divorced in 1999, and in 2005, Trump married Melania Knauss. They have one son.

Following his loss in 2020, Trump said, “This election was rigged. Everybody knows it. I don’t mind if I lose an election. But I want to lose an election fair and square. What I don’t want to do is have it stolen from the American people. That’s what we’re fighting for, and we have no choice. We already have the proof, we already have the evidence, and it’s very clear. Many people in the media, and even judges so far, have refused to accept it. They know it’s true, they know it’s there, they know who won the election. But they refuse to say, ‘You’re right.’ Our country needs somebody to say, ‘You’re right.'” To this day, Trump continues to encourage his followers to find a way to overturn the election.

Try the Bush/Trump stories as prompts in discussions with your kids about honesty, values, principles, and conscience. Ask the kids: “Which approach do you prefer that we, your parents, follow, Bush’s or Trump’s?” Even if your kid knows where you stand on Trump, the nature of your question puts the discussion on a different playing field where you, not the kid, is the object of concern. Also, the issue becomes much broader than Bush or Trump. “I wouldn’t want you to look for excuses when you lose, Dad.” Or, “For me, Mom, if you really believe something, I want you to stand up for yourself.” Again, you have opened an inner door to self-discovery for your kids. Isn’t that what parenting is all about?

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