Ethics Can Be Fun? 2 Games to Teach Your Grandkids

Honesty, respect and money are concepts that go hand in hand. To spark productive conversations about ethics with your children and grandchildren, try these two car games.

There is way too much talk about “Fake News” and “Untruths.” Our kids are listening and watching and are bombarded with adults arguing. In the wake of the recent tragedies, we all need to go back to our roots.

I know I contribute a column about money; but money is based upon the fair exchange in a marketplace grounded in mutual respect for buyer and seller. You can’t talk about any of those topics without talking about honesty.

Respect for the Community

I believe that one of my most important messages to send to parents and grandparents is for them to empower their young ones: to give kids both the skills and the values to interact with the rest of the world. I also believe that learning the art of negotiation for the fair exchange of material value can lay the groundwork for another kind of empowerment: fair exchange with the world at large in terms of respect.

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Every interaction of respect is important, and every interaction is mutual. Kids today talk a lot about being “dissed” — meaning treated with disrespect. No one, child or adult, should accept being treated with disrespect. But the best way to set up an interaction based on respect is to initiate it.

Start in a very small way with your young children. You want them to understand how they are connected to their community and to have respect for that. Take littering for example. If you litter, you are showing disrespect for your neighborhood, your community and your environment. If you pick up litter, you are showing respect. In either case, there is likely to be a chain reaction. Litter attracts litter. People are more likely to just toss something aside in an area that’s already littered than they are in an area that is neat. In just the same way, cleaning up can attract cleaning up.

We can change: Our society is doing better when it comes to litter. When I was little, people really didn’t think about the environment. You might toss a candy wrapper out the car window or a soda can over the side of a boat without thinking twice. Now we are aware of how destructive that is.

We could apply these same lessons to our value system of telling the truth, as well. Lies beget lies. Truth begets truth.

2 Games to Help Teach Ethics

It’s never too early to start your grandchildren thinking and talking about ethical behavior. A fun way to do this: Turn it into a game for the car, where you are all together and it is easy for conversation to flow back and forth.

For the little ones, you can write good and bad behavior traits on pieces of paper and put them in a Behavior Bag. Here are some examples:


  • Nice to others
  • Fair
  • Honest
  • Loyal
  • Trustworthy


  • Dishonest
  • Unfair
  • Cheater
  • Mean
  • Calling people names

Instructions: Each child draws a piece of paper out of the bag, reads what is written on it, and says whether it is good or bad behavior. Then everyone has to give an example of that kind of behavior, from real life, a hypothetical situation or a favorite book or movie.

You can also have an Ethical Decision Bag. This is a little different — the slips of paper here contain situations, and the question everyone has to answer is, “What would you do …”

  • If you saw a wallet lying in the bushes?
  • If someone gave you too much change?
  • If your teacher wasn’t watching, and the person at the desk next to you knew all the answers to the test?
  • If you are visiting a friend and they had left some money out on their dresser? Would they mind if you “borrowed” it?
  • If your best friend told you a secret and made you promise not to tell?
  • If a friend told you a secret about someone else, and you were pretty sure that the other person wouldn’t want it to have been told?
  • If your sister or brother got blamed for something you’d done?
  • If you knew you lied but said that you had told the truth because you were afraid of getting in trouble?
  • If something you really wanted was lying on the counter of the store, and there was no around?
  • If you asked other friends to lie for you because you knew you would get in trouble?

Add any of your own ideas to this list. You can see that this will create lively conversation and a chance for you to discuss your values.

A family, a community and a society can only be built upon a solid foundation of ethical behavior. You must be the teacher of our next generation. We all need to watch our words and deeds and remember the wisdom of Mexican author and Nobel laureate Octavio Paz: “The relations between rhetoric and ethics are disturbing: the ease with which language can be twisted is worrisome, and the fact that our minds accept these perverse games so docilely is no less cause for concern.”

Teach your offspring and be their role model.


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Neale Godfrey, Financial Literacy Expert
President & CEO, Children's Financial Network Inc.

Neale Godfrey is a New York Times #1 best-selling author of 27 books, which empower families (and their kids and grandkids) to take charge of their financial lives. Godfrey started her journey with The Chase Manhattan Bank, joining as one of the first female executives, and later became president of The First Women's Bank and founder of The First Children's Bank. Neale pioneered the topic of "kids and money," which took off after her 13 appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."