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Let's bring about a little guilt.

People talk about the moral breakdown and the lack of ethics in America as if they don't know what to do about them. I know what to do: Bring back guilt! Good old-fashioned, intimidating, demoralizing, threatening, viper-tongued guilt.It used to be an art form among mothers, passed from generation to generation. When was the last time you refused to speak to your kids for four days, and when they asked why, you said, "YOU know!" When they persisted with "Tell me," you answered, "I can't tell you anything."

I figure I have a lifetime pass into my children's lives. If they were sports heroes and sold autographs to a bunch of star-struck kids who tagged along after them as if they were gods, don't you think I'd put a cork in their bottles? I'd do something subtle, like send 'em a check for signing my Mother's Day card with a note, "Tell me if it costs more."

The morality erosion has surfaced on all levels, from top government sports and industry to relationships. A commitment these days isn't worth the spit it takes to form the words, "You can count on me." We either can keep lawyers busy - like the recent case in which a girl sued her prom date for canceling out, causing her to get stuck with the expense of flowers, etc. Or we can start early and stay late with kids and elevate our expectations of them.

I personally blamed our son for the stock market crash of 1988. He will never borrow more money than he can pay back again. They all have tapes of me in the labor room before their births, which they can play back on their VCRs . . . just in case they think my birthday doesn't matter. Where else can they get that kind of love?

I personally hate guilt. I hated it when my mother used it on me, but it worked. I would have waited until I was 55 to get married if I hadn't had to hear her say one more time, "We're not asking you NOT to get married; we're only asking you to wait until you're sure."

Today, whenever one of my kids messes up, I have a "look" that is just below the one where your dog dies in your arms. This is accompanied by deep sighing and threats that have no rationale. They probably would have skipped school more than they did, but they weren't quite sure if I would appear and chain them to their desks or if I was bluffing.

It's a great temptation for kids to cut deals with integrity when the front pages are full of Exxons, Boeskys, Norths and TV evangelists selling paradise.

It is within each of us to etch a line of moral standards in our life. The hard part is not to cross over it for money, power or personal gain. The inner voice of a mother at your elbow, threatening you with giving her chest pains if you so much as put a toe over that line, can't hurt.