Title:   Drug Proofing the Family
 Authors:   Erica Wittenberg & Jim Parker

 Publication Date:

  September 2003

 Catalog No:


..Facts & Values

Making the really big choices in life has always been tough enough for anyone, at any age. But it can seem even tougher in the world today, because of the near-endless variety of values and points of view available on almost any topic, including the use of drugs and alcohol.

This isn't necessarily a "bad" thing.

People have always differed in their beliefs. And it gives us all more of an opportunity to choose the values that we live by -- and question and modify those values as they bump up against the real world.
Still, this has to be the first time in human history that any society has had to accommodate such vast differences in moral values and lifestyles.

One result is that our kids question our values, as children have probably always done. And they see all around them -- in movies and TV, in magazines and on the Internet -- examples of people shaping their lives in radically different, even "deviant," ways, and not only surviving, but apparently thriving and striving to tell the world just how happy they are.

As a parent, you may even begin to lose hope of ever convincing your kids to learn and live by the same standards that you value. Still, there are ways of getting your values across to your kids, if you know how to do it.

Start by realizing that it's virtually impossible to win a contest of values by convincing others (especially older kids and teens) that they're wrong.

More often, a contest of values ends like the hypothetical collision between an irresistible force and an immovable object -- lots of sound and fury, with both force and object diminished in the process.

In families, the end result most of the time is stalemate, with neither side gaining or giving ground, and both sides more convinced than ever that the other is clueless and possibly dangerous.

It's hard enough for adults to agree to disagree and continue to respect each other, but it can be harder for parents and children to give each other the same kind of respect.

At this point, you may be thinking something like this:

Sure, but I have a responsibility to my kids that I don't have for other adults. And besides, the fact that I'm older ought to count for something. I know more about life -- and the world and its dangers. My values work for me, and I want my kids to respect them. And respect me.

We agree. You have a right to uphold your values and have them respected by others. As a parent, you also have the right to decide what's acceptable behavior in your home -- but not because everyone in the family agrees that it's right. Your preference is your privilege.

You can stay in charge, and both you and your kids can retain more dignity and self-respect, if neither side is "on trial" in a home version of "Judge Judy."

So state your position in a friendly way. You can afford to do that when you don't need your kids' agreement. Listen respectfully to their ideas, but let them know that the final decision on rules is still yours.

After all, children want to believe that their point of view is the "right" one, too. And often this leads the family into a "fact" war, with each side hurling facts and statistics that support their beliefs.

So don't even try to win a war of values or courtroom-style debate over "facts" with your kids about drugs or drinking. Simply state your values and make household rules consistent with them, without necessarily demanding or expecting agreement.

Remember, in the "court" of public opinion inside your home, you're the judge, not the prosecutor -- or the defendant.

Continue with Chapter 3
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This is one in a series of publications on drugs, behavior, and health by Do It Now Foundation. Check us out online at www.doitnow.org.