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

 Publication Date:

  September 2003

 Catalog No:


..High School

Most of what we've said about the middle-school years can be said again, underlined, then highlighted, for the high-school years.

Teens are more mobile and more immersed in their own peer society. They may stay out of the house -- in after-school activities, part-time jobs, or just hanging with friends -- most of the day. And when they are home, they may spend time barricaded in their rooms, shut off from the family by closed doors and a wall of loud music.

It's hard for parents not to wonder what they're up to -- and hard, sometimes, not to assume the worst. Your ability at this point to shape your teen's life depends on the foundation of mutual trust and respect you've built your relationship on. And whether we like it or not, their ability to emerge as independent, competent adults depends on our willingness to let them make increasingly independent choices.

Suddenly, there's a lot about your teen's life that you'll know for sure only if they're willing to tell you. Trying to establish whether or not you're being told the truth can be futile and may even create further conflict.

You may have to accept the fact that you won't always know where or how or with whom they spend their free time.

Still, you should still be clear about your own values, preferences, and house rules. This is the basis of your working relationship in the home, and for exerting whatever leverage you can in helping to shape your child's life.

Remember, though, that you may not be in a position to extend your rules very far beyond the confines of your home. You may not have the information or the physical control to ensure that your rules are followed or enforced. But there are ways to continue to get your message across.

  • Let your teen know what you expect. It then becomes his or her job to live up to your realistic expectations. That task probably isn't compatible with drinking or drug use. By communicating, you develop a framework for ensuring that expectations are met. You may not always be able to see whether your teen is drinking or using drugs, but you can tell if he or she is keeping other rules.
  • Discuss and develop family rules together. Your job as a parent is easier if your children understand the need for rules that reflect your values and preferences. You've done your job as a parent if they can acknowledge the fairness of limits you set on their behavior. Work to build this kind of relationship, realizing that you won't always be fair and patient, and your kids won't always understand. Also, realize that your rules will need to evolve as your kids do.
  • Avoid power struggles. Focus on behaviors that are important to you and the family (like staying in school) no matter what else comes up. Emphasize your teen's responsibility for school work, attendance, grades, and conduct, whether they work part-time or not. Responsibility for household duties and for cooperating at home are important, too.
  • Be sure of the consequences you're willing to impose. If your child breaks house rules, set consequences in a firm, clear, and impersonal way. By "impersonal," we don't mean uncaring or cold; simply let your child know that a rule was broken or your expectations weren't met, and you have to set limits or impose consequences as a result.
  • Don't degrade, judge, or diagnose the child. Never try to convince your kids that they're bad, crazy, or stupid. That's not fair -- and it usually isn't even true.

Whenever you have to impose discipline, make it flow as a natural consequence of the misbehavior itself. Don't store up resentments, then unload "consecutive sentences" for minor misdeeds that you didn't bother to correct when they occurred. Negative reinforcement only works if it immediately follows an infraction. In building character and accountability in your young person, justice delayed really is justice denied.

Grade School Middle School High School Adult Child


Continue with Chapter 5: If Your Child Needs Help
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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.