I will never say, nor do I believe, that the source of a child’s drug related choices are a by product of parenting. They are not! There are so many factors that go into defining what a child is or becomes, it would be carelessly simplistic to lay the blame for the life of an addict 0n their parent.
As parents we have a responsibility to recognize the power, influence, and impact our parenting behaviors has on our children. And, we have a responsibility to closely examine how we can continue to improve, change, and grow in this arena.
I recently read an article in Linked In originally featured in the Laguna Beach Independent about parenting in this age of addiction. The parents quoted in this article had lost children to addiction and offered their fresh, direct, and unfiltered commentary about the parental responsibility in these frightening times.
While I don’t necessarily exactly agree with everything these parents said, there is an excellent thread of thinking I do believe quite strongly in and am aligned with:
- “Parents must teach their children how to work through issues; they mimic what they see. ‘Preach it right through example.'”
- “Kids need parents. A parent is not a friend. There needs to be rules to protect them.”
One of the most influential books in my addiction journey is “Beyond the Yellow Brick Road” by Bob Meehan. If you have attended one of my speaking events or had a one-on-one coaching conversation with me, you will hear me reference lessons from this book quite often.
I love this book because it teaches parents two important lessons:
- How to understand the adolescent mind
- How to be a more responsible, consistent parent
One of the most insightful lessons obtained from Meehan in this book is his insights in how parents often lose credibility with their children. The primary culprits are found in:
- Our inability to model our own conformity to the rules we set for our children.
According to Meehan, as they become adolescents they start to become very observant of all adult behavior. They are looking for hope, insight, integrity, and consistency. How we model the rules, the laws, the standards of conduct we have defined for our children’s behaviors lends credibility to our teaching and instruction. If we are inconsistent, above the law, or demonstrate the exceptions to the rules, we are modeling behaviors that have no integrity or credibility in the adolescent mind. Be mindful of the model you are living — for what you do is much more powerful than what you say.
- Our unwillingness to enforce the laws when our children break them.
Meehan says that the greatest destroyer of parental credibility is failing to enforce the law when the rules are broken. The way he defines this is that we, as parents, do not need to create a lot of laws or rules; but, we need to set some clearly defined boundaries on some issues. A component of defining these boundaries is establishing what happens – the consequences – when they venture outside of them. We owe it to our children to clearly define the outcome, the result, the punishment associated with venturing outside the boundaries. When our children venture outside these boundaries, or “leave the fort” as Meehan calls it, we must be willing to enforce the consequences as they were defined and explained beforehand. If we don’t our children learn, as with everything else we have been modeling, that there are exceptions to every rule and there are no clear cut consequences for breaking the rules. Letting our children off the hook for an indiscretion doesn’t teach them responsibility, it teaches them that rules are made to be broken and breaking them has no consequence.
I am not here to tell you that doing these things will prevent your child from discovering, trying, or getting addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, or gambling. What I am encouraging each of us to understand is that in our quest to learn and discover ways to minimize the risk, these are a couple of ideas that I would suggest you incorporate into your parental lifestyle.