Saturday, December 13, 2008


When speaking to one of my own kids on various subjects, including Use of Illicit Substances (UIS), Smoking, Alcohol, Sex, and other serious adolescent issues, I try to avoid always lecturing, yelling, and backing my child into a verbal corner from which there is no retreat.

While those techniques certainly have their place and can be effective, I also use the caring, fatherly approach. My messages are generally packed with the following information (NOTE: Although the following tips are in regard to UIS, the same tips can be used when discussing any issue):

1) I tell my child the latest news that I might have heard, regarding UIS, such as a commercial or TV show that I saw (and which I suspect that she saw or about which she might have been told), an injury or death in the newspaper that resulted UIS, or maybe some news from her school, my school, or our community. The source of the information is not important, as long as it is relevant.

2) I ask my child if he/she had heard of the information that I had just presented. It’s not important whether or not they had heard of the presented information. The important part is the fact that you’re asking the question and that you’re curious for their answer. As you are asking for his/her knowledge and/or opinion on the matter, it lets him/her know that you care about this issue.

3) I then indicate how I would handle the similar situation if it had been presented to me. Of course, I am substantially older than a middle school student with many years of educational experience and three college degrees behind me, but it’s always good for my kids to hear how a responsible adult would handle the situation. Although they might disagree and even argue that my method was silly and would never work in today’s middle school setting (kids always say that their parents are out-of-step, don’t they?), it is still good for them to hear (over and over) how a responsible adult would handle the problem.

4) Then comes the big step! It’s time to ask your child how he/she would have handled the same problem or how they reacted to the problem that you presented. Hopefully, he/she will occasionally disagree with you. If your kids consistently agree with your line of reasoning, WATCH OUT! They are merely attempting to placate you, so that they can get on to their lives at the moment. Be sure to listen carefully, as their answers can often provide unintentional insight into their patterns of thinking, their true intentions, and their friends.

5) Be sure that the conversation, whether short or long, is filled with meaningful expressions, words, and thoughts, as well as letting them know that you care for their well-being as a person and as your child. While it might be easy to say, “Because I’m your dad (or mom) and I said so, now do it!”, it’s definitely not going to be effective in most situations, although that line of speech certainly does have its place. Rather, be sure that your child understands that you are serious about the subject, as well as their life.

So, yes, as difficult as it might be, continually raise the issues of the day with your children, including UIS, alcohol, smoking, sex, etc., so that they know that you’re aware of the issues, that you care about their reactions and abstinence, and so that they know that you care about them!

Remember, remaining silent will be much easier, but it will also signal to your kids that you don’t care! So, it’s time to TALK!TALK!TALK! to your kids ….. every day as much as possible!!

Paul W. Reeves

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