What Needs to Be Taught

Proverbs 22:6 tells us to train children in the way they should go, and when they are older, they will not turn from it. Is it any wonder we have such a high rate of alcohol and drug abuse when parents and kids spend so little time on the subject of training children? Children who have the best chance of not doing drugs or alcohol come from families that have taken the time to train them—and during the preteen and adolescent years, this is especially vital. If you can get children through those years drug free, their lives are almost guaranteed to be free from chemical abuse. Those who neither smoke nor drink as teenagers are mostly immune to later drug abuse. But parents who refuse to take the time to educate their children have a good chance of spending time trying to treat serious problems later.

The education part of a good drug-proof plan involves more than just knowing and teaching the facts about alcohol and drugs. Those are important elements, but the teaching must have a broader base, including the following three areas.

Responsible Versus Irresponsible Behavior

When I (Steve) first started working with drug addicts and alcoholics, I was amazed at the level of immaturity I saw. Many of these people told stories of how they stopped maturing when they started using drugs. Others told me they never learned to make decisions based on receiving rewards for good decisions and being disciplined for bad decisions. Many never had a model of responsible behavior, and even more were without someone to guide them toward it. So my job was to do for them what no parent had done before. I taught them the art of making responsible decisions. Don’t neglect this important task for your children.

For example, suppose my (Jim’s) daughter comes to me and asks, “Daddy, may I go to the beach with the Foster family today?”

I must help her see the whole picture, so I say, “You would have a great time at the beach with the Fosters. They’re some of our best friends, and you’re welcome to go with them most of the time. However, we’re having your sister’s birthday party at the same time. Which do you think is more important?”

My goal is to let her make the right decision on her own. However, I may well hear, “But Rebecca has all her friends coming to the party, and she really wouldn’t care if I wasn’t there.”

In that case, I may have to put my foot down and say, “Today you are not allowed to go with the Fosters because I believe it’s more important for our family to celebrate Rebecca’s birthday together.” Although I had to impose my will, I still introduced the concept of thinking and choosing logically, not just emotionally.

Social and Communication Skills

Many kids today use alcohol and tobacco as a means of connection and building community with each other. As a result, that places an even greater importance on the fact that parents must take the time to teach children, through instruction and by example, to socialize and communicate without chemical assistance. Kids need to be exposed to social situations from a young age and shown how to relate to others in a relaxed manner. The edge of awkwardness needs to be rubbed off by caring parents. A child will then have less need to find social success in a bottle or a pill.

Positive alternatives to drugs and alcohol also need to be implanted in kids’ minds. Parents can help a child find and develop some skill or talent so the child feels competent. Sports and the arts are good possibilities. They build self-esteem and fill time that might otherwise be used to do drugs.

The Dangers of Losing Control

One of the first people I (Steve) worked with was a girl who drank and used drugs. She was raped in a vacant house. Pregnancy, AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, and automobile accidents are real consequences of losing control. Take time to explain the possible consequences of drug use to your children. If you don’t, they will see only the glamour of losing control as portrayed in movies and television.