Parenting With Attitude

An article by Peter Stoker for Bella Magazine

Learning the symptoms of drug use is all very well, but let’s say you were instead concerned about promiscuity. Would it be OK to wait for a sure fire symptom like pregnancy before you acted? Or would this be a little late in the process ? So it is with drugs. An effective parent needs to look for the early signs, not just of behaviours that may possibly precede drug use but also look for signs of what may precede that behaviour. And that means Attitude.Each of us, parent or child, follows a logical process in embarking on an action. We mull over thoughts, issues, impulses (messages) from people, or print, or music or screens. We formulate and review possible options, weight up risks and benefits, then select our preferred line of action. All this is inside our heads: invisible to anyone out there, including our parents.

The first outward sign is the development of an attitude towards the matter. If our attitude favours it, and the situation is conducive, we’ll probably go for it.

Take an everyday example of attitude change, tobacco smoking. Young children will make vehement statements against this “horrible habit”, will try to stop mum and dad doing it, and yet five years later they may be puffing away. What happened? You can’t blame it on candy cigarettes any more. It is almost certainly fair to put a good chunk of the blame onto cigarette advertisements but what may have been missed is the gradual change of the child’s attitude from revulsion, to tolerance. To curiosity. To admiration and thence to indulgence. Experience shows that young people often buy into the drug culture long before they start to use drugs.

Some markers of attitude change

What they say – have they stopped slagging off drug users? Are they prepared to argue the principles? When did you last discuss these with them?
What they wear – have their fashions changed markedly? What is their fashion? – what does it stand for?
Where they live – check out their room ! Whose posters and postcards are on the wall now, since My Little Pony or Thunderbirds when into the bin
How they relax – What sort of music, magazines, TV, radio do they follow?
How they relate – Have they dropped one crowd of friends for another? Are the new friends older? Are you happy with the new crowd and why/why not?
OK, so now you know some of the things to look for, put it into practice; but be aware that just because some of their attitudes are changing this doesn’t automatically mean they are into drugs, alcohol, or indeed any other negative pastime. But if their attitude is changing this is the time to step in. A few minutes now may save you years of agony later. State where you stand and why. Set clear boundaries for behaviour and make plain what will be the consequences they will earn by crossing these boundaries. Do not waiver. Try to avoid punishment i.e. ‘getting even’ in the consequences you set. Ensure that your own use of legal drugs is consistent with your
message, reflect on why you do what you do and be prepared to explain it rationally. Stay close to your child, show an interest and concern in everything they do – and check that Attitude.
Find out for sure by talking, really talking with your children – not talking at them but with them – which includes listening. Researchers say we spend on average 15 minutes a day talking to our children, of which 13 minutes is spent complaining! Why not reverse that ratio? You might be pleasantly surprised.

And should you become concerned that your child may be moving towards the drug culture, don’t let yourself be talked out of your concern. You are right to be worried. Any drug use can be harmful, legal or illegal. So-called (and falsely called) ‘soft’ drugs can indeed lead to others; its not inevitable, but if they don’t start on ‘soft’ stuff they almost never use the ‘hard’. Don’t listen to libertarians telling you that it’s just a rite of passage, that most survive their ‘drug using career’ – tell that to the parents of dead children, and listen to their reaction. Drug abuse is still a minority indulgence, especially since many of those counted as users only use once or twice. None of us need Drugs of Abuse, and we are all better able to fulfil our potential without them. Be prepared to fight for your child’s total health. Stick up for what you feel to be right. After all,

“A Person who won’t stand for something will fall for anything.” Anon.

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