Nothing would be further from the mind of a good parent than contributing to their own child’s abuse of drugs. What parent would encourage a child to get high on cocaine, marijuana, beer, or some other such substance? Only a parent with the morality of a rattlesnake would contribute toward the drug addiction of their own children. But there are parents who are unaware that in a very subtle way they actually encourage their children to use some sort of drugs.
In a report published by the US Department of Health and Human Services, 1990 the following somewhat shocking statement is made. “Even adults who have a direct impact on the alcohol- and other drug-using behavior of young people are sometimes unaware of how their own behavior influences kids. Lack of awareness constitutes one of the most serious factors contributing to alcohol and other drug use. Consider for example the effect of
School officials who don’t believe that a drug and alcohol problem exists in their schools;
◦ Sales people in convenience stores and bartenders who sell and serve without checking identification;
◦ Judges who allow alcohol-impaired drivers off the hook, sometimes even for repeat offenses; or
◦ Parents who don’t want to appear hypocritical because they too used drugs years ago.” (Drug Free-Communities: Turning Awareness Into Action, page 6).
Parents are more than producers of children. Bible teaching relative to parenting is clear and precise. Accountable parents have no option when it comes to the proper training and development of their children. As parents, we are responsible to provide all the necessary ingredients that will later compose the character of the offspring. Paul wrote, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8, NIV). Provisions mean much more than food, shelter, clothing, and medical attention. A proper education is part of that which parents are obligated to provide.
Both spiritual and secular education are the makings of character. Solomon gave counsel to parents regarding secular training. He said, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NIV). Paul charged parents, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Mothers are to “guide the house” (Titus 2:5).
The proper provision for children also requires adequate protection. It would be quite normal for a father or mother to risk personal safety anytime to rescue their children from immediate danger. One of the reasons parents drill their children on not playing in the street is preparatory protection of the child. Labels are put on household items that are potentially dangerous and toxic to children. Many sad parents rue the fact that they lax in their diligence only momentarily to then find a dead child, a victim of some poisonous substance. The drugs that are available outside of the house are just as dangerous as those under the kitchen sink or in the pantry. Parents must provide precautious protection against themenace drugs pose to our children. But that takes some doing.
A prerequisite to providing the proper advance protection against drug abuse is a good example at home. Parents who use some form of drug, even those considered less harmful, must consider the weight of their example against continued use. Caffeine and nicotine are both drugs. While the use of caffeine has not been declared generally harmful to health, would you give it up if your child said, “Why shouldn’t I use pot — you drink caffeinated coffee and soft drinks.” Admitted that is not a mature or logical argument. But it is not easy to get that across to a child being pressured by his friends to join them in substance abuse such as smoking marijuana. It would be better to give it up for the child. Nicotine has been declared potentially dangerous to health. A child has a legitimate argument for using any kind of drug if his parent(s) set an example by using nicotine. Parents who socially drink, or drink alcoholic beverages ever so moderately, lose the leverage against a child who uses another form of mind altering drug. It is better; it is mandatory; it is right to forgo the use of any drugs at all in order to provide the right atmosphere for training children in the nurture and instruction of the Lord.
There are a number of ways parents can provide support to children against drug abuse. To begin, a parent needs to establish early the rapport with the child that causes that child to turn to the parent for guidance. That is the old story of communication. We have heard of the so-called “generation gap.” It is more accurately a communication gap. Here are a few ways by which parents may establish this kind of relationship with their own offspring.
Be a good listener. This doesn’t mean don’t talk. It means that a parent actually listens, hears, perceives, and understands the child who is willing to openly talk about everyday problems. Here are five ways to be a good listener suggested by the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention (OSAP).
◦ Rephrase your child’s comments to show you understand.
◦ Watch your child’s face and body language. (A child who shakes visibly while saying, “I’m not afraid” is speaking the truth in body language rather than verbally.)
◦ Give nonverbal support and encouragement. (A smile, a hug, a pat on the shoulder, nodding the head or simply holding your child’s hand is a great reassurance. It does not mean necessarily that you are consenting to misbehavior – it means you are willing to try and understand.)
◦ Use the right tone of voice for the answer you are giving
◦ Use encouraging phrases to show your interest and to keep the conversation going. (They suggest such phrases as, “Oh, really?,” “Tell me about it,” and “Then what happened,” will help your child continue communicating with you.)
Build the child’s confidence and self-esteem. It may surprise many of us, but alcohol and drug abuse relate directly to a lack of personal confidence and self-esteem. Which child would be more likely to say no to drugs — one who is always down on himself, who has never felt appreciated or praised or the one who is confident and self-assured about his own values and ability? There are several ways you can build this confidence and self-esteem in your son or daughter.
Give praise when it is deserved. No matter how insignificant the event, if a child does well tell him so. Parents can be on the alert for accomplishments in which their child did well. If a child tries to do better, recognize and acknowledge it. A child who is constantly under scrutiny and criticism is a perfect subject for poor self-esteem and personal confidence.
Set goals for your children. Make sure you and your child sit down together and talk about what is possible in the future. The goals should be realistic. That means a parent should not expect too much and a child of whom too much is expected is destined for failure.
Correct a child by focusing on the deed — not the child. If you tell your child, “You are dumb — don’t you know smoking can stunt your growth — you dummy!” you may expect your child to repeat such behavior. It is better to criticize the act of smoking rather than treat a child as an imbecile.* Children must be given duties to perform. The worst thing a parent can do to a child is do everything for the child. A child who has no responsibility never experiences accomplishment. They never know what it means to do a job well and understand the rewards involved. Idleness is the devil’s playground.
Demonstrate true love for your children. The first place to demonstrate it is in the marriage relationship. Studies clearly show that children of divorced parents are much more likely to become involved in alcohol and drug abuse than those of a happy and loving family. Children are often the innocent victims of divorce. Never be too busy to hug, kiss, or speak words of endearment to your children.
Parents may also inadvertently contribute to their children’s problems with drugs by not being attentive to the crowd their children join. Enough has been said and written about “peer pressure” to make it superfluous to say more just here. But think about this: in one week, your children’s companions can undo what you have tried to build in twelve years. The apostle Paul was dead right. “Do not be misled, ‘Bad company corrupts good character” (I Corinthians 15:33, NIV). When we think that Paul wrote that some 2000 years ago and consider how relevant it still is our caution regarding our children’s associates should be sharpened even more. Here are a few suggestions to overcome peer pressure.
◦ Show your child that individuality is precious. Everyone is unique and in that sense special. A unique person does not have to imitate the crowd. A child who may be inferior athletically but excels academically should understand that what he has is important — even more important than being a good athlete. One who is the opposite must also realize that athletic ability is something to be enjoyed and enhanced.
◦ Show your child what a real friend is and is not. Discuss whether friends would invade each other’s rights. Would friends try to lower each other’s moral standards?
◦ Show your child you will support them in their stand against peer pressure. Peer pressure is very strong and all children need all the support they can get. Show the child that by refusing to do what is wrong they should expect respect from others. Those who do not give that respect should then be evaluated by the child as to whether continued association is advisable.
◦ Show your child the dangers associated with drinking, smoking, or taking other drugs. You need some education yourself. Know what alcohol does to the body, the brain, the nervous system, and to the quality of life in general. Do the same with other drugs. Be able to intelligently discuss this with your children. It is no more wrong to create dread and fear in the child for drugs than it would be to create the same for a mad dog, a stranger on the corner, etc.
◦ Show the child what reverse peer pressure is. In many schools and youth organizations across the country peer pressure is being turned against negative behavior. They use peer programs to support each other’s positive values about life. Do this at home, or in the local church where you and your family worship. This is a simple thing to get started. It is a guided group action where the other side of misbehavior is discussed and where good behavior is rewarded and held up as exemplary.
There is one more thing that should be addressed. One of the most subtle ways our children are influenced toward drug abuse is television. A number of studies prove that children, especially teenagers, learn many of their values about alcohol and other drugs from television and other public media. Most of what they learn from TV, movies, music, or fiction is wrong. When some popular entertainer smokes that naturally influences the child who admires him. The same is true of drinking alcoholic beverages. Advertising of beer is especially influential. Beer companies advertise by showing the pretty, handsome, happy, vibrant, and youthful people who “deserve a break today.” What that says to the child – if you want to be pretty, handsome, happy, vibrant, and youthful you deserve the right to drink a beer now and then.
It is important to counteract the influence of TV or movies. It seems impossible to completely shelter children from advertisements for drugs of all kinds. Probably it is not good to completely isolate a child in such a way. The counter measures we may take come in the form of showing the child the truth about alcohol and other drugs. Here are a few suggestions.
• Show the child that there are many entertainers and athletes who shun any kind of drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, or mind altering drugs. Get a list of those you know in the entertainment world who do not drink or smoke.
• Explain the foolishness of the adult drinking privilege. After all this 18 or 21 year old restriction is foolish. Drinking is not an adult privilege. It is only an adult privilege legally. Moral standards, by God’s standard, are equal to every accountable being regardless of age.
• Show your child what alcohol and drugs can do to judgment and muscular control. Drugs, especially depressants such as alcohol slow a person’s judgment. Other drugs also impair muscle movement and control.
• Show the child that one does not need alcohol or drugs to be liked or be popular.
• Show your child that “everybody” is NOT drinking, smoking, or doing drugs. Give the child some specific examples.
Finally, parents must be faithful in parental responsibilities. Protecting our children and training them right is more important than a new house, a cottage on the lake, a new car, wardrobe, or any other material possession. If you lose your family, you may lose your own soul. The subtle ways of the world around us are enough to put us all on alert. The subtle ways we often contribute to the problem of drugs and our own children are not easy to discover or deal with. But, we have no choice.