Tips For Parenting Your Teen When Talking Isn’t Enough

When it comes to parenting, talk isn’t cheap; it’s often expensive, particularly when it isn’t followed by action. If you’re an adult trying to raise your kid to be your “buddy” or “friend,” then you might as well stop reading now. The ideas and strategies I’m about to suggest are not for you.

When it comes to drugs, I don’t believe that talking to your teen is enough. It’s a good start, but it often won’t keep you from easily joining the list of blindsided parents who were sure that their child could do no wrong (until their teen ended up in trouble at school or with the law). Legal fees, damages, lost scholarships, and rehab costs can ruin your family’s finances, and you’ll still be the lucky one if your teen doesn’t end up dead or in jail.

Let me explain this another way. I’ve been driving automobiles for over 25 years, and I believe adult drivers understand what a speed limit sign means. We’ve all been “talked to” and educated about the dangers of driving too fast.

Police officers know that we understand the dangers of driving too fast and are responsible citizens. Do they simply trust us because we are nice people, good workers, good athletes, or volunteers at church? I contend that if education was enough, there would be no need for radar guns, ticket books, or fines for speeding.

Therefore, educating your teen about the dangers of substance abuse isn’t enough either. That is why I’m such a strong proponent of establishing clear expectations, opening channels of communication, and implementing the follow-up strategy of home drug testing.

I advocate parents talking to their teens about drug use, just like they always have, with one notable exception; I encourage them to take it one step further and tie rewards and consequences to the outcomes of randomly administered home drug tests.

Parents should explain to their kids that life is about choices. When teens make good choices, they get rewards; when they make poor choices, there are consequences. That’s how a family drug testing program works. Drug-free teens should look forward to random test dates as if they were bringing home straight-A report cards to their mom and dad!

When the home drug testing program is explained this way, teens should feel no more uncomfortable about being asked to take random drug tests at home than most of us feel when we are asked to take them at work. It doesn’t seem like a big deal at work because we have nothing to hide (hopefully) and the expectations and methods of follow-through were explained to us up front.

When the results come back indicating no signs of drug use, your child should be able to pick out a modest reward of his or her choice, such as a music CD, a DVD, or an Xbox game. If your child has made poor decisions, then existing privileges get revoked and a timetable for earning them back (based on future drug- free test results and improved behavior) is implemented.

Besides peace of mind for yourself, what other benefits are there for members of your family?

1. Parents can suggest to their kids that if the peer pressure to try drugs doesn’t go away (or gets worse) after they say “no” to drugs, then the statement “No thanks my parents test me” is a socially acceptable excuse that can stop pushy peers in their tracks. Teens I’ve spoken with seem to appreciate having the ability to remove themselves gracefully from such situations.

2. In families where such a program isn’t in place, school officials and police departments handle these problems by default, and the costs associated with learning such a valuable lesson usually are much higher.

3. In families where teens have already broken the bond of trust and used drugs, teens struggle to regain their parents’ trust and parents hesitate to give it. Now there is a way for everyone to get what they want, since teens have a way to prove to their parents that they are no longer using drugs.

Mason Duchatschek has interviewed thousands of parents, teenagers, law enforcement officers, counselors, school principals and superintendents. He is the president of based in Fenton, Missouri.

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