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Parenting Is Hard

Being an example is never easy.

Parenting is hard. There’s no question about that statement. It is difficult. There are so many things to think about, guard against, and strive for that at times it can be overwhelming. 

I watched a news report a few weeks ago about one more thing to worry about. It was on KPHO Channel 5 in Arizona and it reported that teens have been using vodka soaked tampons to get drunk during school. Both boys and girls are inserting them to get a quicker buzz without getting caught drinking. The danger is that the alcohol does not go through the liver but straight to the blood stream. If a person has too much alcohol they would just black out instead of puking it up.

That may be an extreme example but teens are doing some pretty dangerous things when it comes to trying to get drunk. Using colored water bottles filled with vodka, soaking gummy bears and candies like that in strong liqueur, then munching on them through the day are just a few examples of things I know have taken place here.

Unfortunately many teens are getting their supplies from home.

This past year was a rough one for one teenage girl. We’ll call her Leslie for the sake of protecting her identity. She had run-ins with her parents that turned into run-ins with her teachers that turned into run-ins with the law. Once the ball got rolling it would not be stopped.

And it all started with her dad’s occasional use of marijuana. He tried to make sure that his kids didn’t know about it, but let’s give kids some credit…they always know. And so did Leslie. As she got older she began to experiment and dabble in pot. She also started drinking at a young age and by the time she hit 16 she was a full blown addict and alcoholic.

I have met with her parents many times talking through these issues and trying to get them to see that her behavior was directly related to what they were or were not doing at home. I’m not sure that they understood what I was saying because their behavior never changed. Pot was still smoked, parties still took place, and the abuse of alcohol continued.

Leslie’s behavior just got worse. She really began to spiral out of control. As her tolerance to the poisons she ingested rose so did the amount of poisons. She, predictably, started seeking different means to recreate that original high and began using harder substances. She has already been in juvenile detention once and may be going back.

I don’t tell that story because I’m a teetotaler or that I’m trying to say that beer is evil. But what I am saying is that we have to be aware that our behavior has a profound impact on our children. The things we do or don’t do are seen and implanted in our children from the day they are born. We are the living examples of what adult life looks like to our kids. And depending on how we live that example is how they, in turn will live that example.

If our weekends are filled with parties fueled by an alcoholic haze then don’t be surprised when your find your teen doing the same thing. If you’re a single parent with a parade of different partners coming in and out of your home, don’t be upset when your teen starts to model that. It is literally, “Monkey see, monkey do.” There is no “Do as I say, not as I do.”

And often time’s teens may take our normal behaviors and stretch them to ridiculous proportions. Just because a mom or dad will have some alcoholic beverage at home does not give a teen permission to go on a bender. But the reality is that many teens will use that as the reason or excuse for doing just that very thing. Many studies have shown that the part of a teen’s brain that connects actions to consequences does not mature until the mid-twenties. So expecting a teen to just understand or get it may be nothing more than setting them up for failure.

With that in mind, here are some ideas for you to try at home.

Tell them your expectations

Don’t assume your teens know what you expect from them. You what they say when you assume! Make sure that your teen knows what you want from them on all issues. Make sure that if you have alcohol in your home that your students know that it is untouchable to them. They need to realize they are not physically or emotionally equipped to handle it and if they do so it will be handled swiftly.

Stick to your guns

This may seem like common sense but you would be surprised. I couldn’t begin to count the amount of times I’ve counseled with parents on this very issue. If your teen breaks your rules then you need to discipline them.

Now discipline is never fun nor should it be. It should be painful (understand I don’t mean physically painful). If it’s not painful, it will not communicate that this action or behavior is not tolerated. Your teen needs to understand that life has consequences based directly on their actions. To deprive our students of this extremely important lesson is to set them up for disappointment.

Discipline should be corrective. The point is to not just punish but to get the root of the problem. Discipline gets to the “why” of what is going on. This may be the most important aspect of discipline. Getting to the source will help you as a family to enact change that can result in a positive step forward.

Build them up

After the discipline you should always make sure that you build your student back up. You want them to understand that you are disappointed in their behavior but not in them as a person. All this means is that you verbally and physically express your love for them.

Tell them you love them. Give your teen a hug or kiss on the cheek, make sure they understand that just because they’ve messed up does not mean you love them less.

Give them an out

I cannot stress this one enough! If you discipline your child, you must give them a way to earn that trust back. If you continue to heap punishment on your teen, the end result will be a teen that lashes out because what else can they do? 

If it gets to the point where all you’re doing is grounding or punishing again and again and again, the only thing you will be accomplishing is to destroy the relationship you have. There must be an opportunity for your child to earn back your trust.

Again, you must tell them and not just assume they know what they have to do. Spell it out and then tell them you expect them to do it. But here’s the key to all this, when they do what you laid out for them, that trust needs to be restored. Don’t allow yourself to hold a grudge and continue to punish after they’ve done what you’ve asked. This will do nothing but erode the trust they have in you.

Giving them the responsibility to earn your trust allows them to take ownership of their actions and will serve them greatly in life.

The good news is that it’s never too late to change. If you have never thought of these things, then start now. It will be bumpy at first but we have to think with the end in mind. If we want to be able to say positive things about our kids when they are adults, it starts now.

I believe that Leslie and her parents are beginning to understand that. The family is starting to make some positive changes in their lives to that effect. Our hope and prayer for her is that she continues down this new path in life and can leave her past where it belongs — in the past.

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