No parent is perfect. As a divorce attorney and father, I know first-hand how hard it is being a parent. So, how do we as parents positively influence their behavior? The few points I’ve listed below are not me preaching to you; in fact, you probably have thought about all of these. However, what I’ve listed below are what children I represent have repeatedly said would have positively influenced their actions.
- Know the parents: There are parents who would rather have their child get high at their house than at a stranger’s house. Children will flock to one of two types of homes: one is where their vices are being met, or one where they needs are being met. You need to know what their friend’s parents will allow at their home.
- Check up on them: When you child is leaving home, ask them “Where, when, how, who, and why.” If their story sounds fishy, investigate. Remember that God probably let you survive the stupid things you did as a child, so you could outsmart your child. I know parents who will call the home where their child is supposed to be and ask to speak to the parents. Does their child hate this? Yes. Do they accuse their parents of not trusting them? Yes. Did that child later say that their parent checking on them resulted in better choices? Yes. The reason given was that they believed their parents cared enough about them to know what they were doing.
- Tell them how their actions make you feel: For example, it is one thing to tell a child they shouldn’t use drugs because it’s bad for them. It’s another thing to tell them why you don’t want them to use drugs. Let’s face it, despite what our cardiologist says, we still eat Krispy Kreme Donuts. Telling your child not to do something because it is bad might work, but what they want to hear is simpler than that. Tell them that you love them and that you will be disappointed in them if they make that choice. They may not care about their bodies, but they may care about you.
- Let them fail: I see this in some of the addicts that come in my office. Their parents just couldn’t let their child fail, and as a result their child continued the same behavior. I understand that this point is somewhat contradictory to the previous points, but if we as parents consistently bail out bad behavior, are we not really rewarding it? Tough love is hard, but necessary.
What I have outlined above is not necessarily a “How to Parent” guide. It is a list of what I hear teenagers say either contributed to or prevented certain actions. We are not perfect and parenting is tough, so go get a Krispy Kreme Donut. You can tell your doctor that I gave you permission as your reward for being a great parent.