Thursday, August 28, 2008

How to Raise Kids That Can Say No

Sanya asked what I'll do to keep my kids from smoking. Honestly? I'm already working on it.

The trick is to start now to stack the deck in your kids' favor. Teach your kids by your own example. Don't say, "Do What I Say." Make a commitment to live how you want your kids to live: "Do What I Do." Give them a sense of identity as part of the family that doesn't do 'those things.' And surround them with friends and adult confidants that will be there later when they need it but won't come to you.

The only way I know how to do this is how my parents did it. They took us to church every week as a family. But not only did we go to church, we lived religion at home too. We had a night each week dedicated to spending time together as a family. We prayed together. My friends were mostly church friends, and my church leaders were friends too.

I know the idea of joining a religion to keep your kids out of trouble is not incredibly attractive! There should be more to conversion than that. But I grew up in a religious (not fanatic) home, and I know it's what kept me out of trouble. My siblings and I didn't smoke, drink or try drugs during high school or college. I even remember when my folks were trying to get my brother to stop watching R-rated movies and had to give them up themselves.

Here are some things you can start doing now, whether you're active in a church or not:

* Find other parents that have the same values you have, that have kids the same age as yours. Church is great for this, but maybe playgroups or gymboree classes or things like that could help you find families like yours too.

* Get together frequently and encourage your children to make friends with this group. Continue to augment your group of friends with families that you think will be good examples and support to your child.

* Give your child freedom now to make choices, and let them suffer the consequences when they make bad choices. They need to learn early how choice and consequence works before the consequences are the serious kind they'll be facing when they're older.

* Spend time together as a family doing fun things, and also use this time to teach your family a system of moral values.

* Live those values yourself. If you don't want your kids to smoke, you don't smoke either.

* Set long-term goals as a family regarding what kind of family you want to be, and then constantly encourage and help each other achieve those goals.

* Don't forget that even the best parents that do everything they can still end up having kids that have problems. All we can do is our best, and then never give up and keep loving our kids no matter what.

Of course, it's really easy to say this stuff now. I was also a great parent before I had kids. So ask me again in 10 years how I'll handle these things. ;)

1 comment:

iMommy said...

I just wanted to pipe in and say that I'm from a household that did this very well without a big emphasis on religion. My mom made sure that we understood what was right and wrong... but also gave us a real gift in learning to see things from another person's shoes. It helped us throughout school to figure out WHY our friends really wanted drugs and alcohol...and once we realized that those reasons were superficial and based in insecurity, we didn't want to do it anymore.

I didn't drink until I was 19, and I still haven't smoked a thing. My brother and sister are 19 and 23 and neither drink or smoke - once the mystery was gone, it wasn't attractive to us!

Plus, she always made sure that we knew - if we did end up in a situation where we felt uncomfortable OR even if we had done something we knew was wrong - gotten high or drunk or whatever - that we could call. She would pick us up, no questions asked. We could talk if we wanted to, or not.

I had to do it twice, and she was true to her word. No grilling, no questions, no nothing. Just a ride home and no judgment, because she knew in the end I had made the right decision and that was good enough for her!