What You Say To Your Child About Drug Abuse
We received the below response from Bob English, who is one of our contributors. We very much appreciate his passing this along to us, but we do have problems with Dr. Schlesinger’s approach to talking with kids about drugs.
Here’s why. Saying to a child, “I will not tell you,” automatically leads to the retort, “Why won’t you tell me?” If the parent then replies, “Just because I don’t want to tell you,” this sets a bad precedent for later when the parent wants to know something from the child. A teenager will likely say, “Why should I tell you things about me when you won’t tell me what you did when you were my age?” The very best outcome if this approach is used is for the child to accept the parent’s response but suspect the worse about his/her parent. We want to know what you think.
—Gene Griessman, Ph.D.
“I heard this from Dr. Laura Schlesinger a while back. While I don’t profess to be a fan of hers, this advice really hit home for me as a parent.”
“When your child asks you if you ever used drugs as a youth, and you suspect he’s really looking for justification, try this:
‘I’ll answer that question by asking you one. Why are you asking me that? Are you looking for justification for your own use, or are you curious? In either case, I’ll answer the same way. I will not tell you. I have a sacred duty to raise you to do what’s right. If I tell you I used drugs, you could use that answer to justify your own usage, and that means I have failed in my duty. I will not ever knowingly steer you in the wrong direction, or allow you to do the wrong thing if I can prevent it. My job is to be a role model for you, and for me to tell you that I might have done an unlawful thing, a damaging thing to myself, would be giving you permission to do it also. I won’t do that.
I realize that it is also my duty to be honest with you. But with you as the child and me as the parent, you have no right to know the answer to that question.
He may suspect that you are dodging the question, and you are. But you are not lying. And you are not telling him ‘It’s all right’ or ‘Everybody does it’. A parent should never tell that to a child.”
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