Now that your child is getting older, there are many topics—curfew, free time, chores—that are open to negotiation with your child. Some things, however, are still non-negotiable. They include alcohol and drug use. It is your job as a parent to present them as such. Some tips:

• Be explicit, but give reasons. “Underage drinking is not acceptable in our family. Neither is illegal drug use. Both are very harmful to your health. We will never condone them.”

• Do no expect your child to experiment. Yes, many young people do. But plenty of others do not! This is not some “rite of passage.” One night of experimentation can harm your child. Be clear to your child that experimenting is a huge risk. Do not say, “Be careful.” Say, “Do no do it.”

• Do no approve of “Friends” who drink or use drugs. You can’t control who your child spends time with at school. But if you know a peer drinks or uses drugs, you can tell your child that she is not allowed to socialize with this peer outside of school. If your child does so, she will be disobeying you, and consequences should follow. Again, the reason is her health—research shows that children who hang around users are more likely to use.

Source: Paul Coleman and Richard Heyman, The Big Book of How to Say It KIDS, ISBN: 0-7352-0177-4 (Prentice Hall Press, 1-800-847-5515, Reprinted with permission from © 2009 The Parent Institute


As a parent, you’ve had more life experiences than your child. So it’s natural to tell your child what you’ve learned. But to your child, this is no more than a lecture. He tunes out.

• Role-play. Look for a situation where you can encourage your child to think about decisions and consequences. A news story involving middle or high school student could offer a good opportunity. Ask your child, “How do you think that happened?” After he answers, say, “I wonder what (the person involved) could have done instead?”

• Map it. This is a great way to help your child make choices. At the top of a piece of paper, write one choice on the left, the other on the right. Starting with the left choice, pose a question to you child. Write it down. Example: “Your choice here is to stay home from your friend’s party so you can finish your English paper. But suppose your friend gets angry. How would you handle that?”

Continue for several more questions and answers until your child gets a full understanding of the results of that choice. Then do the same thing with the choice on the right. Example: “Your choice is to go to the party. But then your paper isn’t finished. Now what do you do?”

When you’ve done both sides, talk with your child about the results. Even if he doesn’t make the “right choice, he is now aware of consequences because you helped him figure them out, not because you lectured him.

Source: “Kenneth R. Ginsburg with Martha M. Jablow, “But I’m Almost 13!” An Action Plan for Raising a Responsible Adolescent, ISBN: 0-8092-9717-5 (Contemporary Books, 1-800-262-4729, Reprinted with permission from © Copyright 2009, The Parent Institute