How can we parent our kids and teens better? I think the answer lies in allowing our kids to have more choices, not fewer. We want to empower our kids and teens to make better choices for themselves, and this does not happen by wrapping them up in a cocoon. Here’s an example of something that hopefully will cause you to rethink some of your parenting strategies:
My mother and her sister were both given cigarettes at age six and eleven. Mum will not smoke now but her sister became a chain smoker from that experience. I think their father made a huge mistake, nevertheless he was trying to put them off smoking and knew no other way. Imagine if he had done what I have done with my teenagers:
I have always said to my kids, if you ever want to try out smoking, just let me know and we will sit down together so you can try one. Now, hear me out. This is my logic. The child who wants to try a cigarette will try one regardless of whether you agree or not. If you say no they will simply do it behind your back. That’s what kids do.
What if you were to let your child know that it is OK to want to try it out, but that you would prefer them to try it out in your presence? Doing this takes away the peer pressure that most kids face nowadays, leaving your child to make an educated choice without any pressure from anyone. Don’t you see the value in that?
The goal of parenting is to help your children learn to make great choices in life and when their friends are not pressuring them, they have the best chance to do this. Parents, you need to let your child know that it is OK to want to have a cigarette, but that they should bring their request to you. Believe me, this will save you from heart ache.
Parents need to control the environment as much as possible. I have three teenage boys and I have asked them to come to me should they ever wish to smoke a cigarette. I would then go out and buy the strongest available cigarette and watch them try smoking one.
I know it sounds weird but the safest place to try something like this is definitely with mum or dad. When you show your child or teenager that it is OK to want to try it, they will be less likely to go ahead with it. None of my boys have asked me to smoke with them yet and I have a funny feeling they won’t want to because I have empowered them in this area. It is no longer a big deal to them because I said they can try it out if they are curious.
The moral of the story? Try real hard not to forbid things that your child wants to do, rather channel them to do it in front of you so that you can supervise. Now that is great parenting of kids and teens.
Kim Patrick is a single mum with four children who lives on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia. She is a parent coach, seminar speaker and author of the book “Get Your Child To Behave In 30 Days Or Less”.