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Be your child’s strongest influence

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With all the recent hullabaloo about Miley Cyrus’s twerking and her music video in which she swings naked from a giant pendulum, what she is actually singing about may have gone unnoticed. The once-popular Disney star who was idolized by kids everywhere is now singing about taking the street drug Molly, doing “lines” of cocaine in the bathroom, and partying all night.

Hannah Montana has grown up, and it’s a scary thing.

With those kinds of messages in popular media, keeping your children on the right path may seem like a challenge, but it is possible. And the biggest step is to set yourself up as the most important influence in their lives. The sooner you start, the better.

“Parents are the number one reason why kids don’t do drugs,” says Peggy B. Sapp, president of Informed Families, an organization that works to reduce drug use among kids.

Sapp wants parents to know that no one is more powerful in influencing their children than they are.

“Drug education is about teaching children self-control and responsibility. It’s not so much about talking about drugs as it is about positioning yourself as the parent and authority figure,” Sapp says.

Here, from Informed Families and the National Crime Prevention Council, are some ideas on how to build stronger relationships that will keep your children on the right track.

Establish good communication

The better you know your children, the easier it will be to guide them towards positive activities and friendships. Develop a genuine interest in your child as a person. Make time for his questions and comments, even if they seem silly to you. Talk to your children every day. Share what happened to you and ask what happened to them during the day. Ask your children their opinions and include them in making decisions. Show your children that you value their thoughts and input.

Get involved in your children’s lives

Young people are less likely to get involved with drugs when caring adults are a part of their life. Spend time doing something your children want to do every day. Support your children’s activities by attending special events like recitals and games. Praise their efforts, not just their successes. Most important, when you are with your child, be present in the moment. Put away your cellphone. Don’t worry about something else while you are talking with your child. If you are preoccupied, you will send the message that you don’t think your child is important.

Be a source of support

Help your children manage problems by asking what is wrong when they seem upset and letting them know you are there to help. Listen to your child’s or teen’s concerns without judgment. Repeat them to show that you heard and understand. Even if you disagree, don’t preach. You want your child to feel comfortable and confident in coming to you.

Make clear rules and enforce them consistently

Share your views about life, what is right and wrong, and what you aspire to for your family. Discuss rules, expectations, and consequences in advance. If a rule is broken, be sure to enforce the consequences such as taking away television or video games. This teaches children that they are responsible for their actions. Give praise when your children follow rules and meet expectations.

Be a positive role model

Demonstrate ways to solve problems, have fun, and manage stress without using alcohol or drugs. Children really do notice what their parents say and do. Avoid contradictions between your words and your actions. This includes how you deal with strong feelings, emotions, stress, and even minor aches and pains. Actions speak louder than words.

Help your children choose friends wisely

When children have friends who don’t engage in risky behaviors, they are likely to resist them, too. Get to know your children’s friends and their families. Involve your children in positive group activities, such as sports teams, scouting troops, and after-school programs.

Updated 5:28 pm, December 9, 2016
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