Making the really big choices
in life has always been tough enough for anyone, at any age.
But it can seem even tougher in the world today, because of the
near-endless variety of values and points of view available on
almost any topic, including the use of drugs and alcohol.
This isn’t necessarily a “bad”
People have always differed in
their beliefs. And it gives us all more of an opportunity to
choose the values that we live by — and question and modify
those values as they bump up against the real world.
Still, this has to be the first time in human history that any
society has had to accommodate such vast differences in moral
values and lifestyles.
One result is that our kids question
our values, as children have probably always done. And they see
all around them — in movies and TV, in magazines and on the
Internet — examples of people shaping their lives in radically
different, even “deviant,” ways, and not only surviving,
but apparently thriving and striving to tell the world just how
happy they are.
As a parent, you may even begin
to lose hope of ever convincing your kids to learn and live by
the same standards that you value. Still, there are ways of getting
your values across to your kids, if you know how to do it.
Start by realizing that it’s
virtually impossible to win a contest of values by convincing
others (especially older kids and teens) that they’re wrong.
More often, a contest of values
ends like the hypothetical collision between an irresistible
force and an immovable object — lots of sound and fury, with
both force and object diminished in the process.
In families, the end result most
of the time is stalemate, with neither side gaining or giving
ground, and both sides more convinced than ever that the other
is clueless and possibly dangerous.
It’s hard enough for adults to
agree to disagree and continue to respect each other, but it
can be harder for parents and children to give each other the
same kind of respect.
At this point, you may be thinking
something like this:
Sure, but I have a responsibility
to my kids that I don’t have for other adults. And besides, the
fact that I’m older ought to count for something. I know more
about life — and the world and its dangers. My values work for
me, and I want my kids to respect them. And respect me.
We agree. You have a right to
uphold your values and have them respected by others. As a parent,
you also have the right to decide what’s acceptable behavior
in your home — but not because everyone in the family agrees
that it’s right. Your preference is your privilege.
You can stay in charge, and both
you and your kids can retain more dignity and self-respect, if
neither side is “on trial” in a home version of “Judge
So state your position in a friendly
way. You can afford to do that when you don’t need your kids’
agreement. Listen respectfully to their ideas, but let them know
that the final decision on rules is still yours.
After all, children want to believe
that their point of view is the “right” one, too. And
often this leads the family into a “fact” war, with
each side hurling facts and statistics that support their beliefs.
So don’t even try to win a war
of values or courtroom-style debate over “facts” with
your kids about drugs or drinking. Simply state your values and
make household rules consistent with them, without necessarily
demanding or expecting agreement.
Remember, in the “court”
of public opinion inside your home, you’re the judge, not the
prosecutor — or the defendant.
Continue with Chapter 3
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