Parent By Example

One error that many parents make raising an at-risk youth is to ask their teen to do something that they themselves are not doing. Believe it or not, we have talked to parents who thought it was not really that big of an issue that they smoked marijuana with their child. Obviously, if a parent is going to do something illegal with their child the message being sent to them is that it is okay to break the law and use drugs. A parent who spends time with his child has an opportunity by example to teach the child respect for others. The example of obedience to the law -- and every other positive thing that is necessary for an adolescent to develop properly -- is best taught by a parent's example.

The parent who called saying that he on occasion smoked pot with his child was actually surprised that his son was in trouble with the law and frequently using drugs. We believe that if you expect something of your child you should be willing to adhere to the same set of rules. The youth of today are very bright and can see through any type of false set of double rules. They believe that if it is not bad for you, it won't be bad for them.

Establish Rules

A family is similar to a corporation, an organization or a company. There must be someone in charge, and everyone needs to know what their part is in the overall dynamics of the organization. You would not talk down to or belittle someone in a work or church organization just because they are lower than you on the flow chart. Communication in a family should be civil and courteous to the degree it is possible. There is really no need for voices to be raised. A child who does not understand what is expected of him or her will have very little chance of staying out of trouble. It is good to have a set of family values that are understood by all family members. They should be written down and clearly displayed for everyone to see.

Family rules should be very specific and detailed. It would be good for parents to establish the rules prior to meeting the rest of the family. Once the parents have a basic outline of what they expect from their family it is time to gather together and discuss them. Parents should leave some room for the youth to negotiate on issues that may not be that critical, but some rules will be non-negotiable. For a child to be accountable they must first know what they will be accountable for. Take some time and establish a set of family guidelines. You will be glad you did. In many successful family organizations parents are co-captains and make important decisions together.

In order to accomplish this, individual pride and personal issues need to be set aside so that the best decision for the family will be made, and followed up on. Difficulties arise in a split family or blended family situation. In the case of a blended family it may be necessary to have all four parents meet together to determine what will work best as they will all be exercising parental authority over some of the children. This will be even more difficult with two or more people involved, but if the overall betterment of the family is kept in mind, it will be possible.