How to Prevent Good Kids From Making Bad Choices About Drugs

By: Mason Duchatschek

One of the things that kids value most is the trust and respect of their parents. However, when kids think they won't get caught, they don't feel their bond of trust is ever in jeopardy and they do what they want. It's easy for good kids to make bad choices.

Parenting decisions are only as sound as the facts on which they are based. Unfortunately, parents often make decisions based on fantasy rather than facts.

Let's explore the topic of teen substance abuse as an example. Too many parents get lulled into a false sense of security because their kids play sports, make good grades, and have "nice" friends. That's a fantasy.

Speaking factually, about half of all high school seniors have tried illegal drugs. (The numbers go much higher if you include the students who have used tobacco and alcohol.)

From the time children are very young, they're taught to "just say no" to drugs. I'm convinced that the peer pressure usually gets worse when they do because teens don't know what to say next.

An emerging trend offers parents direction and hope. Drug testing kits now exist that can be administered at home and provide instant results for a fraction of the cost of a lab, without sacrificing accuracy or privacy. Parents who follow through with such an approach give their teens a socially acceptable excuse. The words "My parents test me" stop pushy peers in their tracks. Additionally, teens' poor behavior and choices can be made to change when teens know it's a certainty rather than a remote possibility that their drug use will be discovered.

Parents often ask me when they should talk to their kids, what they should say, and what they can do to follow through. Ben Franklin said, "Wise is the man who fixes his roof before it rains." I couldn't agree more. I suggest that parents would be well served to sit down with their children and start talking about the dangers of drugs as early as when their children are in middle school.

While a conversation about the dangers of drug use is an important first step, it's simply not enough to protect your child without a plan to follow through. To prevent teen drug use in his community in Idaho, Dr. Michael Reznicek, a medical doctor with emergency room experience, actually developed a software program that facilitates the initial parent-child conversation.

Dr. Reznicek believes trust should be earned rather than bestowed. His approach eliminates potential misunderstandings by creating a contract that spells out specific rewards and consequences tied to home drug test results. Additionally, the software he developed becomes the preferred target of potential animosity over requests for hair, urine, or saliva samples for drug testing purposes because it also selects random testing dates.

You're not alone if you think YOUR teen would "just say no" to drugs. A recent study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America found that only 18 percent of parents were willing to consider the possibility that THEIR child had tried illegal drugs (not including tobacco or alcohol). It's no wonder so many teens think their parents won't find out. They're right-until it's too late.

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