Herald Journal Columns
Feb. 13, 2006, Herald Journal

Setting clear rules


We know that as our children grow, they become more independent in every aspect, but they continue to need our guidance.

Hopefully, our children will make positive, healthy decisions. A prominent hope for our children is that they do not become involved in using drugs, alcohol, or other such substances, or partake in other negative activities.

Realistically though, most children will be faced with the decision of whether to use a substance or not at some point, and it is vitally important as caregivers and parents that we try and equip them with the right tools so they can make positive, healthy decisions. Communicating with our children and keeping those lines of communication open is crucial as our children grow and become teenagers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, in its National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, stresses that kids who learn from their parents about the danger of underage drinking, drugs, and other harmful substances are less likely to use those substances. We do have power to keep the children we love, safe and healthy.

The campaign notes in its “Keeping Your Kids Drug-Free” guide that two-thirds of kids say that losing their parents’ respect and pride is one of the main reasons they don’t smoke marijuana or use other drugs – so our words and actions do matter.

With literature and information from this campaign, as well as from other sources, the Kid’s Connection articles for the next few weeks will focus on ways we can help our kids make healthy decisions, and most hopefully, remain drug-free.

Research shows that young people are less likely to use tobacco and other drugs if their parents set clear rules about not doing so. On the website, www.theantidrug.com, experts noted that if parents have not set previously established rules around more basic activities of daily living, they will have little chance of getting their children to obey a rule about not using tobacco or other drugs.

The website further offers these tips on rulemaking:

• Set clear rules and discuss in advance the consequences of not following them. Don’t make empty threats or impose unexpected new punishments.

• Enforce rules consistently. Punishments should involve mild, not severe consequences. Overly severe punishments serve to undermine the quality of the parent-child relationship.

• Set a curfew and enforce it, but be prepared to negotiate on special occasions.

Have kids check in at regular times when they are away from home and not in school. Give them a phone card, change, etc.; check in with them, and have them check in with you at certain times.

• Call parents whose home is to be used for a party. Don’t be afraid to stop in to say “hello” (and make sure that proper supervision is in place).

• Make it easy for your son or daughter to leave a party where drugs are being used. Discuss in advance how to signal you or another designated adult, who will come pick up your son or daughter, the moment he or she feels uncomfortable. Later, be prepared to talk about the situation.

• Listen to your instincts. Don’t be afraid to intervene if your “gut” tells you that something is wrong.

Dr. Ramirez, in “Keeping Your Kids Drug-Free,” offers these suggestions for possible consequences if your child breaks the rules:

Restrict television and Internet use; suspend outside activities such as going to the movies; have your child read and discuss information about the harmful effects of drugs, tobacco or alcohol; have your child perform a community service to encourage positive usage of time; disallow telephone calls; temporarily restrict friends from coming over to the house, and don’t allow visits to friends’ homes.

The campaign’s guide conveys that if you’ve caught your child using drugs or “holding” them for a friend, you might be speechless and may even want to lash out with harsh words. It recommends giving oneself a cooling-off period before you talk to your child.

The next step, experts say, is to let your child know that you do not approve of drug use or possession, e.g. “I love you, but I do not want you taking drugs. I don’t want you making a wrong choice and then have bad things happen in your life.”

It further states that if your child has admitted to using drugs recently, you may want to ask your doctor or counselor for help.

Indoor winter activity

Here’s an activity to do on those cold winter days (that are back again) with all of those broken crayons that have accumulated.

Items needed include broken crayons, a disposable cupcake tin, and nonstick cooking spray. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Remove the paper wrapping from the crayons and break the crayons into one-inch or smaller pieces.

Spray nonstick cooking spray into each cup of the cupcake tin and fill each half-full with crayon pieces of different colors.

Place the tin in the oven and bake for about six minutes or until all the crayons have partially melted. Be sure not to let them melt thoroughly, or the wax will blend into one dark color.

Let cool and remove the newly- formed crayons from the tins. You and your child will have new speckled color crayons to create with.


“Never break off communications with your child no matter what they do.”

– “Life’s Little Treasure Book on Parenting” by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.