Herald Journal Columns
March 27, 2006, Herald Journal

Parents shape their children’s choices


Although our children may not show they appreciate it, parents profoundly shape the choices children make about many things, including choices about drugs.

The United States Department of Education notes, in its “Growing Up Drug-Free, A Parent’s Guide to Prevention,” that we need to take advantage of how much young people care about social image and appearance to point out the immediate, distasteful consequences of tobacco and marijuana use – for example, that smoking causes bad breath and stained teeth, and makes hair and clothes smell.

At the same time, we should also discuss drugs’ long-term effects:

• the risk of lung cancer and emphysema from smoking;

• fatal or crippling car accidents and liver damage from heavy drinking; and

• addiction, brain coma, and death.

Not only will we, as the parents and caregivers, have influences on the decisions our children make, but so will their peers. We all know the presence of peer pressure and how strong its force can be.

The website, www.theantidrug.com notes that no matter where children grow up or who their friends are, nearly all of them are, or will be confronted at some time or another by friends with negative ideas, ways of testing limits, getting in trouble, and doing things they may regret later.

And it can be tough when a child’s friend, especially one whose approval means a lot to him or her, tries to persuade him or her to do something he or she knows is wrong.

Even “good” kids occasionally pester their friends into skipping a class, etc., but if friends or acquaintances entice your child to try tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, the consequences can definitely be more serious.

The website states that the best way we can help our kids to succeed in these negative peer pressure situations is to role play and practice scenarios in advance, so with the right words at the tip of their tongue, kids can assert their independence while making it clear that they are rejecting their friends’ choices and not their friends, themselves.

The website further notes that, in general, kids prefer a refusal message that is straightforward. Kids want to make the fact clear that drugs are not a part of their lives, and the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, in its publication “Keeping Your Kids Drug-Free,” offers these examples of what a child could tell someone who offers them drugs.

“No, thanks, it’s not for me.”

“I don’t do drugs. I could get kicked off the team.”

“It makes me uncomfortable to be around drugs.”

“My parents would “kill” me.”

We may also hear children saying, “everyone is doing it.” Kids often believe that more kids are doing drugs than is actually the case.

In fact, research shows that in any given school, most students are not using drugs. But kids may try drugs in an attempt to fit in, so here are some suggested examples that we can use:

“You can make your own decisions. You don’t have to do anything that’s against your beliefs.”

“Fewer kids use drugs than you might think. Besides, you don’t need drugs to fit in.”

“I’m not interested in what other kids are doing. I know I don’t want you using drugs.”

On a different note

Movement activities, such as music, are important for young children. Music and movement are tools for young children to express themselves and to learn, and children’s responses to music and movement will vary, depending on their age.

“Creative Resources for Infants and Toddlers,” second edition by Judy Herr and Terri Swim, Delmer, 2002, notes that through movement activities, children can:

• practice combining rhythm and movements;

• explore their bodies as they move;

• learn vocabulary, such as soft and loud, fast and slow; and

• express their imaginations (Herr 2001, p. 140).

Here’s an example of a rhyming movement activity in which you follow the direction of the exercise:

“On my head, my hands I place. On my shoulders, On my face,

“On my hips, and at my side. Then behind me they will hide.

“I will hold them up so high, Quickly make my fingers fly.

“Hold them out in front of me, Swiftly clap them – one, two, three!”

Here’s another popular movement rhyme in which you and your child can lumber like an elephant, putting your hands together and arms out in front of you:

“The elephant goes like this and that.

“He’s oh, so big, and he’s oh, so fat.

“He has no fingers, and he has no toes,

“But goodness gracious, what a nose!”

And remember, children love to repeat the same movement and song over and over again.


“Nothing speaks more loudly to a child than a good parent’s quiet example”

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