Herald Journal Columns
April 3, 2006, Herald Journal

Encouragement, praise can go a long way


We all need to feel that we are loved, appreciated, and valued, and a simple word of encouragement and praise can go a long way in helping a child stay on a positive path and make healthy decisions.

What encourages a child more than his or her parents’ approval? The right response can strengthen the bond that helps keep our children away from drugs and alcohol and other unhealthy and dangerous substances and habits, the website www.theantidrug.com noted.

We should emphasize the things our kids do right and restrain from the urge to be critical. It is so easy, especially in our busy world, to overlook or just take for granted all the times our children do what is expected of them, follow the rules, and engage in positive actions and decisions, but we need to highlight those times and let our children know that we appreciate all of those positive behaviors.

The website further noted that we should try to reward good behavior consistently and immediately. Expressions of love, thanks, and appreciation go a long way.

Even kids who think themselves too old for hugs, appreciate a “pat on the back” or a special treat. Truly, you are never too old for an intrinsic and extrinsic “pat on the back.”

Affection and respect that make teens feel good about themselves, reinforce good, and change bad behavior far more successfully than embarrassment or uneasiness. Isn’t that true for all of us?

As well as having strict rules about what’s acceptable, from curfews to insisting that our children call us to tell us where they are, we should always let our children know how happy we are that they respect the rules – by praising them.

When we are quicker to praise than to find fault and criticize, children learn to feel good about themselves and develop the self-confidence to trust their own judgment.

It is very important that we, as parents and caregivers, praise and encourage teens for all the things they do well and for the positive choices they make. When we are proud of them, we should tell them. Knowing that they are seen and appreciated by the adults in their lives is highly motivating and can shore up their commitments to avoid drug use.

And of course, most importantly, we need to show and tell our children that we love them. The best way we can help our kids avoid destructive behavior is to spend time with them, talking to them about their friends and school activities, and asking them what they think, the website emphasized.

Research shows that knowing who your kids hang out with, and their parents, dramatically reduces the likelihood that they will get into trouble with tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. Having fun with our kids, going out for pizza, to the movies, skating, biking, walking, and listening to music together are all ways we can spend quality time with them.

Source: The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign’s Behavior Change Panels

More tips

Here are some more general tips for things that we, as parents, can do to protect our children from using and abusing alcohol (and other drugs) from the website www.kidshealth.org, updated and reviewed by Kim Rutherford, MD.

• Always be a good role model. Consider how your use of alcohol or medications may influence your child. Consider offering only non-alcoholic beverages at parties and other social events to show your children you don’t need to drink to have fun.

• Educate yourself about alcohol and other drugs so you can be an informed teacher to your child. Read and collect information that you can share with your child and other parents.

• Try to be conscious of how you can help build your child’s self-esteem. Again, children are more likely to feel good about themselves if you emphasize their strengths and positively reinforce healthy behaviors.

• Teach your children to manage stress in healthy ways, such as by seeking help from a trusted adult or engaging in a favorite, healthy activity.

• And again, love your child unconditionally.


“Talk to your children on a daily basis. Find out what is going on in their lives, and most importantly, listen to them.”

– A Parent

(from the www.theantidrug.com website)

Spring is here!

Even with the recent last blast of wintery weather, spring is here to stay, and there are great things to look forward to during this wonderful season of growth and rebirth.

April is National Kite Month, so when the weather becomes suitable, and it will, take a child kite flying and let your kites and minds soar! The website www.nationalkitemonth.org offers information on events and facts on kite flying, as well.