From Dr. Jane's Notebook


The Parent Trap


Parents today are faced with the enormous task of providing their children with sex, alcohol, drug, and nutritional education. What all of these subjects share in common is that each has appropriate degrees of necessity and usefulness when moderation is exercised, while being hazardous when inappropriately used.

In the area of sex, the concern over AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted-pregnancy must be tempered by teaching our children that a good sexual relationship is essential to a healthy marriage.

Alcohol consumption and prescription drug use are common occurances in normal life, and they may present adolescents with a seemingly "double standard." It is important for them to know that even adults must exercise moderation, lest the reality of addiction take place.

Finally, as we learn more about the role of nutrition in promoting a healthy life, the task of teaching good nutrition becomes more important by the day. What's a Parent to Do???

Personally, I'm convinced that:

  1. If you tell a child they can't do something...they will try it just to find out for themselves.
  2. If you tell a child they shouldn`t do something...they will do it anyway...but feel guilty and therefore, hide it.

The very nature of rebellion against parental authority makes it impossible for the parent to select what the child chooses to rebel against...a "Catch-22" of sorts. They are most likely to rebel in the area where you wish them to conform and vice-versa.

The truth is that children like to make their own decisions, and if accustomed to making their own value judgements they often choose conservative views. However, if locked in a power struggle with the parent at the time of their decision-making, they may more often choose the rebellious response.

For the parent who is struggling with the task of directing a child's decision-making in these critical "grey areas," I recommend the following strategies:

When children are encouraged to make their own informed decisions, they are more likely to take responsibility for their choices. Even then, when they make incorrect decisions, they do so with some amount of preparatory insight, and as a result, have only themselves to blame.

When a parent has been frank, open, and concerned, children are more likely to respect that adult's views, more likely to trust the adult's perspective, and hopefully, less likely to rebel in these life-threatening areas.

ęCopyright 1995, Jane Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.

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Last Updated September 26, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.