By the time I meet with parents in our facilities family support and education program, they have usually been through the ringer via their child’s misbehavior (lying, breaking curfew, stealing, truancy, running away…). These moms and dads are tired, angry, disappointed, scared, frustrated, bewildered and often hopeless as to what to do about their teens drug use.
(And, if I had a dollar for every time a parent told me “their other child(ren) didn’t do drugs or behave this way, I have no idea what happened with this one” I would be a rich woman…)
While I understand the way they feel (because I have been in a similar position), one of the first things I ask them is when was the last time they praised their child? (This is usually met with a look I interpret as, “what are ya crazy lady?!”)
The reason I ask the question is this: when things start to go wrong between kids and parents they can very easily snowball unless they are redirected. Lying is met with yelling and/or lecturing, which turns into rebellion, which easily transpires into threats…you get the picture.
So, one of the exercises I ask parents to try is what I call, “finding the good.” It’s easy to spot undesirable behavior when we are attuned to it, but how about catching your teen completely off-guard by acknowledging something you haven’t in a while. Depending on the situation, it can be very hard for a parent to see any good in the child. I will tell them, I don’t care if it’s that they put a dirty dish in the sink, or they actually hung up their towel in the bathroom…find a way to begin to see the positive attributes and behavior of your son or daughter and tell them. It’s the beginning of changing the momentum and the direction of the relationship.
And the praise will make them wonder what the hell is going on.
No matter how old we are, compliments build self-esteem. Is there a lot more work to be done to repair and build trust within a family where drugs are involved? Yes, of course. However, you have to start somewhere in order to rebuild the relationship and maybe newfound praise will lead to actual conversation, with meaning, over dinner, or while on a hike…you get the picture.