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Doctor Mike Bradley

Copyright 2014. Dr. Mike Bradley. All rights reserved.

WANT HAPPY AND HEALTHY TEENS IN THE NEW YEAR?TRY PARTYING WITH THEM THIS HOLIDAY

We parents of new millennium teenagers often find ourselves tossing and turning late into the night trying to figure out how to keep our kids safe from the frightening array of threats that surround them these days. In silent, sleep-deprived debates we obsess over ideas such as searching their rooms, installing spyware on their computers, and sneaking global positioning satellite locaters into their backpacks. We usually look to power, control, and even anger and rage as being the parental guarantors of child safety. We ignore the limp-wristed advice of those namby-pamby psychologists who quietly drone on about avoiding fear-based techniques and who instead suggest inane, vague, respect-based strategies such as staying connected to the hearts of our kids and honoring them as individuals.


After all, we growl, when it comes to safety, can a “weak” policy of respecting a kid measure up to the appealing power of spying on him?

I hope you saved the receipt for your phone-tap equipment because the answer is yes!

In previous letters I’ve written about how fear-based adolescent “therapy” programs (such as boot camps and prison tours) either don’t work or usually make kids worse, and how respect-based counseling and parent-training programs were effective (see National Institutes of Health: Get Tough Programs Don’t Work; 10/04). Now, thanks to the folks at SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company we have a fascinating piece of research that carries the fear vs. respect debate into the parenting world.


Their sixth annual Teens Today report showed that high school teens who get the least parental attention to events in their lives are twice--that’s twice--as likely to engage in high-risk behaviors and to suffer from emotional problems. The events were transitions such as puberty, school changes, and birthdays. The risk behaviors were drinking, drug use, early sexual intercourse, and dangerous driving. The emotional issues were depression, stress, and boredom.

Could this research be accurate? Is it possible that such a little thing like acknowledging and celebrating changes in children’s’ lives can make such a huge difference in their health?  You bet your stolen diary it can--but when, and only when, that celebration is part of a larger picture of loving, respect-based parental involvement in the life of the child.

“But, wait a minute, Dr. B.,” you howl, “my kid rolled her eyes and sneered and said that we were ‘cheesy cornballs’ when we had family birthday celebrations for her.” Yes, she did. And later, with tears in her eyes, that same kid told me how sad she was when her “cheesy, cornball” parents finally quit giving her those “stupid” birthday dinners and cakes. It’s just the nature of the large teen beast to mock the little child things that parents do to fuss over their kids. And it’s also their nature to feel privately loved and reassured when parents are strong enough to patiently shrug off the eye rolls and sarcasm and make an act of faith: to believe that staying respectfully connected and involved is the greatest gift that a parent can give to a child. A growing body of science that documents the mystical healing power of a respect-based connection with your kid now supports that act of faith.

So if you don’t want your kids to drink, try partying with them. Celebrate every event of their lives as much as they’ll allow. Keep selling, especially when they aren’t buying. Your constant outreach is a constant reminder that they are loved and respected even when they are rejecting your “cheesy, cornball” celebrations of the events of their lives. So, PARTY HEARTY!

 I hope you have a joyous and peaceful holiday.