March 01, 2016 —

In so many ways, these are very difficult times to be a parent. Our kids swim in different waters than we did a generation ago, and much of it is unchartered for us. From social media to extreme academic pressure, from a hookup culture to casual drug use and its many iterations, we are parenting pioneers.

As such, we simply cannot rely on old school, punitive, “wait ’til your father gets home” parenting techniques. First, these techniques simply do not work on our generation of kids. I think in some ways they are smarter and savvier than we were as pre-teens and teenagers, and they aren’t afraid. I respect them for that. Plus, fear is not the best way for parents and their children to relate, and our kids know this inherently.

Additionally, punishment tends to curtail communication and openness rather than foster it, so this is typically not the most successful parenting approach either. 

This set of facts leaves many parents feeling helpless and hopeless, but let me shed some light. On the whole, the news is good for us as parents, as well as our kids and our families. Our kids do not respond well to our fear. They do not well respond to our judgment. And they certainly do not respond in any positive way to our parental egos.

What they do respond to is authenticity, clarity, sincerity and connection. When we are available to our children in these ways, they are far more likely to heed our words. Therein lies the good news. The more time we spend connecting genuinely with our kids, the safer they will be as they will be more open to our thoughts. In those tricky circumstances, they will know that they have us, available as guides and consultants, and free of fear, judgment and ego.

Our kids need us to be available to them in this way. There are real life-threatening dangers lurking not-so-deeply in the shadows. Take teen cough medicine abuse for example. This is a true and real threat in most any community, and kids can easily learn about it from one another or online. You don’t need me to tell you how easy it can be for teens to access over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine, which may make them believe that abusing such medicines is “less dangerous” than illegal drugs.  

Regardless, if we are available to our kids as allies, guides and consultants, our voices will be in their heads when they are faced with making those tough calls. They will be more resilient when faced with the temptation to abuse medications or participate in other risky activities, and are far more likely to seek our counsel before stepping into danger. 

Availability as a parent is no lark. It is urgent, and can help you ensure the health and safety of your children.

Dr. John Duffy is a highly sought-after clinical psychologist, best-selling author and certified life coach. He is also a parenting and relationship expert as well as a proud husband and father. Dr. Duffy has been working with individuals, couples, teens and families for nearly twenty years. His refreshing and unique approach has provided the critical intervention and support needed to help thousands of individuals and families find their footing. You can learn more about Dr. Duffy on his website and check out his blog posts on The Huffington Post. You can also connect with Dr. Duffy on Facebook and Twitter.