January 24, 2012 —

 It can be tough getting kids to talk with us and sometimes even more difficult getting them to listen to our advice. In today’s fast-paced, attention-starved world, we parents have our work cut out for us. The staples and standbys of prevention will always serve us well, but it’s important to look beyond punishment or fear of failure as our most valuable disciplinary tools. Whether speaking to my own two kids or the hundreds of DARE students that I see each week, I devote the majority of my efforts to understanding their “intention.” This isn’t about the regurgitation of a few facts or acknowledgement of expectations. I’m talking here about that mystical quality of self-motivated success (SMS). Every one of us can see the value of SMS to the establishment of our child’s drug-free life. It’s absolutely essential. Unfortunately, it’s also elusive. There is no generic formula for inspiring each individual child to make the right decisions, but there are highly effective templates that have served me very well over the years. The first building block resides in your own strategy. Look farther and be prepared to work harder. Like everyone else, you’ll need to establish your rules, enforce your penalties, provide the facts, and highlight the risks. Then it’s time to get to work. Once you’ve got your foundation, it’s time to break the mold.  Here’s how:

  • Every child benefits from challenge. But you must diversify. Choose regular goals outside of those generically prescribed by school and recreational sports. Help them accomplish a broad range of achievement.
  • Build their confidence through responsibility. Grant them new roles within the family and highlight their contributions to your shared success. Accent their growing autonomy with the color of collaboration.
  • Develop their commitment through a steady dose of positive messaging, strong examples and consistent reinforcement. These elements add the ‘why’ behind ‘what’ they are doing well.

Accomplishment sets us free from the default paths that have been laid before us. Confidence grants us the strength to endure dissent. Responsibility helps us envision things that are bigger than ourselves. Commitment helps us achieve what others find too difficult. Put them together, and you’ve got one potently motivated kid.

Timothy Shoemaker is the 2011 National D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year and former N.J. State D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year. He is also the author of a free eBook for families, titled The Drug Proof Home. Learn more about Timothy at TimothyShoemaker.com.