Psychology today


November 10, 2012

An important concern for modern parents is how to prevent addiction in their children. Parenting has been evolving over the last few decades. Here are some parenting tips that may help smooth the way forward to better parent-child relationships. Some have even been proven to help prevent your child from becoming an addict.

Lead by example

Your addictive behaviour, be it smoking, drinking or drugs, can put your child at risk. In fact, parental behaviour is a major influence on a child’s later behaviour. There is a proven link between parental addictive behaviour and the risk of children developing addictive behaviour later on.

It is important not to tell your child, “Do as I say, not as I do!” as it will prove ineffective. If you set an example of practicing moderation in your own life, then the chances are your child will follow this example.

Practice authoritative parenting

Authoritative parenting has been proven to be highly effective and is particularly associated with a reduction in substance abuse in early adulthood. This style of parenting involves high levels of parental control and warmth.

Addiction can thus be prevented with the use of firm parent discipline.

Be consistent and firm with boundaries

Be careful with being either too strict or too lax as these discipline styles are unhelpful for children. Setting rules that are fair and appropriate will help your child in setting limits for themselves. Emphasise health and safety so that your child understands the reason behind the limits you have set. Stick to these limits.

Avoid physical punishment and nurture feelings of warmth towards your child

Prevent addiction from developing by using non-physical punishment. Expressing warmth will facilitate the process of helping your child to respond well to parental discipline. It is one of the most powerful tools in preventing your child from developing behavioural problems such as aggressive behaviour and hyperactive behaviour problems.

Research has demonstrated that a parent’s feelings and expressions of warmth toward their child can override weaknesses in other areas of parenting. If you find your child is answering you back, contradicting you and opposing the boundaries you have set, then you need to think about how warmly you have interacted with him or her of late.

What to do if your child has a difficult temperament

There are many reasons why a child may have behavioural problems. Children are far more likely to have a 'difficult' temperament if they have parents who use substances like drugs or alcohol. They are also more likely to be mistreated by their parents.

Having a child who is difficult to discipline can be very stressful for parents and inappropriate parenting can cause even greater stress for the child. He is at greater risk of coping in unhealthy ways such as developing addiction. Prevent addiction from developing by ensuring you do not make a scapegoat of your child or mistreat him while you try to control him. Seek professional counselling if you  need it.

Tolerance and flexibility lead to strong relationships

The authoritative model of parenting has been further refined or developed to include tolerance. Tolerance involves having a moderate rather than a high level of control and being flexible in response to different discipline situations.

Parents of most socially competent children are adept at knowing when the child has a problem and when he does not. Prevent addiction in your child by using flexibility rather than rigid rules as you guide your child.