Teaching Kids to Value Restraint

How do you get kids to value restraint in a culture that values indulgence?

Parents want kids to have restraint and to not engage in risk behaviors, such as alcohol, tobacco, or drug use or premature sexual activity. But how do you get kids to value restraint in a culture that values indulgence?

  • From an early age, teach kids that it’s important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Then model that value by drinking responsibly, behaving appropriately, and not using drugs.
  • If you exercised restraint on a fairly regular basis when you were younger, talk to your kids about why you showed restraint and how it helped you. If you have engaged in unsafe behavior, be honest and let them know why you expect them to act differently. Connect your kids with other adults they respect who are willing to share their stories of waiting to drink alcohol until they were 21 or waiting to have sex until they were adults.
  • As kids get older, talk about the specifics of restraint, such as not drinking alcohol at parties (even if everyone else is), not having one-night stands, or not thinking that being in love is the green light to have sex. Also, talk about temptation and how easy it is to end up in a situation if teens aren’t aware of where they stand.
  • Teach kids how to deal with the setbacks and difficulties of life in positive ways. Too many kids try drinking alcohol or using drugs as a way to escape a painful situation. Give them better alternatives, such as going jogging, punching a pillow, or calling a help line to talk with someone anonymously if they aren’t ready to talk to someone they know..

Children who practice restraint are much less likely to get involved in many risk behaviors, including alcohol and tobacco use, premature sexual activity, reckless driving, and others. Emphasizing the importance of restraint to your kids will help keep them out of trouble both now and in the future.



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