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How to Prevent Addiction in Your Kids

Prevent Addiction With Effective Parenting

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Updated May 21, 2014

One of the biggest concerns for modern parents is how to prevent addiction in their kids. Many -- quite rightly -- wonder whether the parent discipline techniques they adopt might prevent their child from developing an addiction later in life. Confusing parents further, parent discipline in the United States has changed and evolved over the past several hundred years. The parenting tips below can not only smooth the way for a better parent-child relationship, but some have even been proven to help prevent addiction in kids.

Lead By Example

Your addictive behavior puts your child at risk. In fact, parental behavior is the top influence on a child's later behavior. The link between parental addictive behavior and risk to their children of developing addictive behaviors is well established. Rather than telling your child to “do as I say, not as I do,” which is ineffective, prevent addiction from developing in them by practicing moderation in your own life. You will increase the chances that your child will do the same.

Be Consistent and Firm With Boundaries

The trend in parenting has moved from strict to lax to mixed messages concerning parent discipline. Both excessively strict and excessively lax discipline styles are unhelpful to children, and they result in them making up their own rules -- without your guidance. Setting rules that are fair and appropriate will help to prevent addiction from developing by your child lacking the ability to set limits for themselves. Emphasize health and safety, so that your child will understand the reasons to have the limits in the first place. Then, stick to the limits you set.

Take Care If Your Child Has a “Difficult Temperament”

There are many reasons that children have behavior problems. Children are significantly more likely to have “difficult” temperaments when they have parents who use substances; they are also at greater risk of mistreatment by their parents, as parents’ make efforts to discipline them. While having a child who is difficult to discipline is stressful for you, inappropriate parenting causes even greater stress for the child, who is then at greater risk for coping in unhealthy ways, such as developing addictions. Prevent addiction from developing in the future by ensuring you don't scapegoat your child, or mistreat them while you try to control them. Seek professional help if you are struggling.

Avoid Physical Punishment

While the debate on whether or not parents should use physical punishments seems neverending, one thing is clear. Physically aggressive parenting has been linked specifically with child aggression. Be aware that parenting practices are more likely to cause oppositional and aggressive behaviors in your child than to cause hyperactive behavior problems. Prevent addiction from developing by using non-physical punishments. Expressing warmth (see next tip) will facilitate the process of helping your child respond well to the parent discipline you do use.

Nurture Feelings of Warmth Toward Your Child

Parental warmth is one of your most powerful tools in preventing your child from experiencing behavioral problems. Research has shown that a parent's feelings and expressions of warmth toward their child can even override weaknesses in other areas of parenting. A lack of warmth from parent to child is particularly associated with oppositional behavior. So, if you find your child is talking back, contradicting you, and generally opposing the boundaries you try and set, reflect on how warmly you have interacted with your child recently.

Prevent your child from turning to addiction as a way of coping with lack of warmth in the family. How do you show warmth toward your child? Expression of warmth can be as simple as how often you look at your child, smile at your child, and express affection toward you child.

Stay Involved

Children who develop substance use disorders have been found to experience emotional distance and lack of involvement from their parents, particularly their mothers. This kind of neglect happens more with children whose parents have substance use disorders than those who do not -- another good reason to get help for your own addiction, if you have one. Prevent addiction from developing by expressing an interest in what your child is doing -- any positive interests, relationships or accomplishments, even if they seem trivial to you. Express your feelings, particularly positive feelings such as joy, pride and encouragement.

Seek Professional Support, Judge Advice Cautiously

Prevent addiction from developing in your child by seeking support from others and guidance from educated professionals. However, bear in mind that professionals vary greatly in their opinions about child-rearing and discipline, and their views are often shaped by their own experiences as children and parents, rather than their training. For example, one piece of research showed that pediatricians have greatly inconsistent views on the acceptability of smacking as a form of parent discipline, yet many parents would consider these doctors to be experts in all things related to children.

Control Chaos at Home

Research has shown that home chaos is associated with less effective parental discipline, elevated behavior problems, limited attention focusing, and reduced ability to understand and respond to social cues in children. Prevent addiction by providing a calm, organized atmosphere at home, which will help you to discipline your child more effectively, and will make behavior problems less likely to occur.

Practice Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative parenting has been shown to be highly effective, and it is particularly associated with a reduction in substance use in early adulthood. Authoritative parenting is a style of parenting involving high levels of parental control and high levels of parental warmth. So prevent addiction using firm parent discipline.

Tolerance and Flexibility Make Strong Relationships

The authoritative model of parenting has been further refined to include a third factor, known as tolerance. Tolerance involves having a moderate rather than high level of control, and being flexible in response to different discipline situations. Parents of the most socially competent children are adept at knowing when the child has a problem and when they do not. An example of a situation where a child does not have a problem is when they express negative feelings while complying fully with a request. Prevent addiction from developing in your child by using flexibility rather than rigid rules as you guide your child.
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