Monday, April 17, 2006

If my Mother knew I was giving Parenting advice

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Youth Group Spiel": Hi Dr Keller: Just wanted to know how being the coroner can effect your family--are YOU overly strict with your teenage daughter because of what you have seen other teens do--drugs, suicide, car wrecks? Or do you think that maybe the tables are turned and because of what you see she has made it a point NOT to be involved with risky behaviors? Teens believe they are infallible, yet, in spite of talks at home, programs at schools, it seems as though drug use, car accidents, suicides continue to happen!! So give me your best advice from a father and coroner’s perspective, for dealing with teens and keeping them safe. I really like your column and end up talking about them with my teen THANKS!!

I have talked with a grown daughter of a former coroner (not local) whose father used to bring her in to view the bodies of young people killed in auto accidents. While this may have served to keep that young person out of trouble, it certainly isn’t how I handle it (not that I am an expert, just a learner). I do talk about deaths that occur both generally and, at times, specifically (those in the “public record”) regarding the choices that weren’t the best, the chances that were taken, how things went wrong.

I believe (and it is born out in studies, although I couldn’t find the source to link to) that you can’t scare a kid “straight” (re: drugs or other activities). I believe that the best you can do is to inculcate good values over time to the best of your ability, be honest and open in discussions, particularly regarding consequences of behavior and actions, and “give them their head” (sorry for the race horse analogy), keeping a hand on the reins until their majority. I think the vast majority of the time this works, but there are those times when even the best laid plans of mice and men…”

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