Have we done right by America’s children? Sometimes. It does still seem crazy that one in five or six of our children grows up certifiably poor in the world’s largest economy. But the story told by most of the numbers, most of the time, is that most of our children have done right by us. Overall, they’ve done considerably better than we did at the same age. They should get credit for that. Maybe we should get some too.
That said, most is not good enough to protect and heal kids and families who aren’t doing well. Which means at least this: We have to look out for each other; we have to give better than most of us got.
Take drugs.... Hmm...that didn’t come out right...
Let’s try that again: We have to look out for each other...we have to give better than most of us got...Take the example of drug abuse prevention and intervention.
“Just Say No” is dumb, naive, moralistic, wishful thinking that makes things worse for those who need help.
Here’s something else dumb:
Kids are gonna do that stuff anyway; the best we can do is try to make it safe for them. That’s why I let my kid’s friends drink at my house. At least I know where they are.
For the most part, kids who use mood-altering substances do so because they find a substance—vegetable, mineral, chemical; solid, liquid, vapor—that works for them. If they find more than one, it’s because on some level they understand the process of learned behavior. Never mind that abused substances don’t deliver the desired effects indefinitely—most kids haven’t been at it long enough to learn that yet—what they know is, they’ve found something that makes them feel good, or at least better, for a while. Adults who deny that cause-and-effect relationship look foolish—or dishonest—to their offspring.
On the other hand, adults who simply roll over and permit alcohol and other substance abuse in their households give the impression they don’t care, and that feels a lot like being abandoned.
Helping kids find a way through this particular minefield involves staking out a space somewhere between Just Say No and Just Say Yo! That means treating our children like the intelligent beings they almost certainly are; capable of nuance, discernment and informed self-control.
While we’re on the subject of dumb and dishonest, let’s spend a moment on those people and organizations who secure their funding by creating the impression that all this is just too complicated for ordinary parents to comprehend and handle. Nonsense. I’m not saying there aren’t some complicated issues but I am saying that once we’ve heard the story behind the story from our kids, their behavior usually makes sense—not that it’s necessarily sensible, but that we can see why it made sense to them at the time. We don’t have to understand much more than that to know what kind of help to seek when we call in reinforcements.
— from Raising Adults