Discipline for Smoking Marijuana

Most moms and dads try to focus adolescent discipline on choosing the right consequences to stop an adolescent from smoking marijuana again. But disciplining adolescents doesn’t address the real reasons behind an adolescent’s pot use. Using mood-altering chemicals often fills a need for theses teens, and they are NOT going to stop just because they got caught and received some form of punishment from parents.

So what is a parent to do about teen drug use? Here’s how parents can effectively get their teenagers to “choose” to stop smoking pot:

1. Begin a dialogue with your child about your feelings about marijuana smoking. Ask her questions about why she does it, how long she's been doing it, how many of her friends do it, etc. Let her tell you the story of how the marijuana smoking began and how it fits into her life. This discussion - and the ones that follow - should focus on what's going on that concerns her the most, what worries her, what gives her pleasure, her social life, etc. rather than just talking about why she's been illegally smoking marijuana.

2. Don't freak out. A vein-popping lecture will drive your teen away and shut down any chance of a meaningful discussion. After you've cooled down and talked about the issue with your spouse, meet in your child’s room (she'll be more receptive on her own turf). Explain that you're concerned she's not making smart decisions. Reinforce the message that she needs to stay clear-minded and focused in life, and that mood-altering chemicals will knock her off those paths. If she asks whether or not you smoked marijuana or drank alcohol when you were her age, don't let her steer the conversation away from herself. Telling her what you did or didn't do isn't important. This is not a 'true confessions' moment.

3. Be careful not to judge your child – or your parenting skills. If she's using drugs, there are probably many reasons for this, only a few of which you might have control over.

4. Keep in mind that if your child is afraid of your reaction to her pot smoking, you are less likely to get the truth from her. Keep your emotions in check and don't focus on consequences. You'll have plenty of time to figure out appropriate consequences later. Let her feel safe enough to talk with you. Keep your focus on helping her with this situation, not on coming up with the proper consequence.

5. Understand that mood-altering chemicals feed the teenage brain’s limbic system. Research has lead scientists to better understand the brain’s unique stage of development during the teen years. Throughout adolescence, the limbic system is on alert and craves novelty. Engaging in new experiences feeds the limbic system’s high need for spontaneity during the teen years. After reading any of the new research about adolescent brain development and its hyper-aware limbic system, it’s easy to see how smoking marijuana satisfies a strong need in the teen brain. Disciplining adolescents computes to the brain’s cortex or “thinking brain,” but the limbic system’s intense need for sensory stimulation often overrides the rational cortex. Understanding the adolescent brain doesn’t mean that moms and dads should let their adolescent “off the hook” for using mood-altering chemicals, but it does help them see how “what makes sense” to the adult brain doesn’t necessarily hold true for the teen brain.

6. Disciplining adolescents may make moms and dads feel better in the sense that they are “doing something” about an adolescent using a mood-altering substance or that an adolescent isn’t “getting away with” smoking marijuana. But disciplining adolescents only focuses on the symptoms of pot use and doesn’t address the real reasons that an adolescent is smoking marijuana. Effective adolescent discipline requires an understanding of the behavior combined with strategies that teach adolescents alternative methods to get their needs met. Some adolescents say they want to experiment and find out what effect that pot has. Others say they like to be part of the group. And still others say they think using drugs makes them less shy, less boring, freer, faster, sexier, and happier.

7. Seek out drug programs in your area, as well as a talented therapist who deals with teenagers your child’s age who have had drug problems. Don't jump to the conclusion that your child is a drug addict and needs to put into an institution. Treat your discovery of her marijuana smoking as a call to you as a parent to seek the help of professionals, trusted family friends whom your child likes and respects, and any other adults who have had a positive influence in her life. The goal here is to understand why she's doing this and getting her the help that she needs to stop.

8. When you have evidence that your child is using, or you suspect she's using, share that with her. Often we think it's our duty to trick our kids into telling us the truth, when in fact we're simply setting them up to lie to us. For example, if you were to approach your child and say, "Have you been smoking pot lately?" …there is a strong likelihood that she will say no – even if you have evidence that she has been using it. A much better way to handle the situation is to tell your child everything you know – and then be quiet. In this case you would say, "When I was cleaning your room today, I found marijuana in the pocket of your pants." That's it. That is all you say. Simply wait for her reply. Most adolescents have a need to argue with parents in an attempt to take them off topic. Don't fall for that trap. She might reply, "What were you doing in my room and going through my stuff? You have no right to be there." Parents should acknowledge that, and then get right back to the topic (e.g., "Perhaps you're right. I shouldn’t have been looking in your pants pocket. I'm sorry for invading your privacy. Now please tell me about the marijuana.").

9. Using mood-altering chemicals may be an efficient method for adolescents to fit in among a peer group. If adolescents are smoking marijuana to be part of a group, adolescent discipline strategies (e.g., grounding or restriction) won’t take away an adolescent’s need to fit in. Feeling a sense of belonging among peers is an extremely important goal for the developing teen brain. As well, disciplining adolescents doesn’t help them seek new and different strategies to belong to a peer group. A study at the University of Iowa points to an “image is everything” belief among adolescents. Although moms and dads may have well prepared an adolescent to “lead instead of follow,” the need to fit in is monumental for the teen brain. Many adolescents will sacrifice loftier goals and use the tool of smoking marijuana in order to gain peer acceptance. Effective adolescent discipline includes teaching friendship skills, coping skills and healthy methods to fit in to their peer group.

10. Your end result should be to find a consequence that will help her to make better choices the next time she's faced with the situation of using mood-altering chemicals. Include her in that process. If you threaten to take the car away or some other consequence, how do you know that will be effective? She may be already thinking of other forms of transportation. Or maybe taking the car away will actually get in the way of helping her get to her job and thus completing her required work to get her diploma. So think this through. Don't focus on consequences. Focus on helping her.

6 comments:

  1. Awesome advice....used everything on this page...

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  2. Education is always better than punishment. If I ever had a teen who was experimenting with marijuana, I wouldn't get mad - I'd merely want to teach them about what they're dealing with so they can hopefully make a better decision (to not use marijuana).

    - Racky

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  3. With all the propaganda out there I am not surprised that parents would be scared to find out their child was using weed, never mind the heavily concentrated oils such as dab rigs
    - HerbTools

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  4. What about the old addage "actions speak louder than words". If I got disobeying house rules or doing drugs it's not words that scared me it was the corresponding actions from my parents. I grew up not doing drugs. Did I disobey my parents time to time? Sure, but there was always consequences. I soon learned that these consequences outweighed my disobedience. So all this talk to your kid BS is why kids are the way they are today. Fragile entitled people that can't cope when things don't go their way. We are in big big trouble in the future. It all started with "everyone gets a participation award" movement. What a joke. Because little Johnny has his feelings upset that he didn't win, we give everyone an award. Pathetic.

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    Replies
    1. Agreed. I think a combo of punishment AND figuring out (and treating) the core problem is the answer.

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  5. What about the liability of your kid bringing it into your home??

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