Example, Example, Example



This month’s Notes From Home is focused on teen substance abuse and how to prevent it. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the teens we work with are past the point of “prevention.”  However, the solid and true principles discussed here most assuredly have the power to reduce or stop substance abuse.

We could share the gloomy national statistics on teenage substance abuse and how those that abuse substances are far more likely to develop a full blown addition.  But those are just statistics.  They rarely speak to us and cause us to change.


To start out, you must be visionary as a parent and imagine the kind of family life and children you want to have long before you have teens.  What values do I want my children to have, etc.  Then set the example.  Nothing weakens parental authority like incongruence between our own standards and those we are trying to instill in our children.  I know that from personal experience around driving safely.

I always tend to buy cars that want to go fast.  These cars are just made up that way. (I blame it on my mom allowing my brother and I to buy an orange Trans Am as teenagers.)   One of my justifying thoughts for my “adult driving” habits is that I’m more mature and have had years of experience driving.  I’ve practiced going fast for 30 years now!

But it’s not a value of mine to go fast.  It’s a bad habit.  The value that I really want to instill in my children is to be law abiding citizens and to be cautious and careful in driving.  Well, I’m not always congruent with that. When my kids were young they didn’t know to check my speedometer against the speed limits posted along the high way.  They are now old enough to do so.

Every time I see my son backing out of our long driveway like a bat out of you-know-where, I have two emotions.  One is anger that he could be so careless and the other is guilt that I have done the same thing and he has watched me.


In prevention, my first piece of advice to parents is that if you want your children to never take a drink, take a hit, or pop a pill, and thus never fall into the grips of substance abuse and addiction, raise the bar on yourself and determine to live your own life in a way that eliminates any twinge of hypocrisy.  I know that’s asking a lot.  But prevention is where the greatest opportunity exists.

I hope you’ll be inspired to act, by what you read here.  As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and personal experiences, so write us back if you’d like to share.

To Your Family’s Happiness!


Tim Thayne, Ph.D.


Homeward Bound

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2 Responses to “Example, Example, Example”

  1. Robert Cooper Says:


    Have been wondering how you have been doing, googled your name and came across your web site. Hope you and your family are doing well. Reply back if you get a minute.

    Rob Cooper

  2. Your point about incongruence hit a sensitive nerve for me. From my own personal experience and growing up in the 70′s, I took a casual view of substance use in moderation. While that philosophy worked for one child, the other child turned out to have an addiction. My children sensed my casual attitude, even though I never openly condoned substance use. I got the message you are sending in your newsletter – living above the bar – long before my child sought help for her addiction. I like to think the change in my philosophy helped with her deciding to seek help. It’s been a long road and I’ve wrestled with parental guilt but I now can keep boundaries without any twinge of hypocrisy.

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