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Children: Going Away or Going Astray
Children sometimes stray from their parents' lifestyle, and they may even do things that are anathema to them. What should parents do? Should they act in a way that amounts to a rejection of the child because of his/her errant behavior? This may result in a total disruption of their relationship. On the other hand, if they do not object to the behavior, is this not tantamount to approving it? If the parents do not show strong signs of disapproval, is it not possible that siblings may follow suit?
Parents' love for their children is and should be unconditional. Parents should not deceive themselves into believing that they have control over their children. They may influence, but not control.
Parents should take a strong stand when they see their children's behavior as being self-destructive. If, for example, a child is using drugs, the parents must strongly object to it. Many youngsters are not frightened away from use of drugs by the risk of severe damage to their health and future, and they have a thousand ways of justifying their use. The attitude of parents should be, "We love you dearly, and precisely because we love you, we cannot condone your doing things that we know are harmful to you. When you were an infant, we took you to the doctor for immunization. You must have thought that we were being very cruel to you when we had the doctor stab you with a sharp needle. At that time you had no way of knowing that this would protect you from crippling diseases. Your situation now is no different. We will do what we understand is in your best interest, even though you may not agree with us."
Whether it is drugs, or any other self-destructive behavior, it is important that parents get expert advice on how to relate to their child. Expert advice; not from well-meaning relatives and friends, but from people who are credentialed in the management of young people's problems.
Comments such as "You'll be the death of me," or "If you aggravate your father he may have a heart attack," or "What will people say about us?" or "You are bringing shame on the family" -- these are all counterproductive. Such remarks indicate that the parents are not primarily concerned about what the youngster is doing to himself, but rather how he is affecting others. The primary concern should be for your youngster's welfare.
Parents should not take their child's behavior as an indication that he/she does not like them. There are powerful factors, especially peer pressure, that may affect a child's behavior in spite of his love for his parents. Also parents should not jump to the conclusion that they were at fault in raising the child. Children may develop problems in spite of parents' best efforts.
Reaction to children who have behavior problems should not be of the knee-jerk type, but must be well thought out and with proper counseling.