Stop Teaching Your Teenagers to “Just Say No to Drugs”


Stop Teaching Your Teenagers to “Just Say No to Drugs”

B4GC9N Binge Drinking Boys Drunk Lager Teenage Teenagers

     While I appreciate Nancy Reagan’s war on drugs slogan to teach kids to simply say, “No,” I would like to challenge the effectiveness of this slogan with teenagers. Yes, my ten-year-old might benefit from the simplicity of this statement (should he ever be offered drugs by his friends on the playground,) but my four teenagers need more.

       You see, teens no longer accept everything that parents say as truth. And we don’t want them to. We want them to question the world and figure out what they believe for themselves. We want them to find their own identity apart from us. So at the age where they might actually be encountering alcohol and drugs, we CAN’T expect them to be fully equipped with this simple, preprogrammed response.

     Instead, our teens need to hear about why kids say YES to drugs. Read that statement again before I am falsely accused of teaching my teens to say “yes to drugs.” What I just said was: teach kids WHY KIDS SAY YES to drugs and alcohol. Teach your tweens that there are two basic reasons why kids drink and use drugs: 

1) Some kids are insecure in who they are as a person.

 2)Some kids are self-medicating to deal with pain in their life.


     Now you have their attention. They want to know more about “these kids” who get drunk and use drugs. The first group of kids uses alcohol to feel more relaxed and “cool.” They use it to fit in with the crowd. They don’t feel comfortable in some group settings sober, so they have a drink or two or three to alter their personality just a bit so that they will feel more comfortable. They are not happy with their sober-self and they want to feel a part of the group. They need attention that they are not getting when they are sober.  “Hey, watch me. I’m cool. I’m OK. I can chug this beer! Am I cool now? You guys like me now, right?”

        Teaching this reason is ONLY successful if we simultaneously help them become confident in their own skin. We need to encourage hobbies and activities that fill them up. We need to help them develop their own relationship with God and read what He says about them. We need to encourage non-drinking fun that might take some added effort on our part. (Going camping, hiking, having longer conversations full of stories and laughter, allowing bike rides in the dark or staying up all night, sitting around a bon-fire in the backyard, organizing a scavenger hunt…)Emphasize the joy that is easily found when they know themselves and like themselves. 

           The second group of kids drinks or uses drugs to actually escape the reality of their life. These are kids who drink more regularly (sometimes before school) or even when they are alone. These kids use the alcohol, pills, or other substances to mask the pain of loneliness, inferiority, or shame that they are trying to handle on their own. The alcohol takes the edge off the pain they are feeling and gives them a reality where their problems in life are not present. These kids usually start drinking at much younger ages than the first group and often blackout as they seek their escape from reality. Help them understand that these kids might escape for a moment, but the drug use simply makes their problems in regular life even worse. 

            Ask your older teens about kids they know who drink and use drugs. Who do they think is in pain and who might be trying to fit in? When we give our kids this information rather than a simple tag line, they are better able to decide for themselves whether or not to choose drugs and alcohol.  Do they want to be insecure? Self-medicating? Or confident? I know which one makes most sense to me!

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