How To Engrave ‘Say-No-To-Drugs’ on Your Child’s Mind- Starting when They’re Young!

Let’s face it; drugs and alcohol have the ability to rob you of your children. Access to illegal substances is absurdly simple for teenagers. Clearly, young lives are being ruined by the thousands as a result of these harmful addictions.

Think of the time you have already put into raising your child. Think of the effort. The energy. And the money. What wouldn’t you do to protect your child from harmful influences!?

Teaching your kids about the dangers of teen alcoholism and drug addiction early on is invaluable, as it could shape their minds in a way where they will try to avoid these temptations when they become teenagers.

What if there was an effective means of combating the influence of social and peer pressures, and giving your child the tools to avoid detrimental habits and addictions?

Remember that with this knowledge, the likelihood of your child ending up in alcohol addiction centers in Utah or anywhere else in the country will be significantly reduced.

Remember that with this knowledge, the likelihood of your child ending up in alcohol addiction centers or anywhere else in the country will be significantly reduced.

Take a step back, and examine the reason why teenage addicts turned to substance abuse. In virtually every case, the child was running away from a problem; a family dilemma, social issue, or predicament in school.

The obvious question is this:

Every teenager faces some complications; why was this particular teen unable to cope with his problem; why did he feel compelled to run away from the predicament and escape to a world of addiction?

The answer, just as obviously, is that the child did not know how to deal with disappointment. In all probability, he is not at fault; rather the culture around him can be blamed.

The need to eliminate disappointment is a reflection of today’s social norms. Recall the commercials featuring a man suffering from severe heartburn after eating a slice of pizza. The next clip shows the same guy polishing off a double-cheeseburger, smiling calmly at the camera as he holds a bottle of white pills that eliminated the symptoms of heartburn. Have you ever wondered what kind of message that sends our children?

Simply stated, the moral of the commercial is this: You do not need to endure pain!

Similar advertisements for depression drugs or even pain-relieving pills abound. While I would never discourage you from swallowing some Excedrin to rid yourself of a headache, the reality is that we are living in an unprecedented age of ‘I-should-not-feel-any-pain’.

In fact, some medications are detrimental to reducing a fever, because the higher temperature of the body caused by the fever is actually the vehicle that kills the infection. Popping pills to reduce a fever can sometimes cause the illness to last longer in one’s body.

And so it is with the mind and soul.

Regular pill-popping to reduce heartburn can cause you to ignore the benefits of healthy eating in favor the immediate taste and sensation of pizza and fries.

Swallowing depression-alleviating-tablets can cause you to bypass the source of the sadness, and focus only on eliminating the unpleasant symptoms.

Banishing symptoms can definitely make you feel better. Yet, overlooking the cause of the symptoms virtually guarantees that newer and more dangerous symptoms will definitely arise.

It might be the heart attack due to the blocked arteries stuffed with hamburger remnants, which you were able to eat since your pill eliminated the heartburn. Or, it could be the breakup of a marriage due to nagging feelings of low-self-esteem that had been effectively swept under the carpet by depression medication.

The fuse will blow when overloaded by multiple appliances because it is not a good idea for the electricity to overheat and cause a fire. Some people react to a blown fuse by turning off some of their gadgets. Others prefer to ignore the hot fuse, slight aroma of smoke, and singed wires, and keep restarting the fuse until it will no longer operate.

Symptoms are warning bells being sounded. The ringing of the bells are not the problems; the cause of their chiming is the true issue.

Drug and alcohol usage is a piercing cry for help. The cause of the cry, not its decibel level, must be addressed. Just as you would not tinker with the fire-house’s bell to battle a raging fire, do not make the mistake of exclusively addressing the addiction when dealing with a teenager in distress.

The child who is addicted to harmful substances has not learned to deal with disappointment. Lifes sorrows have overwhelmed her ability to handle distress; therefore she turned to the bottle.

Disappointments come in all shapes and sizes. They begin at birth, when an infant leaves the comfort of the womb with a heart-wrenching cry. Lead an optimistic, cheerful family, yet teach your child to expect and realize that life is far from perfect. Allow him to mourn the stolen bicycle or broken toy without rushing out to immediately purchase a replacement to assuage his tears.

When a young child is given the time to mourn, and the gentle touch of comfort to help her through the loss of her favorite doll carriage, she learns a valuable life lesson; how to deal with sadness. She will develop the category in her brain that will serve as a reference to mourn, express sadness, accept the disappointment, and then move onward. She will access this essential skill when she is teased about her braces, dumped by her boyfriend, dismissed from the softball team, and rejected by the college of her choice.

The ability to mourn, accept heartache, and resolutely move ahead is what sets apart the teenagers who thrive from the ones who are slaves to addictions. The children who were taught to deal with the unfortunate events that are part of the package we call ‘life’ will definitely encounter bumps as they grow up. However, they have the strength of character and emotional wherewithal to dust themselves off, and get back on their feet. The other children, who were spoiled by always having Mom or Dad wipe their tears away, handed sweets or expensive toys to wash away the memory of a disappointing event, will be headed for trouble in their teen years. When the cookie or new plaything is no longer able to wash away their sadness, they will be on the lookout for something bigger to allay their distress. And it will be all too easy for them to find it.

So, when your three-year-old cries over the broken red crayon, hold him and say, “I know, sweetie, you really liked that crayon, and now it’s broken. Sometimes disappointing things just happen.” Resist the urge to say, “Oh, Sweetie, don’t worry, Mommy is going to buy you a new crayon right away!” Perhaps you will buy him another crayon; whether you do so or not is totally irrelevant. The important, essential point is that he learned that sad things happen, and they need to be accepted.

It’s a fact  In the course of a happy childhood, the ability to deal with sadness when the child is young
, will prevent the scathing pain of addiction when the child has grown older.

When we raise our children we are not looking for the quick-fix pill, rather, for the healing touch that endures forever.

Is your teen afflicted with drug addiction? Find answers before it’s too late.


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  1. Lori D. says:

    My oldest is nearly 7, so I was about to skip this article, thinking that I had a few more years before I need to worry about this, but, wow, am I glad I read this!!! I can see certain adults in my life that have addictions (not always drugs, but TV, sleeping, eating) and it’s so clear that they can’t deal with disappointments.

  2. It’s that old catchcry resilience again.

    I’m like Lori with children who are still young. Both are clever, competent, lovely children. But I still encourage them in activities that target their weaknesses, where I know they may fail, but another peer may succeed.

    Why? So they learn how it feels and have empathy for others and also so they build resilience. If they can cope with disappointment and failure now they should cope better later.

    Thanks for the article Ellen.

  3. Thank you for this article. My kids are still very young and so I can put this advice to work right away. I’m a very protective parent but I do understand that children need to not be handed a replacement for a lost or broken toy immediately. They need time to realize that things like that happen. I guess I just never looked at the whole picture how it would affect them as adults.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this article. I have a nine year old that I have been working with for years to teach him how to deal with frustration, fears and disappointment. The issues you present were some of my highest motivators. Even being able to take a simple “NO” is an art to learn nowadays. Hopefully if we deal with this when they are little, maybe we won’t have to shed these tears later.

  5. Lori, yes, that’s exactly what we want to avoid- children who turn into addicts of any type- Good point!

    Sarah, That is an interesting twist- encouraging your children in areas that are not their strong points.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, I think that’s why we hear so many stories regarding celebrities who are on drugs. I used to wonder, they have a “perfect” life, lots of money, great looks, fame, what could they possibly be trying to hide from? In light of your comment, I think they’re trying to hide from their weaknesses- which everyone has; they’re so used to being perfectly in the spotlight, that when they come across an area of life where they flounder… they spiral downward.

    Nan, thanks for your kind words. Yes, looking at the whole picture now will save us lots of time and anxiety in the future!

    C.H. (and I do know your name, but I won’t post it if you want to remain just initials on this site!) Thanks for your comment. You reminded me that I know a very successful teen counselor who does not say “No”. Instead he says, “Negetory”. He says that children are tired and burned out of hearing “No”s! Go figure… it works for him!

  6. I think villifying drugs as the problem only furthers the allienation we as a culture face with our children. My personal feeling is that the reason people use drugs in self-destructive ways is simply to medicate themselves away from feelings of pain they associate with life. Raising whole children with a strong emotional basis and self respect is the best way to protect them from drugs. Also a realistic dialogue with children about the good and bad aspects of drugs is important because children will seek to alter their conciousness at some point in their lives just as people for thousands of years have been doing and as many healthy people do today. Wouldn’t you rather have a child who acts from a place of being informed about the true dangers and bennefits rather than one who acts out of ignorance and fear?

  7. Hi CJ (those were part of my maiden-name intials!),

    You are absolutely correct, that this article totally neglected any reference to speaking with children about drugs.

    When I orignially wrote this article, I had called it, “Teaching Children to Deal with Disappointment” and I later changed it to include and deal with the linkage between a strong emotional child, as you wrote, and keeping away from addictions.

  8. Adrianne says:


    Thanks for this article!

    I’m like the other responders in that I have a young daughter (8) and wasn’t expecting to have to deal with this yet. But I had no choice when, on 8/29/05, Katrina came for a visit. We stayed home (and survived with minimal damage) but my daughter now understands how to deal with losses and has shown a mature attitude as a result. Many children at her old school lost everything & she wanted to donate her gently used toys to them as she didn’t lose anything. Some of her friends at her new school moved away and this helped her learn that she can miss old friends, but in time make new ones. I will use this article to help her deal with other losses.

    I never before made the connection between experiencing disappointment & addiction–wow! Thanks for this p. o. v.

  9. Ellen C. Braun says:

    Hi Adrianne, welcome!

    Wow, I’m glad you got through Katrina intact! You really demonstrated some valuable life lessions for your daughter, that will serve her well as she grows.

    Thanks for your kind words, I think the connection between dealing with disappointment and later on falling prey to addictions is of paramount importance for parents of young children to understand.

  10. Vernakay says:

    Thank you Ellen for this web-blog. I now have a way of helping my daughter. She has never learned to except no or wait or anything negative. It puts her into a tail spin. I, unlike some of the others have a 13 year old that I do need to be aware of drugs. Her father and I divorced when she was young and everything I either said wait or no too she ran to her dad and got. This is very important for me as she will be starting HS in the fall.
    Thank you

  11. In a culture where adults are becoming increasingly poor at setting examples for our children, this article is a much needed reminder. We, as adults, are often unaware of our own dissapointments and are often lacking in purpose. We keep ourselves busy and entertained 24/7 with blackberrys, mp3 players, dvd’s, dinner out, etc… We rarely take the time to unplug and be with ourselves in a reflective moment. Our children are watching how we lead our own lives, what we do with our time, and how we handle our accomplishments and our dissapointments. This is a good reminder to me as a parent to re-examine myself as well. Thank you so much for the encouragement and insight!

  12. Our culture certainly does send the message to kids that people shouldn’t have to feel pain, and that alleviating pain is as easy as taking a pill/other. However, this article did leave out the fact that there are some individuals who have a genetic predisposition to addiction to alcohol and chemical substances. While there are no “tests” one can take to show this, if addiction appears to “run in the family,” children in that family should be made aware of this… aware of the fact that it may take only “one time” trying drugs to get them hooked. So, I definitely support the notion of parenting in a way that teaches kids how to grieve and cope with pain and loss, but just wanted to point out that even kids who are given such great skills can still be at risk if they’ve inherited a genetic predisposition to addiction. Thanks for the article, and the chance to respond. I’m new to Raising Small Souls, and enjoying it greatly so far.

  13. This sounds like great advice…I came here looking for advice on how to help my daughter whose favourite toy has been stolen, a little Pooh plush beanie that my 5 y/o daughter has had since she was a baby…it was stolen from her at her new daycare last week. She has cried and cried and nearly made herself sick several times. I am trying to use this as a lesson to teach her that sometimes we lose things we love, but that God’s love is always with us. Rushing out to buy a new Pooh would be useless because she already has a second one exactly like the one she lost, but she, and only she knew the difference in the two…and she mourns the one she has lost. I know in the end she will be stronger for overcoming this disappointment and loss. Thank you for this article. I really helped me put this situation into perspective as well as helping with future disappointments and losses.

  14. I absolutely agree with your points about handling disappointment in childhood. However, I do take issue with your statement that “depression alleviating pills cause one to bypass the source of sadness”. You fail to mention that depression is a real illness that people suffer from, just like diabetes or heart disease. The disease is multifactorial, but is generally associated with a chemical imbalance in the brain. One just doesn’t buy an over the counter drug to mask the symptoms. These people often suffer for years before being diagnosed properly. There is also a component of embarassment and stereoptyping that prevents one from obtaining help and services in the first place and your column does nothing but belittle those afflicted with this disease. I am a health care provider who diagnoses and treats a wide variety of illness and do not know of one professional who would prescribe an antidepressant unless it was indicated. Plain and simple, it wouldn’t work for the “blues”. Can you tell I feel strongly about this issue. Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

  15. I could write a book here, but time limits me more than anything.

    I have six children, two adults aged 26 and 24, two teens aged 18 and 16, and two school-agers who are 10 and 7. All of these children belong to my husband and me, and we have been married for 28 years. My husband and I do not smoke, drink, or do drugs (outside of the occasional ibuprofen for pain – but I think you understand what I mean, right?). We have experienced our share of disappointments in life, and have continued to “keep on keeping on”.

    My oldest experienced disappointment in her young life, dealt with sad things and was encouraged to grieve, and definitely did not “suffer” from constant immediate gratification for things she desired. She was taught about the dangers of smoking, drinking, and drugs, and taught God’s reasons for remaining pure until marriage, and seemed to understand these things. My daughter became a teen mother at age 16 and a heroin addict at 18 (she’s had some clean years since, but is currently using again).

    I have learned in my years of parenting that there are NO guarantees. The only constant in it all is that God is in control, and He loves my children more than I possibly ever could. His word tells me that “ALL things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” [emphasis mine].

    My daughter may possibly suffer from a depression that is medically based, as described by CD. Maybe she did long ago, but I missed the signs. I don’t know. I have had to surrender this child (though she is an adult) to God’s hands, knowing that as long as she is living and breathing, there is hope for her to be released of the bondage of drug addiction.

    My oldest son had some dealings with alcohol, but is past that now. He never did drugs. My 18 year old and 16 year old learned from their older siblings mistakes, and have made much better choices in life so far, and for that I am thankful.

    I just want to encourage those of you with younger children to not be complacent (as I was) because your children seem so agreeable. When my daughter started detouring off the straight and narrow, I was blindsided (I was a goody-two-shoes teen, and couldn’t comprehend her behavior – it was foreign to my way of thinking). Do the very best you can to teach your children properly and to set a good example, and PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!

    I pray that none of you ever goes through the heartache I have, but I share these things so that if you do, you know you are not alone – others have been through it, and survived with the Lord’s strength. I don’t know how people handle such things without God – the pain I have experienced as a parent was such that if I didn’t have God to lean on, I could almost understand the desire/need for numbing drugs or alcohol.

    I can do ALL things through Christ, who strengthens me!


  16. I read your article and I am in complete agreement with you. I however, have felt myself compelled to teach my children a bit more. I have 5 kids ages 18yod, 16yos, 13yos, 7yos and 5yos.

    In both mine and hubby’s family we have alot that leads me to believe that genetics are not on our side. I wanted to prepare my kids. So, when they are young I begin by explaining that there is something in our bodies that makes it so if we ever try alchohol, cigarettes, and drugs that we will most likely never be able to quit.

    I have lived a rough life, and know that kids can be deceptive…I was. I have tried to leave the lines of communication open with my kids, so they feel completely comfortable to talk to me. I am not perfect, but most times they talk to me if they have a concern.

    I have been lucky/vigilant/blessed (whatever you want to call it) in that my 18yod is sweet 18 and never been kissed. LOL I am so proud of her. She dates, works and is getting ready for college in the fall. She spends alot of time with good friends she has chosen. I hope she continues in her careful journey.

    My 16yos has a part-time job, and is also sweet 16 and never been kissed. He has friends, but he spends alot of his time writing, and reading. He loves this.

    My 13yos is a boy with severe ADHD. He worries me a bit. Many specialists say ADHD kids don’t stand a chance against drug use. But, we have the lines of communication open as much as I can keep them open. I hope my son will prove the specialists wrong. He serves in our church, and just plays with his friends (by his and his friends choice…at our house no less) most of the time.

    Many of the parents don’t like their kids messing up the house while they are out of school for the summer. Because I homeschool my kids, I am used to having them here alot. So the kids feel good about coming over here to play.

    Thanks for your ideas! I really appreciate your article. It gives me food for thought.


  17. After reading everyone’s article, I was intrigued as to the fact that nobody mentioned over the counter medications for colds, sinus problems, allergies. If we occasionally give these to our children for discomfort, then what are we teaching them about medicating themselves to feel better?

    My husband and I are both Chiropractors and have never given any of our children any type of medication over the counter or prescribed. Our children have never had a vaccination and they both understand what all substances can do to destroy their bodies. My son (who was 6 at the time) even went as far as to tell a complete stranger that he shouldn’t be smoking because it is a “dirty habit”.

    I also homeschool and have the opportunity to educate my children constantly about matters such as these.

    Debbi – on a side note regarding ADHD. Have you heard of the Feingold diet? If not, take a peak at his website. This diet can work wonders with those who have ADHD. I have seen it first hand work wonders for a homeschooling family that I know.

    Many blessings!

  18. Re: Monica’s post and not giving children OTC pain and other symptom relief medicines… I’m wondering about the alternatives your family uses, especially for fever-reduction. I wouldn’t mind decreasing my family’s use of such med’s, and I’m a believer in using relaxation & deep breathing techniques to manage some pain, but we’ve had colds and flu that I can’t imagine not giving my children or myself an OTC med. to for relief. I think it’s okay to give kids these med’s, without over-doing it.

  19. Yes, I did look at the feingold diet about 7 years ago (?) Maybe it’s time to take another look at it. We just took him off his ADHD meds a month ago, and are trying to look into his diet, and other methods. He is seeing a chiropractor. 😉

    What is the website address for the feingold diet?


  20. I just googled the feingold diet and found this:

    Actually, I will be creating a page of resources for special needs children shortly, and will move this info there, and I will welcome all your contributions:)

  21. My son Walker just turned 11 on Monday but the Saturday before he was at the skate park and a kid offfered to smoke him up. I thought it wouldn’t start so young but this boy was planning to get Walker stoned and steal his bike because of Walker’s height I guess the boy couldn’t just push him off and take it. Walker said no I don’t do drugs, but felt that it might make him cool if he tried it. What about next time in a different situation just to go along with the crowd. I have tried to tell him what affect pot had on me as I did join the crowd, you can’t tell me that it’s not addictive I started in my early teens and was 31 before I quit. I also have siblings that are over 50 and still do it. I want my boy to grow up and enjoy his freedom to go places, to be a boy. I watch him ride down the road and my heart aches because I have to let him grow and go. We do our best and now he must make the choices himself when I’m not there to say do this or that I hope he always follows his gut instinct that tells him when somethings not right , perhaps we have done it right.

  22. I went to the feingold website, and you have to pay $70 plus shipping and handling just to SEE some of the materials. It would be nice if they gave you a general idea, and then if I wanted to pay $70 for the progarm and another $20 for the cookbook another $10 for the tape etc… WHEW!

    Maybe I’ll see if I can find anything else on it, on the web.

    Thank you!


  23. Janice,

    Your boy said ‘NO’! That is awesome! Have you praised and praised him for making that choice? I would make a huge deal of it, because he is wanting praise, and he needs to be known as “the kid who says no…the smart kid”. He could gain a reputation that would MAKE his life.

    Have fun praising your son! I am smiling as I write this! What a kid!


  24. I agree with your article, thanks for writing it. There are sooo many commercials about taking drugs on T.V. It has gotten so bad that my family and I made a game out of it. Everytime we saw a drug commercial we would yell “drugs”, it really opened the opportunity to talk about this situation and how we don’t need to take drugs for everything. I know that there are situations that you need drugs and that’s ok, but why does there need to be so many comercials. My children are 14, 10 and 6. I guess we have made the best out of a bad situation. T.V. does influence us, that’s why there are so many commercials.

  25. Reading this thread made me thing of my 15 year old son. Although my husband often takes pain-killers for migraine, I rarely use OTC medications and my children have grown up without them except in one or two really severe cases. A while back my son had an accident and dislocated his toe. He was in a lot of pain and I suggested he take a painkiller. He read the packet insert and declared – “I’m not putting THAT in my body – do you know the side-effects!”. Although he has always been a fussy eater (not eatinig the healthy things I’d like him to!) he reads all the ingredients on packages and simply refuses to eat anything he doesn’t want. Now I realise that his ability to refuse something offered to him (even by me) will give the means to refuse harmful things from others. Are we not also settng our children up for addictions when we insist that the eat or drink something we give them on the grounds that “it’s good for you” – isn’t this one step away from “it will make you feel good”?