Teaching about Temptation

How are lessons about teen smoking akin to lessons about teen sex?  Both relate  to temptation, peer pressure, self-esteem, and boundaries.
A friend of mine recently commented that the only explanation she could give her young son about teen smoking is that “sometimes teens do stupid things.”  While many parents have used that line, there is a more helpful answer that they could give: “You have the power to make smart choices.”
  • If you believe your teen is considering making or has made choices you disapprove of, don’t haul off and lecture.  Teens seem incapable of hearing when parents lecture.
  • Find an opportunity to ask what’s going on and what the allure of the choice is. Listen carefully for underlying messages — is your teen feeling lonely?  Like an outsider? Pressured by peers or a romantic interest?
  • Say that one reason teens make unhealthy decisions is because they see their friends or people they admire doing those things. It can be very hard not to follow the crowd when you also want to fit in. If your teen is paying attention without eye rolling, share a brief story of a time you were swayed by peer pressure and later learned to value of making up your own mind.
  • Acknowledge that there are temptations of many kinds, whether to eat too much, to stay up too late, or to smoke, drink, do drugs, cheat on tests, steal, or participate in sexual activity you may not be ready for. Acknowledge that avoiding temptation rarely seems like the best choice, at the time.
  • Mention that personal and family values should be considered when decisions are made.
  • Take a break. Come back to the conversation another time.
  • Explain that there are two ways people make decisions: choosing by default and choosing consciously.

Choosing by default
These are unconscious choices we make because we’re not aware of all our options or what’s a better decision. Or, when we do something because it seems the easiest option. Both teens and adults make decisions by default sometimes.Conscious Choices
Conscious choices require us to understand not only our own wants and needs but also how going after what we want will impact others. We are less likely to regret choices made consciously.

How to Choose Consciously

  • Recognize as many options or alternatives as possible.
  • Recognize the social pressures that may influence personal choices.
  • Consider the consequences of alternatives rather than gravitating toward the one that seems most attractive.

Say that you’ll always be available to help your teen make conscious choices and that you will try to be as open-minded as possible during your discussions. And mean it. If your teen approaches you, faced with a decision, remain calm and respond in as non-judgmental fashion as you can muster.  This will encourage future conversations and engagement.