Verbalize Your Expectations Often

Get in the Way Quick Tip #1

So who has the most influence on a teen’s choice to use drugs or alcohol? The answer: parents and peers. I mention peers just momentarily, as we’ll talk about the “peer factor” in an upcoming segment. But for now, who your kids hang with or associate with should be important to you.

Numerous studies on the topic all end up with the exact same conclusion: drug and alcohol use among teens whose parents verbalize a no use message is considerably lower than teens whose parents are indifferent or avoid the conversation. That’s why it’s important to talk — and listen — to your teen. Verbalized parent DISAPPROVAL greatly reduces underage drinking and drug abuse.

So when it comes to preventing your teen from drinking or using drugs here’s what works best:

  1. Have high expectations and set high expectations
  2. Set limits or boundaries
  3. Enforce the limits you set and follow-through with consequences
So how do we go about this?
  1. Determine what your expectations are. As for myself, I sat with my laptop and started writing them down. I encourage you to do something of that nature. Parents should be on the same page and supportive of all expectations. I used the word “parents” as plural. Sometimes that’s not possible. We’ll expand on single parenting in a future segment. We’ll also cover the question of what to do if one parent is an active alcoholic or drug addict.
  2. Give a no use message when you set your expectations and verbalize disapproval on use and abuse.
  3. Make it a conversation, do it with confidence, sincerity and eye contact. Choose a good time and place.
  4. Avoid setting limits when emotions are running high.
  5. The earlier you start the easier it is.
  6. Use the broken record technique.
Let’s set an expectation.

How about this: “If I ever find out you’ve been drinking I will…” As a teen; what did I just hear?  You said, don’t get caught. You never told me not to drink. Not drinking and not getting caught are two different expectations. What you say is very important, how you say it is even more important and following through on any consequences you set is imperative to your success.

Here’s a much better example:

Parent: Do you know why I want to make sure you don’t get involved with drugs or alcohol?

Teen: “Yah, it’s bad for you.”

Parent: “Yes, it’s bad for you. But it goes much deeper than that. I want you to be successful and I know you want to be successful and I admire that about you. But I also know the one thing that will rob you of success is drugs and alcohol. We don’t want that to get in your way of your success because me and your mom care about you and we love you.”

Next time I may use this lead-in question again planning to come from a difference perspective. “Do you know why I want to make sure you don’t get involved with drugs or alcohol?”

Only this time your teen throws you a curve ball response, “Yah, you and mom want me to be successful.” (This would be an OH WOW moment wouldn’t you agree?) After you recover from the shock of the moment continue: Parent: “Yes, that’s correct and I know you want to be successful too.” Or you could take it in a totally new direction.

Maybe at another this time I may say something like; “You’re at an age where you may find yourself in a situation where there may be alcohol around or marijuana. You need to know that your mom and I do not approve of you being in any situation where that occurs. Here’s what we expect…”

These are just a few examples as there are multiple ways to approach this. It’s not about the right way or the wrong way or the perfect way. It’s just about Getting in the Way by saying something, doing something. Verbalize your expectations often.

Find this and other useful information at


Until next time, show me the hand and remember…
To Say Something, To Do Something.
Let’s Get in the Way together!



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The WOW Coalition is a prevention association that promotes safe and healthy choices and responds to problems caused by alcohol, marijuana and Rx abuse by implementing strategies to prevent and reduce youth substance use. For additional information visit or contact at (623) 208-3230 or email:

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