Thursday, August 22, 2013

Should I Shame My Teen Into Stopping Her Drug Use?


But you can use guilt.
Guilt is generally described as the feeling you have when you have done something bad, or hurt someone. Shame, by contrast, is the feeling that you are bad, at core. While you certainly do want your teenager to feel guilty about any destructive action, like drug use, it is counterproductive and nonsensical to shame your teenager! Shaming her by suggesting that she is at base a bad kid, is just the opposite of what you want to do. If she is at core weak and evil, there is not much to be done about it - she might as well live up to her nature by continuing to use drugs. But if she - by contrast - sometimes does bad things, that behavior is amenable to change. This is NOT just a therapy-talk mumbo-jumbo distinction. If your teen feels empowered to change a typical behavior, she will least try. But if the behavior is a reflection of an unchangeable character structure, there is no motivation or even hope in trying to change it! We adults act the same way. In addition to being contrary to your goals, shaming a teenager for drug use is just silly. By the time she has a problem with drugs, the behavior is driven by the biological imperative known a addiction. Although it may seem like she is choosing to use, her volition is impaired by the drug itself. The "choosing mechanism" in her brain has been hijacked, her core personality is not entirely in control of what happens, and telling her to "Just Say No" is as pointless as it sounds. But this is messy. She still has control over some things, like going to AA meetings, taking prescribed medications, going to relapse prevention therapy, or deciding which friends to hang out with. So, yes, promote her feeling guilty about bad or unhelpful actions she takes. These can be corrected, with some effort. But don't promote the idea that she is at her very core a shameful, self-destructive person.

1 comment:

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