Smoking, drinking, and spending

When I was growing up in Ohio, both my mother and my Sunday school teachers taught that smoking and drinking alcohol were wrong.

I wanted to be obedient. But when I saw my Sunday school teacher, away from church, smoking, it shook me. I had to decide if I was going to do as she said or as she did.

I did as she said. At the time I felt shunned for the decision and that hurt. I often hoped my friends wouldn't ask me to imbibe. It didn't take long, however, to understand how the allure often led to addiction, and I was glad about my choice.

When my oldest son encountered these problems, not only tobacco and alcohol, but also drugs, I suggested a different way to respond. Instead of holding back and hoping someone else would say "No thank you" first, I suggested that he be the first to say no. Assume there are probably others in the group who want to say no, but for one reason or another are afraid to.

If he passed without hesitation, others would probably follow. This is exactly what happened. Later, his friends came to him to tell him that his decision gave them courage to say no. He made many good friends during those years, and many were people who shared the same values.

Several years later, after giving my daughter the same advice, she told me that her friends loved to invite her along because they had a designated driver if they needed one. She felt that they admired her for her stand and that they were less likely to overindulge when she was along.

Another problem I encountered as a mother seemed to result from the fact that we had prospered and had sufficient income to give the children all they needed and many things that they did not need but wanted.

For example, one of my sons ruined two pairs of shoes within a few months. When he came home one day with only one shoe of a third, new pair, it seemed important to teach the children a better sense of value.

The family discussed the problem and came up with a solution that worked well. My husband and I would list jobs around the house that we were willing to pay them to do based on the current minimum wage. In return, they would pay 25 percent of the cost of every item of essential clothing.

If we did not feel they really needed the clothing, they paid all the cost. If an item had to be replaced because it was ruined by carelessness or loss, they paid an increased amount depending upon how old the item was.

This completely changed the thinking and actions of our children. They quickly developed a much greater appreciation for everything they had. They stopped asking for so much and contributed more to the work around the house. They also took on jobs for neighbors, such as baby-sitting, mowing the grass and pulling weeds. Later, they found part-time jobs in the community. They continued to be well-dressed but took much better care of their clothes.

Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting solutions, send an e-mail to home@csps.com, or write to Parenting, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.

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