Just a Thought – Children Will Listen

As I sat in the Frost Auditorium on Wednesday evening, listening to a presentation to educate parents about vaping, I transposed a moment from a few days back in time to when I was sitting in the Frost, watching the AVPA production of “Into the Woods.”

Listening to Detective Joe Allen of the Glendale Police Department, I could clearly hear Sondheim’s lyrics “Careful the things you say, children will listen, careful the things you do, children will see…and learn.”

While there was some technical information offered – the increased potency of drugs, the look and function of the paraphernalia – I felt this was a presentation whose tone was identical to any anti-drug program from 2009, or 1989, or 1979. The fear mongering ‘worst case’ scenario presented as the common standard; all this has failed over and over again to prevent drug use among students. It seemed to me to be about scaring parents into paying attention, and fear is not an effective motivation for change. In particular, YOUR fear is not an effective motivation for SOMEONE ELSE to change.

Kelly Tarvyd, Culver City High School’s Assistant Principal made the excellent point that schools are doing all they can, they cannot police everyone’s behavior every second that they are on campus. Parents need to get connected.

Children do not live in a bubble, they live in our culture, and our culture has promoted consumption as the answer to everything. The answer to that is for parents to model behavior that breaks that pattern.

For me, the obvious educational standard is sex. If a 12 year old is asking questions about sex, I would not assume that they have a lover picked out and are preparing to get them involved, I would assume that they are curious and have questions. If a child or a teen is asking about nicotine or cannabis, I would know they are looking for information, not a green light to get started. Giving children the best and most honest answers, and best examples, is the only way to educate them towards their own successful lives.

I reflected here in another column, if there is someone whose flaws truly irritate you, odds are good that those are flaws you also have, and you don’t like to see them being presented. If you have a child whose habits alarm you, I can promise you those are your habits.  These behaviors you don’t like? They learned them from watching you.

Maybe parents change their mood by drinking, or shopping, or watching television, or obsessing over the news. Children learn to turn away from stress rather than taking it on to find a solution.

The good news is that when you educate children early, when give them real, candid, honest facts – on sex or drugs – they will have the self confidence that they need when they are faced with that situation to make a healthy choice that they are comfortable with.

A recent program from Denver, Colorado called ‘High Costs’ used money from their cannabis tax to reach out (online, of course) to educate kids about cannabis use. Their numbers show success.  Kids need to be informed, not scolded.

We have voted to legalize cannabis, so that we can benefit from all the positive aspects. Children using weed is the same issue as children using alcohol – it is not for children. Parents should not be terrified that kids try things. That is how they learn.

Giving kids what they truly need – time, attention, affection, support – will take away most of the factors that lead to drug abuse. For adults, use does not equal abuse. For children, it does.

Applause to the district for trying to get information to parents about vaping. No applause to Detective Allen for the ‘drugs are evil’ approach. I would be happy to introduce you to the work of Dr. Andrew Weil (changing consciousness is a part of human behavior) , and Dr. Gabor Mate (addictions are a way of coping with trauma). There is a world of benefits to cannabis and hemp, and our culture needs to move past fear and demonization.

And children will listen, and learn.


Judith Martin-Straw




The Actors' Gang

1 Comment

  1. You are so right about teaching children without fear. Giving them information and modeling behavior is so important. I love love the Game Show post. What a fantastic idea for so many topics!

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