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Try a new approach

Studies show that, for better or worst, parents influence their child’s decisions on alcohol throughout life. We can make the most of our influence by better understanding the most effective ways to communicate – with our words, our body language and our behavior – as our children grow and change.

Communicating is about building a relationship with our kids, and continually modifying the relationship over time. By keeping in step with our kids in a climate of respect, we can create the right atmosphere for meaningful conversations about underage drinking. We can help them make the smart decisions.

So what does it mean to leave the traditional approach behind, and instead try a relationship approach?


Traditional Approach

Yes-or-No Questions

“Will there be drinking at the party?”
“Have you ever tried alcohol?”
“Do your friends drink?”
“Will his/her parents be home?”

Relationship Building Approach

Open-ended Questions

“If there’s drinking at the party, what will you do?”
“What do you think about kids who drink?”
“If your friends wanted to drink, how would you handle it?”
“Tell me about Tim’s parents. What are they like?”

Traditional Approach

Leading with Assumptions or Agendas

“I know what it’s like to be your age.”
“You’re forbidden to drink.”

Relationship Building Approach

Curiosity and Active Listening

“It must be confusing to be a teenager these days?”
“What’s the hardest thing you deal with when it comes to just being yourself around your friends?”

Traditional Approach

General, Non-specific Statements

“You know the right thing to do.”
“You know what we expect.”
“Make me proud of you.”
“Don’t do anything stupid.”

Relationship Building Approach

Ending with a Clear Statement

“I expect you won’t drink alcohol.”
“If you ever have a question about alcohol, you can count on me to listen and answer honestly.”
“If you’re ever in a situation where you have to choose between getting in a car with a drunk driver or calling me, I want you to know you can call me and I’ll come get you with no questions asked.”

Work the relationship and the behaviour will take care of itself.

-Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Canadian Developmental Psychologist based in Vancouver, B.C.

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Family Talk is your go-to website for parenting information and support

Here you’ll find information on relationship approaches that work throughout the different stages of parenting, and a caring community of support. Through webinars, engaging blogs, how-to videos, the latest research findings, and our downloadable Parent Guide, Family Talk offers it all.

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