Many nice, law-abiding parents are scared to death that their teenage children have become involved with drugs. They worry when the kids lock themselves in their bedrooms. They imagine that the youngsters are smoking dope, or injecting something. Then they turn to each other and wonder where they went wrong. Why are we such awful parents, they ask themselves.
The answer, of course, is No, they didn’t do such a bad job. But the answer also – if you want to start looking for it – is not in the house at all. It’s actually where the young people spend most of their time, in school, on street corners, and generally hanging around with their friends. The drug taking, along with all the other bad habits our children pick up along the road to maturity, comes from their so-called ‘friends’. In middle-class areas they might be called ‘peer groups’ but in other less fortunate locations, they’re easier to see, they’re called ‘gangs’. Those are the teenagers hanging around on street corners. The reason might be, to be prosaic, that they don’t live in such fortunate conditions and don’t have their own rooms, to lounge in and entertain. They probably share bedrooms with siblings and worse, share accommodation with parent or parents who don’t want them around and tell them to ‘get out’. They roam the streets, along with people of similar age who share similar backgrounds and outlooks. They also share adventures and activities, whether it’s drugs, sex, petty crime, or stealing cars. It’s all part of belonging.
If a ‘deprived’ child has a wastrel for a parent and no usefully employed role model to copy, then it might be understandable that they fall in with the ‘bad crowd’ and start spending time on unproductive activities, even if they’re illegal. The ray of hope in all this is that there are actually two ways that everybody makes friends, and most people, once they realise that, have a choice of which route they follow.
The first is that you ‘fall in’ with whoever is around. That might be the people that you go to high school with, or neighbours, other youngsters in your street and neighbourhood. In all poor areas, these individuals are the same, since local kids go to local schools, (not like in posher areas, where parents choose a school that challenges the brains of their offspring and might be a distance away). Again, in poor areas, the meeting place is the street corner, (as opposed to friends’ houses, garages, gardens or yards, which is often the case in more affluent areas, where parents can be welcoming to children’s friends, offer them hospitality and keep an interested eye on them, as opposed to ‘Don’t care’ from less able parents). Then, associating with this local collection, each young person picks up the interests of the group, which usually tends to the lowest common denominator vandalism, nuisance, drugs, crime, hip hop music or ‘gangsta’ culture.
There’s an alternative, and it’s found in Success Theory. There, advisors have realised for years that the one group of people that are liable to stop you from attaining wealth and influence are your friends. Of course, it’s only because they want the best for you. They don’t want you to waste your time, energy and money on high-flying, unsafe and unpredictable schemes. Finally, and most important, they don’t want to lose you. But they will. If you find ‘success’, of any sort, the first casualty is the circle of people you know. You move on, you may move up, and now you’re associating with a different class of person. Turn that on its head if you want to change, start associating with those other people NOW. Your circumstances will then change to meet the challenge, and to help you fit in.
In other words, don’t choose your friends and adopt their interests. Instead, choose your interests and meet with people who share that: they will become your friends. It doesn’t matter whether that’s stamp collecting or making money, the same rule applies. And, incidentally, it’s why some young people, having chosen to join the school band and play the flute or trumpet; or take up basketball; or box; or (in the case of Tiger Woods) play golf, suddenly find that they have no time to waste on street corner pettiness. They’re too busy. Lots of young people have found a road out of the projects over the years and it’s usually been signposted by an all-embracing interest. Suddenly they get a vision, an idea, a dream, and they’re off, up and away. It means they aren’t in their rooms smoking dope, they’re down at the Library, reading. Or they aren’t on the street corner, they’re in the gym or on the track. They aren’t stealing things, they’re making them, or making music, or learning.
The message for parents is clear. If you want your kids to stay away from gang culture, you have to find what they’re interested in and back them, support them, encourage them, and stay with them, as they pursue that. The only difficulty, as always, is that it might not be something you like how many dads could live with a son who didn’t want to play football but was interested in ballet? Think about it. You have to find something that THEY want, not what you want for them. In the end, the only way you’re going to find out what that is is to listen to them. You’re going to have to talk to them, and not AT them. Why not? Lecturing didn’t work, did it? Shouting at them didn’t work, did it? No, listening, hearing, and responding, that’s the formula. You might not like what you hear, but if you can get them talking, really talking, then they might tell you something that will be their salvation, their road to success, their ticket out of menial and meaningless work. If that seems sensible, give it a try.