Personal Power – The Anti-Drug

Kelly Curtis - Professional speaker, writer and counselor*** Monthly Feature Column ***

Positively Speaking
Building Assets in your Kids

by Kelly Curtis, M.S., author of Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things.

For many schools, October marks a focus on “drug-free” messages. We encourage children to engage in activities that are fun and fulfilling, so that they’re not drawn toward those that are unhealthy and dangerous. But probably the most effective strategy for helping your kids stay drug-free, isn’t about drugs at all – and you can start building it at a very young age.

Search Institute has identified Planning and decision-making and Personal power as two of the 40 Developmental Assets. Research shows these are characteristics of healthy, caring, resilient kids. The more assets youth have, the more likely they’ll resist risky behaviors in the future.

Planning and decision-making
indicates a young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices. We help our kids do this any time they have a goal – whether it is to save up for a new toy, complete a preschool chore chart, or practice basketball shooting over the summer. While we don’t always have control over achieving the goals we’ve set, we can always control the actions we take to work toward the goals.

Personal power
indicates a young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.” I believe personal power is often an outcome of consistent planning and decision-making over time.

We can model this planning for our children.

For instance:

• If your family is trying to save money, you can communicate with your children the choices you’re making to reach the goal: entertainment, food, bookkeeping, etc. Our family’s Mortgage Payoff 101 series here.

• If you have a personal weight-loss/healthy eating goal, you can talk to your kids about ingredients you use in recipes, nutrition labels you read in the grocery store, and the ways you’re exercising to stay fit.

• If you want to become an author, you can tell your kids when you’re writing in your journal, or making a blog entry. Or you can celebrate with them how many words or pages you wrote for your novel today.

They can learn to plan themselves.

When your kids witness you setting goals and working toward them in a balanced way, they learn how to do it themselves. We can open doors for them to encourage this. At ages 10 and 12, my kids have already determined they want to go to college some day, so we talk about what that looks like. They ask me questions and we discuss what they need to do to prepare even now – like strong study habits, regular attendance, and responsible involvement in extra-curricular activities.

Last weekend I took my daughter and her friend to the University of Minnesota for a science fair, and we hung out on the campus for lunch and informally toured the area while we were there. The valuable conversations we all had on the way home sparked from what they witnessed and experienced in the University setting.

So what does this have to do with drug prevention?

Nothing I discussed here seems drug-prevention related at all, and I do believe parents need to have very serious and direct conversations with their kids about the dangers of drug use. But building on the Planning and Decision-Making and Personal Power assets along the way may help your cause.

If knowledge is power and practice makes perfect, then kids who start to practice decision-making as toddlers will quickly learn to know themselves very well. As a result, these kids will more likely have personal power as teenagers. In my view, that might be their best defense against drug-use.

What do you do to build personal power in your kids?

Thanks for joining in to build assets in your kids! I look forward to seeing you again next month for Positively Speaking.

Kelly Curtis is a Wisconsin school counselor and author of Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things. To read more about Kelly, please visit her Weblog, Pass the Torch or follow her on Twitter.

A drug addict should be commended for having the will power to finally get treatment. Now he or she has the choice to recover from addiction with an app or use other avenues for recovery like support groups and sober living homes.


  1. says

    Cause\effect with choices is a wonderful way to teach children. One test to see which children will have difficulty with this is to play checkers or chess with them. You can easily see which ones think about cause and effect, and will, thus, grasp this theory better, and which ones have to learn through much repetition.


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