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What we learn from Michael Phelps

February 16th, 2009 / 3 Comments

Michael Phelps has been in the news quite a bit lately, unfortunately not the kind of publicity he would want.

The question on everyone’s mind is, “Why would a kid with great accomplishments, talents, and promise want to take drugs?”

Maybe Michael Phelps, like a lot of kids, didn’t think drugs would affect their lives. They think they can try it and not get hurt or hooked. At a young age, on top of the world, they think they are invincible.

I think children who are successful, like Phelps, may even feel justified in experimenting with whichever substances they wish. They work and train hard, so they may think they deserve a little fun. They need to relax from the stress. Perhaps drugs give them relieve from the monotony of their training.

According to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, children say that they choose to use drugs because they want to:

* Relieve boredom
* Feel good
* Forget their troubles and relax
* Have fun
* Satisfy their curiosity
* Take risks
* Ease pain
* Feel grown-up
* Show their independence
* Belong to a specific group and look cool

As parents, don’t we tend to trust our kids more when they are accomplished? We think that since they are kept busy with worthwhile activities, and with high goals and ambition, our kids would surely know that drugs could ruin everything they’ve worked for.

Unfortunately, successful does not equal maturity or moral conviction.

The Michael Phelps scandal woke us up to an important lesson. Just because our kids excel in sports, get good grades, or that they are leaders in their class, does not mean they will make the right choice about drugs.

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  1. Your kids will use drugs at one point in their life. You can’t stop it. Caffeine is in your tea, alcohol is in your drink, and Ganja will get into their lungs at some point. Prevention is impossible, guidance is key.

  2. I struggle with this as a parent as well. As someone who can count the number of time she’s smoked cigarettes on one hand and never has even seen any illegal substances, will my son, when he grows up, think that I don’t know anything and not even listen to what I have to say?

    You make an interesting point about the high achievers though. It would be really interesting to see the statistics of the percentage of kids at Harvard that have smoked pot versus the kids in the ghetto of Boston.

    I think the biggest key is having open communication with your child. If my son someday tries it, I want him to know he can come to me before or after.

  3. Rohan: There are certainly “legal” drugs that our kids will inevitably encounter. Guidance will hopefully lead to prevention.

    Kate: Thanks for your comment. Perhaps I should clarify – I am not saying that successful kids have a higher chance of drug abuse than any other group.

    My point is that parents of high achievers should not be complacent thinking that smart kids will not take drugs.


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