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Special to msnbc.com
updated 8/27/2007 9:41:40 AM ET 2007-08-27T13:41:40

1. Don’t lecture. “Look for opportunities to have little chats instead,” advises Mitch Earleywine, associate professor of psychology at State University of New York at Albany. Even if your kid does have the attention span to hear you out, information is more likely to be absorbed when you deliver it over time in small doses.

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2. Listen first, talk later. We learn more by hearing the whole story and then asking questions, rather than by dispensing advice from the get-go. Earleywine, who is also on the advisory board of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, suggests questions such as, “Do you know anyone who is having problems with marijuana? Do you think he thought he’d develop problems?”

3. Get educated and use scientific fact. You can’t share the truth if you don’t know what it is. Legal and scientific facts not only earn credibility but remove subjectivity. Earleywine explains that recent brain-scan studies suggest the brain is still developing all through the teenage years. That’s a legit argument a kid might be willing to hear.

4. Don’t forbid. Drawing a hard line and overstating risks breaks the bond of confidence. “Kids will dismiss what they hear from parents when they know or sense they’re being steered wrong,” says Marsha Rosenbaum, who runs the drug-awareness project Safety First.

5. Try to delay their experimentation. In addition to the brain-scan argument, Earleywine suggests a message along the lines of, “I need you to wait just as you do to drive a car or operate a chain saw.”

6. Tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They’ll smell it on you, figuratively if not literally, if you fudge your own experiences. Says Rosenbaum, “Some parents want to lie to kids about their drug use so they can tell the kids, ‘No no no — I never smoked and you shouldn’t either.’ But lying never works and the kids always find out anyway.”

Don’t express only the risks and downsides, either. Eighteen-year-old Max got honest information from his folks, but he was intrigued after hearing of marijuana’s euphoric effect from friends.

7. Do your own parenting. Don’t expect schools and government programs to do it for you.Teenagers are by nature skeptical about “the system.” Guess where they learned that.

Rich Maloof has been published extensively on health, technology and music. He has written for MSN Health & Fitness, CNN, Billboard and Yahoo!, among others.

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