The story of how my drinking caused my life to spiral into chaos and my journey back through sobriety.

“My name is Paul, and I am an alcoholic.”

I don’t remember much about my first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. I put it down to being so mentally and physically broken that all I have is a vague recollection: a group of people sitting in a large circle, lit by candlelight. What I distinctly remember, though, is hearing those present speak their truth and knowing, immediately, that I was in the right place.

I was a successful lawyer, well-respected by clients and peers alike. Work was my life. It was also, in retrospect, the environment in which I was able to best practise my alcoholism. I just enjoyed a drink, I can’t be an alcoholic, I thought. Alcoholics were homeless and unemployed, drank first thing in the morning out of brown paper bags. I was none of those things, so I kept drinking. And drinking. It took me about fifteen years to get to that first meeting, at the age of 41.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when my drinking changed from social to problematic. Drinking socially became drinking on weekends became drinking a few days during the week became a daily habit. I drank to celebrate, and I drank to commiserate. My drinking had started out fine – fun, even – but, after polishing off an entire wine rack of Tasmanian reds in a week, I wondered if I had a drinking problem.

The last few years were the worst. I counted the hours, then the minutes, until I could drink. I craved it, needed it. I continued to work but took more and more sick days. I left work earlier and earlier, going home via the bottle shop where I got into bed and started drinking. I rarely ate. I was drinking two litres of cask wine a day out of a blue plastic wine ‘glass’ because I had broken all the glass ones. I was dogged by a constant and painful obsession: did I have enough alcohol to get me and keep me drunk?

I was drinking two litres of cask wine a day out of a blue plastic wine ‘glass’ because I had broken all the glass ones.

I regularly cracked ribs falling off chairs, was covered in mysterious bruises. I started having blackouts, unable to remember things I’d done or said. I later learned they were caused by drinking too much too quickly, impairing judgment, coordination, and memory. Because of the blackouts, my first morning ritual was to check my phone to see what nasty things I’d texted to friends, trying to piece together the events of the night before. I’d apologised so much that “I’m sorry” no longer meant anything. My second morning ritual was vomiting and diarrhoea. And I kept drinking.

My rage grew exponentially. Plates and cups were broken, cutlery thrown, computer keyboards smashed. My dogs actively avoided drunk me, terrified of my yelling. I cut people off, including my partner and family, retreating into isolation to drink the way I wanted to. Seeing the way I drank, my closest friend – one of the few I still had – told me she knew someone who had stopped drinking by going to AA and suggested I do the same. I told her to “Fuck off”. I still didn’t consider myself an alcoholic despite my unmanageable life. Or maybe, somewhere in the sensible part of my brain, I did.

I had tried to stop or, at least, reduce my drinking in the years before I entered Alcoholics Anonymous. I saw doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists and lied to all of them about how much I was drinking. I was prescribed drugs to reduce alcohol cravings and washed them down with booze. I read self-help books, books on spirituality. I gave Buddhism a crack. I switched red wine for white and clear spirits for coloured. Going days, sometimes weeks, without drinking, I relied on a willpower that was so fragile it was easily broken watching someone on television sip a martini. None of these methods curbed my drinking. It took hitting what is referred to in AA as ‘rock bottom’ for me to make a change.

My rock bottom involved me, in a blackout, assaulting a taxi driver. I ended up with a broken wrist, the clear loser in that encounter; the taxi driver was unharmed. Cut to me laying on an emergency department trolley, my right forearm plastered, in a great deal of physical and emotional pain. It was what I needed. I reflected on where my life was headed, without the fog of alcohol. Terrified I would be charged with assault, which might mean the end of my law career, my best friend’s words – “you need to go to AA” – circled around in my head. It was the only viable option I had left; I’d tried everything else. It was either jail, a slow death, or Alcoholics Anonymous. I left hospital resolved to give AA a try for a month.

It was either jail, a slow death, or Alcoholics Anonymous.

My understanding of AA was minimal, informed by media portrayals of alcoholics. I searched online for a local meeting and dragged my partner along for support, not knowing what to expect. Although I sat in the corner, not speaking, I felt instantly understood. Importantly, I realised that I was not alone in this, I was not the only person in the world with this problem. The next day I went to another meeting, then another, and another. I did 90 meetings in 90 days as suggested. I learned that alcoholism is a disease that can be treated by attending meetings, getting a sponsor, and working through the twelve steps that underpin the AA program.

And I didn’t drink. One day at a time, I clocked up a week of sobriety, then a month, then six months. I kept going back. I started feeling more human. My obsession with alcohol left me after three months. For the first time in a very long time, I didn’t argue; I listened. What I heard was versions of my story voiced by people from all backgrounds. The myth of the stereotypical alcoholic I had, for years, used to justify my drinking was exploded. Alcoholism can affect anyone, regardless of age, cultural background, or socioeconomic status.

Socialising with people outside of AA was tricky to navigate at first. Australia is renowned for being a nation of drinkers. The National Drug Household Survey reported that 77% of Australians over the age of 14 drank in 2018, with 29% using alcohol to a harmful extent. So, it is unsurprising that I was often asked, “Why aren’t you drinking?” My response – “I’m doing it for my health” – satisfied most people.

Persistent questioners were met with, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m drunk” or “I’ve had enough booze to last me a lifetime.” I directed those who wondered out loud whether they might be an alcoholic to Alcoholics Anonymous’ quiz, they had to arrive at that decision themselves.

AA is a spiritual program but let me correct a common misconception. It is not a religious cult. Yes, God is an integral part of Alcoholics Anonymous, but it is a god of my understanding. Growing up areligious, the idea of a DIY god, whether that be a burly, white-bearded man who lives in the sky or the beauty of nature, fit perfectly with my concept of spirituality. I readily put my faith in a power greater than myself, someone or something that could guide me; a spiritual buddy that took the focus off me and my ego.

For me, Alcoholic Anonymous worked. I’m not sure how, and I don’t care. Over time, I came to understand what drove my behaviour, why I reacted poorly in certain situations. Alcohol had been my anaesthetic, an escape from myself and a way of avoiding the feelings that are an inevitable part of life.

AA gave me a blueprint for living and the tools to address feelings in a non-self-destructive way. Now, I am honest with myself and others. I’ve made amends to people I had hurt and repaired relationships with family and friends. I am reliable, able to show up for people instead of making plans and then ditching them at the last minute.

Soon, I will celebrate eight years of sobriety. I still go to meetings a few times a week, where the stories of newcomers, as broken as I was when I first entered AA, remind me of where I was and where I am now. I regularly speak to my sponsor and other sober alcoholics. Four years ago, I paid off a $40,000 credit card debt I’d racked up during my drinking. Three years ago, I married my partner of 20 years who, by some miracle, had stuck by me despite often bearing the brunt of my alcohol-fuelled rage. Being sober does not mean living a boring life. I have done things in sobriety I never dreamed of doing while I was drinking. Today I can laugh – really laugh – again.

Being sober does not mean living a boring life. I have done things in sobriety I never dreamed of doing while I was drinking.

Alcoholics Anonymous can stop you drinking and give you tools for living but it is not a cure-all. I have had to seek help outside of AA for mental illness. But what AA has given me, and continues to give me, is a great deal of serenity and a wonderful support system. I am now the best version of myself.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t always been rainbows and unicorns, but neither is life. I have lost friends and family during my sobriety; I have been laid off from jobs and suffered financial hardship. The difference is that now I am present, can contribute, participate, help and support others and myself without turning to alcohol.

Renowned countercultural writer Kurt Vonnegut, not an alcoholic himself, once said that Alcoholics Anonymous was America’s greatest gift to the world, and I must agree.


Elaine Benson of soberhood.com.au speaks out about her struggles with alcohol and wanting to be better for her sonSoberhood is a supportive judgement-free zone aimed at normalizing an alcohol free motherhood. Elaine is a single mother to a mad but beautiful three year old boy, a Cork native living in Sydney, Australia.

Former grey area drinker, I knew alcohol was crippling my life, but I didn’t realise just how much it was damaging my relationships and body until I felt forced to stop.

I had been drinking regularly from about the age of 16 and, my teens and 20’s were hedonistic, to say the least. It was accepted to drink till you blackout and somehow wake up in your bed the next morning not sure of how you got there.

I had some great experiences but mostly it was a blur of alcohol, drugs, anxiety, depression and self-sabotage.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I started to question my antics and see that for the most part, I was numbing the pain in my heart. Then when I became a mother and ‘mommy’s special medicine’ became the norm in the evening to ‘relax’, matters deteriorated quickly.

The drinking, coupled with the fact my son was not a fan of sleeping, sent me over the edge.

By the time he was two years old, I was desperately sad and feeling like life was a relentless struggle. My body was inflamed and in constant pain with endometriosis, which was intensified by the drinking.

The relationship with his Dad was in tatters. Like all my previous relationships, our connection was fuelled by alcohol and parties so when our son was born, the already tenuous foundation collapsed.

“I realised at that point that I wanted a better life for us.”

After a particularly heavy night on the booze at my work Christmas party in 2018, I didn’t get long to recover before we set off on a family Christmas holiday, 5 hours drive up the coast of Australia.

It was sweltering in the car, 40 degrees, Christmas traffic was in full swing, my partner and I were arguing and the air con was struggling.

The situation was already stressful and with the hangover from hell, my brain couldn’t cope and I had a panic attack.

My heart was breaking as my beautiful son watched me hyperventilating and crying uncontrollably. He was smiling at me but looking very confused. It must have been so unnerving for him to see his mother so scattered.

I realised at that point that I wanted a better life for us. I wanted him to feel safe and grounded with me. I begged the universe to take the dread away, and in return, I would never drink again.

In an effort to support myself, I listened to quit lit audiobooks repeatedly, I joined closed Facebook support groups, I listened to Tara Brachs life-changing podcast, I went to therapy, I journalled.

I tried to meditate daily, as well as practice mindfulness (which is basically being conscious and aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions so that you can be better at life!)

I am still on the road to shedding my old skin and discovering what it is to be present to the reality of life, but I have noticed a few shifts, here’s what I’ve found:

I notice stories that are coming up for me

Even as I write now, I can pay attention to my fearful ego saying ‘You’re alone, who are you to think you can do this….’ and on and on the fearful ego goes.

Stories regularly come up around alcohol too ‘I need a drink. It’s boring being sober’. I can notice these stories through awareness and respond by playing the scenario forward in my head. I’ll have one drink, which will turn to 5, I’ll wake up tomorrow and hate myself, I’ll have a hangover which will affect my mood for days, even weeks. I won’t have the energy or desire to play with my son. And I know then, it’s so not worth it.

I can separate from my self-limiting and destructive thoughts and ego

When I catch it in time, I can see the script that is running ‘you’re not good at stuff!’ and interrupt it with loving-kindness ‘you’re doing the best you can’

I procrastinate less

A handy by-product of less self-loathing. If I had written a list that Christmas 2018 of what I wanted to achieve in a year of sobriety, I would have been selling myself way short! Procrastination is fear in sheep’s clothing. I back myself more.

I allow myself to feel my feelings

I am more connected to what is going on in my body (through conscious awareness) so, when I feel the pull of anxiety, sadness, or a craving to drink, instead of swallowing it down and feeling it follow me around for days. I stop, sit, close my eyes, put my hand on my heart and inquire ‘what’s going on for you’ and answer with compassion ‘this is hard for you’ and let the tears (and snot) flow. I always feel better afterwards.

I know I don’t have to believe my thoughts

Understanding that thoughts and emotions are visitors helps let them come and go. I try to frame these thoughts as ‘Negative Protectors’. Our primitive ancestors owe their very existence to the ‘Be careful!’ thoughts, but these days the voices say things like ‘Have a drink, you don’t have to feel this’, when we all know it only delays and worsens the feeling.

Mindfulness practice helps you live with your thoughts without always reacting.

Today as I write this, I am in a much better place mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I attribute that to sobriety and mindfulness. I still struggle, as we all do, that is the human experience. But I have greater reserves to deal with the tough times and they don’t last nearly as long.

As one of my inspirations, Jill Stark puts it,

“Sometimes for the life we want, we have to sacrifice the short-term fix for the long-term rewards. We have to work out what we value the most and put that above the things that take us further away from everything we hold dear. It’s not always easy but jeez it’s worth it”

To learn more about Elaine’s struggle with alcohol and overcoming addiction for the sake of your family visit her website or contact her via email.

Website: soberhood.com.au
Email: elaine@soberhood.com.au

The Radical Parents Guide to Raising Teens


Mainstream propaganda teaches parents to handle sensitive issues like sex and drugs, with a superficial “just say no” approach but if this black and white strategy worked, wouldn’t there be fewer kids doing drugs, drinking and having sex?  Since statistics don’t lie, it’s plain to see that teens participate in mature behaviors whether parents like it or not.

As an New York crisis counselor, I worked with adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19. Over the course of seven years, hundreds of teens told me things they were too afraid to tell their parents, and, as a result, I learned about adolescence in ways that traditional education could never provide. I later used this knowledge to successfully raise three sons, and now I’m about to share what I learned (and practiced) with you!

The Age of Exploration

Although most of the world treats adolescence like a disease needing to be cured, adolescence is meant to be a bridge between childhood and adulthood where teens learn how to make age-appropriate choices, navigate responsibilities, and develop independence. Ideally, with this in mind, adolescence should provide the space for self-exploration and self-discovery. Unfortunately, the traditional “just say no” approach to parenting often sabotages these important aspects of adolescence, and, instead of encouraging self-empowerment and independence, many well-meaning parents attempt to restrain teen expression by tracking and controlling behavior.


Adolescence should provide the space for self-exploration and self-discovery.

In most cases, this parenting strategy backfires – trying to squash independence often encourages deceitful behavior where teens lie and sneak around, and when parents forbid mature behaviours and leverage punishment as a means of control, most teens rebel. Although rebellious behaviour is sometimes blatant, oftentimes, covert behaviour allows clever teens to bypass parental radar, and many teens learn how to manipulate rules with misdirection, while parents are never the wiser. Even when parents diligently monitor phone calls, texts, and emails, and enforce early curfews, teens still find ways to do the things they want to do.


Don’t Say “No” to Communication

Worst of all, when parents deal with sensitive or mature issues with the “just say no” approach, they often cut off any chance of meaningful communication, and, consequently, they miss pivotal opportunities to provide guidance when kids need it most. It’s pretty clear that teens don’t talk to parents about sensitive subjects when they fear judgment, punishment, or other repercussions and, unfortunately, without proper guidance and advice, teens often make important (and sometimes life changing) choices based on peer pressure, curiosity or hormones.

Many well-intentioned parents don’t realize that the “just say no” approach to parenting can be just as detrimental as ignoring important issues and hoping for the best. In fact, teens raised by strict or closed-minded parents are more likely to make poor choices and participate in dangerous activities. And, because these teens are afraid to confide in their parents when they experience negative consequences, they are more susceptible to depression and suicidal ideation.

If teens are afraid to confide in their parents, they are more susceptible to depression.

Space for Questioning

Most parents naturally want their children to follow family traditions, cultural beliefs and specific values that include good morals and a clear sense of right and wrong. However, once kids reach adolescence, healthy natural development motivates teens to challenge ideals and question everything.

Growing up requires trials and tribulations where teens test morals, ethics and beliefs, and, therefore, they need space to find their own truth. Like it or not, this translates into personal experiences where they can explore life and discover who they really are, and this could mean rejecting parental beliefs and making choices that go against everything they’ve been taught.

Surely, it can be difficult to watch our children question, or even reject, all we hold dear, but not allowing them to find their own answers is a recipe for parent-teen alienation.


Although the Amish are one of the strictest cultures in the world (even electricity is taboo), some Amish communities support a rather radical rites of passage known as “Rumspringa” (meaning running around). During “Rumspringa,” teens as young as 14 years old have the opportunity to explore modern life outside the Amish community; often living independently in the city and experimenting with alcohol, drugs and sexual behavior.

Surprisingly, after this period of adolescent exploration, almost 90% of Amish teens rejoin the Amish church, and because they make this choice consciously, they are fully committed for life. Clearly, the point is that, when given a choice, most teens eventually return to their roots.

Whether parents approve or disapprove, virtually all teens experiment with mature matters. As a parent, you can either help your kids make conscious and responsible choices or, by default, they will make their most important choices without you – and without the benefit of your wisdom and guidance. The answer to this dilemma is a Radical Parenting Approach where you think outside the box and aren’t afraid to toss antiquated parenting strategies to the curb!

Almost 90% Amish teens rejoin the Amish church after their phase of adolescent exploration.

The Radical Parents Guide to Raising Teens


Although teens are faced with adult choices on a regular basis, there’s no reason to allow peer pressure, hormones or fear to be deciding factors, nor is there any reason to miss pivotal parenting opportunities. As Radical Parents, we have the ability to raise teens who are confidently self-sufficient and emotionally well-adjusted. Knowing when (and how much) to let go, Radical Parents encourage age-appropriate independence while allowing teens to grow into their own space at their own pace. Ultimately, becoming self-empowered adults who own their worth and have mastered authentic self-expression.

In the following guide, the 3 Steps of Radical Parenting will show you how to build and sustain effective strategies for raising conscious and empowered teens.

STEP 1 – Radical Communication

The #1 tool for a Radical Parent is communication, and, in fact, without good, open communication, there’s no way to parent effectively. It’s fair to say that the ability to guide and influence adolescents is relative to the level of communication, and as communication improves, parental influence improves accordingly. In comparison to traditional parenting that depends on rule setting, discipline, and consequence-based parenting strategies, conscious communication creates a whole new paradigm for parenting. When it comes to parent-teen communication, here are the most pivotal concepts:

  • Refrain from Judgement

Believe it or not, most teens really want to speak openly with their parents, but, in many cases, well-intentioned parents inadvertently block communication by being judgmental. Although most parents don’t mean to judge their kids,when a parent focuses on misbehavior, faults or inadequacies, children of all ages experience judgment. Because parental judgment makes kids feel unworthy of parental love, it causes insecurity and makes them shut down (most teens only open up when they feel safe and loved). Even an isolated judgmental comment can cause teens to shut down and shut parents out.

If this isn’t a good reason to avoid criticism and judgment, also consider that parental judgment can damage a teen’s self-worth and become a source of disempowerment. It can also create the kind of guilt and shame that inhibits growth and development (impeding the type of learning that comes from mistakes). Of course, when teens make mistakes, refraining from judgment can be difficult, but this is exactly what a Radical Parent must do!

Here’s good news; if you don’t judge, get defensive or launch into lectures or explanations, teens often share the details of their lives and even ask advice. Hence, if you play your cards right, the best parenting opportunities lie ahead.

As communication improves, parental influence improves accordingly.

  • Avoid Power Games

Not only do teens need to feel unconditionally safe and loved, they also need to feel like they have some degree of power. When it comes to communication, there’s no way teens will talk to critical or condescending parents who make them feel powerless. So, when parents say things like, “I’m the parent and you have to do what I say” or “This is my house and as long as you live here, you’ll obey my rules,” there is no chance teens will open up and listen to parental advice.

In fact, when parents play these power games, teens often try to diminish parental power by demonstrating their own. For example, when teens feel powerless, they might intentionally break the rules, talk back, or rebel in some other manner, and if they feel powerless over an extended period of time, they might even run awayor threaten self-harm (regardless of precipitating factors, all threats should be taken seriously).

No one ever wins a power game because every move has a counter-move, and the more controlling you are as a parent, the more rebellious your teen will be. Even if you somehow win, if you alienate your teen and block communication, you’ll both lose!

Keeping in mind that rules and consequences established without teen participation encourage power struggles, a key element to Radical Parenting is negotiation. By discussing and negotiating rules and consequences and formulating agreements with your kids, they’ll feel like they have a say in their own lives, and, when it comes to communication, this can make all the difference in the world.

The more controlling you are as a parent, the more rebellious your teen will be. Even if you somehow win, if you alienate your teen and block communication, you’ll both lose.

  • Don’t Make Teens Lie

Parents hate it when kids lie, but they lie for the same reason adults lie; to avoid negative consequences, and this means that parental judgment or punishment can set the stage for lying and deception. In other words, if your child honestly tells you the truth about his thoughts, actions or behavior, and you respond with judgement or punishment, you’re teaching them to lie. Rather than risk parental wrath, most teens will choose to conceal the truth. So, if you want honesty, don’t punish your teen when you get it!

  • Beware the Test

Before communicating about more difficult subjects, teens sometimes test their parent’s reaction by introducing the subject matter as a third party story (maybe about a friend or something they heard on TV) and, if they sense any degree of parental judgment or closed-mindedness, they’ll drop the topic and never mention it again. This means that you’ll miss an opportunity to discuss a meaningful matter that affects your child.

  • Don’t Underestimate

Parents often avoid difficult discussions when they believe a teen is too young for mature subject matters. However, even if teens are immature for their age, or you think they are too young to make certain choices, if their friends or peers are engaging in mature behaviour, it’s inevitable that they will be faced with the same opportunities. Do you want peer pressure to guide your teen’s choices or might you be a wiser guide?

Here’s more good news; with open communication parental influence well-outweighs peer pressure.

If teens have friends or peers engaging in mature behaviour, it’s inevitable that they will be faced with the same opportunities.

  • Be Available, Pay Attention, and Listen

As Radical Parents,we must learn to be excellent listeners! Although you may find your teen’s interests boring to discuss, there are three good reasons to attentively listen when kids share the everyday, ordinary stuff.

Be Available: Often times, before teens bring up the real subject they want to discuss, they test parental interest by talking about something nonsensical and depending on a parent’s level of attention, they decide whether or not to engage communication. So, if you’re annoyed at the interruption, distracted or more interested in something else, the conversation is done before it begins.

Pay Attention: Before approaching adult-like conversations, many teens attempt to connect with their parents by talking about meaningless stuff. In fact, this is a common way for teens to gauge their parent’s current mood and predict reactions, and if kids anticipate judgment, punishment or condemnation, they’ll silently choose to conceal the real reason for discussion.

Listen: If you don’t listen when your children speak about ordinary things, they’ll think you won’t listen when they have something serious to say.

You just never know when your teen has something important to share, so it’s best not to risk missing potential parenting opportunities. Although most teens don’t outwardly initiate a conversation with their parents, whenever teens try to get a parent’s attention, it usually indicates they want to talk. Other indicators include dropping subtle hints or silently following a parent around without any noticeable intention. Therefore, if there is any sign your teen wants to talk, drop everything and pay attention; turn off your phone, computer, and TV. However, don’t expect your teen to do the same. Eventually, you can make this an agreed rule, but first,you must set and establish a precedent where you give your full undivided attention.

You just never know when your teen has something important to share, so it’s best not to risk missing potential parenting opportunities.

How to Communicate with Teens

  • Timing is Everything

When it comes to parent-teen communication, timing is everything. If you try to push, manipulate or pressure teens into meaningful conversations before they’re open, it’s probably not going to fly. When my boys were adolescents, I learned to patiently wait for opportunities when they would be receptive to guidance. Sometimes, this meant waiting many months, but, hands down, it was always worth the wait! So, be chill and keep the door open; just let your teen know you are available to listen whenever he or she wants to talk. But, also, stay conscious, so when opportunity knocks, you’re ready to offer guidance and support.

  • Opportunity Knocks

The opportunity for communication often knocks when adolescents are faced with difficult issues or experiencing the natural consequences of poor decisions (this is when they are most receptive to support and guidance). However, although times of confusion or crisis offer priceless opportunities to connect and mentor, there’s a delicate balance; if you intervene too much, become controlling, or invasive, your teen might close down, and, consequently, your ability to mentor and guide will be equally diminished. By avoiding judgment, lectures, and control tactics, and showing unconditional love and support, Radical Parents hold the space for communication and exploration.

  • Allow Silence and Awkwardness

Since teens are just learning how to put words to their thoughts and feelings, it’s important to allow time and space for silence and awkwardness. In fact, it’s common for teens to speak slowly with a lot of space between thoughts. So, if you jump in with solutions or interrupt their process of communication for any reason, they may close down and stop talking altogether, and you’ll never know what’s really going on (or how to help). If you dominate the conversation, you will likely miss what they really want to say, so, as a good rule, allow your teen to talk (at least) twice as much as you.

  • Talk Feelings

You may want to protect your teen from emotional pain, but it’s just not possible, and even if you could, you might actually cause more harm than good. Yes, challenging situations sometimes result in painful emotions, but these experiences are precious opportunities for growth and learning. So, instead of suppressing or avoiding uncomfortable feelings, Radical Parents teach their teens how to feel and process emotions. Remember, if you want kids to share their feelings, you must create a safe (judgement-free) space for expression. 


  • Be a Source of Empowerment

In addition to actively listening without judgment or commentary, a Radical Parent is a source of empowerment and upliftment. Instead of focusing on negativity and mistakes, show your sons and daughters what they do “right,” and teach them how to learn from their mistakes without self-judgment (because it damages self-worth and causes disempowerment). By the end of a meaningful conversation (even if the problem is not yet resolved), your teen should feel more capable and confident in his/her actions. As an added benefit, when children feel supported by their parents, they are more inclined to share challenging subject matters.

  • Confidentiality is Crucial

If you desire open communication, you must respect your teen’s confidentiality. So, whatever your teen confides in you stays with you (unless it involves a potentially harmful situation like suicidal ideation, for example). Or, if you believe the other parent needs to be informed, don’t go behind your teen’s back. Instead, ask your teen to communicate directly, or let him or her know you plan to communicate and explain why.

  • Improve Communication Skills

If you’re uncertain about healthy and empowering communication, don’t allow lack of knowledge or experience to get in the way. Instead, do whatever it takes to improve your communication skills; take classes, read books or hire a coach.


STEP 2 – Teach by Example

Children of all ages learn by example and naturally copy their parents, so, by the time, they reach adolescence, most are hyper-sensitive to parental indiscretions, and this makes them notice any discrepancies between the rules and expectations set for them and the ones their parents follow.

Since you can’t expect a teen to do what you say, if you’re not doing it yourself, make sure to clean up “sloppy behavior.” Often times, this includes negative self-talk, disempowering language, unhealthy habits,and unconscious reactions, and, needless to say, make it a point to model desirable behaviors and do what you want your kids to do.

Furthermore, if your teen “calls you out” on your behavior, don’t defend yourself, make excuses, or belittle your teen by acting superior (above the rules because you’re the parent). Instead, make it an opportunity for meaningful communication. Even if your son or daughter is trying to use your behavior against you in order to manipulate the rules on their behalf, don’t react or take offense. Rather, listen carefully and have the courage to recognize the wisdom in their words, and without burdening your kids with adult issues or excuses, be open and honest while engaging a real discussion about the subject. And, if appropriate, course correct your behavior accordingly, so that you can be the person you want your son or daughter to be!


Make it a point to model desirable behaviors and do what you want your kids to do.

  • Parent Heal Thyself

Few can argue that adolescent self-discovery can be weird and messy (green hair, odd piercings, unusual friends, etc…), plus, driven by hormones and curiosity, this period of exploration can push a parent’s comfort zone. Sooner or later, most teens unknowingly trigger their parent’s emotional wounds, and, consequently, a parent’s unhealed issues can negatively impact parenting, and may even be passed down from parent to child.

No doubt, we cannot raise confident and emotionally healthy children unless we are confident and emotionally healthy parents, and, therefore, we must courageously do the inner and outer work to become the people we want our children to be. In helping our kids build self-worth and become empowered adults, we must break free of our own limitations and disempowering beliefs, and this requires healing unresolved issues and emotional wounds. In other words, Parent Heal Thyself!

  • Mutual Respect

As a Radical Parent, mutual respect is key; no teen will respect a parent more than they feel respected by the parent. Therefore, it’s vital to treat your teen with the high level of respect in which you want to be treated; for instance, if you want your teens to call when they’re late, you must also do the same.

Most of all, never speak to your kids in a way you wouldn’t want them to speak to you, and this means no yelling, blaming, or disrespectful communication of any nature. If you want respect, you must first give it, so, if you don’t want your teen to judge or curse, you better refrain. However, if you slip, either in words or affectation, take responsibility and apologize without excuses or justification.

Also, although you should never accept disrespectful behaviour, do not take it personally.

It’s vital to treat your teen with the high level of respect in which you want to be treated; for instance, if you want your teens to call when they’re late, you must also do the same.

  • Honour Privacy

Unless there’s a reason to believe your teen’s life is in danger, it’s best to respect privacy and not invade private space. “Parental invasion” motivates teens to protect their privacy, and, therefore, eavesdropping and snooping leads to secretive behavior. Moreover, not only won’t your kids trust you, you’ll also make them feel untrustworthy, and, as a result, they’ll act accordingly.

What about friends who are bad influences?
Well, if you’re judgmental of your teen’s friends or forbid certain friendships, there’s a good chance your teen will rebel by holding onto these relationships. Where parental judgment and ultimatums don’t work, time and space often do the trick, and given the opportunity to choose, most teens decide to ditch unhealthy relationships on their own.


STEP 3 – Guide Empowered Choices

Consider, if you are not consciously encouraging independence and empowerment, there’s a good chance you are unconsciously encouraging dependency and powerlessness. Here’s what you need to know in order toempower teens and help them make empowered choices in all areas of life:

  • The Foundation – Self-Worth

When teens believe they must meet certain conditions in order to be worthy, their ability to make good choices is diminished accordingly. Choices that are based on proving or improving worth are almost always disempowering in one sense or another; especially when those choices require the suppression of authentic expression in order to be liked or accepted.

Teens who know their unconditional worth make better choices because they are not afraid to say no or set boundaries that could result in judgment or rejection, and they don’t compromise self-respect or self-expression in exchange for approval or acceptance – nor to fit in or be popular. Therefore, it’s not an understatement to say that the primary job of a Radical Parent is teaching self-worth.

So how do you do it?

Firstly, take a stand for your teen’s self-worth – let them know that their worth is not dependent on anything or anyone, and this means that Radical Parents don’t judge their kids for less than perfect grades, nor do they focus on failure or inadequacy. Whether verbal or non-verbal, every time you express judgment, disappointment or criticism, your teen gets the message that worth depends on demonstration and meeting conditions. Rather than motivating kids to do better, this debilitating message causes disempowerment, and, all too often, results in the kind of self-doubt and insecurity that can last a lifetime.

Since Radical Parents must practice what they preach, don’t forget to embrace your own unconditional worth! So, if you don’t yet have it, do whatever you need to do, to get it!

Take a stand for your teen’s self-worth – let them know that their worth is not dependent on anything or anyone.

  • Boundaries Set the Stage

To make good, healthy choices, teens must identify their personal boundaries and have enough confidence to enforce those boundaries, even if it results in peer judgment or rejection. Teach your teens that they always have the power to choose (even when it appears otherwise), and they can say ‘no” when everyone else is saying yes. Teach them to stay empowered through clear communication, and encourage them to leave situations where boundaries might be crossed or compromised.

Also, teach your kids to recognize and avoid emotional manipulation; let them know that they are not responsible for another person’s behavior or emotional reaction, and they should never compromise themselves toprotect someone’s feelings. You might say something like, “You are responsible for you, and your job is to take care of yourself because no one else can do it for you.”

  • Own Responsibility

Since empowered choices require a high level of self-responsibility, teach your teens to take responsibility for their choices and consequences, and not give their power away by shifting responsibility or blaming someone else. As a Radical Parent, you must demonstrate self-responsibility by being responsible for all your choices and consequences, including actions, reactions, language,and moods. Therefore, you must forego excuses, such as rationalizing negative behavior or using an end-result to justify the means.

  • Practice Positive Thinking

Most teens spend a great deal of time worried about all sorts of things; from getting invited to that special party to being accepted in to the right college. However, worrying is a waste of time and energy because it means focusing on the least desirable outcomes. Instead, teach your teen that thoughts create reality, and, therefore, it is essential to focus on positive outcomes.

Teach your teen that thoughts create reality, and it’s essential to focus on positive outcomes.

  • Don’t Project

Don’t project your experiences or beliefs on your teen; what was/is right for you is not necessarily right for your growing child. Instead, support each child to become his or her best self.

  • Encourage Self-Trust

If we want our children to think for themselves and make good age-appropriate choices, they must believe in themselves, and this requires self-trust. However, to help teens develop self-trust, you must trust them, because if you don’t, they won’t know how to trust themselves. 

“Parental invasion,” such as spying and eavesdropping, not only teaches teens to be defensive, paranoid and sneaky, it also demonstrates your lack of trust. Moreover, if you use your teen’s mistakes to justify distrust, it will make him feel untrustworthy, and that’s what he’ll tend to be. Conversely, the more you trust your kids, the more trustworthy they will become, and the more they will know how to trust themselves.

  • Follow Inner Guidance

Even more than knowledge and logical thinking, learning to listen to inner guidance is the key to making good choices. Since emotions can be powerful, intuitive guides, teach your kids to listen to their feelings, and when making choices, ask them to imagine each potential outcome and notice how it feels. Most of all, help teens identify their true voice and follow inner guidance.

To help teens develop self-trust, you must trust them, because if you don’t, they won’t know how to trust themselves.

  • Ask Empowering Questions

When parental advice is heard as lecturing or an attempt to control, teens tend to shut down and block communication. Even if you know what’s best, spewing advice often alienates teens from the get-go. Therefore, instead of lecturing about consequences, why not use thought-provoking questions to explore options; for example, “What do you think might happen if …?”

Good open-ended questions invite teens to discover answers for themselves, and not only does this demonstrate your trust, it also teaches them to trust themselves; thereby building a bridge of confidence that can take them anywhere in life!

One of the greatest gifts you can give is a “question” that elicits greater awareness and inspires new ways of thinking, or enlightens potential consequences. Empowering questions open the space for increased consciousness by inviting the mind to imagine possibilities without constraints or limitations. Questions that begin with, “What if…?” are usually gems in disguise.  For example, “What if you could express yourself, without fear of judgement, what would you say or do?”

Although our teens might come to the same conclusion (as we would advise) when they think for themselves, answers are more meaningful, and, in the process, they develop significant life skills, such as discernment, inner guidance, and self-trust.

One of the greatest gifts you can give is a “question” that elicits greater awareness and inspires new ways of thinking.

  • Adult Education

When it comes to adult subject matters, to help your teen make good choices, it’s important to get educated and open the space for conscious discussion. For instance, if your son or daughter is curious about any mature behavior, instead of just regurgitating propaganda meant to control the masses, educate yourself and encourage him or her to get educated. Then, together, discuss the benefits, dangers, effects and what to expect. Remember to explore the difference between conscious exploration and recreational thrills, and make sure to discuss the importance of a safe environment. Also, let your kids know that they can call you any time to pick them up anywhere – no questions asked!

The Contract

Although it’s not always possible, do your best to create a verbal contract, so that your teen agrees to speak to you before engaging in drugs, sex or other adult behaviors. Ideally, the contract should include a post-experience discussion as well. The post-discussion is of utmost importance because teens sometimes have new experiences that leave them feeling confused, alone or afraid.

During the post-discussion, allow teens to express their thoughts and feelings without giving them a lecture or sharing your personal commentary. Once they are done sharing, your job is to help them make sense of their experiences so that they can learn about themselves, and use this knowledge for future choices. Remember, no matter the experience or outcome, avoid judgment. Even if they express regret, don’t say, “I told you so” or any version of it, because it will only make them shut-down and not trust you again. 

Since contracts can only be made voluntarily, don’t force your kids to agree; even if you get them to commit, forced agreements have a tendency to backfire.

Create a verbal contract, so your teen agrees to speak to you before engaging in drugs, sex or other adult behaviors.

Say “No” to Best Buddies

Although you may be your teen’s support system, guide, and confidant, don’t try to be a best buddy and don’t expect them to be yours. Therefore, don’t burden teens with adult concerns, don’t share personal issues, and don’t depend on them for emotional support. In fact, do your best not to behave in any way that could make your kids feel responsible for you or any adult stresses. It’s not their job to be your caregiver. Furthermore, if your teen perceives you weak or needy, you’ll lose trust, and if they feel they have to take care of you, they won’t ask for guidance. Therefore, resolve any emotional issues and other problems with an adult friend, coach or therapist.

Radical Results

As guides who support the journey from birth to adulthood, immense power has been invested in every parent, and, therefore, this power must be consciously used to raise children who become independent and empowered adults. As such, we must remember that we don’t own our children, but, rather, those entrusted to our care are simply wise beings in new bodies, and it’s our job to help them remember who they really are.

Indeed, it’s not always easy to parent an empowered teen, but it might help to remember that the behaviours commonly discouraged in adolescence often become desired attributes in adulthood, such as questioning the rules, thinking for oneself and standing for truth. Therefore, keep in mind that positive adult behaviors are best learned and cultivated during adolescence, and with the help of a Radical Parent, many empowering attributes become the foundational building blocks for life.

Finally, although we may point the way and encourage authentic self-expression, we must ultimately allow our grown children to find their ownpath and walk their owntalk. Therefore, without projecting prejudice, we must also encourage the exploration of new ideas and unique ways of living so that one day our children can fulfill their greatest dreams, and, consequently, pass on the gifts we have graciously bestowed.

Even if you forget everything else, just remember one thing; be the person you want your child to be…


In love, grace, and attitude,


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