If your child is engaging in risky behaviors as a parent who loves them, you naturally want them to change their behavior to be safer. You coax, bribe, lecture, and punish, but feel like you are running out of options and the risky behavior is not stopping. What is left? What will motivate your child to change?
Relationships. Relationships motivate nearly every human being, we follow those who we care about and we respect those who we feel care about us. We are constantly seeking out those relationships that make us feel good about ourselves, and we avoid those that we feel are uncaring, or not genuine. Relationships can be a powerful motivator for change in our lives. People tend to respond far more to the relationship that you have with them than what you actually say or do to them. If this is true, and your relationship really is the way to motivate your child to make healthy decisions, where do you start?
To start, it helps to think about your relationship with your child like a bank account. Each of your interaction with your child you are either making “deposits” or “withdrawals” from this “relationship account”.  Just like a real bank account, if you attempt to withdraw more than you deposit, you will find yourself running into a figurative wall, unable to get anywhere. Making deposits into the account means doing things that your child will see as positive and genuinely caring. This is where the work comes in. Deposits may consist of getting to know THEIR friends, THEIR interests, and participating WITH them in THEIR favorite (healthy) forms of recreation. Take time to just talk, hearing them out and trying to understand the emotions that THEY are feeling, and the way that they are seeing things. Show them that you care about the things that are important to THEM. This will require you to temporarily refrain from voicing your opinion or judgments on some things in favor of building up the positives. This does not mean doing away with rules and structure in the home, but rather seeking for more opportunities to build your relationship within those boundaries. The process of making positive deposits into your relationship account takes work and time especially if your relationship account is currently in a state of bankruptcy.
Withdrawals from your bank account come in the form of times where you use your relationship to encourage change. You can do this when your relationship has been built up with deposits to the point where your child really understands and believes that you care about them, and they value the relationship that you have with them. At this point, notice unhealthy behaviors or patterns, and express how those behaviors or patterns negatively affect your relationship. With your account built up, your child will be more likely to change for the sake of the impact their choices are having on you and others around them. They will be more likely to really listen as you impart the wisdom and life skills you have gained. As you make withdrawals it is important to not stop making deposits as well, to always keep your relationship bank account in the black.
Using relationships to influence others for good is a long process that takes a lot of patience and diligence at times. As you master it, you will have found a powerful tool that will improve your life, while helping to improve the life of your child.