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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Six Steps to Take with Students Who Have Addictive Behavior

Yesterday, I blogged about the top ten addictions in teens and young adults today.

So, what can you do if you have a student with addictive behavior? Obviously, you can’t just fix the problem. They are their own persons and must choose to climb out of the addiction themselves. However, there are some ways you can lead them on this journey to freedom:

1. Address the Problem.

You must acknowledge what’s going on. Denial can damage all parties involved. It’s hard and messy, but the first job of the leader (i.e. parent, teacher, coach) is to define reality. Remember Rule #1 in Alcoholics Anonymous is: Admit you have a problem.

2. Apply Discipline not Punishment

The difference between the two, of course is this: punishment looks backward at the fault and reacts in anger; discipline looks forward and acts redemptively. Students with addictive behavior don’t need more punishment; they do need discipline.

2. Build Healthy Esteem

By healthy esteem, I mean affirming good qualities your teens exhibit on the inside, such as courage or honesty. Only affirm what is true and help them build their self-esteem on reality not on flattery or exaggerated claims like: “You’re awesome!”

3. Get Accountability and Support Yourself.

Don’t enter this journey of helping a kid out of addictive behavior without sources of encouragement and accountability for yourself. Both you and your teen need this support if you’re going to stay healthy and strong in route to freedom.

4. Demonstrate Firm Leadership

You’ll likely need to tighten the reigns in your leadership as a parent or teacher. Anyone who’s addicted to something becomes brilliant at sweet talking others into believing they’re fine or persuading people they can be trusted with freedom.

5. Communicate Constantly and Transparently

During the intervention time, it is almost impossible to over-communicate. Talk a lot to your student with addictions as well as your doctor, counselor and any other party involved. Keep the lines open and model honest disclosure and transparency.

6. Find the Right Counselor.

Identifying the right counselor is paramount. There are good ones and bad ones practicing today. Find a counselor that sees the big picture, actually displays concern for your student and who can be both tough and tender in your sessions together.

I am certain these are not the only steps that help a teen out of addictive behavior. What would you add to the list above?



  1. Christianscott on July 6, 2011 at 7:01 am

    This might fall under #3 but I would add prayer.  Before we can tackle challenges like facing addictions it is important to turn to God for the ultimate support.  The first bible verse that my son learned when he was only 4 years old is Pjillipians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  That truth brings great comfort.

    • Tim Elmore on July 7, 2011 at 8:26 am

      Great point! Good reminder for us all.

  2. Nancie Newborn on July 6, 2011 at 9:43 am

    This was a good read for me today… needed these tips ‘Thanks’ I too would add prayer.

    • Tim Elmore on July 7, 2011 at 8:05 am

      Glad you found it helpful. Definitely a good addition to the list!

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Six Steps to Take with Students Who Have Addictive Behavior