How an Attitude Adjustment Saved My Life

In the later stages of pregnancy with my son I developed preeclampsia. My blood pressure got dangerously high and an emergency c-section was performed for fear his life was in danger, as well as mine. He was born a very healthy baby boy while I, on the other hand, was not in a good state. I was immediately put on high blood pressure medication and placed in intensive care. Consequently, I couldn’t have my new baby son in the room with me. I couldn’t have any visitors or phone calls. The room needed to stay dark and quiet at all times. The slightest stimulation would elevate my blood pressure.

Time would tell if my blood pressure would naturally go down as my body returned to its non-pregnant state or if the pregnancy had pushed my body over the threshold for a lifetime of high blood pressure. Nonetheless, I was told I had to take high blood pressure medication every day until further advised.

I realize the medication was to save my life, but I was not happy about taking it. If you know anything about me, you would know that I don’t even like taking Tylenol for a headache. So, the idea of taking a prescription pill indefinitely upset me. I complained about it to my husband. I complained about it to my doctor. I complained about it often.

At the same time, whenever I would come across an article or brochure about how to manage blood pressure I would read it. I was the most knowledgeable person when it came to preventing high blood pressure. The advice was always consistent. Exercise regularly. Manage my weight. Limit my sodium intake. Reduce my stress. Get adequate sleep.

Really? How is a first-time mother with a newborn baby suppose to find time to exercise, sleep, cook healthy and not have stress? Impossible!

Fast forward two years later… my son is now a toddler and I am still taking blood pressure medication every day and still complaining about it to my doctor and husband. Both would say to me, “You know what you can do to manage your blood pressure besides medication. Just do it.”

It’s not what I wanted to hear. Sometimes the truth hurts. But, they were right. I knew everything I needed to know and do to manage my blood pressure. I just wasn’t doing it.


One summer day I decided to take my two-year-old son to the swimming pool. I put my swimsuit on and looked at myself in the mirror. I had done this before, but something was different this time. When I looked at myself in the mirror on that day I saw how unhealthy I was.

During my pregnancy I had gained a lot of extra weight and two years later I was still carrying much of it. The mirror didn’t lie that day. I was overweight and unfit. In that moment, something changed. The change was with me. The change was in me.

What changed that day in front of the mirror?


I had an attitude adjustment!

That day was the beginning of new habits for me. I started an exercise regimen, ate healthier, practiced yoga and got as much sleep as possible with a 2-year-old. Over time, my weight went down and so did my blood pressure.

The day finally came when my doctor told me I could go off of blood pressure medicine! But, he reminded me that I needed to keep doing what I was doing if I wanted to stay off of it.

This was 28 years ago. Since then I have been on and off of blood pressure medication. My habits of exercise and diet have gotten off track at times and when they do, my weight goes up and so does my blood pressure. My habits get off track when my attitude and motivation gets off track. There is a direct link between these two.

My story is a reminder that to get any desired behavior you need three things – the knowledge to know what to do, the skills to know how to do it and the attitude and motivation to want to do it!

You can teach your students all the alcohol, tobacco and drug information they need, but knowledge alone will not keep them from using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. So, if you are using an information only approach in your prevention work with kids you may be disappointed in what you get as an outcome.

You can also teach your students the skills they need to not use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, but they alone, or even when coupled with good information, won’t do the trick. For example, I have always had good skills, such as decision making, goal setting and resistance skills. The problem was how I used the skills. When it came to my decision making skills I made the decision to eat the potato chips, rather than to not eat the chips. As for my resistance skills to say “no”, I wanted to say “yes” to eating the potato chips! The bottom line is…Skills are utilized best when they are aligned with the right attitude.

Your kids’ attitudes can override all the information they know and the skills they have. They might know all they need to know. They can have all the skills to do what they need to do. But, if their attitude doesn’t support the behavior they are needing to change or adopt, nothing else matters.

Your kids’ attitudes about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs begin to erode as they move out of elementary and into and through middle school. They begin to question the information. They think they know more than you. They know everything. They begin to think they are invincible and can do whatever they want and nothing bad will happen to them.

In fact, the research says that one of the biggest changes with kids in middle school is their attitudes. What do your middle school students need more than knowledge and skills? They need an attitude adjustment!

The most effective prevention approach you can use with your middle school students is one that targets their attitudes about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. In the coming weeks I will share some of the most effective strategies you can use to work on the attitudes of your middle school students.

In the meantime, is there a behavior you have been wanting to change or adopt, but your attitude and motivation is getting in the way of making it happen? Then, you, too, might need an attitude adjustment!

With my son 29 years later!

Imagine Teaching 24 Students in 2nd Grade


You are an expert in your community on the topic of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and the 2nd grade teacher in your local elementary school has invited you to speak on the topic with her students.

You walk into the classroom and you find 24 excited 2nd graders anxiously waiting for your arrival. They love to have guests in their classroom!

You begin to talk with the students about the consequences of smoking cigarettes and they are attentive and ready to learn from you. They see you as the expert and believe you know more than they do on the subject.

As you share your information you pause periodically and ask them questions. Almost all of the students’ hands go up to answer – some of them furiously waving their hand hoping you will notice and call on them. When you do call on a student they might not even have an answer to your question because all they wanted was for you to choose them. Their need for attention and approval from you is important to them.

There are other students who raise their hand, too, but not to answer your question. They have a story to tell you. Their stories are likely about someone they know who smokes. They will be honest, provide details and tell you much more than you need or want to know!

At some point during your presentation you share information about the risk of getting cancer if you smoke. Maybe the students don’t know exactly what cancer is, but enough of them have heard the word and know that it’s bad, you can get really sick and even die from it. Some students will get emotionally upset, maybe even cry, as they think about someone they love who smokes and who they believe will get or already has cancer. Their belief in the consequences of smoking (or of any substance use) is so strong at this age some students may even go home, find their parent’s or sibling’s cigarettes and throw them in the trash. They also believe the consequences of smoking are immediate – if you smoke one cigarette you can get cancer.

You ask all the students if they are going to smoke cigarettes someday and you will hear a resounding, “No!” or “Never!” You may even hear some say, “Never, never!” In fact, if you asked them about using any substances in their future you will likely hear a similar answer. Their commitment to not use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is genuine and unwavering.

It won’t matter who the students are, which neighborhood they live in or whether their parents or older siblings smoke, drink or use other drugs. Almost all 24 of the 2nd graders will:

  • Be excited and open to learning;
  • See you as the expert;
  • Want to engage with you;
  • Seek your attention and approval;
  • Believe everything you teach them; and
  • Have a strong commitment to not use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in their future.

Teaching information or facts about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is an important prevention approach. But, the timing of the approach is important to its overall effectiveness. Informational approaches are most effective when done during the elementary years, compared to the middle or high school years, for all the reasons above.

If you are currently teaching age-appropriate alcohol, tobacco and other drug information each year of elementary school, keep doing it! If you aren’t, give serious consideration to what and how you can. You are missing out on a golden opportunity to give kids the knowledge they need to make the most informed decisions about alcohol, tobacco and other drug use in their future.

Four Proven Strategies to Prevent Lying, Stealing, Cheating & Bullying With Your Students

I was recently visiting with a 4th grade classroom teacher about several of her students who she was concerned about. She shared how she had caught one of them cheating on a test – not just once, but twice! There is another student who has the habit of taking things that don’t belong to him and taking them home. While the things he has taken aren’t valuable, she’s worried about the behavior leading to more serious stealing in the future. And then there’s a girl who one day is liked by a group of other girls in her class only to be ousted and isolated from the friendship group the next.

She’s concerned about each of these students, but she is most concerned their behaviors will influence other students in her classroom.

I listened to her talk about her students. This isn’t the first time she has seen behaviors like this. She’s been teaching 4th grade for six years. But, this is the first time she began to see the behaviors in a different light.

She recalled several students she had in her early years of teaching. They are now 9th and 10th graders in high school. They, too, exhibited similar behaviors as her current students – cheating, bullying, stealing and lying. Even though she hasn’t had the students in her classroom for 5 or 6 years she’s been able to hear what’s been happening in their lives since then. One of the students has been suspended several times for vaping on the school property. Three other students have all been caught using alcohol underage. There have been other behavioral problems with these students since she had them in her 4th grade classroom.

She began to wonder…“Is there a connection between the problem behaviors she saw with these students in 4th grade and their early use of alcohol and other substances?” Knowing my years of experience in substance use prevention, she asked me for my opinion.

I told her she was definitely on to something.

Research shows that kids who begin to exhibit problem behaviors, such as lying, stealing, cheating and bullying, in the late elementary years are at a higher risk for earlier alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. In other words, if you want to delay the onset of substance use with late elementary students one of the best things you can do is prevent them from engaging in these problem behaviors.

Of course, my teacher friend wanted to know what she could do with the students who are already engaged in the behaviors and how she can keep the other students from doing the same.

The research is once again helpful in answering this “how” question. There are four strategies research has shown can prevent problem behaviors with late elementary students. While each strategy is influential, together, they are even more effective. Best of all, the strategies can be easily implemented with students in school classroom and community-based settings.

If you work with late elementary students or are a parent of one and are concerned about these problem behaviors or early substance use, then I would like to invite you to join me in a free webinar I will be teaching next week. The “Four Proven Strategies to Prevent Lying, Stealing, Cheating & Bullying With Your Students” webinar will reveal each of these strategies and show you how you can integrate them into your work with students.

This webinar is for YOU if you want to avoid these problem behaviors AND early substance use AND:

  • Build positive character with your students
  • Help your students get along with one another
  • Have your students positively influence each other
  • Meet the social and emotional needs of your students
  • Gain the support of your students’ parents
  • Value your students input and hold them accountable to what they say
  • Encourage your students to have fun while learning through games, art projects and story telling.

Lock in your seat now and join me and my teacher friend in the webinar. She’s more than ready to turn her worry into action and do her best to make her students’ futures the best. Register now to save your seat and you will be on your way to doing the same.

What You Expect is What You Get

The expectations you have of a student can influence their behavior. Kids can read you like a book. They will know what you expect of them based on what you say or don’t say and what you do or don’t do.

So, how do you want your students to read you? What is the message you want them to get from you and what you expect of them in their future?

There is a lot of research about the role of expectations and the influence they can have on kids. Research shows that it’s important to have expectations of your students, rather than no expectations.

So, what are your expectations of your students when it comes to using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs sometime in their future?

  • Do you expect them to not drink alcohol until the age of 21?
  • Do you expect them to not use tobacco products for a lifetime?
  • Do you expect them to never use illicit drugs?

Do you believe it’s realistic or idealistic to have these expectations of your students? In other words, do you think it’s possible to expect all of your students to not use alcohol until the age of 21?

No matter what you believe, here is something to think about…

Research says that it’s better to set your expectations higher, rather than lower. It’s human nature for us to perform or act according to wherever we believe the bar has been set for us. If you set the bar low for your students, you will get something lower than the bar from them. If you set the bar high, then you increase the chances of getting something higher than the bar from your students. To sum it up, when you expect less, you get less. When you expect more, you get more.

So, do you expect something more from your students or something less? Do you expect the best of them or the worse?

If you think the expectations above about alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use are realistic, keep thinking that. You are on the right course of getting these outcomes with your students.

If you believe the above expectations are idealistic (or unrealistic), here’s something to think about…

ALL of your students deserve the best in their futures. Every one of them deserves a shot at achieving the above expectations. And, it starts with you and your belief that they can.

Be cautious in playing the guessing game as to which of your students can or can not achieve these outcomes, based on your opinion. When you do, your students will pick up on it. Remember, they can read you like a book.

It doesn’t matter which school the students go to, which neighborhood they live in or which family they come from as to whether they can or can not live up to these expectations. For example, have you ever been surprised by your students? Have there been students that you have known who you didn’t think could possibly achieve something and then they did? Or, the students you thought would never do something, like drink alcohol or vape, and they did? I think most of us who work with kids have been surprised. It’s a reminder that we really can’t predict who will and who won’t or who can and who can’t.

And, remember, when you set your expectations high for all of your students, they may not all live up to them. This is reality. It’s life. You just can’t predict who they will be. Life, not you, should determine this.

If a student falls short of any expectation you have of them, know that it’s not the end of the world. It also doesn’t mean you have to lower your expectation of them in the future. Take the time to talk with them about what happened. Help them see why or how they didn’t live up to the expectation and what they can do differently or better next time. Remind them of what your expectation continues to be of them in their future.

Expect the very best of your students. You can’t predict their future. Anything is possible. So, why not expect the best and the most from them. They deserve that from you. Don’t they?

P.S. Are you looking for a process that will allow students to plan for their futures, set high expectations for themselves and have loads of fun doing it? All Stars – Building Bright Futures for Kids might be just what you are looking for!