How to Raise a Non-Addicted Child

Stanton Peele By: Dr. Stanton Peele

Posted on April 22nd, 2024 - Last updated: April 26th, 2024
This content was written in accordance with our Editorial Guidelines.

Japan produces a reality television show called Old Enough? It has run for decades in Japan and it became a hit in the US on Netflix during the pandemic. Parents send a child out on an errand while a cameraman records the child’s miscues. But most of the kids accomplish their tasks:

“I did it. I’m five!”  

Mother: “Dinner will taste even better.”

Why We Will Never Produce Such a Show

Old Enough is a hit in both the US and Japan.  But if you asked any American, they would (a) never let their child or grandchild run such an errand, (b) allow such a show to be filmed here. Why? Americans would say “Because the child would be kidnapped and raped here.”

Really? There are kidnapping rapists all over the place? What about Japan? “Japan’s a safe country with good people, unlike the US.”

Would you kidnap and rape a small kid on an errand? “Me — are you crazy? Never.”

What would you do if you saw a small child wandering lost? “I’d ask about their parents. Then if I were convinced the child was safe, I’d take their hand and either point them to the store or take them directly there myself.”

And virtually every other adult American wouldn’t do the same?  “Of course not; you can’t trust anyone out there.”

My Errand in Kensington, Philadelphia

My father had a small shoe store under the elevated train in Kensington, Philadelphia — which is today reckoned to be the epicenter of drug addiction and death in the US.  Back in those days it was just a working class neighborhood where my father sold cheap shoes.

My father was minding me one day when I was six. He had run low on two of his mainstay products. So he sent me to the supplier to replenish his stock. The supplier was two stops down on the elevated train from the stop on the corner of our store’s block.

My father gave me two dollars and two quarters and told me to get off in two stops where the person from the supplier’s company would be looking for me across the street.

One of the quarters was for the fare on the elevated, which I paid. I could count to two which was important. Otherwise I would be launched onto an unknown stretch of the elevated, then subway, that went all the way to the end of West Philly.

I got off the subway at the right stop, looked across the street and saw the guy with two large boxes of shoes. He was loading them into a cab, which I entered. The driver knew the address and pulled in front of my father’s shop. He announced that the fare was $2.25. I gave him the remaining money and he pulled the boxes out of the trunk.

My father greeted me and took the boxes inside. He asked what the fare was. I said $2.25.  My father reckoned the fare would be two dollars. The other quarter was the tip.

“What — did he take you by way of Japip?” my father asked.

And that was all my father said to me about my journey.

Living Down My Trauma

Was I hurt that my father didn’t praise — or even thank — me? I wasn’t aware of that feeling. You see, my father wasn’t big on praise. But I was proud anyhow — I knew that I had completed my job successfully and that my father could now sell those shoes.

Elementary economics.

Elementary self-confidence about myself and my skills.

Worked for me.

I don’t want to present myself as a model for mental health. (That would be a stretch.)

But I have survived until the age of 77 without dementia or life-threatening chronic illness, have never been institutionalized for mental illness or drug rehab or been jailed for a crime, have three kids who all graduated college and left home and also haven’t been institutionalized, and have made my mark in the addiction field including writing 14 books and creating the Life Process Program. And I’m still working and writing.

Good enough.

What About Ireland?

Let me talk about my partner in the Life Process Program instead. He is from Northern Ireland (that’s not Ireland, but I don’t have time to explain the difference). He was brought up on a farm — where I’ve been (his parents still live there) the youngest of five siblings — whom I’ve met, as well as his father.

Since Daithi was required to help out on the farm, he didn’t play any school sports or engage in other extracurricular activities. Instead he did things like sell potatoes door to door or in the street — among many other tasks.

Flash forward. He is married with two kids. He worked around the English-speaking world as an Internet software engineer. Then he set up his own website firm in NI, into which he merged the Life Process Program with me as his partner ten years ago.

Oh, he’s a triathlete.

He is highly popular in his community (which I have observed) as well as being a very active participant in his large family (his father, now 90, is one of nine siblings).

And he’s never been — ah, you know. But, interestingly, he didn’t come from a drinking home. His father offered him a cash bonus if he didn’t drink until the age of 18. Daithi didn’t collect.

In fact, Daithi’s father didn’t himself drink until after age 40, when he began making plum wine. And, the last time I visited, we drank Irish whiskey together.

Do I need to add that Daithi’s father has never been in rehab?

What Daithi, Me and the Japanese Kids Have Learned

  1. We can handle standard life challenges — we are capable.
  2. We need to be responsible for tasks we are given.
  3. We have contributions we can make to our families.
  4. People are good willed and will try to help you out.
  5. We are part of a community.

What American Children Need to Learn

Some of what Americans are most concerned about now include drug addiction and fatalities, isolation, the deterioration in and loss of our sense of a shared community.

What kids must learn to counteract these fears include:

  1. That they are strong, independent, and can take care of business.
  2. That they must be responsible individuals and citizens.
  3. That they have contributions they can make to their families and other people from an early age.
  4. That other people are not for the most part out to harm you.
  5. That we are all part of a community.

And sending young children out onto the streets to carry out simple but needed errands contributes to learning these things. Doing so in fact encourages essential skills and values that oppose addiction, isolation and antisocial feelings and behavior.

That’s a good idea.


Here’s a 26 minute video where we go into more detail on this topic:

“Old Enough” : What a Japanese TV Show Tells us About Raising Resilient Kids | Life Process Program

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.


  • Mary Kay Villaverde says:

    I’ve been reading Stanton Peele (and friends with Zach Rhoads) for years. I only wish I had been introduced to him earlier in my life and could learn from his guidance.

    I raised a daughter who hasn’t experienced any long term or very destructive addictions at this point. I wanted her to be- and she certainly is- extremely independent. Now I’m living with the pain of my success. It’s not easy to watch your child fly away. However, having lost a child due to mental/emotional challenges along with problematic substance use, I am so happy to know the lovely independent daughter I have (somewhere thousands of miles away♥️)

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