Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Sober Topic

Sparked by a conversation with another mom, I asked my kids their thoughts on a teen drinking issue. Their responses were so interesting that I just have to share - I hope this will spark a conversation around your table.

I asked our three older kids what they thought about the situation in which parents allow their teens to drink. There is a philosophy that teens are going to drink anyway, so its safer to have them drink in your home; the belief being that at least you have control over the drinking. (please read the articles linked below on this) I know what I believe about this issue, but was curious to hear the thoughts of our kids.

Courtney (18) immediately said it was not a good idea. I asked why. She talked about how allowing your kids to drink in the home makes the assumption that they absolutely are going to drink, almost leaving no room for them to have the option not to drink. (I am a firm believer of this...people tend to live up or down to your expectations. And what about the kids who really don't want to drink?)

She also said that once kids feel their parents have given permission to drink they will very likely at some point move that drinking out of the house. If they can handle it in the house, at some point they are likely to believe that they can handle it in other environments as well. Interesting how she sees the slippery slope.

Courtney added that "Respect for the parents might be lost, maybe not consciously, but subconsciously as they realize their parents don't hold up high standards and don't expect their children to either."

Zach's (almost 16) first response was, "Isn't it illegal to drink under the age of 21?". Very astute. He echoed Courtney with "If teens believe they can do it at home then they will believe they can do it other places as well. He continued by saying "If someone asks you if you want a drink, the thought that would run through your mind is Well, my parents already approve..."

Erin (age 13) piped in with "If your parents help you break the law on the drinking issue you may wonder what other laws don't apply to you."

I'm not kidding, these were the responses of three teenagers. If I was writing this column based on what I think about the issue, this column would be easy to disregard. But these were the words that flowed immediately out of their mouths.

I drank when I was a teen; it didn't bring about anything positive, in fact it caused problems. Because of my own experience, there was a time as a young parent, that I believed all kids drink, and there was nothing you could do about it, so just expect it. It scared me as a parent because I thought this was an issue I would have no influence over. Well, guess what? I changed my mind. At some point we decided we would expect our kids not to drink, we would express and talk about our beliefs and expectations, and hope and pray for the outcome that would keep our children wise and safe.

I'm so interested in hearing your thoughts, and your teens thoughts, on this topic. Click the comment button to leave them - talk to your teens and come back here and talk about what you discovered. You can do it anonymously if you want, but let's talk about it!

Click here and here for two really good articles on this topic.

I found these articles after I wrote this column and was fascinated that our teens responses lined up with the research. I'm not saying we have perfect kids, (we don't) I'm just saying as parents we have way more influence than we many times believe.


  1. When our kids were in high school just a few years ago we also had this conversation - and I was disappointed that some parents actually "provided" alcohol for their kids as well.

    My sense is this is more about "justifying" their own preference for alcohol. I've yet to discover any benefits of intoxicating beverages. All I can see is the downside - and it just doesn't seem worth it to me.

    I'm thankful that I don't even enjoy the taste of the stuff - and can't imagine embracing the cost of it! (Iced tea is cheaper and more refreshing to me!)

    Both of my kids are "of age" now - and both have been very much surrounded by friends who drink - both in high school and in college. They've also both seen the pain that drunkenness brings - up close.

    I haven't taught them it is "wrong" to drink as an adult, but I haven't given them any reasons to think it is "right" - because I don't know of any!

    As the apostle Paul said, 'Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial" (1 Corinthians 10:23). That sums up my position on drinking!

  2. I don't really remember talking about it with my parents honestly. I do know that I saw my dad have one beer at night, and I've still never seen him drunk. I appreciate that he modeled responsible drinking for us. That's the approach we're taking with the kids, and it will be very interesting to hear their opinions when they're teenagers! We do talk constantly about "everyone makes bad choices, but just because someone does doesn't mean you have to"... hopefully that's some groundwork for us later on.

  3. Just this past week-end my freshman son told me about a birthday party he was invited to over the week-end. I started asking questions as I assumed he wanted to go. he said he didn't want to go because it was a "party" party and he didn't want to be around that. He didn't want to do those things . . . anymore. Yep, he's no angel just shy of 15 (a little self medicating going on I believe) but through our discussions and discipline he is choosing a different path.
    I told him I was very proud of him. That I knew that decision was not easy. Go to the party, say no and face ridicule or stay home and have several friends wonder what your problem is. He can always use us as his scapegoat - we said no, we're so mean, whatever. That's just fine with us. The peer pressure is quite strong for him right now. I was also wondering how in the heck this kid (turning 15) could get away with having a party with alcohol and more (as I heard from my oldest) unless she had a cooperating adult?! This sends a terrible message as far as I'm concerned. It just boggles the mind. It IS like saying, "I know everyone wants to drink and I'll help you do it"!
    Some of my son's friends parents drink. I know there's a fridge in the garage with beer and who know's what else in the house. It worries me. That's how I got my alcohol as a teen. It was in my house, along with cartons of cigarettes! I would be mortified if my kids were doing what I was doing at there age. We never have alcohol in our house. That was easy. We don't drink beside, perhaps, a toast at a wedding. We quit smoking many years ago. That was harder but well worth it.
    I have been taking my kids to concerts for years. Depending on the venue there can be a few slightly intoxicated people or quite a few wasted attendees. My kids have seen this and seen how these people act and what happens to them (often pulled aside by security and detained). It is precisely for this reason that my, soon to be, 17 year old said that she can't imagine ever wanting to drink. It's expensive, it makes you look and act stupid, it's not good for your body and many times will just end up in a trash bin or toilet anyway! Just one of the dysfunctional circles of life. I don't think Simba would approve! ;-)

  4. My husband and I both drank in high school and college. As you said, nothing good came of it, especially bad decisions and decisions that would not have been made if "not under the influence." Lucky for me, I can take or leave drinking and I choose to "leave it." I do not like how I feel when I start to lose myself and I don't like how I feel the next morning. I also know that I can't be a good parent hung over. The job is hard enough sober!

    My husband spent from roughly age 16 through his early 20's drinking and ended up in AA at age 23 and is 28 years sober this November. I never knew him as a drinker. He is very involved in helping others recover from their addictions so there is plenty of talk around our home about exactly how drugs and alcohol have ruined lives and examples of the ruin.

    Our 16 1/2 year old appears to be chooing the high road. He has never attended a "party, party" to our knowledge and thinks those that do are pretty stupid. We are amazed at the stories he will tell us about kids getting high on pot, K2 and prescription drugs. He just thinks all of this is pretty stupid and pointless. I'd like to get him through college thinking this way as well.

    Needless to say, there is no alcohol in our home. Drinking is not modeled. I think when it is modeled it is very easy for a child to choose to drink. My parents drank socially when they entertained as did my grandparents and I do think this played a role in my thinking that drinking was acceptable and I was just a little too young to do so legally but did it anyway.

    We do not at all agree with parents providing alcohol because kids will just do it anyway. Have an expectation and take a stance. Be a parent!!

    Lastly, it's really funny how our kids' notice others' drinking and comment to us. Neighbors in the culdesac that do it every weekend, heavily. Family members who start at 11AM with beer and switch to wine at 5PM and then want to drive the boat with a tuber. Family members at a wedding who are so drink they are slurring their words. Drunks at baseball games on $1 beer night....the list could go on. Those are all great examples they see before them and recognize because we have set an expectation and model the behavior ourselves. And beyond that, we can pray for their continued good decisions in the future.

  5. Thanks so much for taking the time to share these thoughts. This is a big topic - its big because our kids are up against it almost every day. Keep the comments coming - talk to your kids, post what they say...we can be encouraged and enlightened by each other.

  6. I grew up in a red neck, christian culture. Catholics drink wine, rednecks drink beer. My dad was a farmer and a single father. When we worked in the fields there was beer in the ice chest. At Social functions and family gatherings there was beer. I don't ever remember it being a big deal, it just was. I was never presured to drink or not to drink. Also, being raised in a christian home I was taught every thing in moderation and that excess in drinking, eating etc.. was not good and lead to sinful things.
    As an adult alcohol is not part of my or my family's daily life. I'm a school counselor and part of my job is to educate students on the dangers of drugs. I've seen lots of parents go from one end of the spectrum to the other. From buying alcohol for their kids to total over kill of condeming them to hell for trying it.
    We have decided in our home that we go back to the teaching of the bible. We arm our children with God's teaching. We share and point out how peoples actions have consequences and we allow our children to make decisions and experience positive and negitive out comes. We do not rescue them when they have made a bad choice. But we love and guide them threw the experience. We also uphold the law. From these principles so far they are learning to make good decisions which I hope translates to all parts of their lives including this topic.

  7. Well said Stacy. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


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