Negotiating with Teenagers
Dear Dr. Medoff,
Several parents in our community allow their underage sons and daughters to drink at home with friends. On those occasions, the parents have the teenagers sleep over. Their argument is that they prefer the kids to drink in a safe environment and to not drive. We believe the teenagers should not drink at all. How should we approach this?
----Melanie J., Wilmington, NC
Being a parent is difficult – that is a given. However, parenting becomes even harder when other parents are making choices that differ from your own, but have an impact on your child, directly or indirectly. You are forced to either violate some of your own beliefs by giving in, or risk conflict with other parents and/or your child. Neither is a pleasant choice!
On the other hand, it can be beneficial to be confronted with parents who make decisions than are different from your own because it forces you to examine your own beliefs about child-rearing. Sometimes this examination can result in a new point of view on the matter, and sometimes the effect is a stronger commitment to your beliefs. Both are positive outcomes, right?
It appears that there are two major points within your question. One is specific to teen drinking, and the other is a broader question that concerns conflicts with other parents. First, when it comes to teen experimentation with alcohol, promote open and honest communication with your child.
- Ensure that he or she is able to come to you with questions about alcohol and the situations that surround it without being worried about getting in trouble.
- Make the rules that exist in your home clear, but be willing to explain WHY you feel the way you do.
- Come up with a plan for your child to comfortably get out of situations where alcohol is involved.
- Be realistic, and be aware that your child may still choose to drink. Make sure he or she knows that while you strongly disapprove, and there will be consequences, you will always be there to help if a dangerous situation arises.
The second point within your question can apply to many parenting situations that occur for children of all ages. What do you do when other parents are making decisions that you do not agree with? Here are a few ideas about how to deal with this kind of problem: