As I draw ever closer to having a high schooler in my home, I find myself talking with parents of high school students and getting more scared every day.
Recently, I learned of a neighbor who was fined $900 by the police for hosting a party and serving alcohol to high school students! Worse still – she denied them access to her home in hopes of protecting the children she’d served.
So, why do some parents think supervised underage drinking is acceptable? Is it because they are more interested in being popular than in raising responsible adults? Because let’s be honest, responsible parents don’t encourage and enable their kids to break the law.
I would like to think we parents are united in discouraging our kids from drinking underage. A high school age child is at minimum three years from the legal drinking age. By this logic are we also giving our thirteen year-old the car keys or encouraging our fifteen year old to vote?
Yeah, I don’t get it.
Worse still – she denied them access to her home in hopes of protecting the children she’d served.
Wisconsin was recently ranked number one in the nation for binge drinking by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The 2011 CDC study of more than 400,000 people found that nearly 23 percent of Wisconsin residents of legal age fell into the “binge drinker” category, which was defined as a man consuming five or more drinks and a woman consuming four or more drinks in a day during the previous month.
I was surprised to make this discovery, and I have to admit, it’s changed
my attitude about my own drinking to learn that I have had occasion to be a
member of this very embarrassing “club."
National Public Radio (NPR) recently covered a study reported in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, JSAD Study comparing a “zero-tolerance” approach to underage drinking with “harm minimization” (the theory that using alcohol under supervision prepares youths for making better choices later on).
The study revealed that the harm minimization approach is less effective than a zero tolerance policy wherein consumption is restricted to those of legal age. Underage children that were exposed and encouraged to try alcohol were found to engage in more excessive drinking practices later on. This report is a wake-up
call for all the parents out there who think they are helping prepare their
kids for college by allowing them to engage in alcohol consumption at
The truth is, unless you’re coaching them on how to do a beer bong or a keg stand, little of what you do at home will resemble their college experience anyway.
I know I was put on this earth to be my children’s parent, not their friend – and I have no desire to be their drinking buddy.
So, what’s a parent to do? I wish I knew for sure.
What I do know is that my first allegiance is to my children’s safety. And hopefully, the threat of losing the freedom they love will incent them to make good decisions as they navigate their teen years. But if they don’t, I promise not to shield them from the consequences of their behavior. I know I was put on this earth to be my children’s parent, not their friend – and I have no desire to be their drinking buddy.
And for the parent who insists on offering their underage children
alcohol – don’t presume it’s okay to encourage my child to engage in illegal
acts. And for Heaven’s sake, don’t be surprised when your kid decides they are above other laws like speed limits and shoplifting… because haven’t you shown them that you get to decide which laws to abide and which to break?
The bottom line is whether you agree with it or not, the 21-year-old legal drinking age is the law of the land, and we are all obliged to uphold it.