Wednesday, May 11, 2011

an A+ parenting story

I wanted to share a story with you about how two parents handled a sticky situation. First I want to say that their 17 year old junior in high school son is a great kid. Several months ago he got caught in a lie about a party he had been forbidden to go to. He went to said party anyway, telling his parents he was somewhere else. Sound familiar? At 3:30 AM their son called, the party had taken a scary turn and he wanted out. Knowing there would be consequences, he still called his parents for help. First A+ moment for these parents. Somewhere in this kid's head he knew that even though he had screwed up, his parents would be there for him, since the message had always been safety first.

Fast forward to last weekend. Spring is here as is party time. These parents were approached by their son to talk about his weekend plans. There was a party he wanted to go to. Parents asked all the right questions: Will there be parents home? No, their son said. Will there be alcohol? Probably their son said. Clearly this kid had learned a lesson from the incident a few months before. Lie, you might get stuck in a scary situation. Take a risk, be honest, and trust that your parents will at least have a conversation with you about it. The parents took some time to think amongst themselves. Their thinking went somewhere along these lines. He is almost a senior in high school, turning 18 in a few months. In a previous attempt to set a limit, a very motivated kid, lied and did it anyway, ending up in a situation that became unsafe, and stayed in longer that he should have. This time around he is being honest about the supervision and the presence of alcohol. If they said no, he would "say" he was doing something else and show up at this party anyway, and maybe or maybe not get caught in a lie, or worse, end up in an unsafe situation. They decided that their primary goal was to help him stay safe. So here is what they agreed on, and how they presented together their decision. " We get how much you want to go this party. We know a lot of your friends are seniors, and this is a time to hang with them all before they finish school next week. We are uncomfortable that parents aren't around and that there is alcohol. So here is what we would like to do. We will drive you and pick you up, so at least we know that there will be safety in transportation, and maybe knowing that you will have to get in the car with us at midnight, being trashed will feel less like an option. That's the offer." Their son accepted. When they picked their son up at midnight, the father who is a good alcohol detector, said that his son was not intoxicated, maybe he had had a beer or two, but clearly was not bombed, and had his wits about him. Both parents and son felt the evening had been a successful lesson in honesty is the best policy.

Does this story make you feel uncomfortable? Of course it does. What parent wants to actually give their teen permission to go to a party where there is knowingly no supervision and drugs and alcohol? But as the newspapers have reiterated over and over lately, having parents in the house during a party does not equal or guarantee supervision and safety. What does give parents a better shot at safety is honesty with their teen. In my experience, when there is less sneakiness and more honesty, kids keep better control over themselves and stay safer. Somewhere in that brain of theirs, they accept and respect their parents belief that they have the capacity to be responsible for their behavior. These parents got the party was important, but put some boundaries around it to make it as safe as they could for their son, and in kind he stayed safe. You can't ask for more than that. A+ to all of them.

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