Ask Amy: Teen partying requires strong parenting

March 16, 2013

DEAR AMY: My oldest son is a junior in high school (almost 17). He has been a decent student, but we have had several issues since last summer regarding partying (drinking and smoking pot).

As far as we know, he is pretty honest with us regarding what he does. As parents, we have had many lengthy discussions about why partying of any kind is not good at his age. We do not condone it.

He tells us kids drink much more than he does. In fact, he says he really doesn’t like beer but does like to smoke pot — not every day but on weekends with his friends.

He knows our stance on the subject, but he told me today that he cannot wait to go to a party this weekend and smoke pot. We are at our wits’ end. I appreciate his candor but fear that his behavior will catch up with him in a bad way. Is booting him out of the house the answer? I don’t want to! -- Tired Mother

DEAR MOTHER: It seems strange that you would ponder booting your son out of the house before you would consider having a conversation with him that involves more than sharing your “stance” on partying. Your treatment of this topic sounds like you are educating him on the risks of high cholesterol.

The word “stance” implies standing. So stand up for yourself — and for him. Protect him from his own lousy judgment (he is 16!) and convey to him that you expect much more from him than to simply be honest about his poor choices. You expect him not to make these choices.

Smoking pot and drinking alcohol at 16 are still illegal in this country. This fact may actually compensate for some of your weak parenting, but have you emphasized this?

You could try to turn the page by saying, “Actually, honey, you’re not going to be smoking pot with your friends. And if you do, we will find you and drag you home. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll call the police if we have to.”

Get a backbone. If you won’t stand up for your own beliefs, how can you expect him to have the strength to do anything more than weakly manipulate you? Some parents resort to random drug testing their kids. While this may seem draconian, it can actually give kids an “out” when they’re being tested by their peers. The experience of peeing in a cup might shock him into some awareness.

DEAR AMY: My wife, 70 years old, has embraced technology with a smartphone and a tablet. The trouble is, she announces to the world every bit of news or information that comes over these devices, as though she were the town crier. Telling her that we already know the news or are not interested in random bits of information has no effect other than to irritate her, but does not slow the flood of announcements. Any suggestions? Friends are starting to avoid her — and us. -- Frustrated Husband

DEAR HUSBAND: You should talk to your wife during a time when she is not doing this to reflect how dominating (and sometimes rude) her behavior is. Her random bits of news are out of context, and they don’t reflect the interests of the people around her. You should also embrace these devices in order to share some of this with her.

DEAR AMY: “Nameless” runs a small nursery school, and there is one parent who never addresses her by name. It’s simple really. In today’s society, we are rushing. Sometimes a name isn’t remembered, and it’s embarrassing to say so.

With kids at two different schools, it took me half a year to remember one principal. One I still don’t know. Is it being lazy on my part? Yes. I need a lot of personal interaction before a name sticks. Being head of a nursery school, maybe a name tag would help. -- John

DEAR JOHN: You’re right; it is lazy not to make an effort to remember names. But when you don’t know your child’s teacher’s name, the solution is easy: You can ask your kid.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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