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Double Standards - A Ticket To Disaster

Does a parent have the right to set certain standards for their eighteen year old living at home? What is reasonable to expect of your eighteen-year-old son?
Those are two interesting questions! Most ...

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Does a parent have the right to set certain standards for their eighteen year old living at home? What is reasonable to expect of your eighteen-year-old son?

Those are two interesting questions! Most eighteen year olds don't believe they should have any rules while living at home, especially if they have graduated from high school.

My casual conversations with a dozen or so recent high school graduates confirms the point that most high school graduates believe that by age eighteen, they are adults.

Therefore, the social choices they make should be theirs alone. They don't need a curfew. If they want to smoke weed daily, as long as they don't bring the contraband into the house, what is the big deal?

The conversation around social drinking was laughable. Most high school graduates that I asked felt that the prohibition is ridiculous and that few to no teenagers pay attention to that law.

Their position is that everyone drinks. What is the big deal, especially if people don't drink and drive and one's social drinking does not interfere with one's work ethic?

Should a parent tolerate and coexist with teenage drinking and pot smoking? Many of our peers seem to support that behavior by their silence and inaction. When some parents are pressed on the question, they respond that every teenager is doing it and that it is almost impossible to stop it.

Upon further inquiry, there are those parents who really believe it is no big deal, especially if their teenage son or daughter is a good student who works reasonably hard. Those parents who feel this way usually fall around generational lines. Younger parents tend to be more tolerant or accepting of this social behavior than older parents.

Many older parents feel stuck and powerless. They don't know what to do and/or fear that their children are going to walk out on them.

Teenagers are going to test limits. That is what teenagers do. Depending on how we respond, will shape much of their future decision-making. If we initially respond with benign indifference or social tolerance, more than likely they will feel that social drinking and smoking is acceptable.

If we respond with clear disapproval and make it clear that certain social behaviors are unacceptable and will be met with serious consequences, most teenagers will think twice before engaging in questionable behaviors, unless they really believe "we bark, but have no bite."

After twenty-six years of raising other people's children, I think as parents we not only have the right, but also the obligation to set certain parameters for children living at home.

Our social boundaries should be fair and reasonable. As parents, we need to be clear and consistent. We should also try to be approachable and available to our children. Double standards are a ticket to disaster. Don't communicate a principle or an expectation that you don't intend to implement.

Our children are brilliant. By the time they have graduated from high school, they have mastered the art of parental manipulation. They don't miss a trick and they watch our every move.

If you have tolerated high school drinking and the recreational use of pot while your son was a senior in high school and was cooperative and compliant in all other ways, it will be very difficult to change his social choices as a high school graduate. He also might not be as motivated and compliant as he once was.

Taking a hard position on teenage drinking and smoking is probably one of our most difficult challenges as parents. Although it is hard and for many of us creates a lot of family stress and conflict, it is a battle that should not be avoided.

It is an important life lesson for our children to learn - if they want to live at home, there will always be some issues that are not negotiable. As parents, we need to be clear on what those issues are and what the consequences are if our children are consistently non-compliant.

It is very dangerous to ignore or pretend that these social issues don't exist or to take the position of peaceful co-existence.

TK is nineteen. He graduated from high school last year. He is the youngest of six children. His parents are hard working. He has grown up in a very loving home.

During high school, TK was an average student. He hated bookwork, but excelled in hands on, vocational training. His Mom said that throughout high school, TK was always loving and cooperative. She never had a concern about his social behavior, except towards the midpoint of his senior year.

On the weekends, she noticed that TK was drinking. She and her husband confronted him. He said, "What's the big deal, everyone does it. I am passing school and managing my part time job."

He was doing both things as he stated. His Mom still expressed her disapproval, but elected not to make a big deal of it. TK graduated last June without incident.

Senior summer had some peaks and valleys. For the most part, he was cooperative and hard working. There were a few episodes of drunkenness, but as a norm, TK was still cooperative and respectful.

In September, when most of his friends went away to school, he was supposed to start a trade school vocational program. He never followed through on the registration. His parents pressed him in mid September, but he had passed the deadline. He told them he would work full time and go back to school next fall.

His parents were not happy, but at the time, he was working full time and was still reasonably cooperative.

By early October, things started to deteriorate. TK lost his full time job. His drinking had escalated. His parents discovered "roach clips" in his car. When they confronted him, he became defensive, but admitted to smoking pot.

His parents said that was unacceptable. TK responded by saying "not only was he not stopping, but they might as well know that he had been smoking daily since the middle of last year."

Needless to say, his parents were devastated. His behavior became more and more outrageous. He started staying out all night and not coming home for days at a time. When asked why he was acting this way, he said his parents were too intrusive. From his point of view, they had no right to interfere with his social behavior. He was adamant that if he wanted to drink and smoke weed, he would.

His parents felt powerless. At this point, since he was not working, his parents were covering his cell phone bills, his car insurance and the basic upkeep of his vehicle.

It seems to me that if he wants to be an adult and take full responsibility for his life, then he should manage those expenses. His parents were reluctant to hold him accountable. They feared he might move out. However, it sounds like emotionally he has already left. What about protecting him from himself?