Defiance! What does a parent do when a senior in high school is told no about a social activity and informs his parents that he is doing the activity anyway? As we approach summer vacation, many parents are dealing with this issue. A growing number of high school seniors think because they have graduated from high school they have graduated from accountability and responsibility.
A high school diploma does not certify maturity, social responsibility and good judgment. Although many high school students think they have learned all that they need to know about living by their senior year, they need to be reminded that life is a journey and not a destination.
High school graduates should not expect that their senior summer before college be a free-for-all. Yes, the average senior should be given greater social latitudes. However, with those latitudes, comes the expectation of more responsibility and mature decision-making. As a parent, it is not unreasonable to impose a flexible curfew for your high school graduate. It is not overbearing to expect your high school graduate to be home for dinner most nights, unless he or she is working. Your home should not become a flophouse.
Even though most high school graduates don't believe they need direction, guidance or supervision-they do! In our present climate, parents need to be diligent about their children's social behavior. It is appropriate to be concerned about underage drinking, especially during the summer. There is a new concern about the abuses of prescription drugs and heroin use in our community. Under no circumstance should parents delude themselves and tolerate this illegal behavior.
It's summertime, and we all tend to take a laid-back and relaxed approach to living. However, it is not a time to suspend or exempt our children from social compliance. Underage drinking is against the law. Parents who tolerate or cooperate with breaking this law are putting all of us at risk. Do all high school graduates who illegally drink, drive drunk and act recklessly? Absolutely not! However, just because many high school graduates drink responsibly does not give them the right to blatantly defy the law.
Recent studies indicate that more than half of the seniors graduating today have tried marijuana, and/or smoke recreationally on a regular basis. Last semester, I surveyed 70 of my college students. I asked them how many thought smoking pot was wrong. 98% of those surveyed thought it was socially acceptable to smoke even though it was against the law. 90% didn't even think marijuana was a drug. They defined it as a social lubricant that has less side effects than alcohol.
Summer vacation for the high school graduate should not be a prison sentence. But it also should not be one extended lost weekend. The concept of a curfew is a volatile notion for most high school graduates. Many parents sidestep the issue. They say that their sons and daughters should be reasonable, and not stay out all night!
What is reasonable? Is it reasonable for an 18-year-old to stay out till four in the morning? During the summer, what does one do until four in the morning? Where does one go? Needless to say, parents need to be flexible in this regard. There should be a curfew that can be adjusted based on what the young person is doing for the evening. It is not 1965, so parents need to be more open about what young people do today.
The key to the curfew issue is truth, honesty and being socially responsible. I would encourage parents to be flexible and open until your son or daughter gives you reason to be restrictive. It is not reasonable for them to expect that you will tolerate or turn a blind eye to reckless, irresponsible and illegal behavior. In this regard, parents have to be more diligent and vigilant. Most young people think they are invincible and tend to take foolish chances with their livelihood. That's why they need flexible and respectful adult supervision.
As adults, we do not need to be overbearing or intrusive. We just need to make our presence and our compassionate care for our children's well-being known.
Probably before graduation, the best strategy to implore would be a comprehensive conversation with your potential high school graduate about your expectations, and his or her expectations for summer vacation. You need to be clear about what you expect and you need to be open to hear your teenagers gripes and complaints. However, you are within your rights to have a core of nonnegotiable guidelines. Be careful not to control their every waking moment. Give them enough space to fly and to learn from their mistakes.
If your high school graduate elects to defy you, be clear that there are consequences that you will enforce. Never say anything to a high school graduate that you don't mean and intend to enforce. Consistency and reasonableness are key! Be prepared that your children will test the waters. If they don't like your consequences, they might try to drown you but you must stay afloat and hold them accountable, even if it is uncomfortable.
Parenting does not stop with high school graduation or college graduation for that matter. It is a lifelong relationship with our children that will change form, but not end. As our children age, they challenge our parenting style. Due to the social landscape we must navigate, it gets more complicated as we attempt to parent and guide our high school graduates. We must stay the course, even when it gets rough. Our high school graduates often won t admit it, but they do need us as we need them!
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