The Dangers of Parental Toleration

Your son is a senior in high school. He is your firstborn. He is a reasonable student and an excellent athlete. On the outside, he is polite and gracious, especially towards adults. Everyone loves him. ...

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Your son is a senior in high school. He is your firstborn. He is a reasonable student and an excellent athlete. On the outside, he is polite and gracious, especially towards adults. Everyone loves him. He has a wide circle of friends who seem to share your values and principles.

This past summer was a challenge. TK worked hard during the day to save money for his senior year and for his college fund. After work he wanted to go out with friends. He pushed for his curfew to be an open one because it was summer. The condition was that he had to take care of his daily chores and get up on his own each morning for a 7:00am work time.

He was amazing. He got up every workday on time and for the most part kept on top of his household jobs. The tension arose around some of his social choices.

TK is only seventeen. He started noticeably drinking when he went out with his friends. No matter what the hour, when he came home he had to check in. He rarely came home drunk, but was clearly buzzed.

His mother confronted him with this unacceptable behavior. His response was: "everyone is doing it; what's the big deal? I'm just having a few beers after work."

The sad commentary on this issue is that in TK's community many of the sixteen to twenty year olds are drinking. Even more troubling is that they are doing it with parental toleration!

TK's parents were in conflict on this issue. TK agreed that he would never drink and drive. To date, he has not. He also agreed never to get in a car with someone who is drinking. This summer he called his parents half a dozen times because that issue arose.

With great reluctance, TK's mother agreed to tolerate her son's social drinking. This was at the urging of her husband who felt there was no harm in it.

The summer has past. TK and his friends made it through unscathed. However, that is not the case in many neighboring communities where reckless decision-making and behavior by underage young people have cost the lives of a number of innocent people.

School is in session only a few weeks and TK is looking for some of the latitude he had during the summer. His parents are in conflict.

TK would like an open curfew, even during the school week. He would also like the same toleration of his "illegal" social choices. His Dad is leaning toward supporting his son. His mother is strongly opposed, mostly around the toleration of the illegal social drinking.

As the new school year begins, many parents are probably facing these same challenges. What boundaries should a senior in high school have? Should he/she have a curfew? What about social underage drinking? What about unsupervised parties, unsupervised overnights and driving socially with a junior license?

These issues are an incomplete list of the social concerns most parents will face this school year. These are complicated issues because every high school student is different. Many families have different values and social principles.

We need to respect diversity in viewpoints. Part of that respect means other adults should not interfere with your parenting. That means they should not demean, ridicule or alter what you are trying to do with your children, especially around issues that are illegal.

It is very dangerous for parents who think supervised drinking is okay to give permission to drink to other people's underage children.

Driving in our community is a necessity. However, allowing a son or a daughter to drive with a junior license, especially for social purposes, is potentially lethal.

Life is hectic. It often starts as a run to CVS to get something you need or to pick the junior child up from football to make your life easier. Before you know it, you are getting talked into letting your senior use the car for a Friday night date.

You justify saying yes because he is a good kid. He acts responsibly. All of which is true, but still does not justify him breaking the law.

What if the following scenario occurs: This wonderful senior is coming back home from his date; he had a great time; he did not drink; he just had a lot of fun. He is driving in a development he is unfamiliar with and unintentionally runs a stop sign and hits another car. In that car, someone dies.

The family who lost a loved one in that accident is not going to care that your son is a good kid, is responsible and is well mannered. They are going to be enraged that he was driving illegally. His goodness does not change the fact that someone died because of a choice he made that you as a parent supported.

This circumstance is a rare occurrence, but unfortunately happened twice this summer. All involved never intended for anyone to die. However, they can't change these events.

Parenting is hard on a good day. It is especially challenging when one is attempting to parent and set limits for high school seniors. Many things are negotiable - curfew, dress, friends and social connections. However, it is not a good practice to negotiate around clearly defined laws that regulate social behavior. Parents should be in concert on these issues.

Remember, our children are our national treasure. They are masters of manipulation. Part of teenage hood is to effectively pit Mom and Dad against each other or to wear them out to get what you want, even if it means disregarding the law!

Parenting is a challenging, but don't give up, your child's livelihood may be at stake!