Peer pressure. It knows no particular age, gender or lifestyle. For better or for worse, it is everywhere. Parents feel it on an on-going basis when attempting to parent their children, especially their teenagers.
JC is a junior in high school. He is the middle son of five children. He is an average student and an exceptional athlete. At the beginning of junior year, JC started to change. His social groups shifted. He was always a little shy and the type of kid who stayed in on a Friday night. Now he was going out and not complying with his curfew.
At first it was only a few minutes past the agreed upon time. Then it was a half hour past curfew. The straw that broke the camel's back was when he started coming home at 3:00am. That behavior caused a major confrontation.
After the third time he checked in at 3:00am, his parents suspended all high school activities with the exception of class, until they were able to have a family meeting.
JC became immediately available for a meeting. As the meeting unfolded, tension between parents and son intensified. His parents expressed their concern at what they believed was his blatant indifference to family rules. JC responded by saying he felt his parents were overbearing and controlling. He honestly expressed that he saw nothing wrong with coming in at 3:00am, when none of his friends have that kind of social restriction.
Most of his immediate friends are football players. When their parents were contacted, most confirmed that their sons had no curfews.
JC's parents expressed that although most of his friends did not have curfews, they were not comfortable letting JC, at sixteen, come and go as he pleased. They indicated that they were open to negotiating extensions on an on-going basis as long as his school and household obligations were maintained. JC reluctantly agreed. His parents also indicated that if he continued to disregard his curfew, there would be consequences for his deliberate non-compliance.
As parents, they felt they had to lay out what the range of consequences would be. His consequences ranged from being grounded on the weekend to having to resign from all extracurricular activities, including sports.
Right after the big meeting, JC was very compliant. However, by the fifth week, he started getting careless again.
Unfortunately, a new behavior was emerging. His parents suspected that he was drinking on Saturdays along with his football buddies. He was not coming home stone drunk, but he clearly had alcohol on his breath. He had a new edge to his personality that was not there before.
His parents warned him that if he was drinking and they caught him, the consequences would be serious. They took a hard position because it is against the law. They have two younger sons behind him who are watching their parents every move in this area.
In addition to all that, JC signed an athletic contract at the beginning of the season that stated he would refrain from any illegal use of drugs and alcohol during the season and that he would work hard on being a leader among his peers.
At the parent meeting in August, JC's parents applauded the coaches and the school for this added responsibility to the football program. After that meeting, they had an intense conversation with their son around the seriousness of this contract and what signing it really meant. One clause in the contract said that if a football player were caught drinking during the season, he would be forced to resign from the team. JC indicated that he understood the seriousness of the contract and what the consequences for non-compliance would mean.
JC was having an exceptional year as a junior on the varsity football team. He was starting both ways on the team. His high school was small, but was a powerhouse within their division.
Homecoming weekend started with a big pep rally during last period. This was followed by a big team dinner at the coaches' house on Friday night. JC was in bed early. The game was at 2:00pm on Saturday, following a big town parade. It was the most important game of the season. If they won, they would be in the playoffs for the first time in a decade. The game was hard fought. They won in overtime. JC was voted most valuable player.
Saturday night there were high school parties all over town. Some were supervised; some were not. The football players were the heroes of the weekend. JC asked for an extended curfew, which he got. Although the temptation to drink would be great, he was reminded that he signed the contract. He was also reminded that drinking was clearly unacceptable for underage teenagers in his household. He promised his parents he would comply.
His 2:00am curfew came and went, but no JC. Around 3:30am, his mother got up and decided to go downstairs to see if JC had come in and fallen asleep in the den.
As she came downstairs, she noticed that the front door was open. She went to close it and noticed that the family car was missing from the driveway. She panicked. She suspected that JC snuck in after 2:00am and took the car.
Shortly after her discovery, she received a phone call from a neighbor telling her that her car was in the middle of the street with its' hazard lights on. JC had run out of gas and was walking to an all night gas station with a gas can. He had no permit or license, never mind any permission to drive. She waited for him to return.
When he returned, it was clear that he had been drinking. He got the shock of his life when he opened up the drivers' side door and saw his mother sitting in the front seat of the passenger side.
His mother took the keys and drove him home. They rode home in silence. Both went right to bed. The next morning JC's mother raised the hard question, "do you realize the consequences of last night's antics?" He said, "yes." He had already packed up his uniform to hand in to the coach on Monday.
As word spread of what had happened, many parents called JC's parents to urge them not to have JC resign since no school or team official knew firsthand what he had done. The peer pressure was overwhelming. However, they felt JC had to be held accountable; and he was. He and his parents learned an important lesson.
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