As adolescents grow older, one major lesson that they must learn is to become responsible for their own actions. When it comes to practicing safe and responsible behavior in regards to drinking – it takes two. While parents must uphold a conscientious standard for their offspring to follow, teens need to understand that there are necessary compromises on the road to adulthood. Both parties must cooperate with each other to cultivate an atmosphere of good judgment, especially when practicing abstinence from alcohol.
The myth of responsible underage drinking
One pitfall that many caregivers are misled by is the idea of responsible underage drinking. Parental proponents of this trend provide alcohol to their children and other minors under their own supervision so as to limit the chance of any out-of-control behavior or accidents. Despite these well-intentioned goals, research has detailed opposing outcomes.
In 2014, a meta-analysis was conducted by Övgü Kaynak, Ph.D., and fellow colleagues from the Treatment Research Institute. The researchers reviewed a total of 22 previous studies and found that the provision of alcohol by elders was actually correlated with higher rates of consumption in adolescents. In certain cases, this supposed strategy was also associated with higher rates of binge drinking and other alcohol-related issues.
What to pass down onto future generations
One of the study’s co-authors, Ken C. Winters, Ph.D., added that parents can directly or indirectly influence their teen’s behavior through their own conduct. He said, “The most worrisome things parents can do are to model poor behavior by drinking excessively in front of their teens, and to provide alcohol to their teens.”
Furthermore, a previous observation led by Caitlin Abar, Ph.D., from Pennsylvania State University established what preventative factors have been shown to protect youth from the consequences of consumption. Abar and her team examined the drinking behavior of 290 college freshmen and their parents’ permissibility of alcohol use. Overall, the results demonstrated that parenting styles strongly dictated whether or not their child chose to drink. Parents who held their teens accountable had a lower risk of their child binge drinking.
Establishing trust and a social contract
In his Psychology Today article, “Parenting Teenage Boys,” Psychologist Steven Stosny, Ph.D., detailed that male teens specifically struggle with more trust and power-based problems. With escalating expectations about becoming a man, many boys may feel weak without particular rites of passage under their belt, including alcohol use. When opportunities to experience these activities are blocked by a parent, these adolescents commonly blame a lack of trust.
Stosny explained, “The key to teaching responsibility is to make sure that your children understand this crucial fact: Power, privilege, and responsibility go together. When responsibility is high, so are the other two. And when it is low, so are the other two.”
From this point onward, an adolescent must fulfill his or her part of the contract. Stosny reminds those transitioning into adulthood that they belong to a family and community that require emotional investment. As a member of these relational systems, maturing boys should practice respecting the rights of others and themselves. This includes knowing that drinking is dangerous when performed by youth and as adults they need to manage their consumption carefully.
By working together, parents and teenagers can suspend alcohol consumption until adulthood. If you or your child is at risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or is displaying other problematic behaviors, contact White River Academy by phone or online to learn about the prospect of therapeutic schooling.