Dear Readers: This week I’m running “best of” columns while I’m on tour for my memoir, “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things.” Today’s topic: parenting.
Dear Amy: I am the mother of a 15-year-old daughter. She’s a freshman at a prestigious private school. She has great grades and generally makes very good choices. I have never heard anything from her about trying drugs or alcohol, but the other day she asked me if it was “cool with me” that she attended a kegger every once in a while.
I am torn because since she chose to go from public to private school, she sees these keggers as a social event. I want her to have fun, but I don’t know if it is right to accept underage drinking. What should I do?
Amy says: Really — you are torn about whether to give your 15-year-old daughter permission to attend keg parties? Let me spell it out. Drinking puts your daughter at risk for personal or vehicle injury, sexual activity, sexual assault, pregnancy, arrest and the sort of mistake-making that can kill a person’s reputation with one click of a smartphone’s camera. At her age, being sober but around other drunken teens would be equally risky.
You don’t say to her, “Well, I had fun in high school and I know how important it is to get wasted with your friends, so I’m torn about it.” You say: “Absolutely not. I am definitely not cool with it.” And then you talk about choices — healthy and unhealthy ones.
You should appeal to her to be someone who faces these choices with integrity. And you should also tell her that if you learn she has been drinking — or around drinking — there will be unpleasant consequences for her, coming from you — the “uncool” mom.
He’s a man, not a boy
Dear Amy: Our 26-year-old son lives at home. He works part time and can afford gas, car insurance and outings with his friends. We pay for all his other expenses.
He sleeps until 11 a.m., when I knock on his door to wake him. He claims to have issues sleeping at night and says he can’t get going in the morning, but we feel he will ruin his life if he does not start living during the daytime.
He is pleasant but will do only chores he likes. If he got a full-time job, or worked two part-time jobs to become independent enough to pay a fair share (or be able to move out), we would feel easier about his ability to exist without us taking care of him.
How can I make him hear me? He walks away when we discuss anything serious.
He got a college degree which seems useless, and now plans to get a two-year degree that will get him a career, but we think he has to change habits so he can sleep at night. Can you add your voice to ours?
Amy says: Well, I’m shouting pretty loudly on my end, but not at your son. My voice is directed toward his parents. You treat your son as a child. He is 26.
You and your husband should wake up and finally treat your son like an adult. He needs a plan — but you should not provide it. Give him a timetable for moving out. Tell him, “You’re a grown man. You have two months to move out. We will give you the car but not pay any other expenses. You can make it.”
If you can’t bear to part with him, present a nonnegotiable of working 40 hours a week while living at home. Nonnegotiables work only when attached to consequences.
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