Unspoken Rules

During a class I was teaching on alcohol and DUI a student in the class said this, “Mr. Augie my parents will kill me if I call home from a party and tell them that I am so wasted and need help getting home.” This type of comment is not unique, I have heard it hundreds of times, however it is completely ungrounded. They will not kill you, but there will be consequences, and this lies at the heart of the teenager’s reluctance to call for help. “It’s like calling the cops on yourself,” I’ve been told. Maybe so, however there are greater issues at hand to be considered. First and foremost, there should be consequences. Next, a factor that lends to this conclusion is that of assumption. Where there is a void an assumption is made.

Many times I have questioned both parents and teens about the specifics of the rules they live under and very, very few times have such rules been established. Many times parents have told me that their kids know what the rules are, but they haven’t been able to tell me how they know this. Again they are living in the valley of assumption and so are their kids. So what will happen when junior goes out and drinks too much? No one knows. Most likely he’ll try to get home somehow and keep it from mom and dad.

Parents, it is absolutely imperative that you have this conversation with your young adult. No, you are not giving them permission to drink or get high by having this conversation. To start, outline your values, morals, and expectations for them as young adults. These should be the ones you model as their parent, because they are the only ones that will matter. Let your teenager know how you would feel if they were to get intoxicated and/or high. This is a time to be brutally honest, but keep it on point. You are only discussing how that particular action would affect you. It is a hypothetical point you are making.

Many times I have heard either directly or indirectly about some well-meaning adult who decided to share the mistakes she made in an effort to be “real.” The problem is how such a confession was received. It gave their teenager the impression that they could do the same thing. The rational is very simple. “If they did that then I should be allowed to do the same thing.” Don’t forget most teenagers don’t think their parents are too bright. (They will discover the wisdom of their parents some time later in life.) Just because you did something stupid doesn’t mean your teenager is going to see the lesson and put it into practice.

Instead explain to your child that if they were to make such a bad decision, in time you will get over the disappointment, but if something were to happen to them you may not survive that pain. Tell them you love them and how much they mean to you. Getting tearful is okay. We are talking about life and death. Then tell your children what you want them to do in very clear and specific terms. Keep this simple. Eliminate as many unspoken rules in the home. They only produce chaos, bad relationships and what’s worse, tragedy.

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