Integrity Matters
October 11, 2006

High school senior demonstrates problem solving skills

Question: (E-261)

Dear Jim:

Our son, a high school senior, arrived home early last Friday evening from a classmate's party. It was 8 p.m., and I asked if he was OK. He said he became uncomfortable when the parents hosting the party began passing out liquor. Are they crazy?


Contributing to the delinquency of minors may not have been on their minds, but a police officer and judge might sharpen their understanding. These party-hosting parents abdicated their responsibilities. Thoughtless and insecure adults, wanting to be "pals" of their children, rationalize providing under-age youth with illegal substances. They should be stopped before innocent lives are lost.

How wonderful that you have equipped your son with problem-solving skills, integrity and common-sense, enabling him to exit a potentially explosive situation. Growing up is tough enough for adolescents without having destructive temptations provided by neighbors, friends or parents. Society has a criminal element that dispenses illegal drugs, uses the Internet to seduce and misguide youth - but parents from your own community?

Your description of two misguided parents suggests some adolescents deserve protection from immature adults, regardless of their biological connections.

Here are some central principles surrounding the teen-parent relationship:

  • Parents are not pals and peers. They are the source of life and values. Resistance to parental authority is not as much personal as hormonal. Responsible parents distinguish right from wrong, operating as mature adults in order to provide authoritative perspective.
  • Trust in healthy relationships is a byproduct of constructive behaviors, consistently demonstrated. Mistakes are occasions for learning. Glossing over negligence, rudeness and irresponsibility will not accelerate growth.
  • Respect is earned by parent and child and is sustained through listening and mutual support. When feelings are hurt, apologies and forgiveness must remain the relationship's centerpiece, encouraging give-and-take.
  • Independence comes after dependence and inter-dependence have been mastered. Demanding independence too soon is naïve, especially when precipitated by anger and frustration. Autonomy emerges one successful step at a time, requiring knowledge and practice, coaching and refinement.
  • Reassurance is not always agreeing with or bragging about the actions of a young adult. Building confidence and character does involve listening, and when necessary, challenging thoughts and actions.
  • Responsible parental love includes limits. Limits are the grounding principles that clarify direction, encouraging risk and maturation.

Adults and parents, in addition to nurturing and protecting adolescents, please:

Hold them accountable.

Help them grow and mature.

Encourage them to become their own person.

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