You caught your teen sneaking into the house after curfew and they
are less than steady on their feet. Based on that and the way they smell, you
suspect your teen has been drinking alcohol. They’re busted. What do you do
now? Before you decide on a punishment for teenage drinking, take a deep breath.
The next day,
have your game plan ready and sit down for a calm conversation. Find out why
your teen was drinking. Maybe they felt pressured by friends or got drunk to cope
with a problem at school? Listen to
their motivations for drinking and show them you recognize the challenges and
temptations they face. This is also the time to set (or review) your expectations
for a zero-tolerance policy, and the punishment for underage drinking in your
Alcohol is not a way to cope with problems or
stress. It’s a depressant and can make teens feel more depressed.
Teenage brains are still developing, and
alcohol can cause permanent damage to areas that control judgment, impulse control,
Teens are more likely to binge drink (four to
five or more drinks at a time) when they consume alcohol. This can lead to
unplanned sexual activity, violence, and alcohol poisoning.
Drinking is illegal for anyone under the age
of 21. Legal penalties in North Carolina can include fines, community service,
and court fees in addition to the long-term implications.
Talk to your teen
openly, honestly, and from a place of love. Remind them that you’re still in their
corner, but also make sure they know this is a breach of your trust. If the
rules are broken, there will be punishments for teenage drinking.
Do Impose Appropriate Punishment
Let your child know
you’re disappointed and that you want them to learn from the consequences. They
have lost your trust and should understand that it will take time to earn back.
Loss of Privileges
Taking away a teenager’s cellphone, computer, or video games are the go-to punishments for most parents. You really get a teen’s attention when they’re not buried in a screen.
It may be
old-school, but when kids can’t see their friends, fear of missing out will
make them think twice about taking a drink next time.
Research Underage Drinking
Have your teen research the risks of underage drinking and present their findings to the family. This can be a good time to have the whole family brainstorm ways to deal with situations where alcohol might be present, like a party or a sleepover.
This is about broken trust. Institute random searches
of possessions and personal space for several weeks or months. Teens should
understand that building back trust takes time.
Let Teens Choose the Punishment
Kids can be very hard on themselves. Parents are often
surprised when a kid suggests giving up all electronics, doing extra chores,
and skipping a trip to the beach with their best friend’s family. You may find
yourself reigning in their suggestions, so both of you feel the punishment is
There is no one single
answer for how to discipline a teenager because all kids are different. You
know what your child will respond to, and which punishments will backfire.
Don’t Humiliate Your Teen
We’ve all read
stories about parents publicly humiliating their kids, making them stand on the
side of a busy road while holding embarrassing signs. This is a good way to
alienate your teen, not to foster good communication.
The goal of
choosing a punishment for teenage drinking should be to guide your teen to make
a better choice next time, and to keep the lines of communication open.
Do Watch for Signs of a Bigger Problem
Chances are, the first time you catch your teen drunk is not the
first time they’ve had a drink. Parents who suspect their teen may be using alcohol
should know the signs to look for:
A “nothing matters” attitude
If you notice several signs at once or if some are very extreme, it’s
important to act. Families are not alone in this difficult situation. There are
many resources with advice about what to do if your teenager is drinking.
Do Keep Talking to Your Child
Keeping the lines of communication open with your teen is the best
way to head off serious trouble in the future. Establish trust, and Take the Pledge with your
family to stop underage drinking. When kids feel that you’re all in this
together, they’ll be more likely to come to you when they have a problem.