Teens and Supervised Drinking -- I Don't Get It

Wisconsin is ranked number 1 in the nation for binge drinking. Allowing alcohol consumption by underage teens -- as some local parents do -- is just plain dumb.

As I draw ever closer to having a high schooler in my home, I find myself talking with parents of high school students and getting more scared every day. 

Recently, I learned of a neighbor who was fined $900 by the police for hosting a party and serving alcohol to high school students! Worse still – she denied them access to her home in hopes of protecting the children she’d served. 

So, why do some parents think supervised underage drinking is acceptable? Is it because they are more interested in being popular than in raising responsible adults? Because let’s be honest, responsible parents don’t encourage and enable their kids to break the law.

I would like to think we parents are united in discouraging our kids from drinking underage. A high school age child is at minimum three years from the legal drinking age. By this logic are we also giving our thirteen year-old the car keys or encouraging our fifteen year old to vote?

Yeah, I don’t get it. 

Worse still – she denied them access to her home in hopes of protecting the children she’d served. 

Wisconsin was recently ranked number one in the nation for binge drinking by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The 2011 CDC study of more than 400,000 people found that nearly 23 percent of Wisconsin residents of legal age fell into the “binge drinker” category, which was defined as a man consuming five or more drinks and a woman consuming four or more drinks in a day during the previous month. 

I was surprised to make this discovery, and I have to admit, it’s changed
my attitude about my own drinking to learn that I have had occasion to be a
member of this very embarrassing “club."

National Public Radio (NPR) recently covered a study reported in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, JSAD Study comparing a “zero-tolerance” approach to underage drinking with “harm minimization” (the theory that using alcohol under supervision prepares youths for making better choices later on).

The study revealed that the harm minimization approach is less effective than a zero tolerance policy wherein consumption is restricted to those of legal age.  Underage children that were exposed and encouraged to try alcohol were found to engage in more excessive drinking practices later on. This report is a wake-up
call for all the parents out there who think they are helping prepare their
kids for college by allowing them to engage in alcohol consumption at

The truth is, unless you’re coaching them on how to do a beer bong or a keg stand, little of what you do at home will resemble their college experience anyway. 

I know I was put on this earth to be my children’s parent, not their friend – and I have no desire to be their drinking buddy.

So, what’s a parent to do? I wish I knew for sure.

What I do know is that my first allegiance is to my children’s safety.  And hopefully, the threat of losing the freedom they love will incent them to make good decisions as they navigate their teen years. But if they don’t, I promise not to shield them from the consequences of their behavior. I know I was put on this earth to be my children’s parent, not their friend – and I have no desire to be their drinking buddy.

And for the parent who insists on offering their underage children
alcohol – don’t presume it’s okay to encourage my child to engage in illegal
acts. And for Heaven’s sake, don’t be surprised when your kid decides they are above other laws like speed limits and shoplifting… because haven’t you shown them that you get to decide which laws to abide and which to break? 

The bottom line is whether you agree with it or not, the 21-year-old legal drinking age is the law of the land, and we are all obliged to uphold it. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

David Tatarowicz March 21, 2012 at 08:57 PM
@235301 It is dumb laws like the mariquana ones that make people (and kids) somewhat cynical about all laws. I believe there are about twenty states now that have the so called medicinal mariquana --- and up until 1915 of course, it was totally legal, as were all drugs, and there is good evidence that most of our country's founders used it, as most every farmer and farm kid did. When something so benign is banned as a hard core drug --- and studies have shown it is less harmful than alcohol overall, and not addicting as alcohol is --- then it brings into questions all of our drug laws. If you think beating your kid would make them change, you would probably be surprised that it would have just the opposite affect -- aside from putting into jail for domestic abuse.
Lyle Ruble March 21, 2012 at 09:13 PM
@Sofia Reino...I am jealous of your trips to Madrid. I lived on the Costa del Sol for about six months and traveled all throughout Spain and Portugal. As a young man I hitch hiked, used the trains and buses. Of course it was the 1960s and I could live on less than a dollar a day. The last time we traveled to Northern Europe my son was 16 and my daughter 12. He had a very good time as he had plenty of opportunities to party in Denmark, Sweden and Germany. In fact, I had the honor of taking him into the "red light" district of Hamburg for a walk around. He made great friends and is planning on going back over as soon as he is finished with graduate school. My daughter enjoyed herself also, but she was a bit young to fully experience the whole European experience. Both of them have learned how to get around on the rail system and what hostels are all about. Since I am retired I don't have the opportunity to get over there as much as I used to. I had the opportunity to experience the Mediterranean by living in Spain, Italy, Sicily and Greece. I wished everyone could do that, there would be a great deal more tolerance.
mau March 22, 2012 at 12:51 AM
@J.B., I was one of those parents that you are describing. There was almost nothing, that my son did, that I didn't find out about. If it wasn't anything that would hurt him or someone else, I usually let it go to see how far it went. I knew if I said anything he would know I was tracking him and he would make every effort to hide it. He always had jobs so didn't have a lot of spare time to get in trouble. Never any trouble with drugs or drinking. He did have a lead foot. I did end up closing his Myspace and Yahoo email accounts after finding some disturbing information. He did not know I did it as I dealt with the companies to do it. To this day he does not know everything I know that he was doing. One warning that I was adamant about, if you get a girl in trouble you will be responsible. You will not shirk your responsibility. He went through a rough spot after high school. Got tangled up with a very wild girl. I talked to him about it all the time. And I know there were times he detested me for it. Luckily he lived through that time and came out of it very well.
Johnny Paycheck March 23, 2012 at 05:46 AM
This is why American freedom is gone like smoke in the wind... The country is now full of judgmental narrow minded people trying to force their own version of morality on everybody else. Don't be surprised when it comes back to bite you where it hurts.
Dirk Gutzmiller March 23, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Underage drinkers in Wisconsin fleeing from unsupervised drinking parties should now be educated about the Castle Doctrine as well as DUI laws. At least we are not in Florida.. You do not need to even go on a patio, porch, or deck to get a hole blown in your chest. You can even be sober.


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