Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
My son is 19 and was recently caught smoking marijuana. He’s not a juvenile delinquent- his grades are good. The friends he smokes pot with are all otherwise good kids. My son has never previously been a discipline problem and has an amiable nature.
His mom went ballistic and gave him ultimatums like “if you see those friends again I’ll take the car away” I am not sure that will help anything since he is 19 and goes to school away from home. I know he sees them anyway. I also know that no matter what we say he will smoke pot at school with his friends. I am at a loss as to what to do.
As this is an extremely common problem and ever growing, I asked nearly everyone I knew if they had any experience with this and I was surprised by how many did. Some of them just said, “so?” Most of them responded with, “when my son was that age, he did,” or “when I was that age you should hear what I did!” I would then get a long list of antisocial infarctions, sometimes from very respectable parents.
None of us want our kids to experiment with drugs. It puts them in potential danger. But in the big scheme of things I’ve rarely met anyone who hasn’t done this and most of them don’t go on to completely screw up their lives. It seems to me that overall you have a good kid. At 19 there is not much you can do to control him, but it might be a good idea to have him get a job. I’d also encourage his successes, let him know you love him, and be a good role model yourself. Ultimately, his success or failure in life is up to him, not you.
I would avoid ultimatums because they just don’t work. I’d also make sure that you don’t miss his successes because of his few negatives.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: to be honest, I can’t believe that in this day and age your wife flipped out like that. She must have either lead a very sheltered existence or she wears a massive set of horse blinders.
Kids experiment. It is completely and utterly natural. I have watched many kids grow up over my lifetime and there’s something that seems ironically true- the ones who appear to be the best kids because they stick to the straight and narrow and listen to strict moms and dads are NEVER the ones who do anything exciting or interesting with their lives. Everyone who has an innovative streak was a headache for their parents. And I have also seen kids who seemed to be exemplary turn out to be suppressed as hell; they later exploded in dangerous ways.
The prime example that comes to mind is a kid named Chris Simril from my home town. He was an honor student, a winning athlete, went to church with his mom every week, all set for a good college at the end of high school with a National Merit Scholarship. Except Chris never made it to college. One fine summer night, he took his mom out in the fields behind their house, cut her into pieces with an axe, and put the body parts in a bag. He spent the next 20 years in an insane asylum.
I seriously think that making a big deal out of this problem will have a negative rather than positive effect. I wouldn’t show approval, because there are dangers, but don’t treat him like a freakin’ criminal.
Concerned Dad- tell your wife to ease up on your kid, for god’s sake. If this is the biggest worry you ever have about him, consider yourself blessed.