Q: I caught my 16-year-old smoking pot. I took everything from him and told him that the next time I catch him, he’s out! What else can I or should I do?
A: Where is he “out” to? You obviously didn’t think that threat through very well. In the first place, it may be illegal in your state to emancipate a 16-year-old. Second, do you really think smoking pot is sufficient reason to kick a child out of house and home. I mean, c’mon!
Note: In what follows, I knowingly run the risk of convincing some readers that I am one of the pro-pot crowd – the inevitable consequence, perhaps, of attempting to be objective about an issue that evokes strong emotional responses in some folks.
Let’s try to put this into proper perspective: Pot is still illegal in most states; nonetheless, it is not in the same category as cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine. Although it was the first drug used by many addicts, no one has ever conclusively proven that marijuana is either addictive (although it may be for a minority of users) or a predictable “gateway” to increasingly dangerous drug use. Many if not most people who smoke pot do so experimentally and temporarily; they never go any further and don’t end up using it on a regular basis.
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In terms of pure statistics, pot is far less dangerous than alcohol. In the first place, alcohol is most definitely addictive. Second, a good number of teens die every year from binge drinking. From all I’ve heard, binge pot smoking does nothing more than cause incoherency, hyper-emotionality, and deep sleep. Needless to say, a person who’s been smoking pot should not be driving a car, operating heavy machinery or performing surgery (to name but a few).
Where pot smoking (and lots of other inappropriate stuff, for that matter) is concerned, parents need to come to grips with the limits of their influence. It’s one thing to make it perfectly clear that you don’t approve; it’s quite another to think you have the power to prevent a teenager from doing something he is bound and determined to do. Furthermore, by attempting the latter, you run the strong risk of making the “forbidden fruit,” whatever it might be, the central issue in a power struggle between you and your child, one that you are likely to lose.
So, the question becomes: What consequences are (a) realistic and (b) enforceable? Let’s first agree that kicking your son out of the house fits neither criteria. You can, however, take away his cellphone and restrict his computer use to a public space in the house such as the kitchen, where you can supervise what he’s “up to.”
In any case, sit your son down and tell him that you have a responsibility to the community to make sure that a child who has shown an interest in pot does not constitute a danger to others. Therefore, he will not drive a car or be allowed out past 8 p.m. until he has passed six to eight drug tests that will randomly occur over the next six months. Furthermore, if he fails a drug test, you will call his friends’ parents and inform them that he is a potentially bad influence and suggest that they disallow contact until you give them an “all clear” signal.
He’s not going to like that at all, which is the point.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: www.johnrosemond.com; www.parentguru.com