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Health & Parenting

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Parents Can Curb Teen Drinking

Bonding, Monitoring, Meeting Friends Keep Kids Away From Alcohol


"The authoritative parent makes high demands and holds high expectations, but shows a lot of warmth," Beck says. "That kind of monitoring and that kind of demandingness seemed to keep the child from getting into high-risk situations."

The authoritarian parent "puts out a lot of high demands without a lot of warmth. 'Do it this way, and if you don't you'll be in trouble.' That may work for some kids, but not most."

Kids need to hear this message: "It's because we care about you."

Monitoring kids' activities made a huge difference, he adds. "Children who had more monitoring were less likely to put themselves in a situation where there was drinking." However, that's not true with binge drinking, he says. "We think that monitoring works in the initial stages of experimentation, but not after that period is over."

It's true, some kids need more monitoring than others, Beck adds. "That will vary by family and within the family. My sister and I were very different. She needed much more monitoring, was much more likely to test the rules. Some children are more independent, and because of their peers more inclined to be at risk whereas with others that's not so much a concern."

Start early, he adds. "Well before drinking becomes an issue, well before the child gets a driver's license. Parents need to establish certain expectations -- that they need to be informed when the child will be leaving and arriving, where they are going, who they will be with. Age 16 is not the time to establish expectations. You have to lay the groundwork much earlier: 'You will not have carte blanche access to this car, you need to check in, and you need to be in by 11.'"

The mother's relationship with the child was crucial, Beck adds. Kids who were willing to talk to their mother about drinking were less likely to drink without their parents' knowledge. "When mom did most of the monitoring, but dad set the rules, kids respected that," he says. "When dad makes his opinion known, it's significant because it doesn't happen as often."

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