beer pongThere are plenty of jokes about kids driving their parents to drink (mommy medicine, anyone?), but a new study shows it actually may be the other way around. The Demos think tank found that parenting styles have a great impact on whether children become binge drinkers later in life.

So what do you need to do in order not to raise a drunk? After studying 30,000 families over four decades, researchers found that "high levels of parental warmth and attachment until the age of 10, combined with strict discipline by the time they are 16" resulted in kids who were less likely to binge drink.

Hear that, fellow parents of toddlers? We need to start amping up that parental warmth and attachment. What we're doing now determines what may be in their cup later.

The stakes go up as the kids get older; researchers found that "bad parenting" at age 10 makes children twice as likely to be heavy drinkers in their 30s. Tough love is extremely important during the teenage years -- a 16-year-old is eight times as likely to drink heavily if his or her parents are too lenient. So all those plans you had to be the hip, cool parent ... throw them out.

Jamie Bartlett, author of the report, summed up what the findings mean for parents:

The enduring impact of parenting on a child's future relationship with alcohol cannot be ignored. This is good for parents: those difficult moments of enforcing tough rules really do make a difference, even if it doesn't always feel like that at the time.

Of course, the same study also says that being too authoritative can cause kids to drink, so there is a fine balance when it comes to using tough love. It can be difficult to use it well and consistently, but when you do, it often works well.

My children are young, and already the arguments and avoidance tactics make discipline a daunting and exhausting task. I imagine it will only get more difficult as they grow and the size of the issues we're dealing with does too. But this report shows, once again, how very important it is for us to stand strong and do not do what it is we think will make our kids like us, but to do what we think is best for them. It's tough, but that's what love and parenting are all about.

Do you practice tough love with your children?


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