Your Parenting May Be Driving Your Kids to Drink

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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?


Image via wolfsavard/Flickr

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jalaz77 jalaz77

Now I know what my problem was!

famil... family2b4ever

thought that was common sense....guess i was wrong

ChicH... ChicHippie

"Let your child pet purple elephants or you will screw up your kid."



"Don't let your child pet purple elephants TOO much or you will screw up your kid."



"My child pets purple elelphants 12 times every day and they turned out fine!"



"Well my child has never even heard of purple elephants and they are an emotionally balanced genius!"



...I figure we will screw them up one way or another. Pick your flavor!

PonyC... PonyChaser

Awesome, ChicHippie!!


I know someone who is a currently recovering alcoholic. This person was raised by very demonstratively affectionate ("huggy") people, in a very demonstratively affectionate extended family. They were very strict with this person throughout childhood and on into the teen years. And yet, this person became a raging alcoholic, starting with secret cabinet raids before adolescence.


My personal experience? It has more to do with an 'enabling' atmosphere, as opposed to a blanket "one-size" style of parenting. "Tough Love" may work perfectly with one person, and may be a disaster with another. And an "enabling atmosphere" is just as subjective.


The best we can do is the best we can do.

Dontribi Dontribi

My kids aren't old enought for drinking to be an issue yet.  I think that if you treat alcohol like a taboo is when you get into trouble.  I remember in high school everyone wanted to go get drunk in the woods after school or over the weekend.  But since it wasn't a restriction for me at home I didn't see the allure of hiding in the woods freezing my butt off with the chance of getting arrested.  If I wanted it, it was there.  But I never really touched it cause there was no restriction.  Till this day (Parties aside) a case of beer in my house will last a little over a year.


I practice tough love where it is warranted but I think the taboo of alcohol aides in its allure.  If you teach them how to be responsible and make the right choices, nature will take its course.  Darwin's theory!

sunny... sunnybunny5us

That's not Darwin's theory, that's in the bible."Raise up your children in the way they should go and when they are grown they will not depart from it" .(Proverbs 22:6)  Yet here in the "bible belt" where it should be common knowledge it seems unheard of. 

hutch... hutchfam2007

I agree with the taboo side of things. If you keep it completely off limits, they are going to want it more. When I was 16 my mom allowed me one beer. I snuck off and drank it But I didnt drink again till I was a senior in high school. Then it was a coulpe times after the sports season was over. I think one of the biggest tools parents can use in deterring teens from drinking is extra curricular activities. I played volleyball in high school and it kept me on the straigh and arrow. After high school, was a Whole different story. I had my own place and drank as I saw fit. My parents were fairly lenient when I was a teen because I never got into trouble. My sister got into a lot of trouble so they were very strict with her. My only rule was "no drinking and driving" and I still abide by that rule to this day. You have to do what you think will work for each individual teen.

nonmember avatar KD

I have decided to go the route of not making alcohol a mystery and trusting my children to make sound decisions, knowing that they will make mistakes. My 16 year old is an honor AP student, a varsity football player, and all-around nice kid and we talk about everything going on. He has had beer at home and refuses parties where there is alcohol and tells me if there will be. my other kids are too young for the issue face-on but we also have talks about things like drugs, alcohol, sex (they are all older elementary and earlier middle school) and anything else they need to talk about. My parents were very strict and I rebelled on every level with every rule. My kids have not because we have balance, love, and trust.

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