“OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don’t love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet.”
Jane Hambleton wasn’t messing around when she found the booze in her son’s car. “All of which proved one thing,” the Washington Post said today, “America needed this. Oh boy, did we need this kind of tough love, the kind that says, ‘I am not your friend. I am your mother. Eat your peas. Now.'”
So how did one parent in a country of about 80 million of them get on Oprah, or Good Morning America, or the Ellen Degeneres Show? She disciplined her kid. Perhaps that should tell us something.
The question of the right thing to do when it comes to parenting teens is rarely simple, however.
In the wake of the punishment handed out to 13 Eden Prairie High School students, whose party pictures appeared on Facebook, some parents found out what it’s like to be stuck in a difficult position.
There was no proof alcohol was involved. There was no proof it wasn’t. If it was your kid, do you side with the school, even if your son or daughter is claiming innocence? Or do you call the lawyer?
What’s the right thing to do? Trust your kid, or trust the school?
I called Colleen Gengler in Worthington, a family relations specialist with the University of Minnesota regional extension service there.
“You back the school,” she said. “But you just don’t flat out say, ‘nope, I don’t believe you.'”
Even if there’s no definitive proof of wrongdoing by your child?
“I would tell them, ‘this is a consequence of putting the pictures online. There may or may not have been alcohol involved, but it’s not whether I know for sure; it’s how it appears and your responsibility for how it appears.'”
Ms. Gengler says the incident should spawn conversations between parents and their children about the social networking sites. “We would suggest they (parents) monitor it or ask their teen to allow them to take a look at their Facebook page, and determine whether it’s appropriate. You want to get the teen to be responsible.”
And on that topic — responsibility — listen to a special segment of All Things Considered tonight at 5:30 on young people and excessive drinking. During the half hour, host Tom Crann will talk with Nanci Oleson on how parents can communicate with their teens. Nanci covers family issues for Minnesota Public Radio and is author of the blog, How’s the Family?