Complicit Parenting a la Lohan

In my previous post I put forward the idea of parenting a la Lohan, or Complicit Parenting. It's a style of parenting in which I consider parents are fully aware of the illegal activity their child is engaging in, but decide the pros are worth the risk than the cons. I'm not referring to the use of drugs and alcohol like Lindsay Lohan's mother purportedly knew about, but it's along this same line. I'm referring to underage drinking with parental knowledge and consent.

“I want my kid to drink before he gets to college so he doesn't go crazy over there and can handle it,” I've heard parents say over and over. Or how about this one, “My kid can drink at home where it's safe.” Okay, if you say so. And then there's this one: “If the kids don't drink then they won't get invited to parties because they'll be considered losers.”

These are words coming out of PARENTS' mouths. Why? Simple. Every community has the clicks which rule the social scene. Your child is either in or out. Most parents welcome their kids being out of the 'wrong' groups, but this line is beginning to blur…and parents are partly responsible for this.

Drinking and partying aren't limited to the D students whose parents are usually too busy to parent. On the contrary. This current wave of bad groups is being led by the least suspected crowd: the A-list students with the prerequisite PTA parents who hide behind perfection — the perfect disguise.  

Complicit Parenting in the name of popularity is undermining the role of parents in their teens moral upbringing, not to mention the health and mental consequences kids are exposing themselves to when they start to drink at such an underdeveloped age.

In the past, it was precisely the losers who were perceived to be the drinkers, partiers and drug users. This is not the case today. You have likely been around conversations about underage drinking and felt like you've had to keep your opinions to yourself to maintain your kid's status intact. Who wants to be the whistle blower and then have their kid(s) victimized or ostracized at school for it? In this case, ostracized means not getting invited to the popular parties.

It is mortifying that  parents are condoning this party mentality and are actually turning a blind eye to what is essentially considered an illegal activity in the name of popularity (some even provide alcohol to their children themselves). Isn't this illegal? Well, yes and no. I'm not a lawyer, but I have been reading up on underage drinking since I have two teenagers.

“By the time they reach the eighth grade, nearly 50 percent of adolescents have had at least one drink, and over 20 percent report having been “drunk” (1). Approximately 20 percent of 8th graders and almost 50 percent of 12th graders have consumed alcohol within the past 30 days.” NIAAA

The legality of providing alcohol to a minor in your home is questionable; teen parties, Social Host Ordinances and other regulations are in place to try to close an apparent loophole in the Underage Drinking law which in some states allows parents to provide alcohol to their own underage children when supervised in their own home. (Read this informative piece on 60 Minutes about a case involving parents hosting a teen party complete with keg stand games. Also, please consult the laws in your state to find out what is allowed and what the consequences are for underage drinking in your area.)

The other side of this argument parents are considering when allowing their minor kids to drink is this: if he/she is an A student, ASB member, participates in sports, community service, church, etc. it's a trade off  in exchange for their child's outwardly visible success in school and their community; as long as the kids are responsible, involved, and get good grades it's OK. Hypocritical as this sounds, it's the reality of the current teen scene with helicopter parents also managing their kids social acceptance.

“They're going to do it anyway. Might as well let them drink where it's safe” is the usual excuse heard from complicit parents. Some argue it's the same mentality parents who hand their teens a condom or the pill have. If this becomes the acceptable norm with underage drinking and parenting (or lack of it), are we sending kids the message that we've given up?

Why would you or do you allow this? What's the social pressure that mandates breaking the law? Is it worth risking your child's life for social acceptance?

I don't expect much candid commentary here, but if you'd like to share your insights into why you think this dangerous trend is so pervasive or anyhting else that's on your mind regarding this issue please do, and you can do so anonymously.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Having worked w/teens in the public/private school setting (as Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator, counselor, etc.) here is what I can say: Many parents choose to turn their heads as to the usage of drugs and alcohol that their dependents are consuming. They often have the approach that they are powerless to tackle or approach such issues, despite the fact that they are responsible for thier kids and are supposed to be role models. Promoting moderation and tolerance is prevalent, rationalized as “realistic”….I have heard many a time, “I would rather them do it in my house, than on the streets, etc…” Yup. One of my all-time fave students, I just found out last week, died due to his very poor judgement while intoxicated. He went thru our DARE program, etc…Parents are the #1 educators. OUR thought-out & executed parental approaches and discussions (involving and listening to our kids) are crucial for prevention – MUCH better than intervention!!! For some it is too late to turn the clock…but only if folks who are turning their backs could see the raw pain I did in the parents who now have one less son! Thanks, always, Mama. You rock. ~stacey

  2. Anonymous says:

    I'm so sad to know you witnessed this precise situation! Teenagehood is a daunting period in parenting for many, especially if they allowed the kids to impose the style of parenting (parties, popularity and disrespect towards their parents) when the backtalk and door-slamming begin. This is when we need to step up our parenting and be strong not just for ourselves, but for our kids' sake. It's not a fun or harmonious stage, but surviving these few years of frustration can lead to many more happy times in the future. Alcohol use and abuse is prevalent even in the safest schools, neighborhoods, and homes.
    The goal is to come out of this point of raising kids with an intact family…hopefully.
    Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom here.

  3. Anonymous says:

    First time I've read your eNewsletter and am impressed. Keep speaking the message. Parenting is a responsibility not anpopularity contest. I was a child of the sixties and grumbled and resisted at my parents “strictness” and later learned that it was the greatest gift they could give me as I watched many friends destroy their lives around me while loving but silent/complicent parents stood by! Too hard? Consider this, how do you teach responsibility if not by example? What message about living in society and respecting the rules if you sldisregard them. Your kids no it's wrong but they are looking to you for the nod. Will it be up and down or side to side. Our kids don t listen to us…they are too busy watching what we are doing. What are you doing

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Debbi,
    Thanks for reading, and more importantly, for sharing your views on this issue. It is a challange to maintain a firm stance on underage drinking, especially in a town where most turn a blind eye to their own kids drinking. All I can think is that either they did it when they were young and their parents let them, or they got away with it so it's Okay for their kids to do it too. Wish these parents had a spine instead of giving into this type of social pressure…isn't this also called peer pressure?
    Hmmm, thought this only happened to kids.


  1. […] The ‘good’ kids have taken the partying lead away from the usual suspects and their complicit parents are pulling the […]

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.