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Permissive parenting or realistic parenting?

A question has been occupying my mind for a few weeks now. Am I being a permissive parent or a realistic parent?

Erik is 18 and therefore an adult and therefore legally able to drink, and responsible for whatever drug taking he might choose to do - and on occasion, he does choose to do. As his mother I worry about him, but he's an adult and there isn't much I can do about it.

Lukas is 16 (17 in June). I have become aware that when he stays over at mate's places, they will often drink, and have occasionally smoked pot. I also know that on one occasion, after Lukas had been on an excursion in the city, he and a couple of mates, and Erik, thought it would be fun to smoke some weed in a park. Afterwards, Lukas told me, and I tried to explain all the ways this decision had put him and others in the way of danger. He wasn't ever going to acknowledge that. Eventually, I had to let it go before it became an argument and his brain shut down completely to anything I was saying.

Again, I worry. I worry a lot.

What can I do about it? I remember watching Dr Phil years ago, when the boys were little and hearing that I should strip my child's room and put them on house arrest to show that I care about and love me child. I also know that I tried to discipline Erik in this way and he ran away from home and did it all anyway.

People I have told (about the drinking, not the smoking) have been horrified. I'm not sure if this is because their children didn't do these things or because they didn't know that their children were doing these things.

One thing I can say is that my boys tell me what they are doing, don't hide it from me. I tell them I think they're taking their lives into their hands and that I wish they wouldn't, and that I realise I can't stop them. I can only hope they take care of themselves and their friends.

Is this being permissive? Am I failing them as a parent? Or am I being realistic about my ability to control their behaviour? Should I be doing more, and if so what?

Erik taught me I couldn't control, or even influence his choices when it came to stealing and lying. The harder I tried, the more I saw him steal and lie. I was at a loss, and in the end I lost him (at least for a little while).

I have told them about the changes being inebriated causes on the body. That alcohol stays in a young person's body for up to three weeks because the young body (being lighter among other things) is unable to process the alcohol. I've told them about the family members in my family who struggle with addiction to both alcohol and drugs. I have tried to give them knowledge and understanding. Adolescents though, they feel invulnerable. How do I protect them from that?

Can I protect them from their own risky behaviours, or is it more realistic to accept I can't stop them, and just hope it all ends well?


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