Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Of parents, children and alcohol

My mother was a cross between Genghis Khan and Morgan le Fay and all the hoodlums in the neighborhood feared her. But it was under her tutelage I learned that Providence often gives you what you need instead of what you want. It must have been a divine plan that caused the stork to drop me down the chimney at 233rd street in the Bronx. Someone knew that my survival was dependent upon the parenting of a benevolent dictator.

Mom never attended any of my soccer or baseball games. That's because I played neither soccer nor baseball. However, when I misbehaved at school, as I often did, she'd drag me by the ear to Father Flynn's office to atone for my sins. She left no stone unturned intervening in my problematic behaviors. “I am not your friend; I am your parent,” she'd say.

Too often parents allow alcohol, or turn their back to it, at parties attended by underage children. Kids love to celebrate and some kids celebrate with alcohol. State Farm Insurance Agent Ed Lazar said, “Sixty-five percent of underage kids admit they get alcohol from family and friends.”

If something goes down resulting from underage drinking and it's at your house, you are liable. However, doing the right thing must supersede the implication of liability. We can't make decisions in life relative to how it impacts us.

This issue is quite prevalent in La Cañada. I've sat like a fly on the wall listening to parents trying to rationalize why they believe allowing minors to consume alcohol at home is appropriate.

The mantra, “I would rather have them drink at home where I can control it,” is a talking point for many.

I recently dropped my daughter off at a party at a friend's home. The sophomore class was celebrating Friday night. Before I got halfway to Starbucks I got a call from my daughter. “Dad, pick me up; there's alcohol and drugs here,” she said. The parents hosting the party had turned their backs on the consumption of alcohol and marijuana.

The emotional part of the parent/child relationship is built on affection and esteem. Parents and children are genetically linked to love each other. However there's a stage where parenting becomes a functional role, not just an emotional role. Parenting young adults is a functional role. Setting limits, adhering to standards, saying “no,” and making children accountable is parenting. And that's a hard lesson for parents who want to be the cool/liberal parents or their child's “best friend.”

Underage drinking is a public health issue, and is the No. 1 drug problem among the nation's youth. Parents play a vital role influencing their child's attitudes and behaviors. Controlling the availability of alcohol in your home and setting your child's expectations concerning drinking behaviors is parenting. Some parents believe that it's safer for their teens to drink at home than to drink anywhere else. Other adults think that underage drinking is part of growing up. You can rationalize anything.

In 1964 I was 17, trying to score some liquor from the bars in Harlem. My buddies and I walked into Billie's Black Bar Lounge on Lenox Avenue. We approached the bartender and asked for a bottle. Realizing that we were underage, he barred the exit and tore into us on the topic of underage drinking. He then called the police and our parents. This tough, burly bartender was being an adult and holding us accountable.

Years later, I finally understood what my mother meant when she said, “I'd rather see you cry than me cry.”

JOE PUGLIA can be reached at

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