Michael Totten, sitting in for the Blogfather, links a WaPo op-ed in which the author (Radley Balko) argues that parents best serve the interests of themselves, their children and society at large by allowing their teenage children and their children's teenage friends to booze it up under the parents' close supervision. Totten calls the op-ed "smart" and the parents who subscribe to this view "wise;" personally, I've never seen much intelligence or wisdom in taking the path of least resistance. ("We've tried nothing, and we're all out of ideas!")
In fairness to Balko, his point is as much to beef against laws and law enforcement officials that penalize parents for this kind of thing as it is to condone the activity itself. Trouble is, his entire argument rests on the flawed premise that "kids are going to drink anyway, so it's better for them to do it in a safe environment." That, quite frankly, is hogwash. Not every high school kid drinks (even on prom night). I didn't; most of my friends didn't.
But I have other problems with that argument, aside from my anecdotal experience. First, the vast majority kids who imbibe do so to excess; indeed, that is often the whole point. Responsible adults should not be enabling such irresponsible behavior by supplying the alcohol. That's like giving a dog a Hershey bar and thinking it won't hurt him because you're in the room while he eats it. For that matter, parents shouldn't be buying beer for kids at all, for the simple fact that fewer kids will drink if they can't get it. Not every kid has a fake I.D., not every kid has an older sibling, and not every kid knows where all the parties are.
Second, what right does any parent have to parent someone else's kids? Having once been a teenager, I'm quite certain that some parents have no idea that their kids are attending a beer bash, especially where the beer is supplied by another parent. No one else should be able to decide what's right for my kid without my prior consent.
Third, Balko's argument that supervised parties are all about preventing drunk driving is wrong-headed. You're not teaching kids not to drink and drive by taking their keys away. You're only teaching them not to drink and drive when someone's watching. You haven't taught them to make the responsible choice when you're not looking over their shoulder. What are you going to do when your kid is in college and you're not there?
Finally, for Balko and Totten to condone "supervised" drinking shows that they don't understand kids. By giving kids permission to get drunk when you're there, you're giving them the greenlight to get drunk in any situation. To think a kid won't rationalize that, explicitly because you've let them get drunk on prior occasions, they're "responsible" enough and "grown up" enough to get drunk when you're not around is giving most kids way, way too much credit. Even the most mature, responsible teenager will take a foot when you've given him an inch.
Nope. I'd rather teach my kid to make the right choice when it comes to questions involving illegal activities, rather than simply allow them to behave irresponsibly because it's easier. I'm not always going to be there to take their keys.