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Trying To Convince Teens Drinking at Parties to Stay Sober

by | November 10, 2018

Hormone driven, impulsive and risk takers-we all have been through teen years and we know how it is. Though still coming off age, teenagers would rather believe themselves to be more mature than they truly are! We want them to gain independence by themselves, but know the dangers of teens drinking to excess can cause. 

Then how to appeal their better senses and convince then to stay sober at parties?

Remember the 80’s anti drug commercial that symbolized effects of drugs on brain through the analogy of a fried egg? Did it make teenagers stay away from drugs and alcohol? Nah! Scare tactics usually don’t work well with adrenaline rush seeking teenagers. As Daniel Kahneman explains in the book Thinking Fast and Slow, there are two types of thought processes involved in decision making. Type 1 is based emotion based while Type 2 is analytical.

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Worrying About Teens Drinking

The problem is till now almost all convincing tactics have been based on type 2 analytical thinking. Teenagers aren’t that mature to understand the implications of their decisions and outcomes, teens drinking is simply having a good time, and not realizing consequences. 

Jess Shatkins, author of Born to be wild: Why teens take risks and how we keep them safe, seems to have a solution. He asks parents to appeal to the brain’s neural reward center, the ventral stratum. His advice, as appeared in Offspring, “Threatening adolescents with death is not terribly effective in most cases”.He further illustrates how parents should change their language to create “positive opposites”.

For instance, if you want your child to study hard, tell him ‘to study well to be eligible for a good college’. This is the power of positive speech. Do not use negative connotations, like ‘if you don’t study well, you won’t get admitted in a good college’.

teens drinking

This technique can be implied when your teenage son or daughter is heading out for a party, and you suspect that your teens drinking might be a possibility. Ask them not to drink and high chances your advice fell on deaf ears. Instead, rationalize it with them. Either set a limit to their drinking or show them a reason to not drink, like to be able to take care of a wasted friend or drive back home. Such rational decisions work out the real well. Appeal to their reward center in the brain by demonstrating how such decisions build mutual trust and admiration not just between friends but also parent-child relationship.

Still, I would recommend teenagers being teenagers, do not expect 100% outcome. Appreciate if you see even a slight positive response. That’s the key to your teen’s heart.

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Categories: Parenting, Teenage Years
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