I caught my 16-year-old smoking pot. I took everything from him and told him that the next time I catch him, he’s out! What else can I or should I do?
You can kick him out, but to where? You obviously haven't thought that threat through very well. In the first place, it may be illegal in your state to emancipate a 16-year-old. Second, do you really think smoking pot is sufficient reason to kick a child out of house and home? I mean, c’mon!
In what follows, I knowingly run the risk of convincing some readers that I am one of the pro-pot crowd—the inevitable consequence, perhaps, of attempting to be objective about an issue that evokes strong emotional responses in some folks.
Let’s try to put this into proper perspective. Pot is still illegal in most states. Nevertheless, it is not in the same category as cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine. Although it can be the first drug used by many addicts, no one has ever conclusively proven that marijuana is addictive or a gateway to increasingly dangerous drug use. Many, if not most, people who smoke pot do so experimentally and temporarily. They never go any further and don’t end up using it on a regular basis.
In terms of statistics, pot is far less dangerous than alcohol. In the first place, alcohol is addictive. Second, a good number of teens die every year from binge drinking. From all I’ve heard, binge pot smoking does nothing more than cause incoherency, hyper-emotionality, and deep sleep. Needless to say, a person who’s been smoking pot should not be behind the wheel of an automobile, operating heavy machinery, or performing surgery.
Where pot smoking and lots of other inappropriate stuff are concerned, parents need to come to grips with the limits of their influence. It’s one thing to make it perfectly clear that you don’t approve. It’s quite another to think you have the power to prevent a teenager from doing something he is determined to do. Furthermore, by attempting the latter, you run the risk of making the forbidden fruit, whatever it might be, the central issue of a power struggle between you and your child that you are likely to lose.
So, the question becomes, what consequences are (a) realistic and (b) enforceable? Let’s first agree that kicking your son out of the house fits neither criteria. You can, however, take away his cell phone and restrict his computer use to common spaces in the house, such as the kitchen, where you can supervise what he’s up to.
In any case, explain to your son that you have a responsibility to the community to ensure that his interest in pot does not constitute a danger to others. Therefore, he will not drive a car or be allowed out past 8:00 p.m. until he has passed six to eight drug tests that you randomly administer over a six month period. If he fails a drug test, you will call his friends’ parents and inform them that he is a potentially bad influence and suggest that they restrict contact until you give them an all-clear signal.
He’s not going to like that at all and that is the point.