Unsupervised Teen Parties
Advice, discussions, and reviews from the
Parents of Teens weekly email newsletter.
Berkeley Parents Network >
Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults >
Unsupervised Teen Parties
My husband and I have always given our children the benefit of the doubt. We give them our trust in exchange
for honesty. Last week we were both out of town for a couple of days and decided to let our 17 year old
daughter stay at home. She assured us of what she would be doing and we believed it.
I just found out that she had a small party at our home. ( I usually don't check her cell phone but did a
couple of days ago). I was shocked at what I read and saw. Long story short, there were photos of them
drinking, etc. and texts from her gleefully talking about other events where alcohol was involved.
I feel so betrayed and sad that she lied to us about this and so many other things. Now I don't know if I can
trust her again. I know what teenagers can get into; I am not naive about all the stuff that goes on.
I feel the need to get this off my chest, but I also don't want her to know I was checking her phone messages.
My husband and I will not let her stay alone again and we are going to restrict sleepovers (that's when things
Should we talk to her about the party she had or move forward with a watchful eye?
She's a great girl other then this blip.
I heard something recently that struck me...kids and teenagers need to understand that
nothing is private when it comes to texts, emails, social media, etc.. This is a great
teaching moment for parents to share with their children. It also can help remove some
of the irritation that kids feel when parents read their kid's texts, etc..
I think you need to address her lying. She needs to know that you are a lot wiser than
she thinks. Teens tend to think they are pulling one over on their parents -- I used to
do everything by the book and then do what I wanted behind my mom's back...that was a
lot easier than being confrontational, because my mom could definitely bring it in that
area. Even great kids (I was one too) get into trouble and they need to know that you
care enough about her and your relationship to address the issues. She will respect you
for it in the long run.
I think it's perfectly okay to let your daughter know that you looked at her phone. She
is a minor, she lives with you, and you are responsible for her legally. You don't need
to apologize for this.
Sit down with her and tell her what you found out. Keep the conversation focused where
you want it to be--don't let her try to derail you if she complains you looked at her
It's not just about lying. It's about them drinking in your home as well. This is very
serious. Someone could have gotten very ill, become alcohol poisoned, driven home drunk,
etc. You as the parents would have been liable. She would have been morally culpable.
This behavior is unacceptable.
So, where to go from there? I suggest consequences that fit the behavior as much as
possible. No more getting to stay at home alone while the parents are out of town ever
again. Perhaps limited social time for a while, loss of phone, etc. And maybe an
assignment to volunteer that is relevant to issues of alcohol.
To counter balance this, I think you should be clear that this behavior was unacceptable
and does impact how you're feeling about her now, but that she can get in your good
graces again over time, and this does not make her a bad person. It was a mistake, and
she can take certain steps to make amends.
time to set a real clear consequence
I would talk to your daughter about it and also about your feelings about alcohol and
drug use. My 17 year old son is very honest about what he's up to in that regard and he
does drink with his friends. My bottom line is do not get into a car with anyone who
has been drinking and be moderate as much as you possibly can because people make bad
decisions when they are drunk. I've talked to him about sexual decisions people make
when they are drunk and I have said that I will come get him any time he needs rather
than him being in a dangerous situation. I wish he did not drink at all but even though
it is illegal I think that is unrealistic. We did leave him home alone for one night and
had a neighbor available to check on the house. He promised he would not have a party
and did have two friends over. I don't plan on doing that again because the temptation
would be too great.
I guess I feel like keeping a good honest relationship means
accepting some level of experimentation with drugs and alcohol. Otherwise he would just
lie about it...I might be more protective of a girl because I would be afraid of sexual
stuff happening when she was under the influence. I would try to make it an open
conversation and try to reestablish a level of honesty and open communication with your
daughter. Remember that soon your daughter will be away from home and have to use her
judgement. I figure it is better for my son to be able to talk to us about what's really
going on, even if it's not exactly what I wish he were doing, than lying and figuring it
all out on his own. This way I have some input and he knows he can trust us to help him
through his mistakes. Good luck!
You should definitely confront her about the party. In my opinion truth is the most
important part of your relationship and you have to let her know that she's let you
down. (I also have a 17-year-old daughter.) If you don't, you can be sure the behavior
will repeat itself. I understand not wanting to let her know you looked at her phone,
and others may disagree with me, but I think you can bring the issue up without
mentioning the phone. For one thing, she will likely divert the issue to her outrage at
having her privacy violated and you lose the upper hand which you deserve to have in
this situation. There are many ways you could theoretically find out about a party at
your house, and you don't need to divulge your sources. This has happened multiple times
with me and my daughter. It might go like this: ''Did you have a party at the house when
we were gone?'' If she answers yes, then you thank her for telling the truth, tell her
you're disappointed, that she betrayed your trust, that there will be a consequence, but
that you appreciate her telling the truth. (And maybe that the consequence is lighter
than it would be if she'd lied.) If she says no, you can say that you heard otherwise,
and--this is what I say ''It doesn't matter how I know.'' The truth is we live in a
small community and people talk. And I think it's valuable for kids to have a sense that
there are eyes on them - it might make them reconsider risky behavior. If you need to
involve the phone, you can say that you had reason to believe there was a party and
checked her phone. I think it's important for us parents not to lie, since we're asking
them to tell the truth. That said, I don't think we need to be completely transparent.
Of course, this is just my opinion...if your daughter would have ask you if she could
have her friends over and have some drinks, you would have said no. I'm 50 and still
remember my teen years.We had parties, we drank, we dance, some of us smoke pot ( it
was not too popular at the time in my country). Sometimes the parents were there,
sometime there were not...actually My Mom move to Miami for health reasons and my Dad
would commute every 2 weeks, so I was on my own, our place was ''the place'' to be but I
was pretty responsible. We did some crazy stuff but it never got out of control, I
respected my home and my family. I think this law about not drinking until 21 is nuts
and not real. Your daughter probably will go to College next year and she will meet out
of control kids, they want to party, smoke, drink without any responsability. She is a
good kid, keep an eye on her and try to have honest conversations. I would ''forget''
her small party...
Our daughter, 16 at the time, did the same thing last summer. Of course you should talk
to her, but you should not snoop on her fone. Twitter and FB stalking are absolutely
We grounded her for three weeks and let her start spending some nights alone this
spring. She graduated from high school, and everything is OK. Yes, she and her friends
still party, and that will likely happen more in college. We are, of course, talking to
her about that.
Sorry you're going through this. I got to a point (after a couple of unapproved parties)
where I didn't believe anything my kids said any more. I work at home but we actually
had my mom move in with us, partly to reduce chances of unauthorized parties (and even
then things happened in the middle of the night).
I would come down on the side of talking it through as honestly as possible and
expressing your concern for their good health-- even if you have to confess to checking
the phone-- how else can you maintain your relationship? They are testing boundaries,
and you want them to learn how to handle themselves SAFELY. ''Drinking a lot is not good
for you. So if you drink, don't be STUPID. Don't drink more than one drink an hour,
preferably with food. Take a friend to the party who will look after you and vice versa.
Never get in a car with anyone who's been drinking. Always take a condom to parties, and
remember that good judgment goes away with the first drink.'' Etc.
If serious breaches of trust happen, there are privileges you can revoke-- computer,
cell phone, overnights etc.
We got to the point where we were grateful to get the kids through high school and no
one died, no one got arrested, no one got pregnant. (And these are good kids from good
family and all went to college.) Pretty low bar, but it helps me appreciate what they're
doing right: school, homework, friends, some chores, summer job, college apps, etc.
hope that helps some.
I would definitely tell your daughter you know she had a party and there was drinking.
Trust is desirable between parents and kids; however, while you may have been ''wrong''
to check her phone, the fact is, she had a party and she lied about it. So don't worry
about her accusing you that you checked her phone. I would imagine you had an idea that
something happened, which is why you checked.
When my son and daughter were 17 and 21, we left them for a few days when we went out of
state. We told them we were worried that kids would find out they were alone and they
assured us there would be no parties. We also advised our neighbors that we were going
out of town and we never heard anything about a party happening from them. Long story
short, there was no party, no drinking, no property damage or theft of personal property
and our kids kept their word. Some of our friends have not been so lucky.
17 is on the young side to be staying home alone unsupervised for more than an evening.
It only takes your kid mentioning the fact to one of her friends that her parents will
be gone and all heck can break loose. If it has to be done, make sure some adult swings
by during the evening hours and let your kid know this will be happening. Tell your
neighbors, too. In other words, make it hard for her to break the rule ''no parties
while we're gone.''
No parties while Mom's gone
I am all for trusting your daughter and hoping for honesty in return, but to actually
expect that of a teenager seems really unrealistic. I know it would be great if we could
all treat our teens like they are mature and wise decision-makers, but we set them up
for failure when we do this. It's biology! Their brains are not that developed and that
is why teenagers have, generation after generation, gotten into things like drinking,
partying, and other potentially unsafe behavior. I'm sure you are a good parent, but I
am also sure you probably did not outwit this biological reality. OK, so what to do...
First, I think you should not have made an agreement for it not to be OK for you to
review her phone/texts. (Clearly this was too much trust.) My advice would be to suck it
up and admit you saw the texts and are disappointed and concerned with what they
revealed. And, based on that, there are some new rules to go along with (like the no
staying alone and no sleepovers.) You pay for her phone, right? you make the rules on
that. It doesn't have to be obtrusive, but you can let her know that you will be
spot-checking her phone periodically. (Look online if you really want to get serious
about this--there are contracts you can make. But, this is not the main focus of your
concern so you could table that while you deal with the partying issue.)
Your daughter is very probably the ''great girl'' you say she is, but please don't
mistake that as meaning a girl who doesn't behave in normal unsafe teenage ways. That is
you being naive. Your job is to keep her safe and knowing she is loved and if you make
sure she hears this as you are talking it through, your great girl will eventually
Your daughter will benefit in the long run by your providing boundaries and show her
there are consequences for her actions; both the lying & the dangerous potential of the
drinking party. Grounded, extra chores, loss of computer & cell phone use for a concrete
period of time is how I handled a similar experience. Even if it's just for a few days.
No argument, it's a tool for learning and you're not sending a message that she's a bad
person, but that lying plus underage drinking are both unacceptable behaviors. You have
no reason to divulge the process of your investigation. It's because you love her. The
time grounded can be spent in thoughtful ways, cook dinner together, go shopping for new
shoes. Don't end the duration early. Stay pleasant & hold your ground. I wish you all
Our son is also a good kid, so we were stunned to find out he had a party while we were
out for a Saturday evening. We found out because they did not clean up quite as well as
they should have. There were a few beer bottle caps and some roaches scattered about. We
were shocked and stunned and couldn't believe it, so I can relate to you. Because we had
evidence , we were able to open the conversation. Our son felt a bit ashamed and we
focused on honesty and safety, less on punishment , some might call us too lenient.
Our son did feel uncomfortable with the deception, and he agreed to honestly tell us
when he would be going to a party where there would be no parents. So we have been able
to keep communication open about drinking and drugs. He never wants us to pick him up,
but he does tell us his plan for getting home from those situations. It's challenging
because all they do is get older and older!
Tell her that you know about the party. You don't have to explain how you know, it
could have been neighbors, or a parent of someone who was there, or someone who heard
about it ... let her think that you have superpowers of knowing stuff, it will scare the
hell out of her. The important thing though is that you tell her all the rest of what
you put in your post, that you are sad and disappointed and that she has lost your
trust. She should know that her actions have an impact, sometimes a hurtful one, on
people who love her. It may not change her future behavior, she is a teenager after
all, but it will give her something to think about.
Oh, and the thing about checking her phone kind of bothers me. You don't want her to
know you did that, she doesn't want you to know about the party, trust and respect
should go both ways.
I am surprised that you are so shocked that this happened. It happens EVERY WEEKEND! ask
your daughter if parents are home when she goes to parties on weekends and if she is
being honest she will say NO.
I have at least 10 friends with 'great' and 'reliable' kids who have had small parties
to raging out of control parties when their parents were gone. Some included police
coming, stolen and damaged property and the like.
I think you are lucky that nothing bad happened i.e. no one drove drunk and got into an
My opinion is that you tell her that you know she had a party when you were gone (you
don't have to tell her how you found out-it does not really matter how and it is not the
point-be firm on that one)
and that you won't be leaving her alone again. Tell her you are disappointed with the
Keep a closer eye in general now that you know she has been drinking etc.
I hate to say it but this is definitely typical for teenage behavior.
Ask ten of your friends if they ever had a party when their parents were out of town and
I would say at least 5 did.........I am not saying it is right but for you to be shocked
is a little over the top.
mom of 18 and 20 yr olds
Wow. While there weren't too many, the responses that took the parent
to task for checking her daughter's phone seem to miss the point.
Presumably, the parents pay for the cell phone. Definitely, the
daughter lives at home, supported by her parents. Finally, the
daughter's deceptive behavior set up circumstances that could have
resulted in ruined lives, even death, not to mention legal liability for
the parents. To me, all that trumps the daughter's ''right'' to
privacy. I have a teenager that age, too, and she does not have the
full range of rights adults have, for very good reason.
My frontal lobe works just fine; hers doesn't yet
Sorry to be late in responding. Your dilemma really hit home because I do not see a
dilemma. Your daughter lied to you and totally disrespected you! Where is the outrage?
You pay the phone bill, you bear the legal responsibility for anything that goes
wrong--car accident, a ''guest''s adverse reaction to alcohol, a drunk child's accidental
fall. Parents who hide behind ''right to privacy'' are lazy and afraid their children
won't ''like'' them. It is hard to be the bad guy, but, wow, we didn't have kids because
it was going to be easy. BTW, my daughter (18) was shocked that you weren't most
concerned about your daughter breaking your trust. You no doubt give her a lot materially
and emotionally, you deserve respect in return.
Mom of 3 Teens
My husband has a 16-year-old son who, when we are out of
town, does his best to make use of our empty house. Unless
we have a house sitter, and even that is problematic, what
do you suggest we do about keeping him out of our empty
house. He understands that this is off limits, but as soon
as we leave, he is here -- inviting friends in, smoking pot,
generally making use of our house despite explicit
instructions to the contrary. What now?
Helloooo! I hear you and only one response came to mind.
Didn't you get the parenting 101 memo? You cannot leave the
house overnight when your son has these
inclinations...cross off overnight traveling for the next
three years or more...there is no other way...it's just
part of your job....
there will be life for me after son's teenage-hood
You could be in big trouble here if something happens in
this house while you are away. Sounds like you have been
fairly passive by telling him No, but not enforcing it.
You are implying that the stepson doesn't live with you
but ''visits'' the house while you are away. Based on this,
take definitive steps. First, change the locks. Second,
seriously consider a burglar alarm system (that would
prevent him from breaking a window to get in). Third,
don't necessarily tell him when you are going out of
town. I don't understand why your house sitter is
problematic--because the house sitter can't control your
son? Perhaps the son has larger problems and needs
treatment. At any rate, this is a problem that could turn
into a horror, so try to stop it now!
Let's start by stating the obvious: Having a key to your
house is a privilege which he has abused. If he doesn't have
a key to your house and breaks in, its a legal matter.
Once you have your keys back, you need to start telling your
neighbors when you go out of town, and telling the police.
THEN you tell your step son that you have done so. If you're
afraid of hurting his feelings or him thinking you don't
trust him (why would you?) I would tell him exactly what I
told my own kids if one stayed behind (at a friend's house)
while we were out of town... after I took their keys....
''This isn't about whether we trust you -- but we DON'T trust
all of your friends. This way we remove the ability of your
friends to exploit you and abuse our home. Feel free to tell
them we're unfair, that the police are watching our house or
anything else you need to to follow this rule.''
And, I'd probably get an alarm, or change the code on the
one I have. The legal and liability issues are huge, in
addition to the fact that your teenager is abusing your trust.
Been There. Changed the Locks.
I'm not sure why you say a housesitter is problematic. This
solution seems best to me--clarify that you want someone who
will be in the house every evening--maybe you will even have
to pay. I haven't used folks from this site but a friend
Or only go away when your son is also away. We struggle with
this too--I don't mean to sound cold, but there is no other
way to stop it, I don't think. It sounds like he doesn't
live with you--can you take away his key or would he just
find a way in?.
They will grow up one day
Hire a housesitter.
Thank you for worrying about this. I appreciate it very
much when other parents make sure their space can't be
used when they're away.
A housesitter or live-in grandparent is the answer. Email
me and I will give you contact information for a very
reliable man who housesits.
The answer seems to clear to me.
Don't leave town. A 16 year old boy who smokes pot and
does not follow your rules should not be left. He will be
in college in two years. Save your trips for then.
mom of two teens
I'm recommending that you be a hardass about this because
I view it as a potentially extremely dangerous situation.
By inviting friends over to party when you are out of town
your stepson could get into something way over his head.
So, what I suggest is get an alarm system if you don't
already have one. When you leave town, change the code to
one he doesn't know and turn the system on. If he uses his
key to get in and can't turn the system off, the cops will
come. He'll have some 'splainin' to do. A basic system
is not terribly expensive to install and you should
probably have one anyway.
If you don't like the alarm idea, you can have an extra
doublekey deadbolt lock added to your front door and back
door(s) for which only you have the key. You don't use
this lock except when you are out of town. If you only
have a couple of doors, this will not be terribly
expensive either. If he is the kind of kid who would
break a window to get in, I would definitely do the alarm
stepmom whose stepkids never did this
1. Get an alarm system that connects to a service that
will send out security (such as Bay Alarm). 2. Alert your
nosiest neighbor that the kid isn't to be there when you
aren't home. Encourage them to call the police if it
happens. 3.Alert the police to weekends you will be away
and the past problems. Ask them to make an extra drive by
at night. 4. Parents are increasingly being held
responsible legally for teens' actions when the parents
aren't there. I am sure many of us on the list could
relate incidents that would make your hair stand on end as
to what our and our friends' kids get up to when left by
themselves for too long.
former BHS teacher
Install an alarm system in your house. When you go out of
town, change the alarm code temporarily and set the alarm.
Also notify the alarm company that your son is not allowed
in the house during this time. Then, even if your son has
the key to your house, he still won't be able to use it --
not too much fun with the alarm going off and the police
coming by. You can also enlist your neighbors to help -- I'm
sure they don't want pot parties in your empty house. Ask
them to call the police if they see activity while you're gone.
Others will probably suggest this - just change the locks
and don't let your son have a key. It might be
inconvenient for you, but it will eliminate the lure of
easy access. If he goes so far as to break in, maybe you
don't want to leave town much until he grows up a bit.
Most kids mature eventually!!
In the same boat
After our teen's first ''betrayal of our trust'' like
this, we made her stay at another person's home and told
our neighbors to treat the house as if no one lived there.
We told them to call the police immediately if they saw
ANYONE in the house (even one of our kids), except the
particular person who was given charge of watching over
the house. We had my brother check regularly, particularly
at night. In your case, the other parent (husband's ex?)
should be on alert about this and you should stress she is
responsible for her son's behavior, including unauthorized
entry into the house. In some cities, police will (when
asked) make periodic sweeps by the home.
IMPORTANT: THIS IS A MATTER OF POTENTIAL LEGAL LIABILITY.
I don't like police involvement any more than any of you
here and I was reluctant to take this approach at first.
However, we all need to remember that anything that
happens in our home AND any damage or injury caused
because of actions by a minor of whom you are responsible
is YOUR legal liability ... you could be in BIG legal
trouble. It's not just a minor concern; you should treat
it as the serious issue it is.
This is a very common problem and too often the
seriousness is underestimated, dismissed with a shrug.
But even some of the most reliable teens can be coerced
into taking advantage of this situation. Basically, you
have to muster all the forces and show you are serious.
I will be looking forward to hearing what other parents
say, as I have a child who is still young but could get
into the party mode at one of his parents' houses easily.
I did want to offer another comment -- in your letter, you
really distance yourself from this young man. ''my
husband's son'' ''our house'' -- is your house not also
sometimes this young man's home? Are you not his
stepmother? It may be that his behavior has just made you
so upset that you don't want to claim relationship to him,
but it struck me that the distance that I was sensing in
your letter might actually contribute to the problem. If
he feels that you think of him in any case as a visitor at
best or intruder at worst, perhaps he doesn't feel much
responsibility toward you or your feelings. I'm just
potentially a future stepmother
That 16 year old sounds a lot like I was at that age.
You'll probably have other folks say this too - change
your locks! It is a huge liability to have minors in your
house conducting illegal activities. You can and will be
held responsible, even if you are not home. I'm sure I
wouldn't want to do that to my child, take away his right
to enter, but I really don't see another choice. Not to
mention, he has broken your wishes on the subject and that
is the natural consequence. Good luck!
an old party girl
A few months ago, someone posted asking for information
about the Berkeley Police Dept's workshop on out-of-control
teen parties. I don't think anyone responded to that, but I
just came across an article published in Jan 2006 by the
Berkeley High School PTSA that gives an excellent account of
the magnitude of the problem, and what parents can do:
''Parents Need to Know the Risks of Weekend Teenage Parties''
In last week's newsletter there was an item from the
Berkeley Police about a March 23 community forum on ''Teen
Parties''. I have been meaning to write to the newsletter
letting people know about my own experience. Our kids had an
unauthorized party at our house in February just one week
before the tragic teen party in North Berkeley where a
teenager was stabbed to death (see
It was very scary because it could have been our house. So I
wanted to let other parents know what happened at our house.
We went out of town for the weekend and left our two kids,
20 and 23, in charge. We knew from their Berkeley High days
that parents out of town often means party at your house,
where everyone is invited, invitations are word of mouth and
the door is open to anyone and everyone. But this time we
thought they were older, they are good kids and they could
be trusted. They promised no parties. What happened is they
did have a party. Kids showed up that they didn't know, and
things got out of control. There was a fight outside in the
front yard. They really didn't know how to deal with it. They told
us later that it never occurred to them to call the police. Someone could
have been hurt, thank God no one was. Things were stolen -
our cell phones and cameras and ipods. They paid us back out
of their meager funds, but I learned my lesson: next time I
don't leave them in the house by themselves no matter what.
Please be extra conservative about leaving your kids at
home alone. If you must leave them, ask a neighbor to check
in, and talk to your kids about what ''out of control'' means,
and what to do when that happens.
Community Forum on Teen Parties
The Berkeley Police Department, in conjunction with the
District 5 Berkeley City Council Office, is sponsoring a
community forum on Thursday, March 23 on the growing
concerns around teen parties:
- The social factors that lead to out-of-control teen events
- What teens can do if their party gets out of control
- Teen anxiety about calling the police. What will really
- What are parents’ responsibilities if they are not there?
- What can and should neighbors do if they suspect a large,
unsupervised teen party?
- How web sites, such as “My Space,” play a roll in
spreading the word.
The BPD will also be available to address concerns about the
February homicide on Contra Costa Ave.
The meeting will be Thursday, March 23, 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
at the Northbrae Church Community Center, 941 The Alameda,
Berkeley. Available for questions will be representatives
from the Berkeley Police Department’s Community Services
Bureau and Homicide Division, and the City’s Mental Health
For information, call the BPD Area Coordinator, Officer
Nutterfield, at 981-5806, or the District 5 Council Office
Jill Martinucci, aide to Berkeley Councilmember, District 5
I'm very concerned about teen parties that appear to take
place every weekend at Berkeley, Oakland and Piedmont homes
where parents are away. They seem to explode rapidly into
something very large and sometimes out of control, are
attended by many many kids unknown to the ''hosts'', and are
accompanied by lots of alcohol, marijuana and, I suspect,
yet more serious things. Is this a growing problem
generally, or is it a problem that I'm only now tumbling to
given my child's current high level of interest in
participation? In addition to monitoring our own
children's behavior and talking informally with other
parents, is there any coordinated community effort to
address this phenomenon? I welcome information, thoughts,
advice, etc. etc. Thanks, Bea
I graduated from Berkeley High in 1982. This party
desciption sounds exactly like the parties I started going
to (unbeknownst to my parents) in 1977. They were wild and
fun and super exciting, and my friends and I did a lot of
really stupid things. I think most of us recovered.
The best result: I got all the partying out of my system
by the time I was a senior at BHS. I had no desire
to ''party'' at UC and did much better than some of my dorm
mates who had had a more sheltered high school experience.
Editor Note: These very helpful tips are notes from a workshop given
to parents about parties and drinking by local therapist Michael Y. Simon, MFT,
Director of Counseling, Bentley Upper School
I'm posting below some information from a workshop I give
on parties/drugs in high school. I hope this helps.
Options for Dealing with Parties/Drugs and Their Likely or
Strategy 1: Doing Nothing or “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Parents decide that there is nothing they can do and they
can’t control their child, who is on the way to
adulthood. The likely consequence though is that your
child will feel ignored and abandoned in someway and will
feel that the unspoken bond of trust has been betrayed,
since children usually expect their parents to watch out
for them and their safety, even if they rail against it.
What Longterm Lessons are Being Taught?
1. When you have to confront someone you care about,
the best strategy is to just ignore things and hope for
the best. They probably can’t do the right thing, even if
they know what it is.
2. It’s pointless trusting or consulting my parents
because they won’t get involved or will feel burdened
Strategy 2: Doing Everything or “No @#$@ Way”
Parents decide that there is no way that they can trust
their child to do the right thing. They forbid party-
going and constantly check their child for drug and
alcohol use. The child must answer to every inquiry and
the parents verify every answer.
What Longterm Lessons are Being Taught?
1. I can’t be trusted to do anything on my own; I’m
untrustworthy and can’t mess up in order to learn.
2. I am not capable of taking responsibility in a
difficult situation. People think I shouldn’t have
choices, just limitations.
3. I’m still a child and need to be micro-managed or
I’ll be out of control.
4. I need to act like a kid, to prove my parents
right OR I need to be “hyper-adult” to prove I’m not a
child (and thus, may in fact get in over my head as I
attempt to take on too much adult responsibility).
Strategy 3: “Its All In Good Fun” or “I’m my teen’s best
Parents might smoke or drink or use drugs in the house or
might bond with their child by telling them about
their “good old days” in the 60s and 70s when they too got
busted by the cops or pulled over for drunk driving or
snuck out of the house and fooled their parents or had a
party when grandma and grandpa went away. The idea is
that this bonding will encourage the child to share
information about sex, drug use and parties and will keep
it all from becoming a big deal. Plus, if it goes on in
the house, they can keep an eye on it all, right?
What Longterm Lessons are Being Taught?
1. My parents may be more concerned with what I want
than what I need.
2. I can be trusted no matter what I do and my
parents are really my friends, so if I mess up, its not
such a big deal (and, consequently, I can’t really go to
3. Something is wrong if someone close to me has more
power than I do.
4. The line between freedom and responsibility is
blurry and difficult to figure out, because there are
never really clear limits or boundaries around potentially
Strategy 4: The Subtle Intervention: “No Big Talks”
Parents decide that they will not do one “big”
intervention, but will try many, ongoing, “little”
interventions, and include a number of strategies like:
asking what the child thinks about the party/certain
aspects of drug use; catching their child
being “responsible” and subtly pointing it out or
expressing their appreciation for a hard decision, well
made; offer advice when it’s asked for but provide
conditional offers of help from time to time, or
providing “cover stories” to save face e.g.,
saying, “well, I’m still not totally okay about this party
thing, but if you find that things are getting out of
control tomorrow, let’s arrange a phone signal and I’ll
come pick you up someplace where no one can see me getting
What Longterm Lessons are Being Taught?
1. My parents still care and are available in a pinch
but they have some faith in me.
2. I’m trusted to come up with solutions on my own,
because they often ask me what I think, rather than tell
me what to do.
3. My intuition and “inner voice” is valued and
valuable as a source of decision-making.
4. Things are not out of my control—I have choices
and can get over the fear I have that I won’t be able to
do the right thing (apropos of the essay you heard
Tips for Changing the Setting and Set Around Drug Use and
- No parties without communication with parental hosts (if
- Parent hosts send out notice/announcement via
parent listserv or email list (compiled outside of school)
notifying of time, date, knowledge of party, what they
know about drugs/alcohol and their feelings about it,
whether they’ll be there, etc.
- Parents adopt “risk management” and “risk reduction”
strategies around drug/alcohol use at parties
- Read about drug and alcohol use (especially Over
the Influence and Uppers, Downers and All-Arounders) and
be prepared to help your child help him/herself reduce the
risk associated with drug and alcohol use…because the
bottom line is that you cannot stop them from taking drugs
or going to a party unless they voluntarily agree to it OR
they are involuntarily confined and under 24-hour guard.
Know the effects of the drug of choice (e.g., that even
short-term alcohol use has now been shown to effect short-
and long-term memory retrieval ability in adolescents)
- Set consistent limits and let those limits be set
in conjunction with your kids—they get to have input, but
not veto power or “final say;” the older and more mature
the student, the more the input; the more successful
demonstration of responsibility, the more the leeway,
e.g., you don’t freak out when an otherwise responsible
teen is home 20 minutes late every once and a while
- Parents having a NQA or “Get out of jail free”
card where parents pick up their child and take them home,
any time, No Questions Asked (that night, anyway; it is
unreasonable to expect that parents won’t pursue the issue
when all participants are sober and awake and things have
- Parents being willing to be put on a “NQA” list
(no questions asked); they can be called on party night
and will pick up any child who needs a ride and would
otherwise be driving under the influence or would be in a
car with someone under the influence
- Align with Teachers (But Don’t Expect them to Parent)
As Mike Riera points out, in grade school, when
kids have problems, they go to their parents, teachers and
then friends, in that order. Teens reverse the order and
go first to friends, then teachers, and finally parents.
So it makes good sense to align with teachers because the
teachers often hear of struggles before you do. It’s not
about interrogating the teachers, though; it’s about
knowing the adults in your child’s life.
- Adopt a “Silence=Death” policy
This is a dramatic way of putting it, but the
point is, that you send the message that, “in our home, we
talk about drug, alcohol use and parties…no exceptions;
its on the table for discussion because we love you and
will help protect you and help you protect yourself.”
This doesn’t mean you interrogate your child or get into
every aspect of their business; it does mean that you will
ask questions respectfully and demonstrate your care,
regardless of whether they want it or it makes them
- Arm yourself with important information about legal
Have knowledge that arrests and or citations can be made
for the following offenses and understand (and have your
child understand the consequences of each of this legal
- Providing Alcohol to a Minor
- Sale of Alcohol Without a License (if money is charged for the party)
- Possession of Alcohol By A Minor
- Drunken Disorderly Conduct
- Driving Under the Influence
- Vandalization of property
- Irresponsible upkeep and improper garbage disposal
to the point where it becomes a health hazard or eyesore
(large parties with kegs/clean up)
- Understand that Parties are Opportunities to Help Your
Child Develop their Intuition/Conscience and Learn to Act
on Their Own Behalf (Make the right decisions, that are
truly their decisions)
- Understand that Freedom and Responsibility go together in
Teens need freedom to learn the right choices and to
demonstrate their ability to respond well. And they need
the chance to mess up in order to learn to respond well.
Therefore, learning how to be responsible demands the
chance to misuse or misunderstand the freedom that you
grant to your teens. So, a logical but disconcerting
consequence of this is that teenagers’ screw-ups are not
necessarily reasons to curtail freedom, because this is
the necessary condition for learning. “Screw-ups” can be
occasions for teaching planning, stress management
techniques, “threat” assessment, failure analysis, and a
host of other important skills that can only be developed
through hindsight and new chances to demonstrate newly
incorporated information about what works and what
doesn’t. And you might have to give up some more of your
short-term freedom to teach them long-term responsibility.
Mike Riera tells us that teens maturity cycle includes
movement back and forth between “not enough
responsibility” and “too much freedom” in getting to the
goal of consistent responsibility in difficult
situations. Try to match “screw-ups” with the appropriate
amounts of freedom curtailing and new opportunities to
learn and demonstrate responsibility. Give them things to
do that they can be successful at, so that they can ramp
up again to try out their hard-won knowledge…which leads
to a final tip:
Remember that Teenagers Do Well on Things When They Are
Feeling Good. And Feeling Good About Oneself Comes from
Doing Well on Things.
One consequence of this information is that when your
child messes up, work with them on making the situation
right and learning from it, but try to help them (subtly
or not) find something they can succeed at. Not to point
too fine a point on it: If they fail by messing up, help
them succeed at fixing their mess…but don’t do it for them!
Michael Y. Simon, MFT
Director of Counseling, Bentley Upper School
I am a parent of a very social 15 year old sophmore at
BHS. My daughter wants to be able to attend parties where
there are no adults present in the home. My rules have
been that there must be a parent in the house during the
party, and I need to have the name and phone number of the
parent of the kid that is hosting the party. My daughter
complains that I am way too strict and that lots of her
junior and senior friends have parties without parents in
the home all the time. I would like to hear from parents
of other high school age kids, (especially girls)
regarding your rules for party attendance.
We have a 13 year old girl and a 16 year old boy, and we
feel the same way you do. Absolutely no unsupervised
parties -- just too much potential for problems. By the
way, I lived with my boyfriend and his twin boys for 6
years, when they were age 15-21. We let them have parties
at 15, 16, 17, but we were around, mostly in our room but
with occasional passes through the house to check. Awfully
glad we were around, because these kids (nice kids, good
students, scouts, band, etc) just come up with DUMB
ideas... and the girls were certainly the instigators at
least 1/2 the time. Dumb ideas like let's go wander thru
the neighborhood, or let's dangle so-and-so over the
balcony. It seems like fun to them, because they are
KIDS. Parents have to be there or things can easily get
Been There - Don't!
First of all, you should definitely read the previous
postings (including student perspective). I am also the
parent of a 15-y.o. (well, almost) girl, and I ALWAYS insist
on getting the address, phone number, and host's name for
any party being contemplated. I really do call the home,
introduce myself, and check that parents will be home
throughout the party. While I realize this is no guarantee
that ''nothing will happen'', I do want to verify that the
parents are aware of/approve of the party (as in, not out of
town), and to make them aware that at least one guest's
parent cares enought to check it out. My daughter insists
that I'm the only one who does this, but I tell her that
part of my job as her parent is to help assure her safety. I
think she knows that at least a few other parents do this,
too, although she wouldn't admit it. I also repeatedly
stress that she can call me for a ride at any time, if she
is in any way uncomfortable. I also make a point of
discussing my concerns with her every time (to her dismay,
but that's how I am). So far, she has been good about
calling me if she is going to be later than originally
planned. At this point, her ride home has always been with
either one of her parents, or another adult we know - never
Part of the problem with high school parties is the age
range. I guess by the time kids are getting ready to go off
to college, we do expect them to make their own decisions
about such things (after all, you won't be there to give or
withhold permission, or chaperone, when they're away). But
I certainly do feel that it's totally reasonable for me to
be checking things out at this stage. And even when she's
older, there will almost certainly be younger teens at the
same parties - so I'm not sure how I'll deal with that.
Let your daughter know that at least some of us are still
taking our parental responsibilities seriously.
I've got a girl sophmore at BHS, too, and while she's
probably not as sociable as yours, my rules are exactly the
same. Stick to them. At this age, ''EVERYONE'' gets to do
EVERYTHING (how convenient!), but I seldom believe it. And
parents who do go off and let the kids party unattended are
just being irresponsible.
How about checking in with her friends' parents and getting
their opinions, maybe make some agreements about how you'll
manage your kids' socializing? It's always nice to have
some peer support, and our girls need to know that their
parents are wide awake and looking out for them, however
much they protest it.
I meant to write this last go-round re. the "unsupervised parties."
I have some feelings about it as I find that the sexually active young
women and their male partners are needing a place to do the experimental
sexual stuff that young people do. We've had the problem of these
people "sleeping over at our house" as a pretext for their connection.
I've heard from one of the parental parties that "they've been sexually
active but not regularly so I'm not worried." Well,,,it then becomes
the responsibility of the host family to ride herd/supervise, whatever,
those young people. I know it's a very tough issue to think clearly
about/ sort out. My friends who were parents of HS young years ago met
the other "subject parents" and made an agreement to provide a safe
space for these kids to sleep together. I liked that so much as it
honors the experiemental nature of the young people and their natural
desire, honors the parents who are NOT party to this so really don't
have any reason to host sexually active young people and makes sex
something "speakable" in their families. If you think you might be one
of the parents of a sexually active young person please consider my
request. Thank you.
As the recent, somewhat naive, hosts of an evening party for a group of
middle schoolers, thought I should pass on a few tips I could have used
beforehand. First, it is really important to be clear with your teen
about the invitation process, i.e. keeping it very specific and discrete
and creating a list for you to use in admitting people. Even then,
think about how you plan to handle uninvited guests. Second, at the
risk of underscoring my naivete, I'll pass on what may be obvious to
everyone: hide and lock up all alcohol and all contents of medicine
cabinets, unless it's o.k. w/you for people to consume these
substances. Third, put away EVERYTHING you want to protect into a
locked off area of your home (childproofing techniques, e.g. putting
something high up or closing a door is mere "child's play" for a teen
already well into his/her growth spurt and in a feisty, party mood).
Fourth, don't expect to be able to control the movement and whereabouts
of your guests. They have a tendancy to roam to do who knows what, &
there is no way you can control what goes on beyond the confines of your
home. Finally: hosting a teen party is not for the weak of heart and
even the strong of heart need to have anywhere from 2 to many adults to
help them (depending on the party's size). In the interest of space,
I'll stop here, but am happy to correspond by e-mail w/any parent who
would like to discuss party planning. The important P.S. is that
despite the grim list above, my daughter had a great time and a great
party and our home was unscathed. PPS: Corollary to #4 above is that I
don't think we can hold hosting parents responsible for the behavior or
even the whereabouts of our offspring during the course of a party. It
is physically impossible for them, and we can only hope that each of our
children has adequate judgment to keep out of harm's way.
Hooray for you - This sounds very much like the party my daughter was
"invited" to last Saturday night by a friend of a friend of a friend.
She decided not to go because she doesn't trust the party scene, even at
fourteen. As it turned out, someone did spike the punch with rum and
there was a lot of hanky-panky between boys and girls, even though the
parents were on premises. I have been to one of those parties myself
and the moment the parents leave the room, the kids do what they will
do. I'm shocked that these kids are all so willing to be "bad." I
personally will be keeping any parties either single gender or VERY
parentized. My daughter kind of represents that most of her friends are
from broken homes and not well supervised between the two homes. I was
going to tell her she couldn't go just because I wasn't about to have
her at someone's house I didn't know, driven there by another friend I
didn't know well - I don't think so - but she made the decision herself
and I told her I was really proud of her. I think parents communicating
with each other is the best defense.
I am so glad Joan wrote in about her experience with teen
parties. They are a big mystery to me! Perhaps others will shed more
light. Here is what my 17-y-o BHS son tells me:
1. there is no such thing as an invitation. anyone can go to any
party. if you heard about it, then you are invited. you just show up.
2. you will not find out where the party is, or who is giving it,
until the day of the party. this is to prevent too many people from
3. we can never have a party at our house, since too many people will
come and also they will steal things.
4. parents are never present at parties.
5. alcohol is always consumed at parties (but there are designated
Is this pretty much the situation? Does anyone know?
Here is a recent quote: "I'm going to a party. I'll be home by 11. It's
somewhere on ______ Street ( a nearby address). I don't know whose party
it is - some kid from Head Royce. Everybody is going."
Would you say OK to this?
Would I say OK to this?
"Party" is okay; "home by 11:00" is okay; "somewhere on ____ Street" is
NOT okay--I want to know where my kids are and what the phone number is;
"I don't know whose party" is definitely NOT okay. "Everybody is
going"--that and a quarter will buy you an Examiner.
Regarding discussion of teen parties
The short answer is no I wouldn't go for it. Our kid is only 13 so
we've only been faced with this situation once so far. He asked to go
to a party with "Johnny" a school friend we know pretty well. The party
was to be at the house of a friend of Johnny's. We said it was possible
-- who was the friend, what was the address, and phone number? And by
the way we needed the phone number in advance to touch base with
Johnny's parent, guardian whomever. After being told repeatedly at
major decibel levels that we didn't understand, that to call someone's
parents just wasn't done, etc., he dropped the whole thing. I don't
know what our rules will be when he is 17, but for the next few years
the rules are: we need to know where he is going and what adult
supervision there is planned for the event. With that information we
will decide whether he can go; without it the answer is an automatic
no. I believe that there are a lot of other parents who support this
type of responsible parenting; perhaps we can make that known somehow so
the kids will know (before they have kids of their own) that this is a
general norm not an
My 11th grade BHS son gives the exact same definition of parties. I
don't let him attend. He says he's the only kid at BHS not allowed to
attend such parties, and that his reputation at BHS and the local preppy
high schools is a pair of four-letter words as a result. He's my third
high schooler and my rule has always been parties are ok if adults are
present the whole time, I am given a phone number where I can reach the
parents and my kid at any time, and I can come in and physically meet
the parents at the beginning of the party and any other time during the
party's duration, and my kid must be home by midnight. I found this
resulted in my kids choosing to attend parties which, while not drug and
alcohol free as apparently no high school parties are, were less wild
than some parties I heard about. I encourage other parents to have the
courage to staff parties occurring in their own house, and not to let
their kids attend unchaperoned parties. And the final party piece:
although I always insisted my kids write down the name, address,
parental names and phone number of the kid who was going to drive them
home from the party, I also made clear I would always do a midnight
pickup, uncomplainingly, if the designated driver was not sober; I made
many of these pickups, and I drove home many girls whose parents didn't
care if they walked alone across Berkeley at midnight. I think if we
give our kids the message that we have rules not to control them but
because we care about them, it only strengthens our relationship with
them in the end.
Re: Teen Partying at homes unknown to you: I never let any of my 3 kids
go to parties in homes where I didn't know the child or the family
before my own were 16. After that, I decided case by case. By then I
had a solid idea of what kinds of people and places and "fun" my kids
were attracted to and could I decide based on whom they were going
with. But they ALWAYS had a firm curfew (they are now all in college)
and they honored it. They were allowed to negotiate for a later curfew
for some events but that was rare...it had to be pretty special and I
had to know all the details.
My biggest fear was always driving, whether it was my child or another.
This past weekend one of my children "confessed" to me that when I used
to give my speech to them as they were heading off in a car, that she
knew she was supposed to act embarrassed in front of her friends but
that she was grateful for the advice. The usual speech was: wear seat
belts, don't distract the driver and DON'T have a party in car! All
three of our kids, I'm grateful to say, survived both their dad and me
AND the drives!
This discussion continues on A Student's Perspective on Parties
this page was last updated: Oct 20, 2013
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network