There’s an alarming sense of normalcy settling firmly behind the practice of accepting, allowing or turning a blind-eye to teenage drinking, so long as teens keep their grades in order. Teenagers are aware of this trend and work hard academically to get the longer leash required to consume heavily, often, and dangerously. More than not, I hear that teens can drink, as long as they have A's.
But why do parents seem to attach access to alcohol with grades? From my experiences there seem to be a few factors...so here they are:
By accident: You had no idea they were partying; their good grades and clean discipline record rendered a long leash and you trust them. There is no indication that they might be up to no good and engaging in adult behaviors.
Out of convenience: Your kids are no cause drama when cooped up in the house. You know that their friends drink sometimes, but you don’t know what to do about it. It’s okay for them to be around it, as it frees up your own time to relax, work out, be social and spend time with your spouse or friends.
Path of least resistance: You tried long and hard to stave off drinking and parties. But, inevitably, they reached a certain age and it became more work than it was worth to prevent it. You do your best to contain it, monitor it from afar, but all seems okay and they are simply a teenager doing the same things you did as a teenager.
Focusing on the wrong success markers: Grades and college are the priority. You cannot stop them from doing what they will do, so long as they fall in alignment with the academic standards set forth in your home. They are allowed (actively or passively) to engage in drinking because they’ve earned it with good grades and admission to a top-tier college.
So, what are the dangers of allowing grade-based partying?
The inevitable toll on long-term health: Consuming alcohol regularly, and binge drinking occasionally deprives teenagers of much-needed sleep. It dehydrates them, affecting their athletics and intellectual capacities. Alcohol is a known to serve as a depressant that may cause anxiety in teenagers and lead to isolative and erratic behavior.
The eventual collapse of academic performance built on haphazard habits: When students only work in short, sporadic increments to attain social privileges, they forgo building skills that endure over time. Study habits and a sound sense of academic integrity are forfeited in lieu of a quick fix to repair a low grade. As they progress through the academic channels of high school and then college, higher standards and more expected output from teachers and professors are hard to maintain without the proper habits. Eventually, your student will hit a ceiling—no longer able to wing it. And when it comes crashing down, it will crash hard, fast and dramatically.
The next-level substance use and abuse born of social partying: What begins as recreational often leads to habitual. The buzz of a beer, stone of a joint, or fix or a vape shifts from a chosen action to a needed one when use increases. Having heard many first-hand accounts of addiction, the stories differ. Some recall being hooked from the very first instance of use, whereas others recall more of a crescendo, where frequency and dependency gained strength overtime until its appeal was valued over everything else.
Rewarding the wrong kind of success doesn’t translate into expected results: Earning a 4.0 GPA or admission to a university means little when the student lacks functionality and autonomy to thrive in that environment. Either the students have developed a chemical dependency that stonewalls their ability to succeed at the next academic level, or they lack the basic, intrinsically driven tools to handle the rigor. So, while they were able to have their cake and eat it too in high school, it is often a recipe for disaster in college.