Beer + Tweens don't mix

We had a sticky beer situation a while ago.  One I’ve previously had no experience with, even though it was with my third child who is in his last months of his tween years.

We were at a friend’s house for dinner.  My husband and I were with the other adults in the family room, chatting, drinking wine, eating while lounging on the couch.  My 12 year old son was in the kitchen with his friend and a couple of teenagers, including the birthday boy man.

It was time to go. I went into the kitchen to fetch the kid, and he was sitting at the table, giggling and red-faced.  I looked at the other kids, ‘What’s wrong with him?’  They shrugged. Then, I noticed the empty beer bottles on the table.

‘Did he drink beer?’  I asked, my voice rising.  ‘Who gave a 12-year-old beer?’  I started to freak out.

My boy was acting really weird, laughing and eating his cake off his plate like he was in a no-hands cake eating contest.  My face turned as red as his, and I heatedly began to berate the other kids (unfairly as I later found out he’d helped himself):

Come ON!  You gave him beer?  WHO gave my kid beer?

I grabbed his arm and we hauled it out of there.  I lectured him vehemently. The whole way home.  He stared at the ground as he walked,  abashed, and sobered up by the cold.  He kept repeating

I’ll never do it again. I’ll never do it again. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

Do you think I over-reacted?  That he was just experimenting?  That the next morning’s headache and his mortal embarrassment were punishment enough? Maybe or maybe not.  Never mind that 12-year olds should not be drinking alcohol flat out, this is no ordinary situation, and he’s no ordinary kid.

My son has ADHD.  Like the real kind, not the misdiagnosed my-kid-doesn’t-behave kind.  He takes medication for his ADHD.  People who have ADHD and who take stimulants like Concerta shouldn’t drink or do drugs. At all.

According to WEBmd:

ADHD is five to 10 times more common among adult alcoholics than it is in people without the condition. It’s also more common for children with ADHD to start abusing alcohol during their teenage years. In one study, 14% of 15- to 17-year-olds with ADHD had problems with alcohol abuse or dependence, compared to none of their peers without ADHD.
I’ve heard of kids with ADHD who have suffered great psychological effects of using drugs or alcohol.  Their bodies cannot handle the substances.  That’s that.   This is not what I want for my child.

These days it’s really hard to lay down absolutes for tweens and teens.  They have so many choices, so many methods of communication, so many work-arounds.  Current parenting theory, such as my own, does not propose helicopter parenting of the ‘I make all your decisions for you and you should just listen to me‘ variety. In theory, what I’d like is for  my kids to take the life skills rules and advice  that I share with them and to apply the information when making intelligent and well-thought out choices.  This is how I hope to equip them to deal with life, and how I create a no-lying environment.

Except in this case, that didn’t work. Because the boy just did. He didn’t think.  And, desperate times called for out-of-my-box and autocratic measures.

Don’t ever drink. Ever, ever, ever.  Don’t do drugs. Ever. You cannot.  It will make you sick.  I’m scared for you. You cannot drink or try drugs. Even once.  Do you understand?

He hung his head and nodded, uttering the words that every 1950s parent loved to hear

Yes mom.  I will do as you say.

Parenting is hard. And it sometimes sucks.  Especially when everything you thought you know is tossed into an empty bottle.

Especially when your 12-year old Concerta-taking ADHD baby boy decides to chug beer.

What’s been one of your most challenging parenting moments?


  1. wow, thank you so much for sharing. such a brave thing to do.

    I have no idea what I will do when I get to this stage (my son is 5 now) but I have a feeling I will react similar – even though he has no ADHD (as of now anyway! ).

    I think it’s so important you are talking about it, so important.

    Thank you.

    • Thanks for reading, Jackie. The most important thing is communication. They need to understand, and we need to be frank with them. It’s hard to share, but if I can help others…

  2. Pretty sure I would have lost my cool, too. Though yours were extenuating circumstances, or perhaps because of it, I do not think you overreacted. Dreading the day…

  3. I thought the article was going to be about the 18yr old having beer, I was not expecting it to be about the 12yr old. I would have freaked if it had been my 12yr old.

    • The 18 year old having beer would not be a very interesting story. To be honest, I know that the other two drink some alcohol sometimes. But, he’s 12. And has a medical condition. It was a freak zone.


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