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16-Year-Old Son Smoking Marijuana

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What is an appropriate consequence for catching my 16-year-old son smoking marijuana with his friend? We are an upper-middle class blended family, and he is our youngest child. I think he has smoked marijuana occasionally over the past several months, despite our telling the family not to do it.


Setting expectations with our children helps avoid hearing excuses like “Well, I didn’t know.” Your son knew before he started smoking marijuana that you expressly said not to do so. He chose to disregard your instructions. It is your job as a parent to inform your son that he has made a poor choice and to immediately follow up with a consequence.

You state that you think your son has been smoking marijuana for several months. When our children break rules repeatedly without consequences, their behavior is reinforced by our inactivity. Your son will continue to break this rule until you let him know, in no uncertain terms, that his behavior is unacceptable.

It’s OK if you only suspect poor behavior; nine times out of 10 our parental intuition is correct. The consequence can be less severe if you don’t have proof, but there needs to be a consequence to deter him from even going down that road.

The type of consequence depends on the severity of the behavior. Smoking marijuana is a severe behavior, so put some effort into the consequence. Make it relate to the “crime” as closely as possible. If he gets caught smoking pot with a friend, he loses the privilege of hanging out with that friend unattended. Or maybe he has to do some research on the effects of using marijuana and write a report for you.

Since trust has been broken, maybe he has to regain that trust by passing random drug tests in your home. These can be bought over-the-counter at your local pharmacy. These are just examples to be used on their own or in conjunction with one another. Whichever one you choose, be consistent. Follow through.

Now go back and re-teach your expectation. Talk to your son about why he is smoking marijuana, and help him find an alternative behavior in which to engage.  For instance, if smoking pot is a coping method for stress, have him come up with healthier ways to relax. If he is doing it to be part of the crowd, have him think of ways to find more positive role models with whom to associate. If he doesn’t know why he is doing it, have him determine other ways to handle boredom.