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What’s an Appropriate Consequence for My 16-Year-Old Smoking Marijuana?


​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 prevent them from using excuses like, “Well, I didn’t know.” Your son knew before he started smoking marijuana that you specifically told him 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 said you think your son has been smoking marijuana for several months. When our children repeatedly break the rules without consequences, our inactivity only reinforces their misbehavior. Your son will continue to break this rule until you let him know, in no uncertain terms, that his behavior is unacceptable. 

The type of consequence you decide to use depends on the severity of the behavior. Smoking marijuana is a severe behavior, so put some effort into creating what you think will be an effective consequence and make it relate to the “crime” as closely as possible. For example, if he gets caught smoking pot with a friend, he could lose the privilege of hanging out with that friend for a period of time. Or maybe you have him do some research on the harmful effects of using marijuana and write a report for you. 

Since your son has broken your trust in him, he may have to regain that trust by passing random drug tests in your home. You can buy these tests over the counter at your local pharmacy.

These are just a few examples of consequences that can be used separately or in combinations with teach other. Whichever ones you choose, remember to be consistent, follow through on what you say you will do, and make sure you son understands the connection between his behaviors and the consequences he earns. Also, make sure you give your son positive consequences when he does the follow the rules and meets your expectations.

To get started, go back and re-teach those expectations. Talk to your son about why he is smoking marijuana, and help him find an alternative activity or behavior to do instead. For example, if smoking pot is his way of coping with stress, help him come up with healthier ways to relax. If he is doing it to fit in with his friends or peers, help him find more positive role models with whom to associate. ​If he’s smoking pot simply because he’s bored, help him find an activity he likes that will occupy in time in a more positive way.

The sooner you can effectively use consequences to change your son’s behavior, the less likely he will be to run into other unpleasant consequences like being arrested by the police or being suspended from​ school.