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Are my parents right to take such drastic action to stop me drinking alcohol underage? In the past couple of weeks I have been coming home drunk (not on school nights) my parents said they are worried and unless I stop drinking they will have to take drastic action.

Last Friday night, after breaking up from school, I got brought home drunk by the police. My parents went mad and said they have had enough. My parents said I must spend a minimum of 7 days locked me in my bedroom as a punishment. They said I can no longer be trusted and they have no option but to lock me up for my own good as well as to punish.

My parents said I will serve a minimum of 7 days imprisonment, no tv, no phone etc. I will be set punishment essays to write and my parents have given me leaflets on the dangers of underage drinking. I have to copy these out several times as part of my punishment. I will eat in my room and will only be let out for the bathroom. Advice, please?

PS: Before you ask, I am allowed my pc for 3 hours per day as a privilege for good behaviour.

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    Related: parenting.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1432/9327. (Which criteria does this question fulfill?) Jul 26, 2023 at 16:18
  • Locking someone in a room is a safety hazard. You need an easy way to exit if there is a fire or another emergency. In the U.S., it's illegal for a bedroom to even have a lock that can people inside. I would expect similar laws in other countries. I'm not a parent, so I can't say what is the right punishment, but locks are the wrong punishment. If they want to ground you for a week, there are ways to do that without a lock.
    – Jetpack
    Jul 27, 2023 at 4:29
  • The OP didn't specify that there was no way to escape in emergency. Most of the interior locks I've seen weren't very secure, and would really only serve as a reminder or a quick check that the door hadn't been forced. Jul 27, 2023 at 7:54
  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Parenting Meta, or in Parenting Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 27, 2023 at 18:48
  • You'll see from the comments and answers, that this question will only attract opinions - there is no right answer for everyone. SO this is not the sort of question that fits well here.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 27, 2023 at 18:49

7 Answers 7

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Your parents are being lenient

I'm not sure where you live, but in the State of NJ, the penalties for underage drinking are a fine between $500-$1,000 and imprisonment for up to 6 months.

You've indicated that you've been coming home multiple times drunk, but not on school nights (which suggests that is relevant at all). Your parents would prefer you're not coming home drunk at all.

Your parents have expressed their concerns about your drinking and insisted that you stop. You did not and were brought home following being arrested by the police. This tells me 2 things. The first is that you're not able to control yourself with regards to alcohol, I don't know if you're an alcoholic or very susceptible to peer pressure compelling you to drink but you can't seem to control yourself. The second thing is that the police apparently released you to the custody of your parents as opposed to the district attorney for prosecution (WHICH THEY ABSOLUTELY DID NOT HAVE TO DO).

Focusing upon that second element, had the police instead brought you to the DA for prosecution it likely would've been a very easy case to prove and if you were in the State of NJ, you'd have faced a criminal charge. So let's look at what happens then:

  • You or your parents would need to hire a lawyer (they're not cheap).
  • You would have been arraigned before a judge who would have asked, "How do you plead to the charges?"
  • Regardless of the answer, the end result based on the available evidence would have been that you're guilty.
  • Then there would be a sentencing phase where you'd have received a fine of at least $500. And you might have been sent to juvenile detention for up to 6 months.
  • Going forward, the conviction would be something that can show up in public records when people search for public information about you, which might cause you problems when applying for a job.

So last I checked, your parents aren't making you pay for a lawyer to defend you in open court, just spitballing that probably would have cost at least $1,000. Your parents aren't creating a public record of the events that occurred that you'll need to explain to potential employers for the next 20 years. Your parents aren't making you pay a fine of at least $500. And finally, your parents aren't making you stay in your room with every movement under strict control for 6 months.

Your parents are trying to get you to control yourself

I do not think you have much control over yourself when it comes to drinking. Now I want to be clear, I'm not an expert on alcohol, I've been at most buzzed a bit but never full on drunk. The primary reason for this was because my mother was an alcoholic and it was not easy for her to quit; I don't know the exact terms on how her rehab occurred but I'm not entirely sure it wasn't compelled. Knowing this about my mother growing up, I chose to generally avoid alcohol but also because I rarely like the way it tastes.

From what I've read, I do not really think that you will stop drinking of your own volition. As such, your parents are imposing a significant penalty upon you because the other potential consequences of your behavior are actually far worse.

The first concern I'd have is DUI, which I need to be clear is not a joke (seriously not even once). You can't seem to stop yourself from drinking when you go out, how likely are you to ride in a car where the driver was drinking or you drive yourself after drinking. I'm 39 myself and used to know 3 different people who have been killed because they were driving under the influence. On at least 2 occasions in my teenage life, I was nearly killed by others driving under the influence (or at least I assumed because I can't imagine another reason one would do 80 in the wrong direction). The kinds of accidents in DUI are not usually minor. And furthermore, DUI does not just affect you, there's a whole other person or family in that other car who can be hurt (often severely) by your actions; and what's more they have family who will feel the loss as well.

The second concern is long-term alcoholism. As I mentioned earlier, my mom was an alcoholic. She wasn't much on keeping up with her responsibilities around the house, she'd hide bottles around the house to keep my dad from removing them, and she'd be generally depressed for long periods of times. This was less than ideal for a small child to be growing up with.

Right now, your parents are trying to protect you from the worst consequences of your actions. Being grounded for a week in your room is far better than the legal consequences which involve much more money and time incarcerated, or the lifetime of guilt associated with knowing your actions killed somebody in a car accident, or losing your job because you were more focused on finding another drink and financially imperiling your family.

I get that you're 16 and think you know everything. This is fine, but I do think you're underestimating the consequences of your actions since you've yet to demonstrate any semblance of control for the drug that you're using.


EDIT (RESPONSES TO COMMENTS):

Given this answer has generate a lot of comments, I'm inclined to simply address them all herein.

  • The application of US laws vs any other jurisdiction is partially because of my own US mindset, but also because I needed to have a basis upon which to demonstrate the legal ramifications of the querent's behavior. If you are getting drunk in Germany at 16 where it's legal, you're likely still subject to penalties by the judicial system if your drunken antics rise to disorderly conduct, property damage, and other misdemeanor type offenses. Take the penalties for those offenses from those jurisdictions and input them into the answer and it probably doesn't change.
  • Regarding the comments about the morality of locking someone in their room, I've 2 general sentiments on this. The first is that the question asked if the parents were 'right' to give the querent a severe punishment after being brought home by the police for behavior the parents expressed concern about prior to this; I would argue that a severe punishment sends a message that hopefully is understood. Note that the querent is not being denied food, water, or even entertainment, they are being denied freedom and were they subjected to the judicial system would likely lose a lot more freedom. The second sentiment I have on this is that assuming the querent is addicted to alcohol then the appropriate solution might end up needing to be something like rehab where again all your movements and actions are pretty controlled. If the response to this suggestion is that then the parents should do rehab, I would caution that such a course of action is easier in some places than others; but for the US that entails a lot of money and probably a lot of PTO (which the US notoriously doesn't provide), so such a suggestion is potentially ignorant of the real world complications.
  • Regarding suppositions that the parents shouldn't be doing this and instead teaching the querent how to drink safely and appropriately, I agree. But for all we know, maybe they tried that already; after all they were aware that the querent was drinking so perhaps they'd given such behavior a blessing but became concerned because the querent wasn't doing it responsibly as they were taught. Furthermore, I'd wonder if this sentiment were the same if the querent were brought home following a spate of vandalism? Or DUI? Or DUI with injury? Perhaps the parents are in fact teaching the querent about responsible drinking by also reminding them of the penalties for irresponsible drinking.
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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Parenting Meta, or in Parenting Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Rory Alsop
    Aug 2, 2023 at 10:30
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TL;DR
Your parents are not being unreasonable or cruel. It's okay to disagree with their opinion but it would be unfair to consider them to be bad parents because of this.


For the purpose of the question at hand: I am presuming here that the police were involved purely because you broke an underage drinking law, not because you were otherwise in danger or being a nuisance. If there were ulterior reasons for the police to be involved, then that's a very different ballgame.

Different cultures tackle this differently. Where I'm from, 16 is drinking age (for beer/wine, not liquor), so the police would not have been involved as long as you're not a risk to yourself or others.

Generally, unless unreasonably drunk/sick, where I'm from it's not considered a big problem. But in saying that, that doesn't mean that every parent is okay with it, nor does every parent decide on the same punishment if they don't allow it.

At the end of the day, until you are an adult, you are expected to follow your parents' wishes. Some cultures make some exceptions that are considered as part of a child's mental welfare, but the ability to drink alcohol is not one of those edge cases in any culture as far as I'm aware.

"Are my parents right to [punishment] for [thing]" implies that there is a definitive answer to what is considered correct parenting. That is not the case. The law is notoriously incapable (by design) of prescribing how one should parent their child in a specific circumstance.

At best, we can ask two separate questions:

  • Is it okay for your parents to enforce/prohibit/allow/disallow [thing]?

Yes, it is reasonable for your parents to not have you drink alcohol, as you are a minor and there is no reasonable claim that not being allowed to drink alcohol is somehow a form of child abuse or unreasonable deprivation.

  • Is [punishment] an acceptable form of punishment?

Grounding a child to their room is reasonable, and the timeframe provided (7 days) is not an unreasonable duration.

There are some caveats here in exceedingly extreme cases, such as not being starved or dehydrated, having access to the bathroom facilities, and not being unreasonably deprived of any stimuli. I'm assuming these are all excessive edge cases that are irrelevant for your scenario given that you still have access to a computer and the internet.

In other words, your parents are responding to something that they are morally allowed (and likely even legally required) to respond to, and their response (the punishment) is measured and not unreasonable.

Therefore, your parents are not doing anything wrong. You might disagree, and to be honest I wouldn't be punishing my child as long as they weren't drunk to the point of sickness or being a danger to themselves or others. But that's a matter of differing opinions, and it has no bearing on whether your parents are allowed to set the rules that they have chosen to set out for you.

Your parents are not being unreasonable or cruel. It's okay to disagree with their opinion but it would be unfair to consider them to be bad parents because of this.

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    This is a good answer as it is, you say "Yes, it is reasonable for your parents to not have you drink alcohol" however he was not punished for just drinking but for being drunk and being taken home by the police. Given these circumstances i think the parents are trying very hard to be reasonable.
    – Ivana
    Jul 27, 2023 at 10:56
  • @Ivana I point out in the first paragraph that my assumption here is that the police were involved because they drank a amount of alcohol which breaks an underage drinking law, hence police intervention. If they were involved for additional reasons, that gets added to OP's situation and presumably punishment, but my answer does not account for it because I cannot judge if it is relevant or not.
    – Flater
    Jul 27, 2023 at 22:47
  • guess what ? my parents have said as i have shown remorse and behaved while being punished there is a chance my punishment could be cut by 2 days they have set me punishment essays to write to make sure i have learned my lesson , one is on unaceptable behavour and punishments and another on the dangers of underage drinking, my parents say its important that the essays are written well if i am to get my freedom back early, i also have had my laptop privilege increased from 2 hours to 3 hours per day, do you think the essays are a good form of punishment ?
    – imogen1234
    Aug 1, 2023 at 10:51
  • @imogen1234 "Good" is not up to us to decide. Following the answer's theme: having you write an essay is a perfectly ethical kind of punishment to give to your child. As a parent (and, unsurprisingly, former child) myself, I can only urge you to genuinely engage with what your parents are trying to convey to you, because I can tell you for a fact that a lot of children have had it a lot worse.
    – Flater
    Aug 1, 2023 at 23:15
  • @imogen1234 I would not consider these essays to be only punishment. There are very real dangers related to alcohol, and your parents are obviously afraid that you are not aware of these dangers, or not taking these dangers seriously enough. These essays are one way for them to make you learn and think about those dangers.
    – Stef
    Aug 4, 2023 at 13:34
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Drinking at 16 is not underage (age is 16 for beer and wine and 18 for everything) so I don't categorize your case as "underage", but getting drunk and being brought home by police mean that you also created issues to others and also causing demage to "the good name of your father".

In any case their home their rules, if they don't like to have you drunk home is their power to limit your freedom. Also still being a minor means that consequences from your misbehavior may be faced by them so basically they're protecting themself by teching you a lesson and by putting you in a condition where you can't harm them more.

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    I see that you are located in Italy. In Germany, the laws are very similar. Note that in the USA, in many states you have to be 21 to buy alcohol. The age to drink alcohol depends on the state. As OP is a teenager and writes pretty good english, I expect the person to be from an english-speaking country at least. Jul 27, 2023 at 8:37
  • True, but given he didn't told us where he is from I feelt free make assumptions and giving my point of view.
    – DDS
    Jul 27, 2023 at 13:33
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    @DDS While providing an Italian perspective is perfectly valid and useful, it's worth being explicit about it in your answer, in case readers don't happen to be from Italy.
    – R.M.
    Jul 27, 2023 at 13:39
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    @CarstenHagemann, You say the OP writes pretty good English, but be aware that punctuation and many other orthographic aspects of her (their) post were heavily corrected by others (can see original post by clicking "edited [time] ago"). Jul 27, 2023 at 14:32
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    @CarstenHagemann - Actually, in all states in the USA you have to be 21 to purchase or publicly possess alcoholic beverages. There was a federal law passed in the early 1980's compelling states to do that or lose their federal highway funding. I believe the last state to comply was Louisiana.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 27, 2023 at 16:29
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Well, there are two questions here.

The first is about teenagers getting drunk. Most 16-year olds are going to get drunk once or twice; most find it a very unpleasant experience and learn to control their alcohol intake so it doesn't happen again. If it happens several times in a month -- and is sufficiently bad that the police have to bring them home -- then I would say they already have a rather serious drink problem, which has the potential to ruin their lives. If you actually go out with the intention of getting drunk, then I would rank this with other forms of self-harming as a mental health issue.

The second is how parents should handle this problem. I doubt that the way your parents are handling it is going to be a very effective solution. The only way to solve a serious drink or drugs problem is if the person affected (a) acknowledges that they have a problem that needs to be solved, and (b) makes lifestyle changes - who you hang out with, and where - to make change possible.

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Let's first assume that your getting drunk needs to stop. (If you don't agree, then everything anybody does to stop you will seem excessive and your question becomes moot.)

What is the minimum punishment that will prompt you to stop getting drunk?

Whatever that minimum is, is not excessive.

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  • being locked up in my bedroom for a whole week is enough punishment for me to not drink again, i was so bored just being shut in a room all day with noting to do , the boredom was terrible, i missed my freedom so much why is punishment so tough ?
    – imogen1234
    Jul 30, 2023 at 22:02
  • @imogen1234 Also consider that there is a difference between "drinking" and "getting drunk". Knowing when to stop is an important skill to learn, especially if several of your friends love drinking or encourage you to drink. You have to learn your own limits.
    – Stef
    Aug 4, 2023 at 13:37
  • yes you are right to be honest i didnt really enjoy getting drunk anyway and i fealt bad the next day, but i am finding my punishment VERY hard i dont like being locked in my room its so MISREABLE and boring, my parents say that the point of being punished so i learn certain behavour is NOT acceptable and will be serverley punished, part of my punishment is to write two 4 page essays per day, today the dangers of underage dring, and poor behavour and punishments my parents say the essays are so i learn from from my mistakes and why i am being punished what do you think ?
    – imogen1234
    Aug 4, 2023 at 17:52
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A lot depends on things the question doesn't state:

  • The drinking culture where you live:

In countries that at all drink alcohol it varies from a beer at 14-15 all the way to absolute prohibition until 21

  • The legal framework in regard to underage drinking where you live:

It varies between sole parent's responsibility (fine or jail time for their minors being allowed to drink), the authorities taking oversight or a direct care for a minor caught drinking (bypassing some or all of the parental functions), a penalty for the underage person themselves (if they are not that much underage), a combination thereof, or something else.

  • What else you or your drinking buddies did in order to attract the police attention.

Here, your mileage may vary a great deal. Making noise? Damaging property? Some form of violence? Using something more than alcohol? Something your friend did in a moment of short absence from the company that you don't know?

Most police officers all over the world are notoriously lazy and the legal (and social) framework for dealing with minors makes them even more reluctant to do so. You MADE them act.


Bear in mind that the police may have said ot did to your parents more than you know.

Including, but not limited to, serving them a sour fine ticket or another unpleasant document with long-lasting consequences.

Or asking for (and receiving) a bribe. If you happen to live in a place where this doesn't happen, good for you, but I know people less lucky.


The particular penalty imposed over you may be imprecise, ineffective or not the best idea overall, but it is rather survivable and, in most countries, perfectly legal.

In a similar situation, I would probably do something else, but this is not important because I am not your parent.

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  • being locked up in my bedroom for a whole week is enough punishment for me to not drink again, i was so bored just being shut in a room all day with noting to do , the boredom was terrible, i missed my freedom so much why is punishment so tough ?
    – imogen1234
    Jul 30, 2023 at 22:03
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While your behavior is quite serious I don't belive that any child, teen, or person should be locked in any room, for any reason.

Regarding your drinking, I few thoughts about that...

  1. why? Is there really nothing else for you to do for "fun" other than drink?
  2. are you aware that the person supplying alcohol to you is committing a crime? Or, are you stealing the alcohol?
  3. if you're driving drunk, are you prepared to cause a crash that kills another person? I ask because often the drunk driver survives when the person/people in the other car don't.
  4. if your drinking is related to how your parents treat you, are you aware that in some countries at 16 years old you can decide to emancipate yourself and become an adult, you don't have to wait to be 18 years old.
  5. are you aware that alcohol is not good for your body. It kills brain cells and increases your chance of dying before you reach 18 years old.
  6. while you don't control your parents, can you honestly say that you've done nothing to push them to the extreme of locking you in you're room?

Bottom line, no one has a right to mistreat you, not even your parents!

There's a reason that those of us who are already grown up adults don't let 16 year olds drink!

It's not because we're mean. Your brain at 16 years old is still developing, and will be for almost another 10 years. So, stop drinking, or if you can't, then talk to your parents about that, because alcoholism is a very real medical disease and it can affect anyone at any age.

Your behavior has serious consequences for yourself, up to and including an increase in your chance of dying.

Your behavior has serious consequences for others if you're driving drunk, because there's a real risk that you'll crash your car and you'll survive but the people in the other car won't, and if you kill someone with a car you'll carry the guilt with you for the rest of your life.

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