Trust, but verify

regan.png

The front page of today’s USA Today reads High schools using breathalyzers to fight teen drinking. The article discusses the increase in high school orders for breathalyzers which are up 120% in each of the past four years, according to Keith Nothacker, president of KHN Solutions, which sells the machines. Another company, AK Solutions USA, a New Jersey importer of the devices adds that orders go up before prom.

Increased sales come as lawmakers and educators are cracking down on youth drinking with hotlines, awareness classes, tougher penalties for adults who give teens alcohol and more college classes on Fridays to reduce “Thirsty Thursday” partying.

This all makes sense to reduce underage drinking. So who would be opposed? Naturally the American Civil Liberties Union with the concern that schools might violate rights if they test without “reasonable suspicion, and the students themselves who claim that their rights may be violated and they feel the school doesn’t trust them.

So why the picture at the top of this blog of former President Ronald Regan?

Simple – the topic of trust and teens is a divisive issue. Teens want to be completely trusted, but some adults feel teens should not be trusted at all. Both, at times, may be right. I found myself waffling back and forth on this topic until I read a comment by Ronald Regan. When responding to national security issues, Regan commented,

“Trust, but verify.”

At the risk of sounding like Goldilocks, I must say that feels just about right.

Think of teens as toddlers on steroids (hopefully not literally); their brains are still being wired. They aren’t capable of making certain choices and need to know and hear from us that they can’t do certain things. If we agree with them, or even if we remain silent, that is taken as a yes when they need to hear a very loud no.

You wouldn’t feel safe moving into a house where the wiring wasn’t complete. Jay Giedd, Chief of Brain Imaging for the Child Psychiatry Branch of the National Health Institute of Mental Health, who with Michael Bradley co-authored Yes, Your Teen is Crazy!, concluded that the main area of the brain still developing during the teen years controls organization and decisions such as whether to walk home from school or go for a ride with beer-drinking buddies. Our brains are still being wired till we’re about 24. Is it a coincidence you have to be 25 to rent a car? Sounds like Hertz and Avis were the only ones paying attention on wiring day.

If we compare a teenager’s brain to a new home being built, you can’t get a Certificate of Occupancy until the wiring is complete and inspected. Then it would be safe enough to move in. It’s our job to keep driving the bus until the wiring is complete. According to David Walsh, a clinical psychologist and author of Why Do They Act That Way?, teenagers need and look for curfews, limits, and family rules.

We can provide the walls our kids need. Breathalizers aren’t a bad thing.

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1 Comment »

  1. Idetrorce said

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

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