Creating Confidence in your Tweens to Say No to Underage Drinking

I have two young teen daughters. Much of my parenting efforts for them focus on confidence. I want them to be confident in their body image, confident in their school work, and just confident in their unique strengths as women.

Until I started reading the site, I hadn’t realized I’d already been working on giving them tools to have confidence with making smart choices about alcohol.

This shouldn’t be one talk when you call them into the living room and declare you’re going to talk about alcohol. It has to be a series of casual, natural conversations. And it’s best if you start when they are old enough to have some understanding, but young enough to still care about your opinion. Wait until your seventeen year old is leaving to hang out with friends, and it’s way too late.

Since I have two young-adult sons, my girls have heard us talk about alcohol responsibility since they were very young. We talk about the law and how it applies to them. We talk about the differences between what the law allows and what actually happens when you go out with friends in high school or college. Kids can be very black-and-white thinkers and I want mine prepared for when what should happens differs from what does happen.

Part of having the confidence to make good choices means having good tools. Talking through possible scenarios can really help give your child the confidence to say no. There’s more to it than just saying no, there’s not giving into repeated pressure from someone you admire or want to impress.

Tweens are very susceptible to peer pressure. I expect it! The early teen years are a natural time of pulling away from parents and trying to define themselves as separate from you. Before this natural split gets too bad, make sure you’ve helped your kids have more reasons to not drink than just that fact that you say they shouldn’t. It will be hard for them to say no to persuasive friends.

Anthony Wolf is a clinical psychologist and the author of Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall and I’d Listen to My Parents if They’d Just Shut Up: What to Say and Not Say When Parenting Teens. Doctor Wolf says saying “no” makes a kid stand out from their friends during a time when most kids would do anything to avoid that.  “Drinking or not drinking is one of the things that separates kids once they get into adolescence,” he says. “None of the things they say will completely work, if their aim is that those words won’t set them apart.”

Help your kids have confidence in saying no to underage drinking by:

  • Providing them with positive role models to emulate
  • Giving them a “tool kit” of responses that will prepare them for turning down bad opportunities from peers
  • Making sure you show them love and support for the good choices they make
  • Being a safe person for them to talk to when they do have a problem or make a mistake

It’s important for your child to say no to underage drinking. Give her a million good reasons. For help with this, make sure to check out the resources at for parents, teachers and kids.


Anne Parris is a mother of four and a recovering accountant. She blogs at and is one of the partners publishing, a site for women over forty.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( or any member.*