Dear Rene,

I consider myself a pretty hip mom. My kids and I have great open conversations and I’m happy to say my kids are not embarrassed to have their friends meet me. I feel like the “cool” mom on the block.

But, my “coolness” is being tested. In the last few weeks I’ve suspected that one of my kids is smoking. I’ve come home a few times and thought I smelled remnants of cigarette smoke covered up by the scent of air fresher. I didn’t want to accuse my kids of anything, but wonder if they are smoking.

Last week my suspicions were confirmed.  I came home unexpectedly and walked into my 14-year-old son Josh’s room to find him and his friends smoking cigarettes while listening to music.  Needless to say everyone was surprised. Me, for what I was seeing and the boys because they had been caught. I calmly asked Josh to wrap up the party and tell his friends to go home, which he did.

I haven’t spoken to Josh yet about his smoking and am not sure what’s the best way to approach it. Since kids are known to experiment I don’t want to make a big deal about it.

Rene, how can this “cool” mom have a conversation with her young son about his smoking?


Cynthia, Toronto

Oh Cynthia:

Well I’m glad you wrote but I’m gonna have to be a bit of a hard ass with you. There are two components here, Josh and the smoking and you and your parenting. One has a relatively easy fix (at least with regard to it happening on your watch); the other’s gonna take some work, including soul-searching on your part.

Here we go:

JOSH SMOKING IN YOUR HOUSE: Uh, hmm, how can I put this in a way you will understand. HELL NO! NO, NEVER, NUNCA, NIETE, NO!

You may have heard by now smoking is bad. Bad, bad, BAD! Smoking causes more deaths than car accidents, HIV, drug and alcohol use and murder and suicide COMBINED! It’s also gross and a helluva habit to kick once addicted. Did you know 90 percent of smokers today, started as children and nearly 4,000 kids become regular smokers EVERY DAY? That is stunning and you must do everything in your power to keep your son from becoming part of that statistic. So here’s my advice.

BE THE PARENT! GOOD GOD woman, parenting is not a popularity contest! Your job is not to be the “cool” mom so that your kids will like you; your job is to get them safely and responsibly from childhood, through adolescence and on to adulthood where they will use the skills you’ve taught them to become fine, upstanding citizens. Look, I would be much more popular in this house if I let my son play video games until all the blood vessels in his eyes burst from overuse. I would probably wear the crown for Mother of the Year, if I let my daughter eat all the candy she wanted and only suggested to her that she choke down the occasional veggie. I might even win a spot in the Motherhood Hall of Fame if I let my kids set their own bedtimes, not do schoolwork or bat an eye when they came home failing all their classes. But is that GOOD for them? No. My  job, based on a lifetime of knowledge and information, is to guide, teach and protect them from the things that will do them harm.

WHAT TO DO: You’ve got to fight this battle on two fronts, first with Josh and his potential habit and then with yourself. Honestly, I can’t believe you haven’t talked to him about it already! That needs to  change RIGHT.NOW! Sit this kid down and tell him you will not TOLERATE him smoking and not just in your house; ANYWHERE! Show Josh the data on smoking and kids and explain what this means to him and his future. Teens are notorious for living in the moment so this will not be an easy sell. It might help if you check out some of the very graphic and powerful, anti-smoking campaigns on YouTube. You might also make an appointment with his pediatrician because if he’s addicted, he’ll need help kicking the habit.

For you, time for a reality check. Why is it so important to you to be hip and cool? I think it’s admirable that you and your kids have open conversations; I do that with my own kids. But many experts agree  kids not only need but WANT boundaries. They want to know that whoever is driving this bus called life has more experience than they do and that they have a place to turn when they need help. Can you imagine how disconcerting it is to them, if they go to push boundaries and find out there are none?

Cynthia: I wish you the best of luck but you have your work cut out for you and I don’t think it’s going to be easy. This is going to require you to pull back the reins on a colt that hasn’t seen much of that from you and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. But standing your ground is critical now. You’ve already ceded some; you really can’t afford to lose anymore.

Good Luck! Do you have a question for Rene? She has an answer. Click here and fire away!