Permissive parenting with its tendency toward light punishment seems to encourage teen-age misbehavior, a survey of the nation's highest-achieving teens shows.
In fact, home is where teen-agers misbehave the most, often with the tacit acquiescence of parents, the survey reveals.
Three out of five teens who have sex do so at home when their parents are away, and four out of five students who drink do so at their parents' or friends' houses when the parents are away.
One out of three parents know that their children have friends at home when they are away; nearly one out of three students drink in their parents' home with their knowledge, and one out of five drink in a friends' home with their parents' knowledge.
Parents aren't the only adults unable to teach teen-agers that actions have consequences.
Leniency continues at school, where teachers assign little homework and fail to punish cheaters, according to the 26th Annual Survey of High Achievers released this morning by Who's Who Among American High School Students.
"Too many teachers are afraid to call kids on cheating because they're afraid they will get sued," said Paul Krouse, publisher of the Who's Who book.
"They're dealing with more serious problems, and it's easy to turn their heads. But that begs the issue. I believe values education ought to take place in the home. Too many parents are coasting. They think when their kids get to be teens their work is over, and that's the wrong attitude.
"Adolescence is a time to see how far you can push the boundaries, and how much you can get away with," Mr. Krouse said.
"If there's no punishment or price to pay for deviant behaviors, we will get exactly what we are seeing. How many adults do you know who would always do the `right' things if they hadn't been taught about the consequences of their actions?"
Only 13 percent of the teen-agers surveyed say their own parents are very strict. Restrictions on extracurricular activities and loss of privileges are the most common punishments.
Fifty-four percent of the teen-agers surveyed spend only seven hours or less a week studying. Among private school students, 54 percent said teachers challenged them to work hard, but only 34 percent of the public school students agreed.
When students can't make the grade with the minimalist approach, they cheat.
Roughly nine out of 10 (89 percent) say cheating is common; 58 percent say it would be easy to obtain test questions or answers; and 76 percent admit they have cheated on schoolwork (66 percent copied someone else's homework and 39 percent cheated on a test or quiz).
Eddie Robinson, 17, a senior at the District's School Without Walls, thinks that sounds high. …