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9 year old daughter "borrowing" cigarettes
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9 year old daughter "borrowing" cigarettes

My wife and I have a very bright 9 year old daughter who seems to be "borrowing" cigarettes, and we dont know from where. My wife is a staunch non-smoker and I have been a virtual non-smoker since quitting smoking almost nine years ago, although I will candidly admit to having an occasional cigarette in private, Ive never ever smoked in front of either my wife or kids.

The first incident with our oldest daughter, who is 9 years old, happened a couple of months ago when I was looking for a note from school in our daughter's backpack when I came across an unopened pack of menthol cigarettes and a lighter. I meant to discuss this with her and my wife, but honestly, I just then got a phone call about a mini-emergency with our youngest daughter having an accident at gymnastics and it just temporarily slipped my mind.  I almost didnt even remember I had seen it until almost a week later when my wife said something about whether or not I thought our 9 year old smelled a bit like cigarette smoke. When I suddenly remembered what I had seen before, I didnt want to seem like the worlds worst dad for forgetting, so I just suggested that we talk to our daughter about it. My wife said she'd wait to discuss it with her privately later, which I thought sounded fine with me.

I didnt hear anything else about it until last week when my wife mentioned something about thinking that our daughter might be smoking and commenting that she thought she smelled smoke on her again after coming back from a friends house. I told her that it could just be that her friends parents maybe smoked, but that we could check into it. Just a few days later, I had been having a stressful time at work, and went to get my pack of cigarettes from where I usually "hide" them in an old tool bag in the garage, only to find that my pack of cigarettes was missing.

I dont know what to do, as this behavior seems to be very unusual for our daughter. I know I will need to come down strongly against smoking, as we always have for consistency, but I just dont want my missing pack of cigarettes geting leveraged back against me. Id literally never hear the end of it.  
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9 Comments Post a Comment
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134578_tn?1404951303
Well, do you want your daughter to smoke or not?  If you don't, you're probably going to have to face the risk that your daughter will reveal she is aware you have been sneaking around and having a ciggy.
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1530342_tn?1405020090
Well it seems like she knows that you have an "occasional cigarette in private"...I agree with AnnieBrook. you're going to have to come clean to your wife and have a FIRM conversation with your daughter. Inform her of the health risks...Maybe you can take the route of shoeing her that you are making the choice to quit 100%.. Lead by example. She is ONLY 9..She should NOT be smoking...
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13167_tn?1327197724
Billy,  somehow you need to deal with your fear of your wife.  I think it will be a life changing improvement for you.

You are basically in cohoots (although your daughter doesn't know it) with your daughter to keep her smoking habit from your wife,  because there's a chance your wife will find out that you,  too,  occasionally smoke.  

That's no way to live.  Your fear of her disapproval has made you powerless as a father.
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Avatar_m_tn
Although I dont want our daughter to become a smoker like I used to be, I think my wife and I sometimes disagree on issues such as the level of punishment for things like catching a kid smoking.

I dont want my daughter ending up addicted to smoking like either my sister or mother still are. My own mother, herself a heavy smoker, was fairly lenient with me and my younger sister when we were first caught smoking when I was around age twelve or thirteen and my sister was about nine or ten. I'm not even sure that either my sister or I were ever even punished for smoking in the house. (although my mother was only sixteen when she had me, unlike many other younger mothers, she was never much of a disciplinarian). In fact, my little sister was publicly smoking regularly before she was twelve and it wasnt long before she had my mother buying her cigarettes. As awful as that environment was for me, my cigarette addiction never got anywhere near as my little sister, who was smoking at least two packs a day by the time she was a junior in high school, which was just crazy. Of course, both my mother and sister are still just a chain smoking away, just as addicted as they ever were.

So I have no doubt that I will need to hold a firm line on punishment for my daughter's smoking, once confirmed. Although neither my wife nor I have caught her in the act per se, maybe she will admit to if I ask her directly. I just dont want to level accusations against her that Im not 100% sure about, because I dont want her to think that we dont trust her. At least not until she has done something to lose that trust. (I say that, even though deep down, I strongly suspect that she may in fact have been smoking for a while, and that she might have already become addicted to cigarettes, much like my sister did, such that no amount of punishment might persuade her to quit or make a difference.)

When I think of punishment for my daughter being caught smoking, I think of someone being grounded, no tv, no phone, no internet, no going over to friends houses or having friends over. In this case, since there are at least two packs of cigarettes potentially involved, Id start off thinking about her being grounded for up to two whole months. (although Id want to include a provision for probation for good behavior, so as to encourage her to do better, although I dont know if that works for smoking). I also note that this is even more severe in light of the fact that these are summer months while our daughter is out of school, and although both my wife and I work fulltime which might make consistent enforcement tricky, in my book being grounded for the rest of summer is fairly harsh.

I think my wife has some idea that being caught smoking is virtually a criminal offense, on par with drugs or underaged drinking, and that not only should our daughter be grounded for the rest of the entire year, but that we should also look at getting her into some kind of rehab/smoking cessation program, and also check into whether or not there is some kind of youth boot camp punishment for things like this. That seems extreme to me, not only because we are talking about a nine year old girl, but also because as bad as smoking is, its still not as bad as illegal drug use, and the punishment should fit the crime.    In my book, a penalty of two whole months of being grounded, (for the rest of the summer) is more than sufficiently harsh to punish her smoking.

Please let me know if anyone else has any good ideas for suitable punishment.
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13167_tn?1327197724
Is she alone all day long?  I got the impression maybe she is,  since you note that you and your wife both work full time so it would be hard to enforce grounding.

I don't think you should punish her at all.  I think you should show her pictures of people who smoke - their lungs,  their pale grey faces,  etc.  There's the new antismoking campaign that shows a dead person - you can google that too.

Tell her you don't want it to become a lifelong habit,  that it's virtually impossible for smokers to stop,  they're trapped.

And then get a bunch of these nicotine tests kits.  They're cheap,   and anytime you want you could test her for smoking.  If she tests positive,  then you can ground her for a week or so,  or have her do some kind of service.  

Grounding her for a summer is way,  way out of line,  imho.  Even grounding her for a month is way out of line.  Since she knows you smoke,  it doesn't seem right to ground her for a behavior you as an adult still do.  

And BTW, your wife is right on one thing - smoking for her age actually IS a crime.  In my county,  you can be hauled up in front of Juvy for being caught with a cigarette butt at her age.

http://www.drugteststrips.com/Nicotine-Test-c-253.html
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134578_tn?1404951303
The other thing is, why don't you get her some help in quitting rather than simply try to punish her out of it?  It is an addiction, after all.  Addiction needs treatment, not heavy-handed punishing (that won't work anyway).  

I might add, you don't sound like you are willing to come to terms with how dangerous it is for a child to be smoking (you keep saying "if it is proven that she is" and so on as if there is no evidence).  It definitely sounds like you are thinking you are not hurting yourself by sneaking ciggies.  Smoking is appallingly dangerous for a child, and even sneaking a cig every now and then yourself is dangerous, don't kid yourself.  Get some education from your doctor about what smoking does to the lungs.  Take your daughter with you.  

Who is your daughter hanging around with and trying to impress?  Children try smoking because they want to look cool, more grown up or more sophisticated to other kids.  It sounds like she might be hanging with kids older than herself who either think smoking is OK or are enjoying themselves egging her on.  Is she hanging around with teenagers or pre-teens, and is there almost no parental supervision?  The picture you're drawing seems pretty troubling.
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Avatar_m_tn
Thanks for the suggestions of approaching it as a health issue, showing pictures of lungs, looking into helping her with treatment to reduce addiction. The more I think about the "grounded for summer" thing, the more I think youre right that might be a bit over the top and that maybe I should discuss the health consequences out of concern for her, and try to support her learning to quit - but maybe also breifly discuss the likelihood of possible punishment, including grounding, if the behavior continues. I dont know if that mixed discipline and treatment approach works, but Im thinking about talking to her about it later this weekend, as I thought for sure I smelled smoke on her when she hugged me last night before going over to a friends house. Since I myself had also been bad just smoked a cigarette before coming home from work I couldnt tell for sure. But I know this is a serious matter, and thats why Im very concerned about doing what I have to do to put and end to it.

Influence wise, its hard to say where her urge to expirament with smoking might be coming from since I dont think shes never seen me smoke. Most of her friends are girls in her same grade, although since she was the youngest in her class at school many of her friends are a full year older than her, but in the same grade. A couple of her school friends have do older siblings, middle school aged, maybe a few in high school but I dont get the impression she spends too much time with the older siblings. That being said, I might quietly check into whether or not those older kids smoke.

Child care wise, its been tough since we can't afford fulltime Day care anymore after everyone at my division at work had to take a 25% pay cut to avoid further lay-offs. My wife also had cutbacks in her number of paid hours at her main job, so she has started moonlighting,  working extra nights and weekends at a second place to try and compensate, but it still leaves us pretty tight budget wise. What we have been trying this summer is a sitter at a neighbors house who has a girl the same age as our youngest daughter, as they only live 4 houses down the street. Our neighbor and his wife also both have to work fulltime and were looking for more affordable daycare alternatives too, and ended up getting her wife's younger sister who is a college student to work as a discount babysitter during the summer, so we discussed it and agreed to split the cost of paying her to babysit at their house during the summer.

Every morning before work, either my wife or I walk our 9 year old daughter and her younger sister down the street to the neighbors house. We told both girls to primarily stay at the neighbors house during the day, although my wife insisted that we let our 9 yr old have a key to the house in case she needed to walk down the street and get anything during the day.  Also, being the diligent father, I personally met one on one with the baby sitter at the begining of the summer and she seemed like a very cute, sweet college girl who just finished her freshman year. She was extremely friendly and said she had alot of experience babysitting throughout high school, and even she made a special point of giving me her private cell phone number and telling me to call or text her anytime about anything and asking for my personal cell number as well. I thought this was a very nice touch on her part, because she usually texts me a couple of times a day, to let me know how everythings going and just check in with me. It never occured to me to try and find out if the babysitter was also a smoker, although given how many college age girls are at at least social smokers she may very well be; but even if she is a smoker I still would never think she'd be giving cigarettes to little girls. However I might need to meet with the babysitter to visit with her some more, both to find out if she is a smoker and to find out if she knows anything about my daughter smoking.
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134578_tn?1404951303
I think you'd get a longer way with your daughter if you went to the doctor with her and said, "Doctor, I'm trying to quit smoking.  I only have a ciggy every few days, but I can't break the habit." and have him show the pictures of the lungs, and so on.  She doubtless knows you smoke, if you can smell it on her, you think she can't smell it on you?  You don't sound like you're interested in quitting, and kids do what their parents do, not what their parents tell them.  Is she worth it to you?
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Avatar_m_tn
I am also hurt and upset after finding my young 12 year old smoking; we had suspected for some time, but came to the realization it has been 9 months! we are devastated. We finally had a break though and he is admitting he is addicted, and doesn't want this in his life. Less yelling and threats and more communication helped us get there......but now after researching "teens and addiction" or "support" it is amazing to find virtually no programs or help out there to assist. Very disappointing. Not sure where to turn to get him the help he wants. unbelievable there are supports out there for everything else, but I guess no one figures cigarettes are a "dangerous drug"-----sad truth, it is terrible for your health and highly addictive! any one that has ideas or info on support, would love to hear from you
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