Our 14 year-old son is a good kid but when he's out with his friends, they drink beer. I think he'll outgrow this phase as I did. My wife thinks we should send him to his grandparents for the summer because she's opposed to his drinking. Can you help?
Good for you for trying to come to consensus on this important issue! Adolescents who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop problems with alcohol use and dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21 or older. So your wife has adequate reason to be concerned.
You say he "only" drinks beer. One 12-oz. beer has the same amount of alcohol as a shot (1.5 oz.) of distilled spirits or 5 oz. glass of wine. Basically "a drink is a drink is a drink". If he's out nearly every night, that's a lot of alcohol. There are some scary immediate consequences including traffic crashes, arrest, fighting, falls and drowning that are clearly associated with alcohol. Are you really ready to take those risks?
Then let's talk about the law. It is illegal. You're the parent now no matter what you did as a kid. It's really your job to model respect for the law. Come on, Dad, help him and his friends think of other things to do - take them to a ball game, go hiking, camping, find other things for them to do and begin to help them learn that what they do will effect their future....
Sending him to his grandparents for part of a summer might be fun for him and his grandparents but shouldn't be a punishment or a way of restricting him. First of all, he can find a way to drink anywhere. Second, it doesn't address the concern for his current and future health or the consequences of breaking the law. You and your wife can come up with some other ideas for keeping his summer busy too.
Finally, talk to him. Explain why you are both concerned and cannot let him continue to abuse alcohol. Make a plan for how you can monitor his behavior and consequences for breaking your rules, then stick to it.