Jul 162015 5 Responses

Should Parents Let Their Children Drink Alcohol?

The thought process makes sense. A high school student is soon to graduate and head off to college. When they leave home, they will be on their own for the first time while also being in an environment where alcohol is prevalent. How can a parent best prepare their child to make wise choices?

Some conclude the best decision is to allow their child to drink while around the parents. This will give them experience with alcohol while under the supervision of their parents. It will prepare them for college.

Others come to the same conclusion but for a different reason. “Since they are going to do it anyway,” the parent says, “I’d rather it be around me.”

The desire is noble. But the reasoning is flawed. (See: Alcohol–For or Against)

Everyone knows a story of a child who grew up in a strict home where alcohol was not tolerated. The child stubbornly abides by the household rules for their teenage years, but when they go to college everything changes. Without any rules, they make foolish choices and engage in risky behavior which, in some cases, forever changes their lives.

While this storyline is well-known, it is the exception, not the rule. And the way to most likely avoid this plot line is by not supplying alcohol to a minor.

Parents are right in wanting to train their children to make wise choices. This should be one of the central themes of parenting starting in the toddler years and never stopping. But a parent making a bad choice will not directly result in a child making a good choice. (See: What a Drunk Girl Deserves)

Supplying alcohol to a minor is a bad choice for at least four reasons:

1. It teaches your child rules don’t apply to them. If a parent can pick and choose what rules they follow from the authorities (the legislature), doesn’t that imply a child can pick and choose what rules they apply from their authority (the parents)? Sadly, parents are undermining their own authority whenever they supply alcohol to their children.

2. It minimizes the dangers of alcohol abuse. Alcohol use is restricted for a reason. While it can bring enjoyment with little risk, it can also destroy lives when used improperly. Whenever a parent ignores the restrictions of when alcohol is to be used, they are downplaying the risks of alcohol to their children. If the legal age can be ignored, can the legal driving limit be ignored? Can we ignore the warning labels about mixing alcohol with prescription drugs? Used properly, alcohol is fine. Used improperly it is dangerous. Parents must send a consistent message regarding its usage.

3. It creates a liability for the parents. For me, the biggest reason I shouldn’t supply alcohol to minors is because it is against the law. In my home state it begins as a misdemeanor but can quickly become a felony. While we can fairly debate when a person should be able to legally drink, it is not debatable whether or not parents should obey the law. Beyond the legal liability, I can’t imagine the guilt a parent might feel if they supply alcohol to a minor who then makes a costly choice regarding their life or the life of someone else. Just because a kid is “going to do it anyway” does not mean a parent should make a bad choice.

4. It ignores the facts. Supplying alcohol to minors increases the risk of alcohol abuse for those minors. While the parent desires to empower their children, it actually threatens them. (For more, see: Underage Drinking of Alcohol at Home)

Sadly, there is no way to guarantee a child will make wise choices—either now or in college. However, there are steps a parent can take to lessen the likelihood of consistently foolish behaviors.

The issue is not alcohol, it is decision-making. If a parent will focus on assisting their child in learning the process to make wise choices, the child will be far more likely to make good choices about alcohol and a host of other issues. However, whenever a parent ignores the long process of training their child toward good decision-making and simply focuses on the big issues like drugs and alcohol, a child is more likely to make bad decisions regarding both.

Parenting is difficult. The last thing a parent needs is judgment regarding some of the decisions they have made. However, the pattern of parents supplying alcohol to their children must stop.

5 Responses to Should Parents Let Their Children Drink Alcohol?
  1. Carrie Reply

    I was hoping not to read the same old argument when I saw the title of today’s piece. I suppose this sort of attitude, easing kids into alcohol abuse before they leave home, is one part of life and certainly not the wisest. Yet focusing only on that piece of it manages to entirely miss another side of the question – alcohol can be part of life without being abused. Think Mediterranean. Think ethnic neighborhoods in the USA. Wine and beer can be part of life without being intoxicating to the point of stupidity. Alcohol doesn’t have to be abused, but if the only context in which children hear or see it is abuse… they only have one frame of reference – adults don’t want people to have ‘fun’ and are keeping something exciting and risky away from them. What if the context were wine with meals? [Which actually aids digestion, although telling kids that wine is medically relevant might undermine the alcohol is evil way of thinking.] What if it were celebrations? What if the context were wise use of something perfectly natural [preservation of grapes and grains in ferments is not new and carries many benefits]?

    I grew up with alcohol in our home. The nation wasn’t as obsessed with keeping minors from ever touching a drop of it back then. Our parents let us have sips of wine or beer when they had it with meals. They never went to bars to drink. If they ever had a mixed drink, it was a special occasion and in moderation. We observed alcohol in a different context than forbidden or abused. I went to college and never thought drinking or partying with alcohol might be ‘fun’. I thought it was stupid and unsafe. It was obvious, by observation. So I wasn’t afraid of alcohol or overly excited at the thought of ‘partaking’ when I got away from home. And no, my parents never let us throw drinking parties – while we were minors or after.

    But my parents also took me to funerals and visitations, instead of ‘protecting’ me from death [which sometimes wasn’t sweet or timely], although they did prepare me for what I might see. They took us to baptisms and funerals. They took us to births. We did see and know people who were alcoholic and drunks, and they were sufficient caution.

    I do agree with you that the mindset you describe above for exposing young kids to alcohol is poor and unwise. I just wish you had gone past that. That is not the only way it can work.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thank you for the comment Carrie. The first link the article discusses more of what you were hoping.

  2. Salina Smith Reply

    It is about DECISION MAKING mentioned above for both parents (adults) and children (underage teenagers)! Giving alcohol to minor is against the law. The question is parents know the law and decide to ignore it and go against it by providing alcohol to minors, because of or even their own underage children. What was the question again? Oh, yes, the decision making of the parents as an example to their children on their future decision making process!

  3. Linda Jones Reply

    I think you are exactly right. If we don’t expect our kids to obey the laws, what chance is there that they will obey our rules

  4. […] Teach your kids to have fun, but warn them of how their choices can have a lasting impact on their l... kevinathompson.com/alcohol-leadership-and-being-a-man

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