In honor of the Dev and I being in Time magazine last year my wife?purchased a subscription for me as a gift. Now I spend a couple off days a week reading the articles on the subway as I commute. I read from cover to cover and I am consistently entertained and informed. Every so often an article is published that I want to mention on this blog, then life gets in the way and I don’t. I read one today, however, that made me actually commit to a gentle critique. The John Cloud piece ?that got me going is about drinking alcohol?with your kids.
When I was much younger I would make jokes about how I was going to teach my kids to make me martinis and other beverages like I had seen in a movie. Years later my thinking on having ‘kids’ has shifted to having kid and I can imagine?him with a cocktail shaker in his hands?considerably less?than I can imagine him driving my car. Then I try to picture my little doppelganger as a teenager and?him and I sharing a bottle of pinot noir.?I must admit I get a little nauseous by the image. I just can’t see it happening. But what Cloud is arguing is that maybe it should happen because it’s a better option than the binge drinking that teens find themselves?partaking in at small unsupervised social gatherings. And be clear, he is not talking about supplying vodka for your child’s sweet 16, but rather a glass of wine with dinner on occasion.
I had a beer with my own father when I was about 20. That was fine and harmless. He had given me a sip of one of his beers when I was about Dev’s age and I thought it was the most disgusting thing ever. He knew I would, and it stuck in my mind for years to come. Family members would drink beer and I would be appalled – at least until I got to high school. Let’s just say that the teenage years are impressionable, which we can all agree on I’m sure, and?I question if drinking with mom would have helped me make better decisions. I didn’t start getting carded until I became legal so that definitely didn’t help.
I?do wonder if Dev will come home one?young day with whiskey on his breath and a sway in his step.?I wonder if I’ll have to?be pulled off of him, or if I’ll wait until the effects fade and then?go at him with platitudes that?make no dent in his teenage hide.?It may not?happen?at all – some kids do not experiment no matter what. That said, is it a good idea for parents to get the experiment started in an effort to control a situation that may or may not become a situation? Or is this a good idea that can?teach moderation to?curious little drunks??
New reader and first to comment, that’s always good. I never would have thought to drink with my mom or step father growing up. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mine. I am not a big drinker anyway, so honestly, even now in my thirties I don’t believe I have shared a drinking moment with my mom, although it would totally be okay now.
I think it is a bad idea to drink with your kids, period. You can’t teach them moderation that way. If they are going to be a binge drinker, they are going to be a binge drinker. You teach by example, in my mind. Meaning you don’t get drop dead drunk in front of them and maybe they don’t think it’s cool. Or maybe you do and they are so disturbed by it they don’t think it’s cool. You just never know how a kid or anyone else is going to process things in their mind.
Seriously, I have a friend whose step child, I believe the kid is thirteen or so, ran away from home and showed up for school stone drunk. Keep in mind that the kid lives with his bio-mother in another city, and the mother has questionable parenting skills at best. Mean that she allows her teenage daughter’s, fifteen, boyfriend to spend the night at their house. WTF? I know you feel me. So, maybe she allows the kids to drink too. Still, not a good thing.
In my mind you teach your kids the values you think will make them a descent, well-round indiviual while you can–because we know that the world (school and stuff) will do a hell of a job trying to swipe out all that training–and hope that they retain the most of it. Hell, a lot of the values I hold dear just came from living life.
I’m thinking of taking up drinking just to set an example for my kids. Otherwise it’s a great way to rebel. There’s only so much you can do, anyway, because if there’s one thing teenagers like to antagonize more than their parents, it’s the government, and as long as the drinking age is 21, we’re going to have horrible alcoholism across this country for generations.
Anyway, I could ramble on forever about this, but it’s definitely something to think about.
At first thought – it’s something I wouldn’t do. But after you think about it – it’s a maybe. Parenting is tricky these days and if it’s done right – it can prove to have a great payoff. I think that when Dev is at the age where you have to implement new teaching techniques to raise him right, there may be such an experiment that’s then appropriate. Besides, it’s really relative too. This is so interesting. I want to know what you will do – promise you’ll blog until Dev is a teenager and let us know what your choice will be and the outcome.
Those seemed like some clear statistics from Europe in the Cloud piece. Relaxed drinking laws seem to create relaxed drinking. There are no drinking rules that parents (or gov.) can implement that can’t be broken so why not provide less for your teenager to rebel against? They’ll still get drunk at parties, but maybe your tolerance will mean they’ll call you to come pick them up instead of driving home drunk- fearing you’ll punish them.
The irony that this subject speaks to, in my opinion, is the fact that Marijuana is still illegal. If you took 100 bong hits in as many minutes the only place you’d end up is more deeply seated upon the couch where you took them. My rule for my kids (as well as my H.S. students) with marijuana is, “just don’t get caught” because compared to alcohol, the legal consequences are the worst thing that can happen to you if you smoke it.
Long time reader, first comment. Alcohol is such a polarizing topic, so thanks for this post!
I tend to think about it in two ways: one from the “protecting my boys from being binge drinkers and two from a cultural capital standpoint.
It seems to me that kids are not born with manners, or knowing how to drink, you have to teach them both. And, like LiteralDan, I believe you have to do it by example, but I also believe you have to explicitly teach them through experience. So – being responsible with alcohol is critical. And wine at dinner (watered down), a beer watching the game (or a 1/8 of one), or the like is important too. It has to be normalized and have the mystique taken out of it so that when they hit peer pressure about it – the impact is reduced.
And I think there is another important part to it: people drink socially as adults and use drink types and drinking settings as a way to include/exclude people. The more you can train your kids about this form of cultural capital (knowing what to drink when and how much), is critical for them to operate and be successful in the world – regardless of class or race.
When I was a teen (18ish) my parents, and most of my friend’s parents, didn’t encourage drinking, but they knew that we were doing it so they had an everyone stays the night policy. It was a good one and possibly saved a life or at least some trouble.
It’s hard for a parent to control someone that is legally an adult but can’t actually do anything- 18-20 is limbo, so while they didn’t like us drinking I respect their acceptance of it and their ensuring of our safety.
As for my own boys, when they get a little older I’ll let them have a very small glass of wine with a special meal if they ask for it. There are enough taboos in the world without my building up a sense of curiosity or rebellion.
i really don’t know what could possibly work. my mom didn’t drink at all. my dad had a beer almost daily after work (not in the drunk stumbling way, just the i’ll have a cold one to unwind today). i never tasted anything other than a sip until 18. my sister used to grab whatever was open. i def. became a big drinker in h.s., she didn’t. that said… as open as our parents were w/us about sex, they said next to nothing abt drinking… hmmm…
I agree that it’s best to try to take control too and introduce kids to alcohol. I remember sipping beer when I was young and hating it too. Later I’d get a glass of wine or champagne at special ocassions. In college, my Dad even brought beer to my roommate and me. I’d never approve of getting drunk in front of kids, but I think there’s some merit to showing them responsible drinking.
I don’t think we need to be so passive aggressive when it comes to parenting. Whatever happened to just sitting down with them and discussing the pros and cons of drinking? I don’t think we give teens enough credit. They do listen to logic and if you’ve done a good job building a relationship of respect, I don’t see why discussing why drinking can be dangerous won’t be effective.
My mother was an active alcoholic (now in recovery for 20+ years) and I didn’t drink much because of my experiences with it. I even became an alcohol and drug peer educator in college to learn more about dependency. I think I have enough information to present that will make it clear that drinking isn’t as cool as the media or their peers portray it to be.
And, I might add, it’s not just one conversation but a dialog over a lifetime.
I’m not much of a drinker, never have been. If I’m out with my friendgirls I may have a drink, never two. My husband drinks a beer every once in a while. I don’t plan on becoming a drinker so that I can teach my girl how to drink responsibly. We’ll definitely talk with her about drinking, but I don’t see how letting her drink with us or in our presence while she is underage would be of any benefit or in line with how I/we are raising her. I suppose if we were regular drinkers this concept would make a little more sense to me.
My parents don’t drink, I rarely drink, all three of my brothers drink (one drinks too much, if you ask me). I hate to play the gender card, but maybe this is more relevant with boys??
I actually didn’t start drinking til I was 21, so I’m actually in favor of not giving them anything. You might have a smart son who doesn’t want to drink at all in the first place. If you’re just drinking wine occasionally then he probably doesn’t see drinking as something to get drunk with. So he might not really develop the taste for it. So I’m in favor of not introducing Small Pox to kids so we can ward off Small Pox. This isn’t one of those things… Hopefully he won’t want to drink anyway, it’s a bad habit.
Comment on my blog at http://freemanpress.wordpress.com
I caught my boys with shot glasses doing shots of water… Taking it to the head.
Please don’t call CPS!
For my part, I’d rather let them partake on rare occasions rather than build it up into some kind of mystery that they pursue with reckless vigor when they’re out of adult sight. But I’m guessing that first time will be an odd sight.
Neither of my parents drink. I’ve never seen either one do so. I never have felt like I was missing out on something. Seeing relatives get fall down drunk and fight took all the “excitement” or social cache out of it for me. Likewise, I’ve never had a drink so my boys can’t sit down with me for one. And my husband hasn’t had a drink in 18 years, so they can’t sit down with him either. But, like my parents did for me, I already talk to them about alcohol, what it does to your body, about the link between domestic violence and alcohol consumption, and about the deep heritage of alcoholism that exists in our family, on both sides. I don’t plan on ever teaching my kids that drinking is a great choice.
I am of two minds about this. I did not drink growing up because my father explained to me the consequences of drinking. “If I ever catch you drinking, you will never drive my car.” It was a “do as I say, not what I do” situation. So I had no interest and did not start drinking until I was in college. Sadly I overindulged, having no experience with alcohol, I did it too much, now recognizing that drinking had become a great mystery to me and was over excited about exploring that mystery. My wife however is of Barbadian descent and in many Caribbean homes the question of drinking can be a bit more flexible. My wife talks about having the occasional sips of rum as a teenager during holidays and argues that gave her a more mature perspective on it when she went to college. While many of her friends in college danced around the edges of alcohol poisoning she was unimpressed by binging and never did. Based on my limited knowledge of drinking before college and my sometimes dangerous behaviour I am of the mind that limited experiences under controlled conditions may become the way of our household. Though I do look forward to imbibing with my sons once they are of age. Seeing my father in the context of his friends and more relaxed circumstances have taught me a lot about who he is that maybe his identity as “father” did not allow for (sic).