Drinking and parenting

Drinking and Parenting

There have been numerous studies regarding how parents affect alcohol use in their children. In many cultures, alcohol consumption by children is often frowned upon but there are some cultures where parents often give their children alcoholic drinks.  Traditional education regarding alcohol abstinence has been proven to not work so what can you do as a parent?

Age limits vary for alcohol consumption based on the country you live in. Here in India, the legal drinking age varies but is generally 25 (which is among the highest in the world with the district of Wardha in Maharastra having the highest in the world at the minimum age being 30. Many people see underage drinking as a problem and legislation has been passed in a failed effort to prevent those who are under aged from purchasing or consuming alcoholic beverages.

Where there are school education programs regarding alcohol, the aim is generally to convince students to refrain from drinking alcohol by using scare tactics. Some of these tactics include referring to alcohol as a poison by comparing and equating alcohol with illegal drugs and using the “gateway theory” to convince students that alcohol use will lead to heavier drug use. Even with the large amount of money spent and the huge efforts of teachers, alcohol abstinence education has not prevented underage drinking. Many underage people have had alcoholic beverages by their teens.

Here in India, it is illegal for a 24 year old to toast her groom with a glass of sparkling wine at their wedding. However, she can vote, join the armed forces, hold public office, operate her own business and do all the other things that are done by those we consider as mature and responsible adults but she can’t even have a sip of alcohol according to the law.

One of the countries that has a tradition of  serving children alcohol is the United States. In colonial times, alcohol was considered a natural and normal part of life, is the “Good gift of God”, and was taught to be used and enjoyed in moderation.  However, the abuse of alcohol was prohibited. In those times, drinking problems were rare even though alcohol consumption was widespread.

When parents serve their children alcohol, drinking problems are generally low. As it has been proven, alcohol abstinence education actually increases problem drinking in young people and as they grow into adulthood. In many groups around the world almost everyone drinks, frequently and regularly, but rarely have drinking problems. These groups include Spanish, Greek, Italian, Jewish and Portuguese people. Why are they able to drink so much but rarely have problems with drinking? Here are some facts as to why that is:

  1. Alcohol is seen as neither good nor bad. How alcohol is used is what is important.
  2. People have a choice whether to abstain or drink responsibly and in moderation.  However, the abuse of alcohol is totally unacceptable for anyone.
  3. Learning how to drink in a safe and supporting environment helps teach responsible drinking.

More than anyone or anything else, parents have more influence on children. Children learn from observing behaviour which means that parents are the most important role models in their lives. As a parent, there are a few things you can and should do:

  1. Be a good role model.  Living, day to day example of good drinking behaviour is very important.
  2. The saying “Do as I say, not as I do” is the wrong way to teach children.  If you abuse alcohol, it is very likely that your child will follow your footsteps when they begin drinking.
  3. Have the right attitude. Laughing or trivializing inappropriate behaviour or intoxication is something that we should not do. Use media events as opportunities to talk about what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.

Keeping in mind that it isn’t alcohol but the abuse of alcohol that is the problem, we need to teach civics to our children so that they can be prepared to live responsibly in the “real world”. To teach responsible alcohol use doesn’t require you to consume alcohol just as teaching geology doesn’t require you visiting a quarry. However, allowing children to drink alcoholic beverages in a family and home setting and in moderation shows them that alcohol can be viewed as a natural and normal that in itself, doesn’t make a person an adult. Making the right choice is what shows maturity and good judgement. It is a fact that a large portion of the world’s population drinks so we need to prepare children to be able to make the right choices when faced with alcohol when they are not with us.

As mentioned before, abstinence education does not work but teaching moderation does. It is not good to keep teaching in a way that has been proven to be ineffective but rather use teaching methods that have been proven to work, after all, it is our children who will control the future and we need to prepare them to make the right choice when that time comes.



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Are you of legal drinking age in your territory?