Drinking age


Obviously this little girl wont be guzzling back wine anytime soon, but I was surprised to learn recently that there is no law against children drinking in the family home with their parents’ consent.  That’s right, it is completely legal for parents to allow their children, no matter how young, to consume alcohol at home.   We can’t smack them as we can’t be trusted not to hurt them, but no worries about giving them all the booze we like.

What isn’t news to me is that somewhere in the process of growing up, the transition from gorgeous baby to drunk teenager more than often happens.    I know it did for me and many of my peers.  So, is the solution to do as the French do and make wine more a part of daily life, perhaps allowing kids to have a diluted drink with their evening meal?  Would this make alcohol less rebellious later, and therefore less appealing?  My own suspicion is that we would still have binge drinking and teenagers plastered because the causes are more complex and pretty entrenched in our culture.  What do you reckon? What age should a parent let their kids have a wine with them?


10 Responses to “Drinking age”

  1. September 30, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Anecdotally, it would seem that cultures that treat alcohol as a part of the dining experience don’t appear to have quite the same extent of teenage drinking problems we experience in our semi-taboo society.

    It makes sense that when something is forbidden (but available) that teenagers will find a way to get their hands on it to experiment.

    I personally think that alcohol in moderation is a good thing and that one of the best preventatives for alcohol abuse is for children to observe adults drinking maturely. I know that when I was younger those of my friends who had parents who drank responsibly didn’t seem as hell-bent on getting drunk as those of us from conservative Christian homes who’d never really come into contact with it before.

    Most teens will push the boundaries and probably the best thing we can do is be fairly open with them and try not to create unnecessary taboos because they’ll pretty quickly figure out that drinking can be pleasant and sociable and if you’ve clearly misrepresented alcohol perhaps the same applies for P?

  2. 2 fiascowines
    September 30, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Hey Damian

    I agree that there is an attraction to things taboo, if you are trying to rebel. But mine was not a conservative Christian home and my parents modelled responsible drinking (we didn’t hear about the irresponsible stuff until we were adults : )). Anyway, we still went through the teenage phase of regularly going out with the full intention of getting drunk … now it just happens occasionally and usually unintentionally ; ). I think for me it was more about the fun of it, a bit of peer pressure and being able to cope with hangovers far easier as a young person with few responsibilities. I’m sure mortgages,promotions and kids help curb binge drinking as much as any tv ad/health warnings etc do.
    I also agree with the need to be honest with young people, as you say they suss it out fairly quickly. If I ask the teenagers at college about the pros of drinking they sometimes look a bit stunned and it does make them pause and engage rather than trot out the old health dangers they think you are waiting to hear. I reckon it helps if they can see what is good and what isn’t so they can learn that it is a balancing act.

    “Perhaps the same applies for P “… are you suggesting that we model responsible use of P also? I know for me that alcohol has the advantages of relaxing me, giving me more confidence etc, does P do this or does it just fire people up – ie, what is the attraction if you’ll excuse my naivety on that one?

  3. September 30, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    No, I was saying that if kids find out you’ve over-taboo’ed alcohol then they might think that the same rules apply for everything else that has a taboo. I’ve never tried P but among my friends who are connoisseurs they all pretty unanimously agree that P takes hold pretty quickly and avoid it like the plague.

    There’s no doubting that it’s a rush though.

    Perhaps we should be telling teens that drugs can be absolutely mind-blowing but that there is often a cost associated with it? When the same scare-tactics are used for every taboo and kids discover that some of those taboos are actually not that bad then it kind of weakens the case that has been made for those that are genuinely dangerous.

  4. September 30, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    EXCELLENT discussion.

    Over-taboo-ing or ‘scare-tactics’: silly and provokes curiosity-driven rebellion

    Modeling a self-controlled use: all kinds of helpful

    Unconditional love regardless of what they do (i.e. “…getting drunk has ‘x’, ‘y’ and ‘z’ consequences, so I hope you won’t get sucked into that, but if you find yourself drunk and needing a ride home – call me. even if it’s 3 a.m.”): priceless.

  5. 5 fiascowines
    October 1, 2008 at 9:52 am

    I’d agree with you both, but my kids have yet to hit drinking age, at which time I may change my mind entirely and dream up every fake deterrant I can think of! Can’t say I’m looking forward to the late night pick ups and lying there freaking out about what they may or may not be up to. Thankfully our wine will be stored at the bottling facility ;).

  6. October 1, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    If you run out of room you can always store some wine at mine 😉

    I found it quite interesting when I was in France that it was quite obviously socially unacceptable to be a drunken lout in public (c.f. Britain and NZ).

    I imagine however, that it’s too late for us to adopt the French way of making responsible consumtpion of alcohol within the family a normal part of life, the binge culture is already there and it’d probably take a few generations (at least) to get rid of it.

    I do think that if I’d learned to drink responsibly at home I would have been more aware of the effects and my own limits the first time I went out drinking, having no clue I drank it like water! BIG mistake! Then again, my Dad did used to let me sip his port when I was a kid – but he put a stop to it when he realised I would finish his (miniscule) glass with my ‘sip’.

  7. October 1, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    That’s interesting that it’s socially unacceptable to be a drunken lout in France. I haven’t been there, but would really love to. How is smoking viewed there? Someone once told me that France was the only country where people would go out for a run and stop for a smoke on the way around the block! Not sure how true that is.

  8. 8 Uncle Jakey
    October 2, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    I agree with the removal of the ‘taboo’ idea. I didn’t come from a Christian home, and though my parents didn’t drink lots they did drink – particularly at family parties/celebrations where they felt safe. Ever since we started of high school my parent’s would give my brother and I the opportunity to have one drink of our choice out if we wanted, which we often would to try it (starting off in the world of wine cooler in the 80s!? Urrrgghhh…). At age 14 my brother (2 years older than I) downed half a bottle of awful cherry brandy at my aunt and uncles place and was miserably ill for the evening. Consequently both he, and I (I witnessed the whole scenario without liking the taste so didn’t indulge) never really ever drank that much later in life. Don’t get me wrong: I love a drink – particularly a good wine, or a late night dram or three of Islay single malt – but the whole getting smashed thing never really ran with us even though we went to plenty of parties full of drunken fun, I just opted for the ‘fun’ part without all the drink to go along with it.

    So Rachel, although I agree that changing the way our society as a whole treats drinking is fairly ambitious and perhaps unrealistic, I think we can certainly model/create a different relationship with alcohol in our families, social groups and specific communities.

    I like Damian’s line of thinking about drugs:

    Perhaps we should be telling teens that drugs can be absolutely mind-blowing but that there is often a cost associated with it?”

    People don’t drink and do drugs because they suck, they do them (alongside a multitude of other motivations) because they are enjoyable on some level, and it is no use lying about that, but the costs are also very real – from loss of brain cells, to loss of control, to possible criminal or employment/travel related implications. Many drugs can be fun (though I have not really heard of too many people ‘enjoying’ P or other methamphetamines as such – I guess the enticements are of a different nature) but fun that can screw up your life in other ways.

    Anyway that’s just my limited addition to the thoughts already expressed – nothing really new but there they are.

    Hei kona,

    PS: I am a “cessionite” and a friend of Rachel’s
    PPS: Jack (?) are you a winemaker? If so, what is/are your label(s)

  9. October 2, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Jack – I honestly can’t remember what the smoking culture was like when I was in France. I certainly smoked there and no one seemed to care. Britain was pretty phenomenal though – SO many of the girls smoked, it was totally the norm, quite unlike how things are here now. (and an aside – Jacob is a bit of a wine buff, one of the reasons I enjoy hanging at his place so much is the wine that gets handed out).

  10. 10 fiascowines
    October 3, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Hi Jacob – thanks for taking time to stop by. I could relate to your experiences – I too started drinking with Miami Wine Cooler and I recall my brother and his mates experimenting with a terrible Apple wine brew that was going cheap. I agree with the idea that parents can make a significant difference in how they role model drinking, but I think genetics and a person’s peer group can also be be quite influential. I would guess that although we have the same parenting my brother has consumed more alcohol than I have – simply because he loves socialising (usually last home after a night out)and his mates are/were heavier drinkers than mine.

    In answer to your questions, I am not a winemaker but my husband Aaron is (Check out the About link). Aaron also works at Indevin which is a contract wine making facility that makes wine for a number of labels. I’m just in charge of Quality Control 🙂
    Our label is Fiasco Wines. We are in the process of getting a website up and running at the mo. The first of our wine is getting bottled next week so won’t be long until we can send some Auckland way!

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