Serving Up Responsibility?

July 22nd, 2008 by Kathy McManus

Is drinking with your kids a good way to teach responsible drinking behavior?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Parents are frequently encouraged to share more activities with their kids. But should drinking alcohol together be one of them?

"I was 14 the first time I got falling down drunk", Time Magazine reporter John Cloud admits in a recent article examining underage drinking. Back then, Cloud says, such antics were viewed as a "right of passage." Today, however, an increase in the number of young hard-core drinkers has heightened concern. So is it time for parents to take a different approach toward kids and alcohol?

"At first it sounds a little nutty," Cloud says, "but you might consider drinking with your kids."

Drinking with your kids at home, Cloud writes—which he cautions is not the same as buying them alcohol for a party—is "a good way to teach responsible drinking behavior."

The idea is to present alcohol not as an "alluring risk," but as part of ordinary family life.

Addiction expert and psychologist Stanton Peele says he started giving his daughter "a few sips" of alcohol as a child at family meals. The key, Peele says, is not to make "a big deal about it." When the girl turned 16, she was allowed to have a full glass of whatever the adults were drinking. "A second glass probably doesn’t make sense," Peele explained, "but making hard-and-fast rules creates the sense that alcohol is some magical potion."

But for many families, "demystifying" alcohol by consuming it with their teenagers may produce a parenting hang-over. And there is additional concern that alcohol could hurt teens’ developing brains.

Tell us what you think: Can parents teach responsibility by drinking with their kids?