General Question

shilolo's avatar

What is the best approach to exposing your children to alcohol?

Asked by shilolo (18045points) May 26th, 2009

My almost 3 year old son wants to taste everything. He sees me drinking a beer or wine, and of course assumes it must be yummy (which it is). He insists on having some (or at minimum tasting it). Is it reasonable to let him taste a little bit of beer or wine? What if he likes it? Will the early exposure make it seem less taboo, and thus less of a draw when he is older? Or, is it better to make a stand and say, absolutely not, this is for adults only?

Edit: I’m not talking about pouring him a glass here, I’m talking about a little sip, just to taste it.

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44 Answers

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Not even 3? Surely that’s too young. Alcohol needs to be taboo for children.

Darwin's avatar


tehrani625's avatar

If he was older, say 6 or 8, then you should at least give him a sip. But three is a little young don’t you think?

brettvdb's avatar

3 might be a little young, but i see no problem with a taste when he’s a bit older (maybe 5 or 6+) – he probably wont like the way it tastes anyway.

I’ve always felt that the stricter you are about something, the more inclined they will be to want to try it.

Les's avatar

I tasted my Grandfather’s beer (Old Style, yummers) when I was a tot. It was disgusting. There’s no way a little kid is going to think that tastes good, but I still wouldn’t suggest giving your kid some at such a young age. Wait a few more years, and give him/her a sip then.

Steven0512's avatar

Let him sip, just don’t start filling his bottles up with brew.

Facade's avatar

You’re serious? Give him a sip when he’s 21.

shilolo's avatar

@Facade Yes, I’m serious. The amount of alcohol in 1 ml is so minuscule as to be irrelevant. I’m more concerned with the precedent.

wundayatta's avatar

A little sip? Not a problem. In days of yore, they used to dip their fingers in whiskey and let the infants suck on it when they had a bit of the colic. I don’t remember when I first let my kids taste anything, but I knew they would hate it, and now they are the most avid teetotalers in the house. Kind of annoying, that.

Oh, if you do let your child taste, make sure the camera is rolling. That expression of disgust will be priceless!

ragingloli's avatar

@Facade he will be a heavy drinker by that age if you try to isolate him for that long. forbidden fruit and all

in the good old days they made children young and old drink beer because it was cleaner than the water

Aethelwine's avatar

My dad gave me a little sip of his wine when I was five and I hated it. He was relieved that I finally quit asking what it tastes like. I little sip will not hurt your child.

MissAusten's avatar

We don’t let our kids taste our “adult beverages,” and they are a bit older than yours. I just don’t want them to get used to the taste or develop a liking for it at this point. They don’t seem to even notice. Once they get older, if they want to taste something I don’t think I’d mind. Making something forbidden can make it more attractive.

When I was a kid, my parents kept liquor bottles out in the open, but didn’t drink much at all. At holiday dinners they’d give my brother and me a small glass of wine, which we thought was so grown-up even though we didn’t particularly like it. Neither of us grew up to be big drinkers (college years don’t count of course!). I remember tasting my parents’ drinks when we went out to dinner and thinking it was disgusting. Your son will learn more about alcohol from seeing you, and if you drink responsibly he’ll pick up on that. As he gets older, you can even explain how drinking too much alcohol makes people do stupid things or act in ways they sometimes find embarassing later.

My kids are, unfortunately, around alcohol a lot. My father in law is an alcoholic and always has a beer or glass of wine in his hand. My kids will lecture him, saying, “Papa, you should drink milk!” They know it’s unhealthy to drink that much. They also know the way their Papa eats is unhealthy. Sometimes it’s kind of convenient to have a bad example in the family. ;)

bezdomnaya's avatar

I think I remember my parents letting me try alcohol at the age of 4 or 5. Definitely do it. I think that the reason there is such a heavy drinking culture in the US is partly because booze is so taboo. Countries in Europe allow children to have a small glass of wine with a meal, and there seems to be a generally more laid back attitude to drinking when the kids get to college age.

@daloon Ha ha! Lurve for your answer. Made me chuckle.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Yes, give him a sip! He’s probably going to think it is super gross. My parents let me try it at a fairly young age and to my immature tastebuds, it was disgusting. I mean really, super gross. To the point that (they let me try wine) even when I did start drinking, I avoided wine for a long time.

I think that in the end you are making it less of a taboo (good!), letting them try something new (good!), and setting him up to think booze is one of those gross adult things like broccoli and brussel sprouts (nothing wrong with that).

I should also add, if he DOES like it, you should make sure to educate him about it appropriately. That, like sugar, you can only have small amounts. And that like cookies according to the new Sesame St, it is a sometimes food.

Myndecho's avatar

I wish I had the answer that work for everyone, start around 7 giving him a glass of wine on special occasions like Christmas.

cwilbur's avatar

My parents let me have a sip of beer or wine or whatever they were drinking. It didn’t turn me into an alcoholic, and it demystified the whole alcohol thing.

I don’t think that making alcohol taboo is productive—that turns it into forbidden fruit, and makes it much more enticing.

dynamicduo's avatar

I believe there is lots of evidence to support the theory that a moderated, open approach towards alcohol fosters a respectful attitude and eliminates the “forbidden fruit” desire that often goes along with North American teenagers.

He’ll probably find it too bitter for his tastes and move on to more interesting things.

oratio's avatar

@Les There is a lot of sugar in beer as well as in wine. I don’t give my son any of it, but unwatched for a second he’ll gulp it.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@oratio: Which is where the education part comes in…

though my example may not be the best considering kiddos go NUTS over cookies

Ivan's avatar

At 3 years old, the “forbidden fruit” thing will not be as relevant as the “seeing daddy do it” thing. The best approach is to just not let him see you drink. Actually, the best approach would be not drinking at all.

hug_of_war's avatar

I agree with @Ivan. I don’t think it’s good for young children to see their parents drinking all the time.

wildpotato's avatar

Just put it in the correct context. I remember teething, and my parents rubbed whiskey on my gums, and it helped. I mentioned this memory recently because I noticed that they still had the long thin whiskey bottle, and they said they they had told me that it was a type of medicine and only to be used on special occasions like the other medicine in the house.

@Ivan, @hug_of_war This seems an overreaction, as far as casual drinking goes. I saw my dad drink a black-and-tan every night, and I was not whatsoever interested in alcohol as a kid or ‘young adult’.

oratio's avatar

@EmpressPixie Yes, well he loves broccoli, brussel sprouts, coffee and tea too. Don’t know what wrong with that kid :p Yes. He can’t have what he wants all the time. There are rules, and he knows it. But there is a streak of scoundrel in him.

Clair's avatar

Sure! It ain’t gonna hurt em. They always rebel when you say it’s forbidden. Duh, huh. Ever wonder why the preacher’s kids are the wildest?
Rock and Rye has always been my family’s cough syrup and “shut that teething kid up” medicine. The occasional alcohol on holidays is always acceptable too.
But yes, have the camera ready!

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I don’t have children but I was exposed to alcohol very early by relatives who did exactly as you have mentioned in details and I didn’t think anything of drinking diluted wine with meals if it was offered. I agree beer and harder alcohols should be explained as an adult only beverages even though the odds are your kids will have it long before then, on the sneak with their friends. Less is less and that means less chance to like it and increase the odds of bad things happening.

YARNLADY's avatar

My two year old grandson sneaks a sip of my drinks when he can. He figured out coffee is yucky, so has pretty much lost interest. I only have him three days a week, so I avoid alcohol when he’s around.

casheroo's avatar

My husband drinks beer and wine, and our son wants to try it but he’s not even 2 yet, which is way too young. I think a sip for a three year old cant hurt (you’d know better than I would, medically) And he’ll most likely find it disgusting, so I see no harm in giving him a taste.
It’s not exposing him to alcohol, it’s getting him to stop pestering you, because kids learn pretty quickly what they like and don’t like.
I absolutely believe it will have no effect on your child and his preference for alcohol in the future. I know my parents let me try beer, and I found it disgusting then, and I still find it gross.

rooeytoo's avatar

I know very few people who drink for the taste alone, most drink for the reaction to the alcohol, it relaxes, soothes, whatever. The problem is that for so many people it turns them into another person and not necessarily a nicer or better person. It allows them to forget something that is a problem for them. So a lot of life is wasted trying to forget or avoid when it might be better to just face the demons and learn how to deal with them.

So no, I wouldn’t introduce my kid to alcohol or drugs.

But my reaction is extreme because I have known personally and experienced through others the problems that it causes and I hate it. I try to teach by my example that it is possible to relax and enjoy and have fun without using a substance to help me. And that is what I would try to impress on my children.

wundayatta's avatar

I also believe that if we think we’re keeping our children from learning about how to alter their consciousnesses, we’re deluded. Kids probably know more about it than we do. They may have greater physical and mental capacity for it, while their bodies and brains are developing. When they swing, or spin, or do many of the things adults can’t stand to do, they are altering their consciousnesses. That’s what we use alcohol for, and it seems hypocritical and foolish, to me, to pretend we are doing something else.

This is not something we need to hide. It is something to celebrate, and to revere, and to be cautious about. It’s not the kind of thing to be messed with lightly. Unfortunately, it seems to me, that far too many people do not think very much about what they are doing. For most people it’s just relaxing, taking a load off, getting mellow. In my opinion, that’s altering your consciousness, and that’s sacred, and we should be aware of and appreciate what we are doing.

Facade's avatar

@ragingloli That’s not true. Some people can contain themselves.

hearkat's avatar

When my son was five, I had to tell him that he was born an alcoholic. Alcoholism and addictions have a strong history on his paternal side, and most of his physical traits take after that side. It has not been easy through his High School years, when his peers and even their parents offer him something to drink frequently; but he has learned how to say no, and most everyone knows the reason by now (he just turned 18).

So I personally wish that alcohol weren’t such a big part of our culture and that underage drinking weren’t so widely accepted.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

3’s a little young. When we turned 10, we moved up to the adult table at holidays, and were given a very small glass of wine with dinner, on holidays.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

ha, my dad let me taste beer when I was like 5 or something, and at that age I thought it was one of the grossest things I’ve ever tasted. I don’t think there is much harm in letting him taste it. It’s not like hes going to be like yum, and then start stealing beers out of the fridge.

rooeytoo's avatar

@daloon – I keep reading it but I’m not getting it, are you saying we should celebrate and revere drinking?

cwilbur's avatar

@rooeytoo: it’s a part of life. Like many things, if you do it wisely, it enhances your life. Like many things, if you abuse it, it causes problems. It’s as foolish to ignore the benefits and focus only on the drawbacks as it is to ignore the drawbacks and focus only on the benefits.

justwannaknow's avatar

I broke the law the day my son was leaving for the army (he was 19) and handed him a botle of beer. He took a drink spit it out said it was gross and has not drank any since then. He turns 21 this fall.

fireside's avatar

I’m with Ivan. Just quit drinking.

rooeytoo's avatar

@cwilbur – I never heard of it enhancing, and I can’t imagine celebrating and revering booze, but to each their own.

cwilbur's avatar

@rooeytoo: do you really think that all the people who have a beer now and then say, “oh, I guess I’m going to go off and do something that I don’t enjoy and that doesn’t bring anything good to my life”?

No. Many people drink because it brings pleasure—either from the taste, or from the buzz. It’s true that many people drink to excess, but to ignore the pleasure you can get because you’re so obsessively focused on the downside, to the point where you deny that any pleasure can be possible for anyone—that’s as unhealthy as being permanently soused.

wundayatta's avatar

@rooeytoo Not drinking. Altering consciousness. Personally, I prefer doing it without chemicals, at least for recreational purposes, but I do not have a problem with mild consciousness altering on a regular basis, and I don’t think we should teach our kids that it’s bad or wrong. Alcohol is one way of altering consciousness. There are so many others. I don’t think we want to teach kids fear of Alcohol, just respect for it. Altering consciousness is not something, I believe, that should be done lightly. You could do it every day, but I think you should use the drug with respect.

rooeytoo's avatar

@cwilbur – won’t work for me and didn’t work for a lot of people, but if you can deal with it, good on ya and if my feelings about it make me unhealthy, well so be it, I’ll just have to deal with my unhealthy lifestyle.

@daloon – I guess what I said to cwilbur is the same as I would say to you, if you can manage it, good on ya.

I am not judging just intrigued by different attitudes towards altering one’s consciousness. As I said, for me it was simply escapism, running away from reality, I finally found the courage to face my demons and now I can live without alterations and for me it is the best way.

wundayatta's avatar

@rooeytoo Hmmm. For me, altering my conciousness (without drugs) is my spirituality. I think humans require altered consciousnesses. Without them, we dry up mentally and spiritually.

I don’t have a problem with people altering their consciousnesses with drugs, although I do think it should be done moderately, and not in a way that leads to addiction. I think it should be done with an appreciation of the sacredness of people are doing. I think drinking wine or beer or mixed drinks in company is a ritual that does reinforce the sacredness of the act.

Drinking alone with the sole purpose of drowning the pain or meeting the demands of an urge to drink is not usually a respectful way of approaching this. Neither is the “get drunk as fast as you can” approach that college students often indulge in at parties. They both bypass the complexity of the experience because they are purely in search of a specific result. They miss the users target, as well, because of the shotgun approach, and the lack of recognition of what else goes on during these experiences.

Clair's avatar

@daloon great answer. why do people think people like you and i are satan for saying things like this? i totally agree.

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