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03.29.2008

Letting Kids Drink Some Wine at Home: The Debate

If you haven't seen it already, I heartily encourage you check out an excellent article and blog post by Eric Asimov over the last couple of days about letting kids drink wine at home.

As you might expect, this is a pretty heated topic in our moralistic American society, with people expressing strong feelings about whether or not it is OK to let kids have a little wine at home with dinner. Eric's blog post has received well over 300 comments already and I'm sure the discussion will continue.

Like on many issues, we Americans seem all to quick to paint a black and white picture when it comes to answering this question: ether it's OK, or it's not. Eric does an excellent job exploring the spectrum of gray between those two points of view, though he and his wife still haven't figured out yet just how to approach this with their teenage sons.

Those who know me well won't be surprised to find that I don't think there is a specific answer to this question. It depends. It depends on so many things that it's almost silly to suggest that there is a general answer that can be made independent of any one family's specific situation.

So all I can do is talk about how I will make the decision when my first child starts noticing that Dad spends a lot of time, energy, and attention on that brightly colored liquid in his glass.

I will start giving my kid(s) extremely watered down wine when they get old enough to express an interest in what Ruth and I are drinking at the table. As they get older, if they're interested in learning about the differences between wines, I will give them sips of the stuff, and let them taste with me if they are willing to spit.

And finally when they are old enough to be interested in having a glass with dinner, but are still under 21, I will let them have a glass if I think they are responsible enough to:

- Not think alcohol is anything special
- Want to drink wine for its flavors rather than its effects
- Understand what alcohol does to their judgment
- Safely make decisions about where, when, and how much they drink when not at home

Studies (cited in Eric's article) may suggest that there may be a correlation between families who allow a little alcohol consumption in the controlled environment of the home and a reduction in likelihood for binge drinking or alcoholism. There's not clearly enough clinical evidence yet to say for sure. But I do firmly believe that throughout history we have been shown definitive proof that outlawing anything that humans enjoy putting in their bodies is never a solution for moderating its use.

I'd rather my kids think of wine as an everyday part of a meal, than think of it as forbidden fruit.

Read the full article and blog entry.

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