Not long ago I listened to a segment of Dennis Prager’s radio show about whether parents should introduce their children to drinking alcohol in moderation. The show originally aired on March 27, but I only recently heard it. (Now that I live in Santa Fe, I can’t get Prager live on the radio as I could in Los Angeles, and listen to the broadcasts on Townhall.com instead.)
This is an issue I’ve given some thought to, since I was one of those children who was allowed to taste my adult relatives’ alcoholic drinks, and was allowed my own glass of wine on special occasions with the family as a teenager, and I don’t think it did me any harm. The arguments on both sides of the issue are well known. One side says let them learn to drink in moderation under parental supervision so they won’t go nuts at college and binge-drink themselves into a coma. The other side says why introduce any vice to your child, that he may develop a taste for alcohol and become an alcoholic when he otherwise might not have. My husband and I discussed it when our eldest daughter first started asking to taste my wine and his beer, and I thought it would be harmless. He thought so too, but made the objection that even if it was harmless, it was still technically illegal, and by flouting the law — any law — we were setting a bad example. I acquiesced.
Then I listened to Prager’s show, heard him say exactly what I had been saying, and then at the end of the show a caller made the exact objection my husband had. Like me, Prager had no answer to refute this caller, and said it was something he’d have to think over.
After listening to the show, I did a little internet research, and found that in most states it is not in fact illegal for parents to let their children taste alcohol. Federal law mandates that all states prohibit the purchase and public possession of alcoholic beverages, but leaves it up to states to regulate consumption of alcohol in private estabishments. Most states do not prohibit the consumption of alcohol by minors in the home under parental supervision. This means that parents can allow their own children to drink at home, not that they can serve booze to their kids’ friends at wild post-prom parties like some parents these days do.
I still haven’t let my daughter taste my Chardonnay, but it’s nice to know that if and when I do, I won’t be breaking any laws — or teaching her to have contempt for them.