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At what age do you think it’s appropriate for parents to let their children drink alcohol under their supervision?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on March 24, 2008

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Photo of Jenna Duver

“I think 18 is old enough, unless there are some family issues with alcohol or mental illness. I mean, we’re not talking about getting drunk here.”

Photo of Donnie Hornberger

“I would say it’s against the law until they’re 21, so they should follow it.”

Photo of Joe Aber

“Really, I’d say obey the law and wait until they’re 21. I don’t know that I would have said that before I turned 21, but looking back, it’s a law for a reason.”

Photo of Jana Caffrey

“I would say 16. I feel like 16-year-olds are mature enough, and I think it’s better to let them try it in a supervised environment before they go out and do it with their friends.”

Comments

Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

Obviously it should be the parents decision and not a LJW question.

jonas 6 years, 9 months ago

"Meh, boo to blanket questions."

That's something of a blanket statement.

My calculations suggest the proper age is somewhere in the spread of 15 years 6 months 13 days 5 hours 36 minutes and 8 seconds to 17 years 10 months 9 days 3 hours and 12 seconds. But for God's Sake, don't jump the gun at 15 years 6 months 13 days 4 hours 59 minutes and 3 seconds, because that would be absolute disaster. Absolute Disaster!!!!

ralphralph 6 years, 9 months ago

At 18, one is an adult citizen. Any restrictions beyond that point which are based on age are unconstitutional.

aginglady 6 years, 9 months ago

Knowing all the men and women my age now suffering from alcohol problems, that started with in high school, I think that how awful alcohol is for breakfast might as well be taught at an early age. Let them know what's coming.

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 9 months ago

There is a reason they call it the "Devil's brew".

Does alcoholism run in the family?

Is their a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism?

Shouldn't a child learn how to have fun without being tipsy?

Adults should want to avoid passing down the habit of drinking because once it becomes part of your life, it is very difficult to avoid.

thomgreen 6 years, 9 months ago

I remember getting small glasses of wine, and an occasional small glass of "wheat" beer from my parents from an extremely early age. I credit their guidance and supervision with taking the mystery and allure out of drinking at an early age. I never understood the point of "getting wasted" like everyone else in high school.

oldvet 6 years, 9 months ago

Whenever we make birth control and condoms available for them, then that is a good time to also let them begin using alcohol... after all, they're going to do it anyhow, so why not make it safer and easier...

mom_of_three 6 years, 9 months ago

Personally, it will probably be 20 or 21 for my kids. My niece would drink wine at dinner with her parents before she was 21, but she was 20 and that was their choice.
If they just want a taste, I don't see a harm in that. We had champagne to toast my grandmother at her funeral several months ago, to celebrate her life, and my teenagers wanted to taste. They didn't like it.

Kyle Neuer 6 years, 9 months ago

As soon as they're tall enough to put money on the bar.

dminear60 6 years, 9 months ago

Adult supervision of underage drinking under does not render it legal. Why would a parent give their child permission to break the law? Or better yet, why would a parent tell their child they can "pick and choose" which laws they want to obey? If you do not like the law, take the steps necessary to bring about change. Until then, adults and those under the age of 21 should obey the law.

mom_of_three 6 years, 9 months ago

When I was 16, my grandpa told me I was old enough to drink beer at family gatherings. I think my mom was a little surprised at his decision, because it didn't involve her. I didn't like beer anyway, since I was given a taste as a kid, so it didn't matter much. And the drinking age at the time was 18.

Jcjayhawk1 6 years, 9 months ago

It's simple. Old enough to die in Iraq. Old enough to drink. Old enough to be charged as an adult old enough to drink. We need to make up our minds. Are you an adult at 18 or not?

coolmarv 6 years, 9 months ago

"I would say 16. I feel like 16-year-olds are mature enough, and I think it's better to let them try it in a supervised environment before they go out and do it with their friends."

  • Jana Caffrey, admission counselor, Kansas City, Kan

What a bozo! Who thinks 16 year olds are mature enough to drink alcholol? Stupid parents, that's who. Half of the adults who drink are not mature enough. Why not just tell them it's okay to smoke a little weed also. After all there being supervised. Glad she's in admissions.

Beer is a drug and that is why people drink. Myself included. It may be just one beer, after work, to relax but there's your reason. I do enjoy the taste of a good beer but if it was just the taste they would be making lots of other non-alchololic beers.

nana12 6 years, 9 months ago

I think 18 if our boys are old enough to go to war the are old enough to drink.

guesswho 6 years, 9 months ago

Ah, all the great 'rules followers'. Yes, the drinking age is 21. Not because that is a magic number for sensibility, but one theory is that lawmakers didn't want it too close to the driving age where new drivers would also be new drinkers.

Judge them by how responsible they are. Many adults shouldn't be allowed to drink, where some teenagers are very responsible to learn how to enjoy alcohol in moderation.

Janet Lowther 6 years, 9 months ago

Raising children is the responsibility of their parents. If an action is legal for the parents, they should have the absolute authority to determine when and if their children can engage in that activity while under their supervision.

As for unsupervised drinking, I figure 18 is easily late enough for children raised in an environment of responsible drinking. For those who weren't, either due to alcoholic parents or entirely abstemious ones, I'm not sure if 21 is actually old enough, even though I object to treating a person who is old enough to vote as if he or she was a child.

dajudge 6 years, 9 months ago

I don't think kids should be supervised while drinking alcohol. If they are smart enough to figure out how to get alchohol, they're smart enough to drink and they don't need some pesky adult looking over their shoulder inhibiting them. Hopefully, they will learn how to get drunk responsibly and can call their folks from the jailhouse later to bail them out like real adults.

gccs14r 6 years, 9 months ago

Thomgreen has it right. Forbidden fruit always tastes best.

average 6 years, 9 months ago

I think a child's initial exposure to alcohol should be a beer with dad and grandpa at the Elks club or bowling alley... not sure I could specify an exact age, but probably early high school. Just as his/her first driving experience should be with mom or dad in the passenger's seat. If we restricted driving till most young people were 21, out of the house, and living mostly independently among a lot of other 18-21 year olds... but the day they turned 21 they could go drive a sports car, we'd see a lot more accidents, and pass along a lot less moderation.

Jeanne Cunningham 6 years, 9 months ago

I am NOT a big fan of alcohol, but I do think that people should be educated on the law (read Section E):

21-3610 Chapter 21.--CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS PART II.--PROHIBITED CONDUCT Article 36.--CRIMES AFFECTING FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS AND CHILDREN 21-3610. Furnishing alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverage to a minor. (a) Furnishing alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverage to a minor is directly or indirectly, selling to, buying for, giving or furnishing any alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverage to any minor. (b) Furnishing alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverage to a minor is a class B person misdemeanor for which the minimum fine is $200. (c) As used in this section, terms have the meanings provided by K.S.A. 41-102, 41-2601 and 41-2701, and amendments thereto. (d) It shall be a defense to a prosecution under this section if: (1) The defendant is a licensed retailer, club, drinking establishment or caterer or holds a temporary permit, or an employee thereof; (2) the defendant sold the alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverage to the minor with reasonable cause to believe that the minor was 21 or more years of age or of legal age for the consumption of alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverage; and (3) to purchase the alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverage, the person exhibited to the defendant a driver's license, Kansas nondriver's identification card or other official or apparently official document, containing a photograph of the minor and purporting to establish that such minor was 21 or more years of age or of legal age for the consumption of alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverage. (e) This section shall not apply to the furnishing of cereal malt beverage by a parent or legal guardian to such parent's child or such guardian's ward when such furnishing is permitted and supervised by the child or ward's parent or legal guardian. History: L. 1969, ch. 180, § 21-3610; L. 1988, ch. 165, § 7; L. 1989, ch. 91, § 1; L. 1993, ch. 173, § 1; L. 2001, ch. 189, § 1; L. 2002, ch. 26, § 1; L. 2004, ch. 94, § 1; July 1.

guesswho 6 years, 9 months ago

What about when a teenager goes through confirmation at church and drinks the communion wine? Is that illegal?

sunflower_sue 6 years, 9 months ago

My children started on the occassional dose of wine while still nursing. Now, they may have a sip whenever they ask (from a glass, that is). Now, as for an actual age that they can drink unsupervised...65 should do.

myheadisgonnaexplode 6 years, 9 months ago

I would go with ThomGreen - Europeans expose their children and have for hundreds of years.

tonythetiger 6 years, 9 months ago

I think it is more a matter of height and weight.

Kind of like the rides at a Carnival or something.

You cannot drink without supervision until you are about 6'5"

or if you are shorter than 5'5" then you must be around 235lbs.

There should also be limits on time of year. For instance during the festival of Bacchus everyone can have a sip, but only of moonshine.

All other times of year it needs to be above 30Centigrade. At least on the beach. I think it is best to dehydrate yourself while on a sunny subtropical beach with only gulf coastal sea water around.

To be quite honest with you. I have seen people that were in their 40's that could not seem to handle anything right so I am not sure it is an age variable that matters as much as other factors, so I will conclude that it is a geographical and phenotype that does not seem to be able to handle anything properly.

mom_of_three 6 years, 9 months ago

" Now, as for an actual age that they can drink unsupervised:65 should do." Sue - I love it!!

mom_of_three 6 years, 9 months ago

Didn't most of us, as teenagers, have their first sip of alcohol from a parent or other relative?
But that is very different that sitting around, having a cocktail with your parents. I wouldn't be comfortable with it as a kid, and don't know if I would be comfortable with it as a parent. My 18 year old doesn't like the smell of alcohol, so she has tasted very little. Doesn't bother me a bit. The other two are younger teenagers, so I don't have the dilemma with them.
I would say once they hit 20, then I might consider it. And when they hit 20, I might change it to 40.

dajudge 6 years, 9 months ago

I started with vanilla extract in my hot cocoa. Then progressed to putting in my cold chocolate milk. Listerine just didn't have a good taste. I think when the party age is just around the corner, a parent should sit little Suzy or Malcolm down and explain the facts of life, including about having unprotected sex and STI's and the ramifications of F'ing up your life drinking, driving, killing. Maybe some instructional tasting could be part of the program, so they know what's what and don't have to wonder and find out at their first keg party. Curiosity killed the cat.

Gareth Skarka 6 years, 9 months ago

Wow. Sometimes they ask a question that just slams me in the face with the reminder that I'm living in Kansas.

Europeans don't have the puritan hang-ups about alchohol -- their children are exposed to it as a normal part of life, and as such, binge-drinking when they go out on their own in almost unheard of.

Grow up, Kansas.

notajayhawk 6 years, 9 months ago

I've always had my doubts about the concept of a drinking age. What is it that magically transforms a human being from someone who can not handle alcohol one day into someone more capable of handling it the next day, by virtue of tearing off a calendar page?

In many places in the world, the age to consume and the age to purchase is much lower (16 in several European countries), and even those limits don't apply when accompanied by parents. Some don't have a minimum age at all. But then, in this country, it seems we like to hand over much of our parenting responsibilities to the state rather than teach our children ourselves. Introducing your own children to alcohol (I'm not talking about doing shots of tequila here, but a small glass of wine with dinner or sip of champagne at their cousin's wedding), and teaching them responsibility in its use may help prevent a lot of problems down the road. For one thing it removes the mystique and the almost mandatory drinking binge the day the person reaches that magical age.

Unfortunately, since a minimum drinking age IS the law, it does send mixed messages to your children to say "You can do this at home with me, but don't do it anywhere else," or "You don't have to obey this law, but you should follow all the others."

Jcjayhawk1 6 years, 9 months ago

"I would go with ThomGreen - Europeans expose their children and have for hundreds of years."-Myheadisgonnaexplode

Europe also has excellent public transportation to where drunk teens don't have to drive. That in it's self is extremely important. Much of Europe uses the mass transit child and adult alike.

We should be careful with mix of alcohol, cigarettes, with teens.......they are the true gateway drugs.

adriennerm 6 years, 9 months ago

I hate to sound like a prude, but the legal age is 21. Therefore I won't allow my daughter to drink around me until then. I don't want to send any mixed msgs about the law. i.e follow this law, but not that one...

Now I am also realistic, my daughter will be going away to college soon. Most college parties have alcohol and the parties aren't closely monitored. As much as I want her to wait, I can only prepare her for the new environment. And educate her on the proper way to drink. Like don't get drunk with strangers, don't drink and drive, don't let someone give you a drink that you do not know...blah blah blah

Curtis Lange 6 years, 9 months ago

Umm, coolmarv, I grew up in a country where 16 is the legal drinking age. Then I was able to drink on the military base at 18. This sure as hell did not make me a drunk or any tendencies to become an alcoholic. Learning about the effects of alcohol earlier in life is better IMO. It takes the mystique out of drinking. This is one reason I just shake my head at the idiots in college that think it is "cool" to get drunk.

IMO, drinking age should be 16 and driving age 18. Learn about alcohol BEFORE you're ever allowed to get behind the wheel of an car.

Dixie Jones 6 years, 9 months ago

mine aint drivin dating or drinkin till they are 45.......i'll let ya know how that goes....

Chris Golledge 6 years, 9 months ago

Gareth, I would have said, 'Grow up, America.', but I share your sentiments. I believe the current laws are an artifact of our religious fundamentalist past (present?).

Some of you need to make a distinction between morality and law; they are not necessarily the same. It is illegal and immoral to kill; there are many things which are illegal, but not necessarily immoral, and vice versa. All the law is just a written account of what the majority could agree upon, but the majority is not always right. In fact, it isn't necessarily the majority that writes the laws.

The question itself belies an assumption that other people should have a say in how/what a parent teaches their children. I reject that assumption. A parent bears ultimate responsibility for their child; it most cases it is best to leave authority bonded with responsibility.

Having said that, my parents started letting me have a drink in family settings around 17; having adults to model was a whole lot better for me than only learning from my peers.

hockmano 6 years, 9 months ago

Why would parents EVER let their children drink under their supervision? That's a definite way to get a visit from SRS! So the LJW is suggesting that we should all break the law and let our children drink alcohol as long as we are watching?

When children reach a certain age they are going to do whatever it is they want to do no matter what their parents ask them to do!So they will drink soon enough! Why is the legal age to drink 21 anyways? If you are an adult at 18, you should be able to drink.You can drive, get killed in Iraq, vote for president, even get married, but you can't drink alcohol?

I think the question should have read, "Should parents Ever let their children drink alcohol under parental supervision?" And the answer should be a flat out NO! Anyone who does, is playing cat and mouse with trouble!

jumpin_catfish 6 years, 9 months ago

I'll put this in a nice way, Jana is an idiot!

hail2oldku 6 years, 9 months ago

Europe, Asia, North or South America, it doesn't matter where you are or what your age.

It doesn't matter if you are educated. It doesn't matter if you are exposed to it and have the mystique removed.

There are going to be people that are responsible about how they consume their alcohol and those that are not. Of those that are not, there will be some that are capable of being responsible and those that are not due to some type of pre-disposition related to alcohol.

My biggest thing about this is the belief that the portion of our brain responsible for decision making isn't fully developed (at least so it is believed) until our early 20's. Because of this, I will discourage my kids when it comes to experimenting with alcohol or drugs of any kind, but I know this and providing any/all information I can to them is the best that I can do since as a parent I have become the stupidest person on earth to my 13 and 17 year-old kids while I'm just now showing signs of intelligence again to my 25 year-old.

Jcjayhawk1 6 years, 9 months ago

The law is not without flaws....disobey this one at your own risk. Just because it is written does not make it right. To live by the letter of the law and follow it to a T is a tricky way to live. One must be able to distinguish when/if the law is wrong.

You can't possibly ask someone that is 18 years old, being shipped to Iraq, not to have a beer if they want one. On base off base it doesn't matter. They can give their life but we can't give them alcohol?

Same for those being tried as adults.........To hold them responsible for decisions they make pursuant to adults renders them adults.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 9 months ago

"Gareth (Anonymous) says: Wow. Sometimes they ask a question that just slams me in the face with the reminder that I'm living in Kansas. Europeans don't have the puritan hang-ups about alchohol - their children are exposed to it as a normal part of life, and as such, binge-drinking when they go out on their own in almost unheard of."

Check it out, Gareth: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7274408.stm

sdinges 6 years, 9 months ago

Well, I'll start by saying that I think it should be legal for a parent to provide alcohol to their own children in their own home after about 12 years old, and it is in many countries, where it is common for minors to drink wine with dinner.

I think most people live in fantasy world where if a parent doesn't tell a child about something (be it sex, drugs or alcohol), then the child will fail to discover it on their own. Personally, I drank in the company of my older brother and his friends as early as 13 years old. My mother had actually offered me wine at family functions or dinners because she wanted me to learn my limits at home. I didn't take her up on it because I didn't like the taste and I found it vaguely embarrassing to drink in front of my mom. Nevertheless she actively discussed the subject with me, telling me about responsible drinking, alcoholism, etc. As I got older, I even felt comfortable enough to tell her the specifics of my drinking habits, and also discuss my friends' habits when I felt they were becoming problematic.

By the time I hit college at 18, I was pretty much over drinking. I became an occasional drinker in adulthood, and never drank excessively in childhood. By the time I had taken my first unsupervised drink of alcohol, I already knew when to stop because my parents were open with me about it. I have many friends now who -never- learned when to stop.

The point is this: If you actively educate your child about alcohol, accepting that they may and likely will try it when you're not around, then you can expect your child to develop responsible and moderate drinking habits. If you let their friends teach them about alcohol and pretend no one ever got drunk before the age of 21, you just increase their risk of developing bad habits. It can make you feel better to walk around in denial, but even good kids try alcohol.

DBAWalt 6 years, 9 months ago

I have no opinion on when YOU can allow YOUR children to drink alcohol, and I don't think the government should pass any laws infringing on the rights of parents to make that decision.

At 12 (Until 2006 in Kansas, now set at 15. Only one I know of that is lower is California "With parental consent, there are no age limits regarding the minimum age for a couple to marry.") they can legally get married, but they can't drink a beer?

At 14 they can legally go hunting, carrying a firearm, but they can not legally drink a beer?

At 16 they can drive a car (with restrictions) but can't drink a beer?

At 18 they can legally have sex, enter into contracts, as well as fight and die for their country, but they can't drink a beer?

At 21 they can... well, they are allowed to ... uh, they can finally drink a beer?!

Why is this something the government is getting involved in?

fly9311 6 years, 9 months ago

I find the comments about following the letter of the law amusing. ie. I hate to sound like a prude, but the legal age is 21. Therefore I won't allow my daughter to drink around me until then. I don't want to send any mixed msgs about the law. i.e follow this law, but not that one:

I suppose none of you (that are so bent on following this law) cares whether you speed while driving your child in car, or about choosing not to use your turn signals. Both of these are laws and many people do not follow them so what is that saying to your children about other laws.

Come on people we have to stop allowing the "laws" to be the parents. It is a parents responsibility to raise our children as we see fit.

Gareth Skarka 6 years, 9 months ago

I was speaking of continental Europe, not Britain, you half-wits. Then again, I wouldn't expect Kansans to know the difference. They're all "ferriners", right?

notajayhawk 6 years, 9 months ago

cg22165 (Anonymous) says:

"I believe the current laws are an artifact of our religious fundamentalist past (present?)."

Uh, right. 'Cause lord knows religion has never played a part in, say, European politics.

[rolling eyes]

Christine Pennewell Davis 6 years, 9 months ago

question sounds like they are trying to figure out how many people would break the law. Just a thought.

RaynRavyn 6 years, 9 months ago

The legal age for drinking was set at 21, not because of assumed "maturity", but because before the age of 21 the brain is much more likely to sustain serious damage. It has been proven that the age at which a young person starts do drink is the mental age that person will carry their intire life. So, if you want a perpetual 15 year old, let them drink, otherwise, adhere to the laws that were set to protect them.

oxandale 6 years, 9 months ago

No matter the age, alocohol makes everyone is retarded.

jonas 6 years, 9 months ago

RaynRavyn (Anonymous) says:

"The legal age for drinking was set at 21, not because of assumed "maturity", but because before the age of 21 the brain is much more likely to sustain serious damage. It has been proven that the age at which a young person starts do drink is the mental age that person will carry their intire life. So, if you want a perpetual 15 year old, let them drink, otherwise, adhere to the laws that were set to protect them."

Hahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!

cough cough

heh. . . . heh. . . heehehhehheeeheeheeheeeheeeeKyaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!

pant pant pant

God I hope you really don't believe that.

dr_k 6 years, 9 months ago

Gareth,

"I was speaking of continental Europe..." Oh stop Gareth, you're killing me!

Binge drinking is just as popular on the continent as it is in the US. There is NO difference in that.

Americans are more likely to take a car home after drinking than Europeans and in some countries such as Germany, where they can drink at 16 but not drive until 18 , a driver's license is harder to obtain (spend $1,000 on classes).

Do yourself a favor Gareth, before you call anyone else names and further embarrass yourself, at least know what you're talking about.

dajudge 6 years, 9 months ago

I don't think American soldiers should be able to drink alcohol. It impairs your judgement and you might kill somebody you're not supposed to. So, you can join the military at 18, but you can't drink until you're out. That is the new rule. Make it so No. 1.

Daytrader23 6 years, 9 months ago

Let's drink to that. And as far as Europe, they laugh at our piss water beer. But seriously I think it is important for teenagers to learn how to drink responsibly at home under supervision than at some party full of other teenagers who only know how to do keg stands and beer bongs. (good ol days)

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