Leading article: Parental responsibility

Share
Related Topics

There is no evidence that you should wean children on to alcohol at an early age so they get used to it. So says Sir Liam Donaldson, England's Chief Medical Officer. The idea that giving youngsters a glass of wine at meal times can be beneficial is dismissed by Sir Liam as a "middle-class obsession". Instead the evidence shows the earlier children are introduced to alcohol the more likely they are to get taste for it and become binge drinkers as teenagers and heavy drinkers as adults. Ergo, children should avoid alcohol as long as possible, at least till the age of 15, and then drink on no more than one occasion a week, preferably in the company of their parents, at least until they are 18.

The logic of this argument is as irrefutable as the problem it seeks to address. Half a million children aged 11-15 get drunk at least once a month and the numbers have doubled in the last 20 years. England has one of the worst records in Europe for under-age drinking and is reaping the costs in terms of social and medical harm.

But is the strategy workable? All parents of teenage children – and Sir Liam has been one – know that exercising control is one of the greatest challenges. Not only over drinking, but also over smoking, drugs, sex and myriad other activities. Teenagers are born to experiment – testing the limits is part of growing up. It may be best to accept that you cannot stop them going at 100 miles an hour, and to strive to prevent them going at 150 miles an hour. The important goal is to keep the lines of communication open.

Curbing teenage binge drinking is an essential parental responsibility. Drunken or neglectful parents who set a bad example and fail to provide the care their children need are not fulfilling their duty. That much is clear. Beyond this, however, parents will have to take the Chief Medical Officer's advice and interpret it in their own way. It involves recognising that while alcohol gives much pleasure it also does great harm, and the harm has been underemphasised. We want to instil a healthy attitude to drink in young people. But we should also recognise that parenting is the art of the possible.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in August  

Ferguson: The sad truth is that Michael Brown was killed because he was a black man

Bonnie Greer
A protestor poses for a  

Ferguson verdict: This isn't a 'tragedy'. This is part of a long-running genocide of black men in America

Otamere Guobadia
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital