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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Drink laws 'potentially harmful'
Karen Gardner, parenting expert
Karen Gardner says children must be educated about alcohol
Charity Alcohol Concern says parents who give alcohol to children under the age of 15 should be prosecuted.

Karen Gardner runs website parentingcafe.co.uk, which gives advice to mums and dads. She believes the law would be unworkable and potentially harmful.

It's patently ridiculous.

Firstly, because it's unenforceable and if you make laws that are unenforceable they are bad laws and they devalue law generally.

Secondly, drinking is part of our national life. It's part of the national life in most European countries in one way or another.

And in the majority of social situations you encounter alcohol.

Vital experience

Parenting is about preparing your children for life.

I've just helped my 11-year-old son open his first bank account. When I get to a road with my four-year-old, I get him to decide when it's safe to cross.

It's the same with alcohol. On your 15th birthday you don't suddenly develop the ability to deal with alcohol, but by the time you're 15 you are going to parties where alcohol is flowing.

It would infantilise parents. It's just silly
Karen Gardner

If Alcohol Concern got their way, you'd be sending them out with absolutely no experience of drinking at all and they'd go out and sink four vodkas.

The thing that really concerns me about this law is that if it's made illegal, parents will tell kids, 'You can't drink, I'll go to prison'.

Then a child goes out and does drink too much and needs to call home for help, but feels they can't in case they get mum or dad into trouble.

I understand that some teenagers are going out and binge drinking in town centres, but parents who let their kids do that won't care about a law anyway.

All the law would do is stop responsible parents from trying to educate their children.

It would infantilise parents. It's just silly.

Setting limits

Healthy, sensible drinking is about sitting down sharing a nice glass of something with friends or family. It's not about standing up in a noisy pub knocking back alcopops.

I'm not saying press a drink on a child. I certainly wouldn't give alcohol to a four or five-year-old, but if an 11-year-old shows an interest let them have half a glass of wine.

Don't make a big deal of it.

Half the problem with fussy eating is that parents talk about their children's fussy eating in front of the children, and it's the same with alcohol.

If they like it, fine. If they ask for more, just say, 'No, you're only 11, that's your lot.'

On Sunday, we went to a christening and a man who didn't know her age offered my 13-year-old daughter a glass of champagne.

I'm teaching her how to deal with situations - that it's OK to pour a drink down the sink or into a pot plant if you don't want it, and how to know when you've had enough
She looked at me - she likes champagne - and I said, 'Fine, one glass.'

When she'd finished he tried to top her up and I just said, 'No thank you, she's only 13, one's enough.'

I'm teaching her how to deal with situations - that it's OK to pour a drink down the sink or into a pot plant if you don't want it, and how to know when you've had enough.

She's going to get offered drinks because she looks older, so she needs to know how to react.

It's like sex. There's no point pretending teenagers don't have sex - they do. Pretending otherwise just leads to pregnancies and STDs.

You have to face up to these things and tackle them.




VOTE RESULTS
Should children be allowed to drink alcohol at home?
Yes
 73.35% 
No
 22.81% 
Not sure
 3.84% 
23850 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

SEE ALSO
Child drink ban 'a step too far'
27 Apr 07 |  Scotland

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