Have you ever drank too much of something one night that you ended up spewing it all back up. “Ugh…that one night…” is the typical response given to the question of why you can’t stand a certain drink. It usually involves an excessive amount of consumption followed by the worst hangover of your life. Throwing up all night and the following day is standard. You can’t eat, you can’t think straight, and all you want to do is lie in bed and watch television. The next time you merely get a whiff of that drink, your gag reflex kicks in as you take a step back, covering your mouth with one hand and using your other to block the bottle from coming any closer towards you.

What if this natural mind instinct to refuse that drink is used more strategically to help society? Excessive drinking is a major concern for teens and young adults, especially when behind the wheel of a car. Not much progress has been made in the last couple decades for decreasing the number of alcohol related incidence. The fact that 13,451 alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities occurred in 1996 as compared to the 13,470 in 2006 seems to verify that point. Everyone should be aware of these daunting statistics, yet drinking is still the “cool” thing to do these days. What easier option is there for a growing teen who is just trying to fit in? Too bad they have no vivid experience that demonstrates the consequences of going too far.

Although still dangerous, the repelling feeling from drinking too much is a useful experience that teaches people the consequence of overconsumption is better than waking up in a hospital from a car crash (or even waking up at all). By now, after experimenting with most types of alcoholic beverages, I know what I like and what I don’t like. While my birthday happens to be conveniently on the same date as Cinco de Mayo, I have quickly grown to hate tequila. Experiences, like the one I just inferred, that most of you probably can imagine become engraved in your head to keep you away from that beverage in the future. What if these experiences are engraved into the minds of young teens before they obtain their driver’s license?

My Modest Proposal:

Parents should expose their children to the various types of alcohol (mainly hard liquor and wine) at a mature, yet developing, age before they obtain a driver’s license.

The first time teenagers try alcohol, it is usually done with their friends, in a basement, hidden from their parents. This is very unsafe for them because they are too inexperienced to know how much to drink. If anything were to happen to one of the novice drinkers, the other kids would be too scared to get caught to take the appropriate actions to protect that child from harm. Having the parents monitor the children’s drinking the first time they start would be advantageous because the parents could teach them “how” to do it safely.

With this idea, the kids will be able to identify what they like and don’t like at an early stage. The hangover incident as I described earlier will scar the kids enough to instill a hatred for the drink they threw up from. Under the parents’ supervision, maybe vodka, tequila, and gin made their children have an unforgettable sickening night, leaving them to avoid those drinks. Maybe having too many drinks too quickly makes them throw up. These events should obviously be closely monitored to make sure the children are not carried away, but establishments of limits accompanied by lessons from parents is better than having the kids figure it out for themselves. Parents can prove to them how alcohol affects reaction time and brain processing, which then impairs decision making (and driving). These nights where the parents teach their children the consequences of drinking could also be a fun night for the child to bond with their parents. Everyone remembers their first drink with their father.

Have you ever notice how easily rookie drinkers take a swig of hard alcohol from a water bottle? It is funny to see when high school teens don’t even use chasers for their shots. They are so new to drinking that they have no negative associations with alcohol. They throw it back like candy. Once you enter college though, you find people who can’t take any shots without chasers and people who only drink one or two types of drinks. It is interesting how the more experience people are with drinking, the more picky and conditional they get when they do so (typically). I know of someone who did not have a sip of alcohol until her 21st birthday. As she continued drinking for the next few months, I witnessed her take 4 Vladimir Vodka shots without any chasers in less than 10 minutes. I don’t know about you, but I cannot do that. The fact that she did not associate the disgusting taste of that cheap Vodka with any experiences probably made it so easy for her. This ease of excessive drinking is what my proposal is trying to avoid.

 Introducing these associations to children at a young, but not too young, age would be valuable to them. I’m not saying that parents should forcibly make their children “black out” from something in each section of the liquor store… but I am saying to do something close to it. Nah, just kidding. But parents should expose their kids to why people need chasers for some shots of alcohol and why pacing yourself is more advantageous for you than “keeping up” (drinking fast) to maintain popularity is. Having their children throw up from dessert beverages after family dinner might seem like bad parenting on paper, but in the long run, they will learn a valuable lesson. They will find their drink of choice at a young age and then learn to appreciate it. As we turn into young adults, we know what we like and how to drink it. I’ve seen fifty-year-olds look astonishingly at a 21-year old girl easily take back a shot of patron as they slowly sip it for twenty minutes, the only pace they could handle. The young generation today sees alcohol as a way to get drunk, and not as a beverage. Some view it as a task they must overcome to reach their goal of being drunk rather than something they enjoy. Whatever happened to enjoying the drink and enjoying the act of drinking it together with friends? Now it appears that kids and young adults get drunk, and then have fun. “Pregaming,” ever heard of it? For me, that’s my favorite part of the night. It’s the people that don’t enjoy that part and try to take shortcuts past it that are typical considered alcoholics and act dangerously stupid when intoxicated.

 If parents can demonstrate experienced drinking habits to their children in the safety of their own home before it’s too late, I think the stagnant alcohol statistics will decrease. Some might say alcohol at that age is bad for their growth and health, but a few early experiences with people the kid’s trust would develop a much more healthy habit for them in the long run. What’s better: 15 year olds safely drinking with their parents (the age some kids start anyway), or kids developing bad habits on their own a few years later and then having the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a car? At the rate our statistics are heading, I think this proposal is worth a chance.


8 responses »

  1. Kate says:

    I love this proposal and believe that it actually could work. My mom started giving me glasses of wine at 16 during dinner and beer during football games, one year before I got my driver’s license (you have to be 17 in New Jersey). I know that a lot of my friends and high school classmates started secretly drinking in their friends’ basements because alcohol their parents were simply anti-alcohol. It’s like the forbidden apple: you want what you can’t have.

    Now don’t get me wrong, my mom is not pro underage drinking, but she wanted me to establish my drinking limits in a safe environment. Not to mention, she wanted to let me know that if I did end up drinking at a party, I either needed to stay over or call her to get picked up. As she put it, “I would rather pick you up than have you dead.” I thank my mom to this day for providing those valuable lessons at an early age.

  2. Connie says:

    It’s funny how nauseous I felt as I read your part of the entry that described your friend taking 4 shots of Vladimir.. But anyway, I completely agree with your proposal, and I feel this is a better way of handling the teen drinking problem than lowering the drinking age. While having a lower drinking age seems to have worked for most of Europe, I believe that our culture in the United States has shaped drinking alcohol as a means of getting drunk and being out of control, rather than casually sipping a drink and enjoying the company of your friends and family. Hence, the lowered drinking age wouldn’t be successful.

    I think by exposing kids to drinking at an earlier age makes consuming alcohol less of a “forbidden apple” as Kate says, and more of a casual, normal experience. Kids will be less inclined to hide from their parents, and as you stated, will be able to establish and refine their drinking preferences and tolerances. I feel as if having an open policy with your parents like this is best so kids don’t rebel and end up doing stupid things, like drunk driving.

  3. Jordi says:

    Tequila for a long time…

    Also, on the eating front, thin mint cookies when I was about 11…

  4. brookeparker16 says:

    This summer we hosted a German family that my dad had met when he was stationed in Germany 30 years ago. They had kids ranging 15-22 and they had no problem telling me that us Americans did not know how to drink. This was solely due to the fact that they had a younger drinking age. However, as soon as the dad heard this claim he assured me that his kids were just as bad as me. They also took too many shots and did crazy things at parties just like us American kids. The only thing that really set us apart was our “red solo cups” that had become synonymous with college parties. Furthermore, alcoholism is more frequent in Europe than in the United States. Although I believe teens will party like teens regardless of the country, I think that a lower drinking age would lead to less drinking and driving.

  5. Mike M says:

    I agree that this seems like a very logical idea. The proposal itself is not very unreasonable and I feel like I have heard very similar ideas before. I do really like the idea though. By using natural negative reinforcement, we can promote better habits through experience rather than being told.

  6. Marc says:

    Out of all of the “crazy” modest proposals, I think that this one may be one that has the most logic behind it. This is actually a topic that I’ve discussed with my friends at home. It always seems like the kids that go off and go crazy and are unable to hold their alcohol are the ones who were more sheltered in high school. It is tough to justify giving underage and often immature kids alcohol in order to give them a better tolerance down the road though. However, I think that if you couple the drinking with a set of rules and responsibilities, it could help prevent problems later on.

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