SECRETS’ CORNER – What age is right age?
CHILDREN USUALLY LEARN what they live from their parents and from elements in their environment. This is why many young people develop habits their parents have, or ones similar to those practised by people they live around and associate with and choose to emulate.
Besides this, it must be noted that habits are often engaged in when people feel good about what they have done, and thereafter they tend to repeat that behaviour. That is why if people get a thrill from drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes or marijuana, and are accepted by their peers, they persist in engaging in those behaviours.
And, of course, alcohol and drug use can lead to addiction, which causes a person to continue with such behaviour whether they want to or not.
Of course, whether a habit is considered good or bad can be a matter of opinion. That’s why despite smoking, for example, being universally regarded as a bad habit because of the health risks involved, it is still relatively common and not necessarily frowned on.
Drinking alcohol, too, is a habit many Barbadians engage in as it is considered part of our culture, given our reputation as a producer of quality rums. Therefore, drinking is usually viewed as a problem only when people can’t cope with their liquor intake.
This week’s question – At what age should parents allow their children to smoke and drink alcohol in their presence? – was raised by someone concerned about what they observed at a neighbour’s home.
She said the woman allows her 16-year-old son to drink beers and smoke cigarettes in her house.
And to her queries about this, the mother told her that he was old enough to decide right from wrong.
Since I don’t smoke or drink, I reserved my opinion on this one. Readers though were brutally blunt with their views, adamantly stating that no parent should allow their child, especially those under 18 years old, to smoke and drink in front of them.
The following are edited versions of selected comments:
• “There is absolutely nothing wrong with someone drinking and smoking from age 18 and beyond because that is the law. In other countries, such as France, children under that age join their parents in drinking wine at dinner. In other countries, children as young as 15 years old join their parents for after dinner liqueurs. Many of them smoke as well both in and out of their parents’ presence.
“Are those 15- and 16-year-olds physically, mentally or socially different from the ones in Barbados? I think not. I go into certain party spots in Barbados that regularly host drinks-free parties and see scores of people under 18 being served alcohol and smoking.
“Sometimes we as Barbadians have a lack of experience when it comes to various cultures and sadly only have our own local experiences to speak of . . . such as those comments on Facebook, based on a somewhat archaic Barbadian culture.”
• “Why should they be smoking and drinking as a child? After 18 they can do whatever they want unless the rule of the house is no drinking and smoking.”
• “At no age. Drinking or smoking is just not cool or healthy. I never saw my parents do it.”
• “Maybe when they work for enough money to live on their own. Even then they should have enough respect for their parents not to smoke or drink in front of them.”
• “They would have to be 21 years old to do that in front of me.”
• “It’s a bit disrespectful to drink and smoke in your parents’ presence – period. As old as I am, I still don’t feel comfortable drinking in front of my mum or dad. I just have too much respect for them to do that. I don’t smoke. My dad is a smoker and never encouraged us to. He would always say, “Don’t be a smoker like me.” My parents never drank in front of us, and if they did, it was because someone offered and it would be one drink.”
• “Knowing the effects that smoking and drinking have on the body, why would any parent encourage their children to do those things?”
• “When you move out of my house you are your own man or woman, so you can drink or smoke; but not in my home, no matter what age you are.”
• “I don’t like smoke so they will never be able to do so in my presence, regardless of how old they are.”
• “Any good parent that is a non-smoker should not tolerate their child or children at any age smoking in their presence. Consuming a beer or two, or a glass or two of wine socially by an adult son/daughter over the age of 21 can be accepted.”