When in Doubt, Drink Less Alcohol in Front of the Kids

When it comes to alcohol, it behooves parents to take a minimalist approach when their children are around.

Originally Published: 
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“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly advice column in which Fatherly’s Parenting Editor Patrick Coleman provides frank answers to reader questions. Want evidence-based answers and some common sense morality? Email We got you. Want a justification for some parenting decision you already made? Ask someone else. Patrick is busy.

Hey Fatherly

I work hard and I like to drink to relax but my wife and some friends say I shouldn’t drink so much in front of my kid. I guess they think I get too crazy or something. I don’t drink every day but maybe a six pack here and there during the week if I’ve had a hard day and I like to get lit on the weekends. That’s how I relax because I’m not going on a vacation to Mexico or anything any time soon.

But my wife and friends are scared I guess because they think I’ll fall over with him someday or something. But they all come over and drink during barbecues and stuff, so I don’t know what their problem is. Or they think I’ll get too drunk and my boy will get hurt and I’ll be passed out and won’t call an ambulance or something. My wife is always saying she thinks I’m going to drink myself to death. I’m just trying to have a good time and be a good relaxed dad. I’m not hurting anybody and I haven’t hurt anybody.

Is there a way I can talk to my wife and friends so they know my drinking isn’t dangerous? How can I convince them that I’m alright? I don’t want to ruin anything, but I don’t want to stop drinking either.


Denver, Colorado


There are a couple of ways to know if your behavior has become a problem. And none of them include people telling you that your behavior has become a problem. But if a behavior you engage in is damaging your relationships, then you might need to take a good hard look at where you’re at.

I am going to give you a straight answer to your question, but first I have a couple of concerns — particularly when it comes to your kid. The fact is he is learning about the world, and how to be a man in it, by watching you. His primary source for understanding how to be human is not his teachers, or his minister or his friends, it’s his mother and father. So what you are showing him every time you drink to relieve your stress or soothe the burdens of a hard day, is that the best way to deal with problems is to find alcohol-induced oblivion.

I wonder if that’s the lesson you really want to send him. As a father of two young boys, I struggle every day to remember I am modeling behavior. I would rather just be the foul-mouthed and irresponsible adult I was before I had kids. That was more fun. It was easier. But that’s not the way it is anymore. Not for me. And not for you.

Your behavior is setting your kid up to seek out a coping mechanism that is beyond his own mind and resilience. You are showing him that when he is hit with the inevitable shit of this world there’s nothing wrong with finding an artificial way out. For you, that’s booze. For him, it might be oxycodone or fentanyl or whatever that first thing is that makes him feel better.

Is that a guarantee? No. Everyone is different. He might find greater influence from his mother. He might decide he hates you and never wants to be like you. But whatever the path, research is clear that when kids see parents drink a lot it doesn’t lead to the happiest or healthiest of outcomes.

So if you love your son, you might want to change. Because you have the power to show him a better way. You have the power to show him resiliency by putting down the bottle and finding a healthier way to deal with hard days.

As for your wife and friends, it sounds like they are worried about you, man. And it sounds like they have to live with that worry every day. Those are hard considerations you’ve placed in their laps. If you respect them — I think you do based on your desire not to lose them — then you’ll maybe listen to them.

Want to convince them that you’re alright? Then convince them you can stay sober.

Will you have to be sober forever? That’s up to you. But it seems that it would do you, and everyone else involved, a great deal of good by being sober today.


How do I get my 5-year-old daughter to stop touching my dog‘s dick? It’s really freaking me out. He doesn’t bite or anything but her fascination is very uncomfortable. I’m kind of at a loss at what to say because telling her to stop doesn’t do it. Help?

Dog Catcher



Your child is just curious. The first thing you need to do is calm down. Her intentions are undoubtedly innocent. To her, your dog’s penis is just another fuzzy, pet-able part of a fuzzy pet-able animal. She does not have the context for penises that you do with your many years of living with one attached to your body.

That said, we don’t want your daughter to go around touching dog penises. It’s dangerous. And, frankly, not appropriate. But the last thing you want to do is make the dog’s penis sound like something special or shocking or frightening. That will only make her more curious. So, the best way to go about it is with calm dispassionate clarity.

Consider this a time to reinforce the concept of boundaries. You’ve likely told her that there are places that strangers cannot touch her. Tell her that’s the same for dogs too. People have private squares and so do dogs and cats and horses and all sorts of animals. And we have to respect those boundaries even if an animal can’t talk. And especially because they can’t talk and say “no.”

You don’t have to get into specifics. You don’t have to talk about sex organs. You do have to say that people can’t touch her where she pees and she can’t touch the dog where he pees. Samesies.

Good luck.

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