Articles in the Los Angeles Times and on The Partnership at Drug Free.org refer to studies about parents who indulge in an occasional cocktail around their kids and whether or not they should be allowed to do so. You're drinking it and they want to try it.
"No, it's a drink for grown-ups," springs to your lips. But then in the LA Times article they talk about how you ask yourself, "When I cast alcohol as the forbidden fruit, doesn't that just make it more alluring?"
In a recent survey of "pro-sipping" attitudes among mothers of young children in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, 1 in 4 expressed the belief that allowing a child a sip of an alcoholic drink would likely deter him or her from further drinking because forbidden fruit - is well forbidden fruit. On the other hand, 4 in 10 moms said that not allowing a child to taste would simply increase his or her desire to have it.
What it comes down too - I think - is not so much whether you allow your children to sip - but how you model drinking in front of them. If you're a heavy drinker and so are your friends kids can go either way. They'll either think well it's OK for my parents and I'm going to do it, or they will be appalled, and drink very little or not at all. The same seems to be true for tobacco and drug use, although we're not going to suggest they try either.
At this point, I have two teenagers, a boy and a girl. If you forbid the boy something and he's 16, chances are he'll find a way to do it. If you forbid the girl she'll probably listen to you - but she's only 13. At this stage, there's not a whole lot I can do to influence their final choices.
So make your own decisions. If there's a history of alcoholism in your family tell your kids. And don't drink much in front of them. Whether they drink young is most likely due to attitudes and genetics. You can't stop that completely without driving them towards what you don't want. But you can help your children develop a value system where they know what the right choices are. Then it's up to them.