Should I be concerned that my kid pretends he's smoking or drinking wine?

Pretending to smoke and drink is not necessarily cause for concern. It's natural and age-appropriate for little kids to imitate grown-ups. They're learning what's socially acceptable -- and what you'll tolerate -- by testing boundaries. And, most likely, they're just looking for attention.

If you're wondering where they learned about these substances, it's very likely from you, close friends and family, or the media. Studies show that parent behavior has a huge influence on preschoolers' attitudes about smoking and drinking. Though that can be a little guilt-inducing, it's also good information to guide your response.

  • When your kids imitate smoking and drinking, avoid emotional responses. Anger may feed attention-seeking, and laughing sends a mixed message. Instead, neutralize the behavior by asking where they learned about these things.
  • Explain that wine, beer, and certain other drinks and cigarettes are only for adults.
  • Stress the value of a healthy diet, and praise your kids for making healthy choices.
  • Explain that advertisements for these products are intended for grown-ups, and note the cautions -- for example, "Enjoy responsibly" and "Smoking causes cancer."
  • Limit exposure to movies and TV shows with drinking and smoking, but if your kids see it, make sure they also see the consequences: feeling sick, coughing, being impaired, getting in accidents.

Get more tips on talking to kids about smoking in the media

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Comments

Kid, 11 years old

Yes, i think it could lead to very bad things. If you have any alcoholics in your family { depending on the child's age} tell them about what happened to that family member or friend. Tell them what could've happened, or let them smell wine. It smells HORRIBLE!!
Teen, 14 years old written by Common sense LST

in my opinion, you should only be worried just a little bit. just because your kid(s) pretend to smoke or drink alcohol, doesn't mean that your kid(s) will do that in real life. because when i was younger, i pretended to smoke, but i never did that in reality.
Adult written by Monera

I've got an idea: Let them take a sip! Alcohol tastes horrible! It's sour and bitter and not the fruity sweetness kids enjoy. If they don't like medicine, they won't like alcohol! Wine smells horrible to me and I still can't imagine taking a full sip of the stuff! People mostly drink it just for social stuff anyways, adults may get used to the taste, but kids will probably hate it! (Here's another idea, add something to make it taste extra-horrible and let your kids taste it. Sure, it's a bit deceitful, but if their memory of it is a bad one, they most likely won't be inclined to give it another try until they're much much older!)