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Catherine McCord Headshot

I Let My Kids Drink Coffee

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"I want coffee!!!"

This battle cry is frequently heard most mornings in my house in what I have dubbed the Toddler Java Revolt. My two young children, Kenya, 4, and Chloe, 2, watch me brew a pot of coffee every morning but have recently started to not take it well when I tell them they can't have their own cups. Now mind you, I drink decaffeinated coffee which is probably fine, but something just doesn't sit right with me as I think about watching my little ones kick back every morning with a steaming cup of morning thunder. Not to mention, I probably couldn't deal with our dentist telling me at our next cleaning appointment why my kids are candidates for Pepsodent.

Unsurprisingly, as soon as I told them, "I'm sorry, you're both too young to have coffee," they wanted it even more (funny how that works). So I decided to take the same approach to this parental beverage dilemma as I would to candy or any food I'm not keen on them developing a habit for. Moderation in all things is a good rule to live by and I find that if you let kids try a bit of a food or drink every now and then, it becomes less taboo and a lot less precious.

Trust me, this comes from experience. Growing up, my mother never let us have anything sweet, and I soon became the kid that would sneak into the pantry to down whatever sweets I could get my hands on, be it a bag of Oreos or an entire glass jar of Flintstone vitamins in a single sitting (true story). The same was true for the caffeinated coffee my grandparents drank. They would allow us a sip here and there, but as soon as my parents saw what was happening they would put an end to it which of course made me want to drink it even more. Whether I can blame the major sweet tooth and thirst for coffee I have today on my parents' strict food rules is up for debate, but I still opt for moderation with my own kids.

So now on Sundays after we come home from the farmer's market and settle into an afternoon of lounging around the house, I'll pour the kids a thimble full of decaf (and let them pour a half a cup of milk in it) to enjoy. They rarely finish the entire serving, but you can see how empowered they feel to be enjoying something that mommy loves.

Is it the most nutritious drink for kids? No. Are they going to become brewtus addicts when they're older? Who knows? But at this point in the game, it feels like the lesser of many evils.