Written by Doctor G

If you can, Mom, why can’t I?!

Hi Dr. G. I’m hoping you can help me with a question that comes up in my family.  I like to drink soda and I don’t want my kids to drink soda.  So how do I get through that?  When I’m drinking a soda and they want one and I say they can’t have one, they say “Why can you have it but we can’t?”  Even though I say, “It’s not good for you, it’s not good for your body, it’s not good for kids.”  They ask “Is it good for grown up bodies?”  And I say no, then they ask, “Why are you drinking it?”  How do I explain that it’s ok for me to have it even though it’s not really a great thing for me, but they’re not allowed?  I hope you can help.

Jeneatte, in Philadelphia, PA


A: Oof.  They ALL ask this, right?  This question is about soda, but it could have been about coffee, beer, sweets, R rated movies, gossip magazines, top 40 music, even surfing the internet!  None of these are necessary but each decision is part of the privilege of being an adult.

What our kids really want to know is why we get to decide the rules for them AND for ourselves, and why aren’t they the same rules?

First, the medical skinny on soda.  Nothing about soda is healthy.  The water is carbonated (fizzy), which lowers the oxygen saturation in the blood for a few hours.  Phosphoric acid leaches calcium from bones. “Regular” soda has a metric ton of sugar (ok, not really but a lot!) which causes cavities, adds fat to our bodies and builds the habit of thinking that all drinks should be sweet.  Artificial sweeteners in diet sodas have a host of potential and real problems.  Caffeine is a stimulant and raises blood pressure, among other things.  Like most stuff that is bad for us, a little is not a huge deal.  Although also like most stuff that is bad for us, it is worse for kids.

So I agree, drinking soda is not right for your kids, especially if they are under the age of twelve.  Older than that, and it is probably time to teach them about doing things in small doses – a skill that all teenagers can use to their advantage!

Doing things, in moderation, that aren’t so healthy for us is a privilege of adulthood.  We DO get to make the rules for kids and for ourselves. These rules aren’t the same, and shouldn’t be.

This is where parents trip over the fact that all kids think fair means equal.  Not true!  However, trying telling that to a child under the age of…twenty.  Fair means doing for each person in the family what is right for them.  As I talk about here, adulthood should carry some privileges that children don’t have, and this is another good example.

When you’re talking to your kids, the issue is responsibility.  You are responsible for the health of their bodies and minds during their childhood.  They may have lots of plans to reach adulthood and eat nothing but ice cream and stay up all night.  OK!  But for now, their bodies are on loan to you and you are going to take excellent care of them.  You can remind them that you’re counting on them to take care of your grandchildren the same way someday!



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2 thoughts on “If you can, Mom, why can’t I?!”

  1. Parents remember – same goes for smoking

    But then I do not know anyone that smokes…. Its not good for you

  2. Hey Dr. G,

    Our rationale for soda is primarily for “brown soda” – the phosphoric acid throws off the phosphorous-calcium balance in the body and is very harmful to growing bones. And like you said sugar and (usually also) caffeine. Artificial sweeteners are verboten.

    That said, I’ve never encountered or even heard of data on carbonation having an impact on blood oxygen saturation. Is there an easy place to find research summaries on this?

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