There are battles, there are wars, and there are drink orders. Let’s not conflate the three.
Credit: EvgeniyAndreev

At home, the drink choices for my three kids are simple: milk, water, or the occasional orange juice.

But when we go out, it's a different story. We don’t keep sodas in the house, but my kids weren’t raised in a poorly lit box; they know Coke, Sprite, lemonade, and chocolate milk exist.

And when the server asks them what they want to drink, well, it's easy. They want Sprite. They want lemonade. And I don't want 20 minutes of whining—I want to enjoy my unsweetened iced tea in peace while we eat this awesome meal out that I didn’t have to plan, prep, serve, or mop up after.

So we compromise.

At each sit down meal, I tell my five- and three-year-old that they may select a beverage, or they can justa drink water and I’ll give them each a dollar. (The baby is stuck with a sippy cup of water, poor kid.)

They’re at the magical age where chore charts are an enchanting way to earn money, so they’re always after more without any real idea of how to spend it. Plus they think Lego sets cost approximately $1, maybe $2 for the really big ones, so offering a dollar, which is less than the cost of beverage at the average sit-down restaurant these days, is a pretty good deal for everyone.

Given the opportunity, they are always going to order a drink, so I’m out at least a $1 either way. I’d rather be out the dollar and watch them happily chug water than mentally talley up the sugar they’re sucking up their straws.

Looking to bribe your kid in a healthy way? Remember these tips:

  • Bribes are not extended to fast food situations or meals that include a kids’ drink. We all deserve treats once in a while.
  • It truly has to be their choice. Sometimes they’re going to want a chocolate milk, just like you want a glass of wine, and that’s ok. All things in moderation.
  • Break a $20 and keep it on you at all times. And don’t ever teach them about compound interest if you don’t want waist-high debt collectors waking you up at 6am to ask about their dollar.
  • Pick and stick. If you finish your chocolate milk super fast then want to switch to water for a dollar, sorry kiddo, you’re out of luck.
  • Use the conversation each time it comes up to talk about healthy choices, why you make them, and what they are.

Healthy lifestyles don’t just happen, they’re demonstrated, observed, and emulated.