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Sunday, March 21, 2010

'Starter' Coffee

Some of you may recall that a couple of years ago we decided to introduce our older kids to coffee (voluntarily, of course... we didn't force it on them).  At the time, Gilad was having some attention issues at school (to say the least), and absolutely hated the 'wired' feeling he got from the Ritalin that his pediatrician had prescribed for him.

Naturally we respected Gilad's concerns about feeling over-medicated, but since he was already on the lowest possible dose of Ritalin, there wasn't much we could do except take him off it and try to figure out something else.

That 'something else' turned out to be a helpful suggestion from a friend/reader.  Simply put, if Ritalin is basically a stimulant... and that stimulant was a bit too strong for Gilad... maybe what Gilad needed was a weaker stimulant. 

The stimulant that was suggested was coffee; the idea being that Gilad could make it as strong or weak as he wanted... and thereby be a bit more in control of how much of a 'jolt' he received. 

It worked like a charm.  This isn't to say he hasn't had any problems in school.  But both he and his teachers all noted the marked improvement in his ability to focus... and stay focused.  And the improvement has continued, along with his coffee consumption.

At the same time, Ariella decided she loved the smell of the coffee everyone else was drinking in the morning, and wanted to try it too.  This has been the status quo for the past couple of years, with Ariella going back and forth between tea and coffee in the morning... but pretty much everyone having a caffeinated beverage of some sort with breakfast.

Except Yonah.

About a month ago Yonah started asking me for a sip of my coffee.  And within a couple of days of his first sip, he started demanding his own cup.

Now, before you start calling Child Protective Services on me, I want to assure you that I am not about to start giving a six year old a cup of hi-test in the morning.  I don't buy into the whole 'stunt your growth' wives tale, but I have to believe that our little Energizer Bunny' doesn't need any more energy!

So what I have started given him is basically a little cup with a splash of coffee, a little sugar, and lots of milk.  He seems pleased with the arrangement, and has even started mimicking the way we hold the coffee cups (with the handle turned away from the hand holding it)... and the way we sip.

Last wednesday the two of us were alone at the breakfast table waiting for everyone else to make an appearance.  After I'd poured him his cup of 'starter coffee', he pushed aside his bowl of Cheerios, picked up his mug in two hands, took a deep sniff, and an appreciative sip.  After he'd lowered the cup from his face he looked me in the eye and said, "I just love a cup of coffee in the morning, don't you?"

It would have been cruel to spoil the moment by laughing at such a serious pronouncement that had come from the mouth of a little boy wearing pajamas decorated with puppy-dogs.   So I looked seriously back across at him and responded, "Me too, Yonah... me too!".

Posted by David Bogner on March 21, 2010 | Permalink


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A chip of the old block! I wouldn't have been able to keep a straight face.

Posted by: Noa | Mar 21, 2010 10:12:23 AM

LOL! That's great interaction between you and Yona.

Re the Ritalin association, I thought you might find it interesting what our son's neurologist told us some 20 years ago when he started taking Ritalin. I asked the doctor out of curiosity how Ritalin was discovered, and who had the totally illogical and counter-intuitive idea to try out a stimulant on hyperactive children. He told me that there was a children's home for "difficult" children in Switzerland, and every evening the counsellor would gather the kids around for a pep talk and to chat about the day's events over a cup of coffee. He slowly realized that after the coffee these children were much calmer. He did some trial and error experiments, and realized that it was the coffee and not just the talk therapy that was helping. From there, it wasn't such a big leap to develop Ritalin.

Posted by: annie | Mar 21, 2010 11:32:43 AM


Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Mar 21, 2010 11:33:22 AM

Coffee in morn, that exquisite liquor. I become intolerable when my caffeine level drops dangerously low.

Posted by: quietusleo | Mar 21, 2010 11:40:22 AM

"with a splash of coffee, a little sugar, and lots of milk"

Exactly as my parents started me more years ago than I care to count :).

They called it "milk-with-a-dash", and it could be ordered in cafes in London for the sophisticated child-about-town (also for adults who just wanted a taster).

Posted by: chairwoman | Mar 21, 2010 12:46:31 PM

That is the funniesat thing I've heard in a long time.
Enjoy him!
And I've been giving my kids "coffee" since they were two (Decaf!) It got them to drink some milk!

Posted by: odm | Mar 21, 2010 2:33:50 PM

Can't believe you made it this long without Yonah drinking coffee. My daughter started at 2 years..she asked for a little sip and I thought she would spit it out. Instead, she loved it. No sugar, no milk--hard core black espresso. Now, I have to be careful, if I put my coffee down for a second, I'll come back to the table with it half gone and little girl with a big smile on her face.

Posted by: Naomi | Mar 21, 2010 2:39:56 PM

He also likes it when I put a heaping spoonful of chocolate milk powder in with the "coffee" and milk! :-)

Posted by: zahava | Mar 21, 2010 3:23:10 PM

My kids also started drinking coffee pretty young--the same "coffee-starter" you describe. Now they're into the hard-core stuff. And they just love the ice coffee I prepare for them on a hot summer' day...

Posted by: Baila | Mar 21, 2010 5:42:29 PM

We called it "coffee-milk" when I was a kid. Many a youngster in south Louisiana got his start with a little bit of strong Cajun-style drip coffee in a cup with a lot of milk and sugar.

At grandma's house, the beans were roasted on her stove, ground right before the pot was brewed, and the milk came from my great-uncle's cow, and the combination is the stuff of dreams.


Posted by: mostly cajun | Mar 21, 2010 6:22:12 PM

I love this! My kids (18 and 14 respectively) both LOVE the smell of coffee in the morning. Yonah is such a sweetheart.

Posted by: Maya | Mar 21, 2010 7:19:48 PM

When I was just a couple years older than Yonah I began eating Cheerios and a glass of Milk mixed with about 2oz of Coffee in the morning.Many,many, years later I still eat the Cheerios.

Posted by: Ed | Mar 21, 2010 8:46:37 PM

Awwwww......I loved this post. Makes me want to see Yonah :)

Posted by: Sonal | Mar 21, 2010 9:19:13 PM

You can - in the States, anyway - get Diplomat brand coffee syrup - it's like a coffee-flavored version of Hershey's chocolate syrup, and it makes a fine coffee-milk suitable for kids. It's also an essential ingredient in the Rhode Island Coffee Cabinet - which is nothing more or less than a coffee-flavored milkshake.

Posted by: Elisson | Mar 21, 2010 10:52:36 PM

If he starts asking for a little Slivovitz at Kiddush... ;)

Posted by: Jack | Mar 22, 2010 9:04:06 AM

I love that kid!! When we were children we always drank Postum. We thought it was the real stuff. Only as an adult did I discover Postum was the result of war rationing!

Posted by: Noa | Mar 22, 2010 12:40:58 PM

Also called coffee milk when I was in Vancouver. One of my students could even get it at a coffee shop on the way to school.

Posted by: Mordechai Y. Scher | Mar 22, 2010 3:53:34 PM

I love the smell of napalm in the morning...., smells like victory!

Errrm, I mean, I started with tea. Strong tea. My mother was convinced that coffee stunted growth, us kids were not to have it till we were adults! She forgot entirely that tea is easier to make, and is nearly as caffeinated.

One or two cups of strong tea, pipe filled with stinky tobacco, a new Simenon book......
Sheer heaven for a fourteen year old on a rainy autumn day.

Let me know when Yonah hits fourteen.
I'll buy him his first pipe.

Posted by: At The Back of the Hill | Mar 22, 2010 11:22:22 PM

I wish I had known that about coffee when my youngest was in school. Even the smallest dose of Ritalin made him sick and nauseous, so we gave up on that.
Over the years I've also counseled many parents and coffee would have been a good solution. Thanks, now I know. There's also caffeine in chocolate, which is probably why many kids like it when taking tests. Not the sugar, it's the caffeine...

Posted by: batya | Mar 23, 2010 6:32:03 AM

Did we talk about this when we were with you? Morey's mum told her to give Morey coffee when he was a but a wee bairn, because this was the days before Ritalin. It totally worked for him, much like it does for Gilad.

Meanwhile, can I totally say about Yonah - *melt* :)

Posted by: Alissa | Mar 23, 2010 6:44:22 PM


"who had the totally illogical and counter-intuitive idea to try out a stimulant on hyperactive children."

ritalin is not a stimulant in the sense you ascribe to it. it is called a stimulant because it stimulates certains types of neurotransmitter activity, specifically the neutransmitters that are involved in concenstation and attention.

Posted by: Lion of Zion | Mar 24, 2010 9:23:04 AM

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