Your Child Does Not Need A Latte

As a pseudo-barista at the fast food equivalent of a café, I’m well acquainted with failure. I contribute to society only as a pair of minimum-wage hands, and my customers never let me forget there are drinks on the menu more valuable than an hour of my labor—in market terms, a single gulp of espresso is equal to fifteen minutes of my dumb ass lifting and unloading crates of Iced Lemon Pound Cakes. So know that I don’t presume to pass judgment from some intellectual or ethical high ground.

I am but a humble failure, looking out across the counter and seeing in you, the parent, a reflection of myself: that dull, idiot reflection that can’t seem to realize how horrifically it’s fucking up. I’ve tried to ignore it. God knows I’ve tried. I ignore so many of the horrible things I see here. The middle-aged man removing his ring as he waits for his mistress. The puddles of bulimia and the discarded pregnancy tests. The insistence that we “just smile and nod” when the customers refer to the black barista as “boy.” The man who, angry he could not cut in line, whipped out his dick and pissed on the floor just to watch me clean it up.

In a world with painkillers and Jameson and a wonderful, beautiful partner, I can come close to forgetting these things. But you’re so consistent and flagrant that I just can’t ignore it anymore. It breaks my heart to see you failing this way. Failing your children! And I would mop the piss of every bulimic philandering bigot forever if you would only realize:

Your child does not need a latte.

That’s all. I’m not asking you to give up meat or care about Darfur. All I’m asking—all we’re asking, the people who will one day share a workplace and a world with the living sum of your parental decisions—is that you stop feeding your children fancy coffee drinks. As proud as you might be of your eight-year-old daughter totally nailing your order of two (triple / grande / three-pump white mocha / two-pump toffee nut / non-fat / no foam / extra whip / extra drizzle) mochas, it doesn’t change the fact that what you’re giving your child is an energy bomb dumped in an obesity drink. Please reconsider.

Please remember this an hour from now, when the store has to watch you yell at your daughter to sit still, to focus on her homework, to stay in her seat. Please give it some thought while you drag her by the wrist to the back seat of your SUV. Please don’t forget it at the parent-teacher conference, when you find out your daughter is having trouble focusing, or at the therapist’s office, when you discover that the way she often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat / often leaves seat in situations in which remaining seated is expected / often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly / often is “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor,” / often talks excessively means she meets the DSM-IV bullet points for hyperactivity and might warrant consideration for ADHD medication. After you flatten the affect of your beautiful, wonderful child, please remember:

Your child does not need a latte.

How many sodas did your mom let you drink in a day when you were a kid? One? Two? Three?! Three is too many and makes me think you had a fat mom. A single Coke has 35mg of caffeine, and remember how buzzed you felt after a couple of those? Right? Like you could kick off your Jordans and your Starter jacket and just moonwalk right across your stupid teacher’s desk?! That’s because children don’t have the same tolerance for caffeine that a latte-buying parent like yourself might. So can you imagine how your daughter feels when she downs a medium latte and the 150mg of caffeine it contains? We’re talking five bottles of soda. We’re talking more than twice the federally recommended 62.5mg daily limit on caffeine intake for 7 to 9-year-old children. In a single drink. That your child hasn’t started shooting lightning from her over-caffeinated fingers like the emperor from Star Wars is a small miracle.

And don’t think that because a Frappucino resembles a milkshake with its whipped cream and chocolate drizzle that it’s somehow an innocent alternative. I realize your daughter looks adorable scooping spoonfuls of whipped cream from her Java Chip Frappucino—nobody’s arguing that—but she’s drinking twice the recommended daily sugar intake for a normal-sized human and over 100mg of caffeine. Has parenting become so stress-free and routine that you’re looking to ramp up the difficulty? Is your daughter on the way to visitation with your ex? Is this a vengeance-Frappucino? Because how do you not realize that:

Your child does not need coffee in any form.

Maybe it’s nothing malevolent. You’re at the coffee place on the way to school and work and it’s early and you want to get something for your kid because it makes her happy, and you love it when she’s happy, and you love it when she hugs your leg with those tiny grateful arms and says thank you! because it makes you die a little in the very best way. Maybe that’s it. And I get it, I really do. I’ve done any number of shameful things for the affections of a cute somebody. But this is hurting your child. This is making her die a little in the very worst way, and the smiles you buy here won’t help with her insulin resistance, or remove the extra weight, or erase the memories of all that yelling. How happy will she be when she enters middle school overweight and addicted to Adderall? Please don’t start your child down a road that leads to young adult novels and the comments section of internet magazines. For all our sakes.

Try something different for a while. You’ll be a few bucks richer, your kid will be less of a handful, her teachers will hate themselves a bit less, the grass will be greener and the sky bluer and the sun warmer and, I dunno, that’s just how it feels for me, the loser psuedo-barista, every time a parent brings a box of apple juice and a banana to the register. So do that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a hobo showering in the men’s room and I need to make sure he hasn’t stolen any Mumford and Sons CDs. TC mark

image – Journeys


More From Thought Catalog

  • Anonymous


  • Joanna Ladzinski

    Couldn’t agree more.  Especially with all the “ohh America has an obesity crisis” talk, fancy coffee drinks are about as bad for you in terms of sugar as a ton of soda.  Even if everything else you feed your kid is healthy.

  • Girlwithcomputer

    right on. From a parent who cannot understand WHY people even give their children soda, let alone Frappucinos… Thanks for this.

  • Lndsnvk

    I absolutely loved this. Brilliant.

  • jeffrey dunn


  • Kia Etienne

    Jack, has anyone ever told you that you’re a literary genius~

  • douchegirl

    This is great! Entertaining and informative. I had no idea parents were giving their 8-year-olds lattes. 

  • kuradeko

    Wow this is really good. I’ve never thought of this before. You’ve noticed a little phenomenon and written something to try and change it. Well done, a piece with heart.

  • Katherine

    Every word is impeccable. Cheers. 

  • fulldamage

    Yes.  Relevant, funny, and raises awareness about a real problem.  More of this, please!

  • Alyssa Johnston

    I desire more from this Jack the Czar. TC should start having a battle royale amongst its writers. Who’s with me?

  • Alyssa Johnston

    I desire more from this Jack the Czar. TC should start having a battle royale amongst its writers. Who’s with me?

  • Lauren Ashley

    Great article. I was actually thinking about this topic just the other day. 

  • Annie

    I once watched a couple at LAX buy two giant frappucinos that I assumed were for them, and then hand the drinks off to their stroller-ridden twins who were all of three years old.  I took a photo and considered sending it to social services but never did….probably a giant mistake.

    • Anonymous

      I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say PLEASE POST THE PHOTO HERE!!

    • Anonymous

      Why would they even do that? Are people that ignorant about the sugar bombs these things are? 

      • Paul

        *Lattes* have the sugar content of the milk within them and nothing more. There are coffee drinks at a starbucks which have substantial sugar content (mostly the iced ones) but a latte is not really one f the. 

        The article seems to be as ignorant of the effect of sugar as anyone it chastises – suggesting that a latte is the same as 5 bottles of soda due to the caffeine, as if the 20-fold difference in sugar is negligible.

        (The claim in the article isn’t wrong. The exposition, however, is lacking.)

      • TO


      • Anon

        Shut up.

      • Anonymous

        Though I did mention lattes and sodas in the same paragraph, I wasn’t saying they had anywhere near the same sugar content. I was comparing the caffeine content.

        Many of the flavored coffee drinks (and the sugary blended ones) contain high levels of sugar, however, and I mention that in the very next paragraph.

        Sorry for the misunderstanding!

      • J. B. Rainsberger

        Sadly, some parents either didn’t learn the perils of sugar or have become quite desperate to appease their kids. I have no kids in part to avoid the stress that goes along with making these kinds of decisions. I have enough trouble maintaining my own health.

  • Kelsea

    I wasn’t allowed to drink coffee, but begged and begged my mom to let me have a cup. When I was 9, she finally “gave in,”  but insisted she order it. What she got me was a decaf americano. No milk or sugar. I didn’t drink coffee again until I was in middle school and all my friend’s parents would buy them frappachinos before school. Hah

  • Anonymous

    My parents never bought me coffee but I went away to France the summer between seventh and eighth grades and the family I stayed with gave me coffee mixed with hot chocolate every morning (basically a cafe mocha) and I have been an addict ever since. I didn’t have any trouble sitting still though. In England, even the littlest children caffeinated drink tea and nobody would say it was inappropriate. My English grandmother started plying me with cups of tea several times a day when I was old enough to hold a cup.

    • William Ting

      The average cup of tea contains 32mg of caffeine vs 152 mg of caffeine in the average cup of coffee.

      Also, just because you turned out fine because you had coffee for two summers as a tween doesn’t justify parents giving their kids 150+ mg caffeine and additional sugar at the beginning of a day.

    • J. B. Rainsberger

      “I survived it” does not translate well into “everyone will be just fine”.

  • Aelya

    ugh can you please stay on TC forever 

    • Anonymous

      I’ll try!

  • Fiona

    Sorry, but this is why 1 in 3 Americans is obese. ONE soda a day when you were a kid? And you considered that normal? I was allowed maybe one coke per month until i reached 10.

  • Alex

    I liked this. Thanks. But the conflation of ridiculous caffeine-related parental decisions with ‘obesity’ problems lets the article and its important points down. There really wasn’t any fat-kid-dissing required (there never is) – but this isn’t exactly the first time I’ve felt casual fat nastiness has let down an otherwise excellent article on TC.

    • J. B. Rainsberger

      Casual fat nastiness? I guess I just didn’t see it. The Frappuccino is a dual threat to children: caffeine and sugar. It’s true. It helps create hyperactive, fat kids who die early and have a poorer quality of life. It helps create another generation hooked on medication. That sounds like concern to me, and not nastiness.

    • Kalexg

      there is a difference between fat-shaming and pointing out obesity problems…

  • FC

    Fuckin Frappuccinos, those are the gateway

    • J. B. Rainsberger

      Sadly, they can act as a gateway.

  • guest

    I totally agree that kids should not be drinking coffee, especially not on a regular basis. Parents who allow that are moronic asshats.  That said, as someone who actually has ADHD and takes Adderall, I just feel the need to be a know-it-all twat and comment on the author’s mention of what are common misconceptions about the manner in which Adderall affects brain activity among those with ADHD and those without. I apologize in advance for being a twat here, but for whatever reason I hate that so many people see Adderall as some sort of tool of the devil that turns all kids into zombies.  
    Anyway, Adderall is a stimulant, just like caffeine.  For people who don’t have ADHD, stimulants make you want to bounce all over the place.  The same isn’t true for those with ADHD.  People with ADHD’s brain chemistry is such that Adderall allows them to sit still like normal people.  

    Second, Adderall by itself doesn’t flatten the affect of those with ADHD.  I have lots of experience with ADHD kids, and have observed that Adderall often *brightens* their affect due to a feeling of relief — finally the teacher isn’t always yelling them, finally they’re not always getting in trouble, finally they’re doing well in school.  All of that really boosts the kids’ self-esteem and, consequently, their affect. If you do see a kid who is no longer hyperactive and also has a flattened affect, then that means that the kid has a stupid asshole doctor who has prescribed some sort of depressant in addition to Adderall.  

    Third, I’m not hooked on Adderall.  When I don’t take it I don’t have any type of withdrawal symptoms.  I don’t have the shakes or an overwhelming desire to get my next “fix.”  All that happens is that I have a hard time keeping my shit together and being a functioning adult. 

    • heehee

      yeah just wanted to second this. I did my fair share of using my friends’ meds throughout highschool and whenever i was on Adderall/concerta, etc, I was a normal person- I exercised, cleaned, did my homework, didn’t go psycho on people, etc. I finally got diagnosed after my freshman year at college with ADHD… IDK but word up to Guest (lol…) because for real, for people with ADHd it just makes us able to function like most people, it doesnt turn us into (even more) hyperactive creatures, it doesn’t make us “flat” or devoid of emotion/personality etc, it doesnt kill our creativity or anything, it just helps (helps MOST of us, obviously not all people with ADHD are the same). so yeah. my meaningless 2 cents

  • Logan

    This article rubbed me the wrong way. Felt a little too much like social policing, effacing any sort of context for the purposes of showing how coffee is actually metonymy for many of the problems of growing up in America (poor dieting, misprescribed pill culture, plus the melodramatic framing at the beginning that suggests that sexual harrasment, racism, unwanted pregnancies, and body image issues all congregate to get caffeinated).

    For one thing I know that it’s not detrimental to either the physiology or mental health of a child because kids in South America are all weened on coffee. Same can be said of many Arabic speaking countries in North Africa and the Middle East, and parts of India. Across the board, even extending into Central America and the Caribbean, the coffee bean finds its way into budding youth. That in large part has to do with it being their major cash crop in South America. Cafe au laits, mochas, espressos, etc. are all par for the course for los niños.

    Any issues you’re bringing up here seems less to do with coffee than it does with overconsumption in general. I was kinda with you until you said “Your child does not need coffee in any form,” in bold lettering. It’s really not that big of a deal, unless it’s a puzzle piece connected to several other detrimental jigsaws of adolescence. I feel like this was just one big emotionally driven strawman that missed the opportunity to present some hard science (like the effect on overconsumption of caffeine and sugar in children, its prevelancy in American youth and around the world, what factors were tested for and against.). Maybe that’s not the form of thoughtcatalog. I dunno, I’ve never been here before. Anywho, I hope I don’t come off as a dick or anything. If anything, your essay provoked a mini-essay response from me. Then again, I’m also trembling with the enthusiasm of a double espresso, so normally I might’ve just said “meh” and navigated to the next brief entertainment :)

    • J. B. Rainsberger

      Why is basic logic so hard for people here? Children do not need coffee, whether they can survive it or not. It’s really not that hard.

      • Logan

        Why should it be exclusive to adults? I’m not aware of anything – beyond an old wive’s tale that coffee stunts growth – that puts forth evidence that it’s bad for kids. I’m not saying to release the flood gates of caffeinated beverages to children, but I also don’t see the absolutist benefit of prohibiting it either. By invoking “logic” one would hope a compelling argument beyond the plea to ‘common sense’ would appear. Instead of empirical propositions there’s just empty incredulity. Kids can use pick-me-ups in the morning just as adults can. It’s okay in moderation, but not to the point where they have mini caffeine seizures. That’s not good for anyone. It happens around the world all the time, and has been the norm for at least a century. If you want to tackle diet issues, the argument is much bigger than coffee. 

      • J. B. Rainsberger

        I’m having trouble deciding where to begin, so I’m just going to take it in order. I’m going to do this once, so please pay attention.

        “Why should it be exclusive to adults?” I didn’t argue that it should; I said that children do not need coffee. That is not a statement about whether they should have it. Caffeine need not be exclusive to adults; however, “some reports indicate that a substantial fraction of teenagers might have a problem with controlling their caffeine intake.” Now you’re aware of something that puts forth evidence that it’s bad for kids. Google can help you find more, if you’d like to search.

        “I also don’t see the absolutist benefit of prohibiting it either.” I didn’t argue that we should prohibit it; I said that children do not need it. I imagine that some children have chemical imbalances that stop them from naturally generating as much energy as the average, healthy child does. The average healthy child, however, does not need stimulants. Basic observation should be enough to convince most people of this point. If anything, the average healthy child needs more outlets to burn off excess energy, as current levels of prescriptions of ADD/ADHD medication seems to indicate.

        “By invoking “logic” one would hope a compelling argument beyond the plea to ‘common sense’ would appear.” I don’t remember making a plea to common sense, but rather what I left was a self-evident statement. Yes, children can survive coffee. That does not mean that they need it. Children can survive head trauma, rape, and violent emotional abuse; that does not mean that they need these things. I find that a compelling use of logic, don’t you?

        “Instead of empirical propositions there’s just empty incredulity.” Do you mean empty incredulity like “I’m not aware of anything – beyond an old wive’s tale that coffee stunts growth – that puts forth evidence that it’s bad for kids.”? You made that one entirely too easy. I recommend you start here for information about the effects of caffeine on the body:

        “Kids can use pick-me-ups in the morning just as adults can.” I don’t argue against this point, but why would kids need a daily pick-me-up in the morning? For that matter, why would adults? A sensible healthy lifestyle would obviate the need for either. 

        “It’s okay in moderation, but not to the point where they have mini caffeine seizures.” I wouldn’t say “it’s okay”, but I certainly agree that the average child can survive small amounts of caffeine.

        “It happens around the world all the time, and has been the norm for at least a century.” Really? You want to go there? Do I even need to list all the things that happen around the world all the time, and were norms for at least a century? Rape within marriage, stoning, child labor, slavery, deforestation, treating homosexuality as a mental disease, treating hysteria in women with masturbation therapy, bloodletting, asserting that the Sun revolves around the Earth, asserting that the Earth is flat. Is that enough?

        “If you want to tackle diet issues, the argument is much bigger than coffee.” Really? So unless I solve the entire problem of human health and diet, I should make no comment about any part of the problem? Does that seem reasonable to you? By that reasoning, no-one should ever attempt to solve any part of any problem, because the argument will always be much bigger than that part of the problem. If we don’t figure out how to reverse universal entropy, for example, then no problem-solving provides any value, since universal entropy will destroy all matter, anyway. Come on.

        To this point, I’ve only wanted to highlight the absurdity of your argument, which sadly gets in the way of the one unarguable point you’ve raised: people can survive some caffeine intake, and so we don’t need to prohibit it absolutely. I agree with that, and, if you look back, never argued against it. Even so, nobody needs regular, substantial doses of ingested caffeine for their body and mind to function well. I really hope that this statement is so self-evident that we don’t argue it. If you believe that ingesting caffeine is /necessary/ for a healthy mind and body, then no amount of exchange with make this conversation go in a useful direction. From this point, we only need basic logic to conclude that children, being people, don’t need coffee. So why should one consider controling (not prohibiting, simply controling) caffeine in children, but not in adults? 

        We have generally agreed through trial and error that the freest way to live includes allowing adults absolute authority over what they ingest, as long as what they ingest does no substantive harm to others. We struggle with this, but we mostly live this way, and keep moving further in that direction every decade. We have also agreed to define “adult” by objectively-measured age, rather than more meaningful characteristics, mostly because it’s an easy test to administer and mostly eliminates individual judgment. Therefore, we agree that adults have the absolute right to abuse their body by ingesting coffee. We generally agree to this and I agree to this. So again, why seek to control caffeine intake in children? 

        Simply because we have seen enough evidence that not all adults can be trusted absolutely to do what’s in the best interests of other people, including children, theirs or others’. (They fuck them, they torture them, they enslave them, and so on.) Therefore we generally agree not to give adults absolute rights regarding how they treat other people, including children, theirs or others’. Therefore we seek general agreement on things to prohibit adults from doing to children (again, fucking, torturing, enslaving). Given that caffeine does have demonstrable deleterious effects on people in general, and children in particular, and we generally agree not necessarily to give adults absolute rights regarding how they treat children, it’s simple to conclude that we should advise adults not to let their children drink all the coffee they want.

        With all that said, I don’t even want to prohibit children from drinking caffeine. I simply see this article as an observation that many adults do not understand the effects of caffeine on their children, and need a not-so-gentle reminder to pay more attention to what their children are ingesting. Children do not need coffee, so reconsider allowing them to drink it. It is not harmless.

      • Logan

        I appreciate your long reply.

        I guess it’s now a little problematic because my original post was in response to the OP, who said,”Your child does not need coffee in any form,” whereas you seem to be open to at least the occasional use. I guess we can just erase that point of contradiction since our agreements overlap a little instead of, like we both agreed again, an absolute stance is silly.

        Also, your form of arguing is rubbing me the wrong way just as the OP, by protracting the analogy of standard coffee use in children around the world into the territory of slippery slope that “rape, murder, etc.” have been in history and are survivable, and therefore should be put on the same plateau. Reminds me of the anti-gay marriage form of arguing where the person asks what’s to stop pedophiles and zoophiles from marrying? One “perversion” is equal to the next, is that right?

        When I asked for proof, and your point that perhaps I’m a hypocrite for invoking ‘incredulity’ (if I understood your point correctly)– I don’t feel the burden of proof is on me since I came as a skeptic and not as a potential pontificator of erudition (again, a point I feel the OP missed out on). A pretty balanced look at the health benefits and risks of coffee:

        It seems as though in moderation coffee may be fairly beneficial, and yes, it has risks. Of course abusing any substance is dangerous (water overdoses have actually happened). I think people should be conscientious of this fact. ” If you believe that ingesting caffeine is /necessary/ for a healthy mind and body.” I do not believe that, btw. “Children do not need coffee, so reconsider allowing them to drink it. It is not harmless.” Nor do I believe it is inherently harmful. The problem is that from this point we can only arrive at anecdote, with both of us postulating instances that frame our preferred narrative where 1) children drink coffee unchecked because of poor parenting or 2) children can handle coffee in small and occasional doses. They do not need it to survive, but you can kill 10,000 trees creating a mile-long list of things that aren’t necessary to live normally. That’s the social policing I’m talking about that borders on liberal fascism. If the point of this article was to raise awareness, fair enough, but it felt more polemic than a PSA.

        See, I think it’s silly to tell people how to parent when there are much more fundamental problems to examine, most of which are more dangerous and more succinct in identifying. Processed foods, overconsumption of sugar, lack of a varied and balanced diet. Yes, I think that scrutinizing coffee is seeing the forest for the trees. It may be tangentially related poorly raising a child if not observed and dispensed in proper moderation. Coffee can be harmful to adults and children if abused. It can also be a splendid treat  for the mind and body. It takes a severe lack of self-awareness to not recognize either of those facts. Maybe I give people more credit than they deserve in that regard. 

      • J. B. Rainsberger

        Thanks for reacting reasonably to my response. I appreciate that; it’s rare.

        One can easily be open to occasional use and assert that children do not need coffee. They don’t /need/ it, and they mostly shouldn’t have it.

        My argument was not a slippery slope one at all. On the contrary, /your/ argument simply doesn’t hold. “X happens routinely elsewhere” is not an argument in favor of X, because it can instead be argument for people elsewhere to stop doing X. I simply used values of X to try to make that clear.

        I agree that you don’t bear the burden of proof regarding the effects of caffeine on children, although you do bear some responsibility for trying to find evidence instead of asserting flimsily that, because you’re not aware of any such evidence, you can assume none exists. It seems like you claim to know something, when instead you simply choose not to know.

        I absolutely understand and agree that we have to worry about falling into liberal fascism. I don’t favor that. I don’t want to absolutely stop parents from giving their children coffee, but I do favor periodic reminders that parents should be careful about giving their children coffee.

        As for your final paragraph, I believe we need both: we need to work on the larger problem and we need to remind people about the little things they can do to help themselves in the meantime.

      • Magali

        Children should try green smoothies (*)  in the morning — fantastic pick-me-up, and healthy too. Oh, and adults should too ;)
        (*) basic recipe : 1 mango + ½ cucumber + 1 banana + 2 handful spinach + 1 handful corn salad + 1 finger grated ginger + 1 squeezed lemon + 1 squeezed orange + 2 cups water. Blend, drink up, enjoy. Easy, tasty, healthy.

  • LittlePluma

    As I sipped a homemade latte (made with arabica beans, of course) I nearly showered my computer screen when I laughed. This guy has a golden pen, that’s for sure. His main point is well-defended, even though I’ve never seen seven and eight year olds were drinking coffee beverages. (Suburbian ignorance, anyone?)

    You know what I say? The parents who do this are fucking idiots who only buy their children “fancy coffee drinks”, and they don’t buy it to see their children look cute…they buy it to make themselves look better.

  • Lindsey

    Nicely written.  I like your creative story telling approach to an important issue that is not given proper attention.  I’ll be sure to remember you when I’m working on related public health campaigns.

    And, these ‘parents’ might as well dump a bag of sugar down their child’s throat and then head to the bank to set up an insulin fund.

  • Ruth Tam

    I was a barista for a hot second. At the place I worked at (yet another “fast food equivalent of a cafe”), there was an item on the menu called “magic milk.” It was milk + flavored syrup topped with whipped cream and sprinkles.


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