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Did your young child drink a soda today? A recent study, conducted by Columbia University found that for 43% of parents of five-year-olds the answer is “yes.” Four percent of five-year-olds drink four sodas or more on average every day.

But here’s the kicker: aggressive behavior goes up drink-by-drink. Any amount of soda consumption was associated with hitting, fighting, withdrawal, and problems with paying attention. There was no “safe” level. And children who drank four or more sodas a day were twice as likely as other kids to destroy things, attack other people, and get into trouble.

About 3,000 kindergarten-age children in 20 different cities participated in the study, which was released by The Journal of Pediatrics. Its findings add to previous concerns about soda consumption with regard to everything from fragile bones to obesity. Soft drink consumption has even been linked to depression and unstable behavior in adolescents.

Check your refrigerator: does it contain soft drinks intended for your kids? If so, now is the time to wean your children off daily soda consumption.

  1. Let the soda run out. When it’s all gone, don’t buy any more.
  2. Replace soda with healthful drinks. Chilled water and milk are best for kids. Even fruit juice is too sugary.
  3. Make sweet drinks, like soda, flavored milk, and fruit juice, be only occasional treats. Notice that “occasional” isn’t “once a day.” Even one soda a day has ill effects on kids’ behavior.
  4. Change your own beverage choices. “No soda” means “none for anyone.” Remember that diet sodas create problems too.
  5. Be strong in the face of protests. It will take time to change your children’s habits (and your own). Your children will not die of thirst if there are no soft drinks in the house.

The beverage habits your children develop now create a foundation for their wellness as adults. But even more, right now, cutting back the soda can make your life easier, if your children become better-behaved and get into trouble less often.

No soda might not be a cure-all. But it’s a good place to start!

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Developmentally Appropriate Parenting, at your favorite bookstore.