Copquin: It's all wet -- coddling kids with a fancy label

"As parents," writes Claudia Gryvatz Copquin, "we should "As parents," writes Claudia Gryvatz Copquin, "we should be pointing our kids to the natural, healthy beverage that runs virtually free from everyone’s kitchen faucet." Photo Credit: Sara Schwartz

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As the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest nutrition experts and health organizations are petitioning the FDA to reduce sugar levels in soda, a New York City law is about to go into effect in March, banning eating establishments from selling sugary drinks that exceed 16 ounces.

These efforts are good for the public interest, especially our kids. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 56 percent of 8-year-olds and 78 percent of 9- to 14-year-olds consume soft drinks daily, with a third of teenage boys and girls drinking at least three cans of soda a day. That's way too much guzzling. As parents, we should be pointing our kids to the natural, healthy beverage that runs virtually free from everyone's kitchen faucet.

But that didn't work for one New York City mom and apparently others who are now buying the product Wat-ahh! at their local supermarkets. It's bottled water. For kids.

Rose Cameron created the "cool" line, she says, to fight childhood obesity by reversing kids' dependency on sodas and other sugary beverages. The company promotes a healthy lifestyle and exercise in addition to water.

I don't doubt Cameron has good intentions and is concerned about overweight children; most of us are. But the impetus behind her brainstorm is troubling.

"As a mom, I've tried it all, all the tricks," Cameron, who has two boys, 13 and 9, told Forbes. "Bribe them, promise them this or that, put a dash of lemon or orange in the water."

No matter how hard she tried, in other words, this mother couldn't get her children to give up the sweet stuff for water. So instead of exerting her parental authority -- which simply required not buying sugary beverages and forbidding them from doing so themselves -- she put all of her creative juices on kid-coddling.

Cameron, a former ad exec, and her kids came up with the sassy brand name. The kids also inspired the screaming boy logo, which just speaks volumes.

Cameron says that kids nowadays are sophisticated and respond well to brand names, so why not brand a product that's good for them. That makes sense from the perspective of an entrepreneur. But to me, this is just a tall glass of wrong. For starters, repackaging and rebranding an ordinary product that is already overflowing on supermarket shelves (and landfills) so that children will feel compelled to consume it re-illustrates for the planet that we're just a bunch of super-spoiled Americans.

Speaking of the rest of the world, according to sources such as National Geographic, in developing nations, an estimated 880 million people don't have regular access to clean water. As such, "About 5,000 children die each day due to preventable diarrheal diseases such as cholera and dysentery, which spread when people use contaminated water for drinking or cooking."

Shouldn't we be teaching our kids to respect and appreciate our natural resources, which are abundant in the United States? Drinking water is a privilege and necessity. But even for those unwilling or unable to instill those values in their children, whatever happened to enforcing parental rights by forbidding soda or sugary drinks?

"I require my kids to reach for water if they're thirsty at dinner after they have their one allotted glass of juice -- they drink milk with breakfast and lunch -- and they can get their water from the sink or the filter on the fridge," says Huntington mom Denise Schipani, author of "Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later." As for Wat-ahh!, she says, "I would love it if parents didn't operate out of a sense that their kids wouldn't drink 'just' water, so they have to resort to trickery or an unnecessary expense."

It's true that, on occasion, there's nothing wrong with using bells and whistles to get children to do what's good for them. But let's also teach these consumers-in-training not to drink the Kool-Aid: Water is water, no matter how it's packaged. It's plain and simple -- and the best, if not always the "coolest" choice. That should be the message in the bottle -- in every bottle of water.

Claudia Gryvatz Copquin of Northport writes frequently for Newsday.

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