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Archive for September 2012


Tips on Kids and the Soda Battle

One Facebook parent asked: What about soda? What do I do if I want to make a very occasional exception?  Maybe if at a restaurant with friends or something?  I don’t want to say the rule is no soda unless we go out. That is too often. But I foresee a few times in the next year I may want to allow it. How do I approach that so the kids don’t see it as not following through or staying strong?

Best to approach this not only as a behavior mealtime issue, but as a brain issue. The egregiously high amounts of sugar in soda stacks the deck against parents who want to let their kids enjoy a soda from time to time. The brain gets reconditioned when exposed to that level of extreme sweetness. The brain begins to think it’s acceptable and should be a regular thing. It soon craves and seeks out higher amounts of sugar all the time. When you frame it this way, it becomes obvious what soda drinks really are. Sugar delivery systems. With obesity on the rise in the US (we now see it starting in childhood due in part to these types of drinks) we have to act earlier.

We can’t live in a soda free world, but you can put in place a few things that will decrease the chances that your kids will get addicted to the sugar and want more and more. Here are some tips:

1. Space them out, once a week or less. Tie it to being good through the week. You should see soda no differently than a bag of sugar. You wouldn’t let your child have that everyday. Maybe every other time you go out to dinner, your child can have a soda. Maybe they have a soda only once on the weekends as a treat. You don’t want them to think soda is just another liquid to go along with meals.

2. Dilute it. I add soda water – or good old H2O – to sugary drinks. Cutting the sugar content down like that helps decrease the chances that your kids will get hooked on high sugary drinks. You can dilute a bit more as time goes on if you’re weaning your kids off.

3. Dining out can be tricky. You notice the first thing they want to bring to the table are drinks. The profit margin on soda is extraordinary. Kids shouldn’t start with soda. Ask for water only to start – then if you have sugary drinks – bring them with the meals. make that the rule. That way kids won’t be putting large amounts of sugar into their empty stomach, which only excites the brain to want more sugar – and decreases the desire to eat real food. It also teaches them self-control.

4. Start with you. What are you drinking and what are you modeling for your children? Are you buying these sodas for the house? Ask yourself why and if you can really control how much your kids are drinking. If not, better to keep them out of the house.

5. Investigate other things to drink. Although many juices have high sugar, you can buy better juices with natural, unprocessed sugar. They will also have vitamins like vitamin C. Be weary of diet sodas and additives… go more natural if possible. As the wonderful nutritionist at Yale Dr. David Katz says. If you need to be a chemist to read the back of the label, or it’s got too many ingredients, probably best to pass on it.

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.

More Homework Advice

Jeanette wrote: “Love this advice [on homework battles]! What to do when there are no consequences at school for not doing homework? We’ve run into this year after year!!”

If schools don’t have consequences for not doing homework… chances are the homework may not be important and/or the teacher(s) really may not care about the quality of it, just the quantity. If this is the case, better to take charge and set up simple homework tasks with your child. The goal is to break from distractions, spend a few minutes at a time focusing and sitting, and make sure it doesn’t go on forever. There should be closure on a learning task and it should be positive. It should feel good to get something done and have some investment in it. And there’s fun in learning new things!  Simple and short tasks for younger kids is the way to go – and grow the time gradually – with longer sitting times for middle school and up. Whatever you do, don’t get into long discussions or whining sessions or battles over it.

Also, ask teachers to close the loop. Have them ask for the homework and comment on it. Make sure children know the teacher cares about everything they work on – at home or school

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.

Tips from the Mom-in-Chief

Even The White House has its tough parenting rules. Here are some from Mom-in-Chief Michelle Obama that are great:

  • When the girls go on trips, they write reports on what they have seen, even if their school does not require it.
  • Technology is for weekends. Malia may use her cellphone only then, and she and her sister cannot watch television or use a computer for anything but homework during the week.
  • Malia and Sasha had to take up two sports: one they chose and one selected by their mother. “I want them to understand what it feels like to do something you don’t like and to improve,” the first lady has said.
  • Malia must learn to do laundry before she leaves for college.
  • The girls have to eat their vegetables, and if they say that they are not hungry, they cannot ask for cookies or chips later. “If you’re full, you’re full,” Mrs. Obama said in an interview with Ladies’ Home Journal. “I don’t want to see you in the kitchen after that.”

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.

Siblings and Violence – some tips!

One Facebook parent recently asked: how do you stop the unprovoked violence between brothers? While I don’t know her boys, I can give some general tips that work for brothers (and sisters) that resort to being very physical, in their play – and in their disagreements:

1. Work closely with them to determine boundaries. Wrestling is OK, hitting is not. Grabbing an arm is OK, grabbing privates or hitting faces is not. You may wrestle in the playroom, but not in the living room. Your list may be different – but it’s important that each family member has a say in the boundaries. If they participate in making the rules they’ll be more likely to follow them. Rehearse these rules with them and agree to them before any rough play starts. Make a chart of them if you want and post it.

2. Once physical boundaries are set, create specific verbal boundaries. Hitting or wrestling cannot be a substitute for words. If you are angry or upset, you talk about it or walk away, you don’t hit. But, if you are deciding it’s time for a WWE tournament, “STOP” or some other “safe word” must be respected ALWAYS. Some parents enforce a “tap-out” rule. This works great when things heat up. Either child can simply tap the other with their fingers or hand – a signal that no matter what it’s agreed that the wrestling immediately stops. No exceptions. If the rule isn’t adhered to… wrestling privileges are taken away.

3. Keep the rough play to a minimum (use a timer with a bell). Set specific times for physical play – and specific times for settling down. And the same is true for together time and alone time. Make sure everyone in the family – including you – gets some quiet time from the yelling and the wrestling.

4.  If there’s more fighting than playing… you need to step in and send both kids off to separate quiet places until they calm. Both get equal time away. Be aware that they’re often fighting to get your attention, or to get their sibling in trouble. Don’t take the bait. Equal time away from each other (and you) works best.

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.