Archive for November 2009

“Food Inc.” is a must-see

November 30, 2009
childhood obesity epidemic, how to get kids to eat vegetables, diet and exercise, good parenting tips, eating locally, raising backyard chickens, backyard chickens and kids

If you haven't seen "Food Inc.," rent it and watch with friends and families. It will impact how you think, buy, grow and eat.

“Food Inc.” will change the way you think about food, which will influence you to change what you buy, grow and eat.

I started keeping backyard chickens this year so everything I eat isn’t transported 1500 miles. Raising chickens is a fantastic family hobby because it gets children involved in growing food and teaches them where food comes from. Like growing vegetables, it may influence your children to make different food choices.

Keeping chickens is not as much work as having a dog. The attention chickens require is worth the payoff of fresh eggs and freshly butchered free range chickens — if you go that route. With or without butchering, the eggs are a fabulous reward.

eating local, raising chickens, backyard chickens, childhood obesity epidemic, diet and exercise, how to get children to eat vegetables, eating habits, omnivore's dilemma, eating local

That's me, putting the roof on my chicken coop.

“Food Inc.” influenced me to continue keeping chickens because they’re local and free range, and to splurge on more organic products at the grocery store. This is hard because I have the frugal gene, inherited from my parents who came of age in the Great Depression. I started small by buying organic carrots and Stonyfield Organic Yogurt. I don’t buy all organic, but some, which makes a difference.

What really upset me on the film was this prediction: people born after 2000 will have a one-in-three chance of being diabetic; for minorities, it’s a one-in-two probability.

That’s frightening. Our food is causing a health epidemic.

The good news:

1. Parents can influence children to make different decisions around food. We can raise chickens and grow vegetables, cook at home more, pack lunches and expect children to eat wholesome food, free from excess sugar, fat and salt.

2. Consumers can vote with our pocketbooks. Every time we buy a burger or a gallon of milk, we influence how food is grown, transported and sold.

Rent “Food Inc.” and watch it with friends and family. It will influence how you think, buy, grow food and eat.

Your health and your children’s health depend on it.


Get off the bully-cycle

November 24, 2009

victim of bullying, anti-bullying, bully proof, prevent bullying, bully prevention, bullying prevention, a way to stop bullying, end bullying, victims, empower victimsvictim of bullying, anti-bullying, bully proof, prevent bullying, bully prevention, bullying prevention, a way to stop bullying, end bullying, victims, empower victimsU.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island showed this week how to stop bullying. He refused to allow himself to be privately bullied by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin.

Bullies require victims who believe they deserve the bullying, and do not protest or get help. Bullies rely on victims silent consent to ride the bully-cycle.

Patrick Kennedy was none of those. He exposed private letters sent from the bishop asking him to stop receiving  communion because of Kennedy’s support of abortion rights, same-sex marriage and the ordination of women and married men as priests.

Tobin’s office said in a statement,  “Any previous correspondence or conversations between the Bishop and the congressman is still considered private at this time.”

Kennedy busted Tobin in the same way Martin Luther King Jr. busted the bullying of blacks in the south: he turned the cameras on it. The image of Selma Police Chief Bull Connor using a fire hose to intimidate peaceful voting rights protestors is a watershed moment.

The day I called out, “Stop that!”  and interrupted Mr. Penn’s seventh grade math class when Dana started his daily pestering regime was the last day of his bullying.

Speaking up empowered me. I made the teacher and other students aware of the situation. I refused to sit quietly any more and be victimized by his hitting, tapping, taking my school supplies, copying, and whispering while I was trying to learn.

The light of day exposed Dana. The same with the bishop. The media glare will inspire the bully to behave.

In school situations, the glare of the teacher can defuse bullying. Victims must be coached to speak up and stay within the glare of the teacher when they feel threatened. Schools must respond to students’ complaints and empower them to speak up and avoid bullying.

My mother coached me when I told her what was happening. “Have you told the teacher or spoken up?” she asked. In 1970, we didn’t have the term “bullying.”

“No,” I said. I was a compliant “good girl” who didn’t want to make trouble.

The day I yelled in the middle of a math lesson, “Stop that. Give me back my pencil,” was the day I found my voice and quit being a “good girl.” I got off the bully-cycle.

Thanks, Dana and Mom. Well behaved women rarely make history. My life has been a lot more interesting and productive since I found my voice.

Now is the time for mindful eating

November 23, 2009

With five brothers and three sisters, I learned to act quickly when good food was available. We always had enough to eat, but the first time I saw leftovers on meat was when I visited my husband’s family at age 22.

My mother advised my ever-hungry brothers, “Have some bread and gravy, a peanut butter sandwich or a can of soup if you’re still hungry.”

They taught me to have a good offense when snacks and desserts were served. Luckily, I followed my brothers and sisters outside to play in the yard, so the grab-and-stuff eating habits didn’t make me obese.

Back then, parents encouraged their children to walk to school and play outside, so I worked off the second desserts and potato chips. High fructose corn syrup wasn’t yet on the food pyramid.

With childhood obesity predicted to skyrocket to one-in-five obese children by 2010, parents must take preventative action.

Mindful eating is the practice of eating slowly, paying attention to the scent, sensation and taste of what you are chewing and swallowing.

Mindful eating means remembering the people who grew, harvested, transported, sold and prepared the food. When we remember the effort behind food, it’s harder to waste it.

Try this exercise to eat more mindfully with your family, borrowed from the Unitarian Universalist Winter 2009 magazine., childhood obesity, family wellness, family fitness, children healthy eating habits, teens, anorexia, teenage girls, healthy body image, moderation, mindful eating, thanksgiving day, celebrate food

This photo is from a fellow blogger, Sarah writes about food and her struggle with anorexia.

1. choose two fruits or vegetables that everyone in the family can eat, for example, strawberries and carrots. Have enough for everyone to eat one of each.

2. Wash the produce, slice and arrange them artfully on two serving plates, one for strawberries, one for carrots.

3. Pass the strawberries. Invite each person to take one and slowly, quietly chew it. “Take your time. Chew throughly and deliberately, to fully experience the texture and flavor. Imagine the earth, the sun, the water and the air that nurtured the strawberry. Taste the sunlight in the strawberry.”

4. Next, pass the tray of carrots and say the same thing for the carrots.

5. Share a moment of silence.

6. Talk about what it was like to each simple foods together, silently. What did you learn about eating? About strawberries? About carrots?

7. What would it be like to eat a whole meal in mindful silence? Could you do it? Why or why not?

Enjoy a happy and mindful Thanksgiving Day dinner with your family.

A Thanksgiving challenge

November 20, 2009
good parenting advice, raising children, raising good kids, parenting how to, how to parent, parenting strategies. good parenting book

Two of my nephews pull the meat off the Thanksgiving Day centerpiece. Chores develop resiliency, responsibility and self-esteem.

With Thanksgiving coming, parents can try something new with cornucopia of unfamiliar foods.

I challenge parents to:

1. NOT prepare special foods for children’s Thanksgiving meal, no matter how “picky” they are. Special foods creates entitlement and reinforce pickiness. It’s too much work . You are not their servants! They can learn to be adventuresome.

2. Say NOTHING and I mean NOTHING about the foods that are served. Invite children and teens to “Try it.”

3. Treat their inquiries, hesitations or quiet rejections to the food like a dead tennis ball. Act like your children are talking about different kinds of leaves falling from  trees. It takes three days to die of dehydration and three weeks to die of hunger.

For one day, I challenge you to subdue the natural desire to monitor their food except to moderate their consumption of chips, high-fructose syrup drinks and dessert. If they are still hungry after Thanksgiving dinner, allow them to solve the problem when you get home.

At family meals in the next few days, emphasize manners. At my house we ask, “What would Grandma say about the way you’re slurping that soup?” Ask your children how they should act at Thanksgiving dinner. They know.

Impress upon them how to be a good guest. Good guests never yell, “Yuck!” when a food is offered. They politely say, “No thank you.” Good guests take moderate amounts of special treats. Do not allow them to gobble up all of the shrimp or other treats.

The root of discipline is “disciple” which is Greek for “student.” Our children are our students. We are their first teachers. Your children and your Thanksgiving dinner hosts will appreciate well-mannered youngsters. You will enjoy the day more if they are prepared on how to act and you haven’t prepared special foods (unless your child has a medical condition).

Children respond to our expectations — verbal and non-verbal. Practice being an actor. When we change our behavior and expectations, children and teenagers will make other choices. The older the child, the longer the re-training takes. Parents must be stalwart when setting new expectations. You can do it!

I look forward to hearing comments on parents who use this strategy.

If only a law would stop bullying

November 18, 2009

Two stories in the Boston Globe today caught my attention.

The first describe how an anti-smoking campaign has worked. More people on the state health insurance have quit smoking, which resulted in fewer emergency room visits. Education, support and empowerment worked to convince people to change their smoking behavior.

The second story describes some of the 11 bills before the Massachusetts legislature to stop bullying. Some 38 states have already passed laws to regulate bullying in schools. I wonder how they’re working.

House Bill 384 would prohibit bullying on school grounds and at school functions and would require staff to report cases of bullying.  The mother of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover testified about how peers bullied Carl and called him “gay.” The 11-yearpold killed himself out of desperation.

I wish that House Bill 384 could bring back Carl. I wish that passing a law would force us to change our behavior.

Most behavior is learned. Most bullies learn cruelty at home. A better investment for the anti-bullying crusaders would be to initiate parenting education for all mothers and fathers to teach them how to discipline their children without bullying them.

The root of discipline is disciple. A disciple is a pupil. Discipline is to teach. When we teach our children by threatening, yelling, berating, beating and punishing, we teach them the only way we can influence them is to be bigger, meaner and louder.

Sounds like a bully to me.

Outlawing bullying will not make it go away any more than prohibition eliminated drinking. Take a lesson from the smoking cessation campaign. What worked was education, support and empowerment. The same formula will work to create a generation of children who do not bully each other.

The value of sweeping the floor

November 16, 2009
chores, raising able children, good parenting advice, parenting tips, helpful tips for parents, raising teenagers, families parent, help parenting teens
Reliable Bob building a chicken coop at home.

I spent the morning helping Reliable Bob, my “starter husband” of 29 years, install a laminate floor at a customer’s house. Bob left the golden handcuff of corporate America six years ago and founded a home renovation business. 

Bob likes to work with an apprentice, and he’s had a few since he set up shop. As his apprentice this morning, my job was to help him — by sweeping the floor,  going for coffee and supplies from the truck, sawing pieces, and recycling materials.

My objective was to make myself useful doing menial work — which requires the right attitude, interest and some aptitude.

Not all of his helpers have displayed the right attitude, interest and aptitude.

As Bob went out to the truck for supplies and left me alone, I joked, “Now that the boss is out of sight, I don’t have to work until he comes back.”

Some helpers had that poor attitude, and  Bob couldn’t stand them. They took no initiative, showed up late, called in sick often, were poor listeners, and looked forward to cigarette breaks. They got eventually got fired.

Chores are the best way to teach children a work ethic — starting when they are 3 years old and continuing until they leave home. My upcoming book, “Raising Able: How Chore Empower Children,” touts the long-term benefits of a childhood regime of chores.

Children and teens don’t have to:

  1. Like the chores,
  2. Want to do chores or
  3. Get up at dawn to milk cows.

They just have to do a few chores around the house for the common good, and be held accountable do them regularly. The chores can be as simple as sweeping the floor and taking out the garbage daily.

Notice I didn’t say acceptable chores are “to clear their own dish and clean their own room.” The chores must be done for the common good. Do not pay them for the chores, other than a weekly allowance unrelated to the chores.

In the rushed lifestyle of today’s families, many parents don’t want to burden children with chores. If your lifestyle is so busy that children don’t have time to sweep the floor every night, re-evaluate your choices and consider making some changes.

Chores develop a host of beneficial personality traits, such as strong self-esteem, responsibility and confidence. Children learn practical skills and project management. Children who do chores can feel valued, connected to their families and capable.

Being held responsible to do something as simple as sweeping the floor every night creates myriad long-term benefits.

Next: how to use family meetings to get children started doing chores.

How children manage weddings

November 12, 2009

 children at weddings, include kids at weddings? do kids belong at weddings? should I bring my children to weddings? parenting advice; parenting tips                                                                                                                                                                       The girl at left summarizes how some children feel about weddings!

Children are expected to be quiet and still. She’s doing pretty well.

Parents shoulder the stress of children at weddings. They have to take care of them and set boundaries.

One reason I brought my brood of four children to church regularly was for them to learn to sit down and be quiet for 30 or 60 minutes. It’s a valuable skill.

Some parents tell me, “I can’t take my children in public.” It’s reasonable for parents to expect children to behave in public. Good training starts at home.

When parents set reasonable limits at home, they prepare their children to follow limits in public. Parents who respect the attention span and schedules of their children can take them out in public for short times.

In the classic case of the child screaming in the store, it’s the mother (usually dads have more sense and less desire to shop) who is at fault. She’s not respecting the needs of the child by demanding he behave in a store when he should be playing, eating or sleeping. If moms want to shop, get dad to watch the child, hire a babysitter, ask a relative to help, trade babysitting with a friend, or stay home.

Some children would rather stay home from weddings.

Children can be stressed by being included in the bridal party. When my 6 year old daughter was in her aunt’s wedding, it was enough to be included, get the outfit ready and day dream about it in advance.

The young flower girl had a melt-down on the wedding day because the excitement was too much to contain. Somehow she collected her emotions and managed.

Like many brides today, her aunt wanted my daughter to participate. We brought her two younger brothers, too, so we were on duty for the wedding — until the kids wore out and we turned them over to a babysitter on call — the ideal situation.

Weddings are adult events. Children are not mini-adults. I don’t say this often, but children are entitled to have their stamina respected. Children are not at weddings to perform, be displayed or to make their parents look good.

They want to have a good time, and I can guaranteed their good time is different and will end a lot sooner than our good time.