Archive for the ‘expect’ category

Take time to cook and eat together

May 29, 2014

In the following interview from the Boston Globe, author/activist Michael Pollan talks about the importance of food in our lives. By taking time to cook with your kids, you’re spending time together, teaching them a life skill, and increasing the likelihood that they will eat what you prepare because they saw what went into it. Let go of the mess in the kitchen. It’s an investment on so many levels, including health. Remember to use family meetings to decide together on menus and meal plans.

Take it one step further and plant a few tomato and cucumber plants in a pot on the porch or in the garden.

  • 28 May 2014
  • The Boston Globe
  • By Michael Floreak GLOBE CORRESPONDENT Interview was condensed and edited. Michael Floreak can be reached at michael floreak@gmail.com.

Cooking is time well spent

 Author lauds the social and health benefits of preparing family meals

Michael Pollan’s 2006 book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” detailed the complex system of farms, feedlots, and food science laboratories that deliver food to the modern dinner table, and helped fuel a growing food movement. His newest work, “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” recently published in paperback, turns his attention to how plants and animals are transformed into meals and explores why cooking is important.

After “Omnivore,” Pollan focused on the human end of the food chain, looking at food choices and their impact on health. “I realized cooking was the answer to a lot of questions that I’ve been exploring in my work,” Pollan, 59, says. For “Cooked,” he apprenticed with a series of culinary experts— from a North Carolina barbecue pit master to a celebrated baker— to understand the ecological, nutritional, and cultural impacts of cooking from scratch.

“I got into this as someone who was very interested in the environment and how we engage with the natural world,” Pollan says. “I like to cook and I knew how to grill, make pasta, pretty basic stuff. But there was a lot for me to learn.”

Q. How did it happen that you turned your attention from agriculture to cooking?

A. I began to realize that if people insist on having their food cooked by fast food corporations or processed food corporations, we weren’t going to build this alternative agriculture system.

Q. Why is cooking important to one’s health?

A. The best marker of a healthy diet was whether the food was cooked by a human being. Even poor people who still cook have healthier diets than rich people who don’t.

Q. Explain how cooking and health are so closely linked.

A. If you cook, you’re not going to have french fries every day. Homemade french fries are delicious, but they’re such a pain to make. There are things built into the process of cooking that guard against those very tempting, but ultimately not very healthy, foods. You don’t even have to worry about what you’re cooking because you will naturally gravitate toward simple things. You will not make a lot of junk food.

Q. You also talk about the social benefits of cooking and eating together.

A. Cooking isn’t just about preparing the fuel for your body. Cooking is a social act and it has been since we started. Go back 2 million years, and we discover the power of fire to change food and make it more delicious, easier to digest, safer. But as soon as we do that, we have to learn how to share. Cooking gave us the meal and the meal gave us civilization. And that’s what we’re now blithely giving up. Forty-six percent of meals in America are now eaten alone. We have this centrifugal force that’s driving us away from the table. And a lot of that goes to food marketing. They make more money if we eat individually.

Q. While you were writing the book, your son suggested taking a night off from cooking to have “microwave night.” How did that work out?

A. What a surprise. To get four entrees on the table took 45 minutes, which is plenty of time to cook a very nice meal. We just never got to sit down at the table at the same time because we were each in a different stage of defrosting and eating. It was the most disjointed family meal we had in a long time and no time had been saved. We have to reexamine this assumption that convenience food is really convenient.

Q. What do you say to the argument that cooking is also expensive?

A. I dispute that. You have to pay those people to process food. It’s very labor intensive on their end, so therefore they charge. Cooking is economical. There’s still a lot of healthy food in regular markets as long as you shop the periphery and avoid the processed foods. It is more time-consuming. We have dropped the amount of time we spend on cooking by about a half an hour since 1965. I think it’s important to look at what you’re doing with that half-hour and whether it’s more valuable to you.

Q. Clearly you see that cooking is time well spent.

A. My contention is that as a way to spend a half-hour or an hour of your leisure time, cooking is a really good way to do it. It has all these benefits, but it’s actually intellectually very engaging. It’s sensually very pleasurable. It’s a great way to reset. But the key is not doing it alone, I think. Get your family involved. Get your kids and your partner in the kitchen. Make it a social event.

Thanksgiving: The ultimate family dinner

November 14, 2011
Manners are a big part of family dinner. Children tweens and teens can learn to behave at family dinner table at Thanksgiving. Good manners start at home. Make it a game. Make it fun. Thanksgiving can be a relaxing time for families. Manners are a good chore to have in Mass., CT, MA , NH, RI and VT.
Children can live up — or down — to our expectations.

Just looking at the table pictured above would have given me a stomach ache if I had to bring my four kids there.

The best way to prepare for such a situation is to practice. If you’re worried about Thanksgiving at the home of a friend, relative or to a restaurant with your kids, start with a rehearsal.
Have a family meeting. Ask the kids for ideas on how to behave at a fancy meal. Write down every idea, however ridiculous, and take the best ones seriously. Then announce you’re going to have a rehearsal for Thanksgiving, using their suggestions. Would they help? Set a date and plan a simple meal, maybe a roast chicken.

Enlist their aid in getting out a nice tablecloth, the best china, silverware and glassware. Remember, a broken spirit is more permanent than a broken goblet. Let them drink from a special glass and use cloth napkins for the evening. Propose some toasts. Exaggerate. Go overboard on the manners. Use an English accent. Make it fun. Kids love fun. Whenever you can make something fun, you will have them eating out of your hand.

Parenting is all about setting reasonable expectations and managing people’s behavior — getting them to do what you want, when you want, just like at work. The best managers are kind, firm, clearly spell out what they expect, and if necessary, train you on how to do it.

Clearly spell out what you expect from your kids on Thanksgiving at Aunt Sue’s. Then practice it. Encourage the behavior you like by saying what they did. “What a nice way to ask for the mashed potatoes, Megan! Of course I’ll pass them to you. Where did you learn such lovely manners?”

They won’t be perfect, and you always remind them on Thanksgiving when they slip, “Remember how we practiced? How can you ask nicely for the mashed potatoes?”

A dress rehearsal combined with realistic expectations from parents will make the day go more smoothly.

Expectation is the most powerful APP

September 26, 2011

Laura, mother of Zia, 3, alerted me that there’s an APP  for kids to do chores. It’s basically an electronic reward system. I’m against all reward systems and paying kids for chores, unless you want to guarantee:

1. You will go bankrupt, unless you get them to pay for what you do for them;
2. They will always have to be paid/rewarded for anything they do;
3. They only work for extrinsic motivation and do not develop authentic intrinsic motivation;
4. They work for the lowest motivation for humans of all ages: money; and
5. Get more hooked on electronics running their lives.

The company’s goal is to sell more APPS. They get a star for creativity. Like all reward and praise systems, I guarantee this one will lose its shine over time.
The best way to motivate children to contribute around the house is to expect them to do so, do it with them, and enjoy the time and effort spent together. I have many happy memories of doing dishes with my siblings and my four children: raking leaves, cleaning the garage and more. Yes, they were chores. We had teamwork. I learned self-discipline, a characteristic that I use every day when working, eating, exercising and living.

Here’s what Laura says about her daughter and chores with my comments in brackets. Laura read my book.

She loves to do them and does not think of them as ‘chores’ [What’s wrong with calling it what it is?] She helps clean the table for dinner ever night and helps mommy with the shopping with her own little list made by me. She also helps me make parts of the meals by dumping and pouring. [Fantastic way to engage little kids in cooking, keep them busy while waiting for dinner and avoid screen time. Every family can benefit from this practice.] She helps set the table with a place mat I made for her. She helps with cat-care and loves to brush my very gentle cat and it’s her job to do it on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She helps feed the cats by putting out their bowls after dinner time.”

I congratulate Laura for expecting Zia to do chores. This is the most powerful way to get kids to do anything. Laura also has:
1. Started early. Research shows when kids start chores by age 4, they do better at age 24 when compared to non-chore doing peers.
2. Included Zia in the family work and doing it together. This makes it fun for the child, teaches skills and self-discipline, and nurtures her self-esteem because her contributions count.
3. Connected with Zia through chores. A strong parent-child connection is the best way to prevent entitlement, keep kids off drugs & alcohol, and encourage them to make good decisions as they mature, so when they become teens and they’re 60 miles away, going 60 miles an hour – in your car, they will make good decisions. They will be wearing a seatbelt, going the speed limit, sober, where they said they’d be with friends you know and like, making good decisions about sexuality with a condom in their pocket, with you installed in their conscience.

Chores are worth the investment of time and energy, even though less than 20 percent of kids have to do them. Take the time to have a family meeting today and ask your kids what they want to do, then help them do it regularly.

“I’m Bored”

August 15, 2011
Kids who can't entertain themselves need to learn how by parents offering positive attention at neutral times then expecting kids to find things to do. Good parenting is about setting expectations and boundaries. Discipline is kind and firm and consistent. Parenting tots, tweens, school age and teens is all about cultivating a good relationship, using positive language and encouragement.

They eventually found a huge source of entertainment at the edge of pond, even though it's wet, sandy and damp.

Parents often react to a kid saying, “I’m bored” the same as to “I’m hungry.” Except the first is the kid’s problem, the second is a parent’s. Tweens and teens can solve both with minimal parental consultation.

Kids under age 11 probably need help getting food. If they have gotten sufficient positive attention at neutral times, they ought to be able to solve their own boredom.

I dipped back into parenting over the weekend while taking care of three kids, 6, 4 and 14 months. They were reluctant to explore our pond and played inside for quite a while on Sunday.

I resisted allowing them to watch more than one 60-minute video on a summer day and declined invitations to build something “really big with all of the Duplos.” I already fed them every two hours, picked up their constant trail, got them to bed, etc. I was not interested in being chief playmate and entertainer.

“Can we please watch another video?” they pleaded. After reading them four books they finally ventured towards the pond in light rain and started doing what kids are made to do. Get lost in the world of play, pretend and fun. Bounce off each other. Learn about relationships to each other, sand, water and light with minimum of parental interference.

It was fun to watch and care for them.We had “parallel play” — Bob and I weeded while they explored the pond. Two or more kids are always easier than a solitary child, who can self-entertain and invite friends over.

If your kids rely on you to solve boredom, changing the expectation will take a few weeks, protests, long sighs and even sitting with, gasp! nothing to do. Be patient. Creativity emerges from stillness. You will be amazed at the non-electronic entertainment they discover. Allow them to make a mess in the kitchen, yard, family room or bedroom. Creativity is always messy. Take time to notice their efforts and allow time to clean up with them.

Saying, “I know you can find something to do” is encouraging. As soon as a kid can utter, “I’m bored,” he is old enough for this solution: cleaning. Say, “Let’s clean your closet out today. The living room needs vacuuming. Put on these special cleaning socks and slide over the hardwood floors. Let’s crank up the stereo, put on dust mitts and dust the whole house.”

You can bet they’ll find something to do. Fast. Or maybe they’ll clean with you. Chores are one of THE best ways to develop self-discipline. That’s another post.

 

Family dinner: drug & alcohol abuse prevention

June 28, 2011
pizza making former adolescent. Family dinner is the anti-drug. Family dinner prevents drug abuse, alcohol abuse and cigarette addiction. Family dinner is the best and most effective way to prevent drug abuse
Difficult children eventually grow up and become interesting. I have many “Ian” stories because he was so challenging. He was the third child born in 3.5 years, and has a younger sister. Ian is making pizza dough here. Making pizza together on Friday nights and watching a movie together was one of our family traditions.

I can still see Ian, above, then 17 years old, standing in the kitchen, looking down at me from his 6’2″ height, arguing in a tortured voice.
Ian: “Why do I have to eat family dinner?”
Me: “You must have dinner with us tonight.”
Ian: “It’s stupid.” Shakes hands and shoulders. Sighs.
Me: “It will only take 20 minutes. Then you can go out with your friends.” Some things are non-negotiable. Every fiber of my being sent the message that I was not going to budge from this expectation.
Ian: “I don’t see why I must have family dinner.” I give him the last word. No worries. He came to family dinner and got a dose of connection, values and love.
The primary reason to have family dinner:
Research  shows that regular family dinner (breakfast works, too) three or more times a week results in lower use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes among teens and tweens.
Family dinner interrupts the time between 2 pm school dismissal and midnight, when junior operators must be off the road. So it limits the distance and trouble they can get into.
The worst trouble one of our teens ever got into was when that teen should have been home for family dinner. Bob and I had become permissive. We immediately got back on the family dinner track.
Our family made pizza together on many Friday nights and watched a G or PG-rated movie together. Everyone put toppings of their choice on a small pizza. By middle school, they could make and roll out the dough so it was a team effort. We all pitched in to clean up. My “kids” request pizza when they come home to visit and we share an enjoyable family dinner.
And Ian? When he celebrated his 26th birthday a few months ago, do you know what he served for a bunch of friends? A dozen homemade pizzas. As they devoured the delicious gourmet pizza, friends commented, “You MADE this? Man, this is really good!”
Get some pizza pans. Connect to your kids. Look how fast they’ve grown already. They will leave home — and this will make you happy. Family dinner reduces the likelihood they will stray towards drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. This will make you happier.

How to manage carnal emotions & behavior

May 23, 2011
The best way to discipline toddlers, teens, school age and tweens and children is to change your behavior. You cannot change their bevhavior. Spanking, yelling, threatening, and getting angry are fruitless. Children respond to kindness, firmness, love and consistency. They're very hard to provide. "Alfred Adler" "Jane Nelsen" and "Love and Logic" all say to give plenty of love and to change YOUR BEHAVIOR. Parenting is about being a behavior manager. Start by managing your behavior
The family dog Gonzo and her biggest fan, Kristen, share a moment of unconditional love. Managing a pet’s behavior is a lot like managing children’s behavior.

One of my favorite reminders is this: manage your emotions.  Easy to say, hard to do, especially when our children know how to push our emotional buttons.

The art of management is to get other creatures to do what you want them to do. HOW you do this depends on your style.
An article in the Boston Globe’s G section May 21 about cats, which are notoriously hard to manage, led with the headline, “You may think your cat’s the problem, but maybe it’s you.”
SO TRUE!  The excellent article gives five ways to manage your cat’s behavior that will help parents to manage their behavior and emotions so they’re more consistent and less frustrated.
1. Have fun together.  I’m not sure how cat owners can hunt, catch and kill with their owners. However, parents can transform their relationship with their children by investing five to 15 minutes a day of positive time with their children, with no electronics, nagging, or criticism.
2. Get the cat a Netflix subscription to give her something to do when you’re not around. Watching movies together can be good family time, although I prefer more interactive and active ways to enjoy being together.
3. Serve meals. “Cats thrive on the daily ritual of meals.” So do humans. Have family dinner or breakfast together as many days of the week as possible. Research shows kids with more family dinners have less drug, alcohol and tobacco use. They’re more connected to their families, the single most effective way to manage your offspring to do what you want them to do.
4. Be positive. “Your can always say ‘no’ but there has to be a ‘yes’ directly behind it,” says cat behavior expert Jackson Galaxy of Animal Planet. Kids need parents to say “NO” to set boundaries so they feel safe. Don’t feel guilty about it or the need to follow it with a  “YES.” Kind, firm and consistent boundaries are a gift and a parental obligation. It’s the verbal put-downs, threats, sarcasm, whining, nagging and criticism from parents that erode the relationship. Parents must manage their emotions, thoughts, words and deeds around their children. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all.
5. Understand your cat. This is critical for the parent-child relationship. Don’t expect too much or too little from your children. They will rise or sink to your expectations. This is where reading books, parenting skills groups and super nanny coaching can help. I can help you with all three 🙂
Parenting skills groups, books and other mothers helped me manage my emotions and children so motherhood became a joy and challenge, not a source of angst and frustration.

Holiday happiness

November 18, 2010
Family time is thanksgiving. Discipline, etiquette, holiday manners, children's behavior, stress, holiday stress, fun, parenting: about. parenting education, families, holiday expectations
We had 27 people for this Thanksgiving celebration from ages 2 to 85. The ping pong table was set up in the garage to give the four teenage boys somewhere to go, “something” to do.

It’s that time of year when families will be convening together in closed spaces and everyone wants children to behave well.

 
Did you know that recess is one of THE BEST cures for classroom misbehavior? Take a cue and take your children outside to play touch football, take a walk to the park, or play basketball in the driveway. Make sure it’s for at least an hour. Spend time with them. This is an investment in a happy holiday.
 
After exercise, they will be in a better frame of body and spirit to live up to reasonable expectations of behavior.
 
Parents, start now by holding family meetings and talk about manners — ask, “What will it look like on Thanksgiving to have good etiquette?” Hear their suggestions and encourage them  to practice during family dinner at home.  Compliment them when they say, “Please pass the salt,” use a napkin instead of their pants. Teach them to say, “This is delicious,” and “No thank you,” to foods they don’t like.
 
Manners are basically consideration of other people. Yelling out, “That’s disgusting,” or announcing, “Mikey doesn’t eat onions,” or “Can you cook some special pasta for Megan – that’s all she’ll eat,” fall under “lack of consideration” for others.
 
Manners start at home and by parents modeling good manners at family dinners and constantly reinforcing them. My four “children” are now in their 20s, and even as teens, they despised peers who chewed with their mouths open, made rude comments about food, slurped, didn’t use napkins, and stood up to reach for the salt instead of saying, “Please pass the salt.”
 
Manners are a lifetime gift you can give to your children — in small doses. If you’re just starting now for next week, you’re a bit late. Take baby steps.
 
On the big day, be willing to give one warning to younger children then take action by removing them from the situation. Use the outdoors or your car if needed. If they have a meltdown or are out-of-control, consider leaving the family gathering. It might just be too much for them. Go home and have canned beans and carrot sticks. It could be a memorable teaching moment.
 
Ideally, take time for training BEFORE the big day so children feel confident about the expectations and have boundaries established around reasonable behavior. “Training” includes giving one warning, taking action and possibly allowing the child to go hungry to remind them that sitting at a table is a privilege and certain behavior is expected.
 
Going hungry for a few hours will show the child you mean business. It takes three days to die of thirst and three days to die of starvation. Missing one meal could serve as a powerful teacher, if you’re willing — or desperate.
Remember to involve them in cooking, setting up for the meal and cleanup. It’s a wonderful time for teamwork and family togetherness.
 
Happy Thanksgiving!  Above all, have fun!