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Barack Levin

Author: Barack Levin

Archive for the 'Tips and Advice' Category

Tips and advice for parents trying to raise independent great kids

Rocks and Candies

Posted by Barack Levin on 21st November 2011

My son’s (7) teacher started to teach a class the class a new topic – Rocks. They go over the different rocks, layer, types and definitions of each type of rock. To better demonstrate to the class how the layers of rocks look like, she decided to physically show them through an observation.

She took two pieces of bread. Spread some peanut butter on one slice to show the lava layer, put a layer of M&Ms on top of it to show a layer of rocks, spread chocolate on top of them, to show the layer of earth and spread cookie crumbs for the top layer. She finished by topping all of it with a piece of bread and gave each kid a sandwich to eat.

And I have to ask myself – in face of obesity in this country, the over use of candies and the barrage of sugar we face our kids with – is this really the right tool to use? Can’t she use something other that candy that the kids can learn from?

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Little Mouth Full of Cavities

Posted by Barack Levin on 21st November 2011

I went to my son’s (7) class to read a story to his class mates. I chose an easy to understand book about earthquakes with illustrations. The teacher took the kids outside, to the sun, and we all set down – me on the chair and the kids on the ground.

I opened my book and started reading. During these readings, I like to ask the kids questions to see if they really understand what is going on in the book. I ask a question and they raise their hands for response.

After one of these questions, one boy raised his hand and I let him give the answer. When he started to talk I got a glimpse into his mouth. He had at least 4 cavities in his lower jaw and I can assume he had a comparable amount on his upper one as well. That scene shocked me. At his age, these teeth are probably already adult teeth and damage has been done that will accompany him for his whole life. His parents, who are responsible for his well being, should have insisted on proper brushing and mouth hygiene, but in this day of age, where parents barely have time to dedicate to their kids, dental issues are not a priority and in the meantime, we are screwing our kids’s future.

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4 Helpful Tips for Teaching Toddlers to Brush Their Own Teeth (Guest Post)

Posted by Barack Levin on 17th November 2011

Get creative and fun with your child’s dental health education

Good dental care means a beautiful smile and a healthy mouth. While on the other side of that coin neglecting your child’s oral health can lead to embarrassing and painful tooth decay, discolored teeth and gum disease later on in life that will need to be treated with dental procedures and oral pain medication that you can buy inexpensively in any pharmacy.

Even though your toddler might not care about brushing their teeth right now, later on in life they will regret not taking better care of their dental health if they have bad teeth in their self-conscious teenage years. But how can you teach an unruly toddler the importance of dental health now—so they will thank you for teaching them the proper steps to maintaining a nice white smile in their teens.

Teeth-brushing for toddlers can be as effortless as a smile. What you don’t want to do is create fear around dental hygiene, for instance if your toddler has bad memories of teething pain they may hesitate to let you put your fingers in their mouths. However, the trick is to get creative and fun with your dental health lessons, for example:

1. Brush your toddler’s teeth for them
It is your responsibility as parent to teach your child the importance of good dental hygiene so brush their teeth for them using the correct brushing strokes. You can also use cartoon dental printouts from your dentist or online to show them what areas of the mouth you are cleaning.

2. Brush your teeth to a song
Children, especially in the toddler years, are drawn to any learning that incorporates rhythm and rhyme—just look at their favorite songs and storybooks. So you can tell them that it’s important to brush their chompers in order to clean away the little bugs that live on their teeth and eat away at their mouths…or you can teach them more effectively through song, like so:
“There are bugs on our teeth moving in.
They eat our teeth from our gums to our chins.
But we’ll brush up and down, and round and round,
And we’ll spit them out and rinse so they’ll never be found.”
As you can see, it’s easy to create a catchy little tooth brushing song that incorporates the techniques of proper brushing, like:
• Proper tooth brushing motions—up and down, round and round
• Spitting out, not swallowing toothpaste
• As well as the importance of a good mouth rinse after brushing

3. Make dental health a huge deal
For instance, after you’ve shown your daughter or son the proper way to brush their teeth (up and down and round and round, spit and rinse) give them the toothbrush and let them try it on their own. Ask them to, “Show mommy how well you can brush your teeth by yourself?” This is important as most toddlers are developing independence and they feel great pride and satisfaction when doing things for themselves. Afterwards, make a big deal out of their efforts with other family members (e.g., dads, grandparents and siblings) and celebrate their accomplishment with laughter, clapping and excited cheers.

4. Make teeth brushing into a game
Creating excitement and even a bit of competition around a hygienic routine like teeth brushing will make it into a task your toddler looks forward to. For instance, brush your teeth at the same time and make a competition out of who can brush longer or get their teeth cleaner.

Post by: Bernice Spradlin is an avid hiker and runner. She works at a gym in Brooklyn, New York, where she gets great inspiration for her freelance health-related articles and blogs. In her off time, you can often find Bernice jogging the East River path along the waterfront and enjoying the cool breeze. She can be contacted at BerniceG.Spradlin@gmail.com

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Boys Are Better Than Girls

Posted by Barack Levin on 20th October 2011

We are all, parents, educators and even the government constantly cheer for equal opportunity rights. We always say out loud: “Girls are equal to boys” and feminists will even burn their bras to demonstrate that point, however, in reality things are exactly the opposite. Here is how it goes.

From the very first day boys and girls are born, we start to treat them differently in a biased way that prefers boys over girls and makes boys grow to become better than girls. “How?” you might ask yourselves. “I am, as a parent, will never do something like that. I treat them equally”, but here is the thing – you do not. As I wrote, it starts in early childhood and kids games and continues to adulthood.

What kind of games do you buy your son? You might answer, Legos, building blocks, puzzles and even balls. And why do you buy these toys for boys? The answer is also obvious. You want them to develop their motor skills, analysing skills and coordination. In other words, the toys are there to help build some very basic skills that your boy will retain for the rest of his life.

And what do we buy girls? Dolls, make up, dress-up dresses, purses and hair brushes. The obvious question is what kind of skills do we teach these girls? And the answer is also very clear: be pretty, grow up to be a home maker and most importantly, rely on someone else to do everything for you because you do not really posses any useful skills.

When our girls grow older, all of a sudden the “equality” monster pops her head again demanding for equal rights however, for years we have filled our girls’ head with junk and now it takes them time to learn these new basic skills all over again. Not an easy task to do.

We, as a society, have created built in mechanism to make sure that boys will always be better than girls.

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Car Pool TV

Posted by Barack Levin on 19th October 2011

On my way to drop the kids at school, I see quite frequently how the portable TV is blasting away at other car pooling vehicles and I always ask myself the same question: Why?

I am pretty sure that when the kids wake up, the TV in the house (or worse – in their bedroom), is already up and running and I am also pretty sure that when they get back to school the same happens as well, so why do these parents need to also extend it to their cars?

For me, dropping the kids in the morning is a great time to talk and chat with my kids. They woke up up 30 minutes before, they are full with energy from the night, in good mood and have lots on their minds as they ready themselves for the day. It is that in these morning car chats I find out a lot of information about their needs, wants, fears and wishes. In one of those chats I discovered that someone was bullying them, in another one I found out that my girl was also playing with boys and in another who was the class clown. The car ride in the morning and the afternoon can provide a wealth of information considering my kids’ life, so why ruin it by watching TV?

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Heart Disease Original Fund Raising Campaign

Posted by Barack Levin on 18th October 2011

I was walking with my wife the other day on our way to a restaurant without the kids. Having a night out just the two of us to energize our marriage. On our way I saw an ad that caught my eye. It was an ad for raising money for heart disease research. What caught my eye with this ad was the way they wanted to raise the money. The title of the ad was: Buy Nachos to help fight heart disease. There was, of course, a picture of a Nachos plate loaded with cheese attached it. I smiled because of the contradiction in the ad. On one hand it is a noble cause to raise money for heart disease but on the other hand, the very means to raise that money is the leading cause for heart disease.

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What Do You Think Is Going To Happen?

Posted by Barack Levin on 18th October 2011

I always like to ask families I help the following question: “What do you think is going to happen” and I give them an example.

For instance, what do you think is going to happen to your child if he is beaten every day since birth? What do you think is going to happen to your child if he is consistently under fed? Or what do you think is going to happen to your child if he is deprived from sleep for years?

I deliberately choose extreme and shocking scenarios to get the families think about consequences of such actions in order to driver my real point across. These families are of course outraged at such examples and immediately attack back with worst case scenarios for that poor kid in those examples and I let them rage a little, release steam.

When they are done, I ask them another simple question that usually is the beginning of our discussion at helping them with their kids: “What do you think is going to happen to a kid who is in front of flashing, blinking and dancing monitors in front of his eyes most of the day?” It is at that time that these parents become very quite and understand what I was driving at. Their kid’s behavior is influenced by his habits and these habits need to be changed.

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Ritalin for kids 4 years old

Posted by Barack Levin on 17th October 2011

I just heard that the FDA approved the usage of Ritalin for 4 year old kids. I think it is a shame. Instead of treating the root cause of the problem – we drug our kids and the US government allows it. I am pretty sure that some powerful drug industry lobbyists “helped” getting to this conclusion.

The truth is that by some very simple means such as cutting off video games to young mind, banning TV from their lives, providing physical activity outside and providing them with nutritional food, we can solve this problem easily.

However, parents do not want or have no time to invest the time or provide the attention needed to solve these problems. They are looking for the quick easy to use short cut solutions. It is easier to give a pill then to address the real issues.

We are drugging our kids for no reason and we will suffer the consequences later. I only feel pitty for the poor kids who have to go through this process and lose their souls and their normal development in the process.

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Invisible Protection vs. Physical Protection

Posted by Barack Levin on 14th October 2011

I strongly believe, and I also raise my kids this way, in the invisible protection method. Before I go into this, let me explain what physical protection is. Physical Protection happens when a parent physically protect their kids from any danger or harm. The term Helicopter moms comes to mind. These parents guard their kids like a hawk, never leaving their site, every little wound or scratch has to be immediately treated, the kids can not do anything dangerous and in other words, they do not let their kids experience the real world.

The invisible protection is when a parent gives the kid the tools to make his own decisions to protect himself on his own. Such parents teach their kids to know their limits and let them roam free within these limits. Invisible protection parents let their kids make their own decision and understand the consequences without exterior interference. Such kids learn to become and independent, self reliant and self conscious.

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Fun with the Tooth Fairy

Posted by Barack Levin on 12th October 2011

My son keeps on losing his teeth and has been getting some money as exchange for his fallen teeth. One night he came to us with a new tooth in his hand and went straight to his room to hide it under his pillow.

The next morning he rushed down the stairs all excited. “Mom, Dad”, he shouted “You will not believe that” and he continues “After I left the tooth under my pillow last night, I checked it again today and you know what I found?” “No” I asked. “I found $5 and an olive”. “An olive?” I asked “Why an olive?” “I do not know. May be it was her snack and she forgot about it. I do not know”.

For the rest of the day he could not stop talking about the tooth fairy and the olive. He told every one he knew and we just kept laughing quietly.

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Another Reason Why I am Against Animated Classical Stories

Posted by Barack Levin on 10th October 2011

I was about my son’s age (7), when I was first introduced to the classical stories by the Grim Brothers and others such as Snow White for example. Back then when I read the book ,y imagination made it into a story. Snow White had a certain appearance, the evil witch had another, the seven dwarfs looked a certain way and I did not care much for Prince Charming so I could care less how he looked like. Yes, there were pictures in those books and still, even with these pictures (which were not too many any way), I could still make up my own interaction between the characters, how the forest looked like, how the dwarfs’ house was arranged and more.

In today’s world, with these animated movies the kids are spoon fed with everything leaving very little to imagination. They are basically given everything including how everyone and everything looks like and interacts with the environment. They are given a linear way of thinking and suppress their imagination.

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102 Fever

Posted by Barack Levin on 2nd October 2011

My girl (5) came home 4 days ago complaining about a sore throat. Complaining may not be the right word here, because complaining when associated with kids’ illnesses usually means crying, fatigue and annoyance. She was more like reporting that her throat hurts sometimes when she ate or when she sneezed. My wife checked her temperature and she had a 100 degrees. My wife ran to the medicine cabinet to give her something to lower her fever. I stopped her on her way. “Why?” I asked. “Because your daughter has fever”, my wife replied. “And?” I asked. My wife looked at me her not wanting to understand what I meant by that and I continued. “She is not complaining on everything. She looks perfectly normal. She acts perfectly normal so why load her up with drugs. Let her natural defenses take care of this virus. Nothing will happen to her if she fights it”. My wife thought about it and agreed.

My girl seemed to be fine and went to school the next day. She came back home, again not complaining but only reporting about the same symptoms. My wife checked her fever. It was 102. My wife became nervous and decided it was strep throat and that she had to be taken to the doctor’s office. “How do you know?” I asked. “She complains her throat and she has high fever. This is strep.” “Well Dr. Mom”, I replied, “I understand your concern but this might not be strep. 102 for a child is not considered high fever, besides she does not complain at all. She looks perfectly fine, but I promise you that if this thing does not go away, I will personally take her to the doctor’s office tomorrow”. Since my girl did complain about headaches, we gave her something for that and she went to sleep. Towards the morning she coughed hard and we eased her up with some coughing syrup.

She woke up in the morning. Fully rested and the virus was all gone. Personally, I think that we over medicate our kids, we over protect them from everything and o not let their immune system to develop correctly. Not every fever or cough requires a trip to the doctor’s office.

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4 Reasons Why Our Kids Will Grow Fatter and Fatter

Posted by Barack Levin on 29th September 2011

It is no secret that the phenomena of over weight and obese kids is growing and has become and epidemic. Everybody talks about it, even the first lady, Michelle Obama but here is why nothing will be done to reduce this risk.

The first reason is the food industry. The shove empty calories into almost everything our kids eat. Their lobby is so strong so no real measures will ever be implemented to curve this trend of the, As we move along we will continue to see more and more fattening foods and empty calories thrown as our kids

The second reason is the Hollywood\TV\Video Game industry or in other words “the entertainment industry”. They on their side pump our kids with devices that eliminate any physical activity (and please do not tell me that the remote controls that help you actively play in front of the TV are physical activity). The lack on any physical activity combined with excess food links directly to reason number 3 – The pharmaceutical industry.

This industry, who has long time ago noticed this trend is already or will soon start to, provide pills for kids to lose weight or control their erratic behavior that results in more eating. This industry is not stupid to just sit on its ass and not provide a “medicated solution”.

Which brings me to reason number 4 which is the only reason we can control – Parents. Us, parents, do not spend enough time with our kids and let them do whatever they want to do, eat or play with. We do not care of excess food because we do not have time to read the labels or cook a decent meal, we do not mind our kids brain washed by the garbage or TV or violent video games because it gives us some time off and if we have a problem with our kids, a pill for every ill will be shortly available on a pharmacy shelf close to you.

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Sheen Guard or no Sheen Guard for kids– That Is The Question !

Posted by Barack Levin on 24th September 2011

My kids started soccer practice and were asked to buy sheen guard. I had to but this another step in the direction of insanity when it comes to “protecting” our kids. Kids their age (7 and 5) do not need sheen guard. They can not hit as hard. Even kids older then my kids do not sheen guards and so I was asking myself, why do parents and coaches insist on sheen guards and come to this conclusion.

Kids are not eating well and as a result, their bones do not develop as well either. Instead of having flexible bones like they are suppose to in this age, the lack of basic nutrients cause brittle bones. You might ask yourself, how do I know that? And my answer is very simple. My kids eat well and also very active and adventurous. They fell, slip and dropped from many so called dangerous places like trees, inflatable, park equipment and more. They never broke anything. They did get scratches and bruises but nothing more. Other kids who fell from their bikes or from a stair managed to fracture a bone or two.

So because of the hysteria that kids might break their bones, now they need to wear these useless sheen guards.

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Trophy Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 19th September 2011

Parents do not realize it but they do it all the time. They invest little to almost no time with their kids and expect the best from them. Parents leave the education and behavioral shaping of their kids to the “system” which includes school, TV, Video Games and the such. The “system” can not provide a kid what he needs the most: attention and love and so these kids grow up without proper attachment to their parents and more importantly, no parental influence what so ever. As a result, they adopt the environment behavior which is more often than not is an unacceptable behavior. As a result they start to deteriorate in school and studies, but their parents want only one thing. They want their kids to behave well. So they dress them up in the best designer clothes, buy them the latest gadgets and bribe them with money only so that they are seen with them in public they will put on their best behavior.

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Lying Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 16th July 2011

I think that every parent comes across this problem: kids lie to him, to their friends, relatives, teachers and every other adult they meet. My kids are no different, especially my boy. He is now 7 but around 4-5 years old, he started with this terrible habit.

We have friends who encountered the same problem with their kids. They tried everything in their arsenal: time outs, talks with him and even spanking. Nothing helped. They asked for some help and I told them what we did when we faced the same problem.

If you read this blog, you already know, that my methods are fairly different than the conventional ways out there; however, my methods are simple, to the point and work on the kid’s psyche. The child learns through his experiences and feelings how to change his behavior. When it comes to uprooting a behavior such as lying, I have a very simple but extremely effective trick that always works.

Think about something that your kids loves, not something big like a bike or a visit to the zoo, but something smaller like may be a toy that he likes or ice cream. Tell your kid that you decided to take him in 3 days to this favorite place, but do not stop at that. Build the excitement. Every day mention it some more. The day before the event, make sure you mention it several times a day, point out the exact time you will be going and what things you will do together over there. The day of that event have your child prepared and ready. Remind him again and again and build that excitement. Eventually, at the time you promised him you would leave and once he is all ready to go, call him over, sit the both of you on 2 chairs, look him in the eye and tell him: “We are not going. I lied to you” and be quiet. Let him digest the news. He would probably be quiet for a while digesting the bad news, he might cry, blame you for not being a good dad and may be even throw some tantrums. Let him be for a while. When he calms down, look him in the eye again and ask: “Tell me what you feel”. He will. Let him go on and on about his feeling and how he thinks you are a bad dad who does not keep his promises. When he calms down again tell him: Do you see how you feel when I lied to you? This is exactly how mom and I feel when you lie to us. Do you think that this should be the way we all lie to each other?”

What you did in this short session was to invoke his inner thinking. He now feels what it means to lie and he does not like it. He will now associate his feelings with what others might feel when he lies to them. If he continues with his behavior (and most chances he will because it is hard to stop), take it to the next level. Run this exercise again but with something slightly bigger this time. It usually takes 2-3 tries to get to the final results so do not give up easily.

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The Reason I am Against Video Games for Young Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 11th July 2011

My son (7), wanted a DSI. All of his friends, this is what he told me, had one. I am very against video games at such a young age (he asked for it when he was 6), but at the same time, I do not want him to be that different and so, my wife and I came to an agreement with him – we will buy him a DSI but he can only play for 20 minutes a day on it.

A year later and the agreement is still in place. Because we are such an active family, most days he does not even have the time for these 20 minutes. We thought that we reached a good balance.

The only exception to the rule is flight time. When the kids fly (with or without us), we allow him to play on his DSI as much as he wants too.

Case in point. When the kids flew by themselves to France a month ago, we were reported by their grandparents that our son played on his DSI most of the night. He landed with his eyes completely red from not sleeping and looking at the small screen.

This just proves my point that if you let kids play too much in front of a screen, they get addicted to it. They display the same symptoms as drug addicts: they are craving for more, can not control themselves, focus on one thing and one thing only and willing to sacrifice anything and everything else just to get their fix. If this behavior with video games can not be called addiction, I do not know what can.

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New Pass Time Activity

Posted by Barack Levin on 7th June 2011

In our house, the kids do not watch TV for many reasons (listed in previous posts). We are a very active family and almost always on the go, even on weekdays but sometimes, we also slow down the pace and the kids have nothing to do.

A week ago, this scenario came true. The kids played together and after awhile go bored. They came to me for solutions and suggestions. I had none but than I saw my son’s (7) homework lying on the table. It was a math sheet with up to 20 addition and subtraction exercises. I had an idea. I asked him to bring them over. “Are these your homework?” I asked. “Yes, they are.” He replied “I already finished them”. “You want to tell me that this is all the math you know?” I asked. “Of course not” he said “I know more than that”. “Ok” I said nodding my head. “How about you?” and I showed the homework to my girl (5.5). “Can you do these?” I asked. “Of course” she answered with no hesitation. “I do not believe you” I said to both of them. “Let me check”. I went to my PC and visited a math practice site. I printed out some math worksheets similar to the ones my son brought and gave them to my girl. I continued and printed out multiplication and large number addition and subtraction worksheets for my son. “Here you go” I said. “Show me you can do them”.

They both went to the table to worked on them giving me some more free time. They came back 10 minutes later with the solved worksheets. Several mistakes but overall, a great job. My little girl still write in mirror writing and calculated with her fingers, but she got most of them right. They were so proud of their work and asked for more. We spent about an hour solving math problems. This is now becoming one of their favorite new pass time activities.

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Bye Bye Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 7th June 2011

Last day of school has finally arrived. The kids were excited and celebrated with their friends the end of the year. But there was another reason for celebration, mainly for us – the kids will fly for the first time, all by themselves on a trans Atlantic flight or in airline terms – unaccompanied minors.

We have prepared them for that day for weeks. It is not the first time they fly but still, we had to tell them that the whole air crew is at their disposal for any question or help that they might need, to ask for food when hungry, to request something to drink when thirsty and even stand up and go the bathroom when they need to even if the seat belt sign is on.

We reached the airport and the air crew was super nice. The pilot had even taken them to the cockpit and showed them the instruments. The flight was delayed by 2 hours and finally took off.

On the other side of the Atlantic, 9 hours later, 2 grandparents were waiting for the kids at the airport. The stewardess came out stating that they were easy kids. They played on the DSI most of the flight (our rule in the house is 20 minutes per day, but on flights we let them play as much as they want).

The kids will now spend the summer break with their grandparents, we will have our own well deserved summer break, it is cheaper to send the kids overseas than to send them to camps and my in-laws will have the kids for 2.5 months. Win-win for everyone.

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Parenthood is not a Democracy

Posted by Barack Levin on 23rd May 2011

Many parents believe that they need to consult with their kids about what needs to be done. For example, parents ask their kids: ”Do you want to eat the tomatoes?” They ask it as if they are putting the issue to vote. Raise your hand or go behind the curtain to cast your vote. How about this democratic question: “Do you want to go to bed now?”

In my mind parenthood is not a democracy; it is more like an enlightened dictatorship. The parents are the absolute rulers in the house. They make the rules and their subjects need to listen and obey these rules. Their subjects can suggest new ways of actions (for example “I prefer to eat peppers and not cucumbers today” but these are only suggestions. The parents may or may not consider them and act according to them. The final word, however, is always reserved to the parents.

There is a very good reason why kids under the age of 18 can not vote for the elections. If this is a golden rule for that age why not implement it also for the younger ages?

When you make a decision that your family life is not a democracy, you get your control back and able to run your family life the way you want to.

Don’t agree that this is the case? Here is an example to show you that you are already a dictator in some ways. You only need to extend your approach.

Would you let your young kids ride your car without a safety belt? Would you let your kids ride their bike without a helmet for the first time? Of course not and if they do, you will become that mean dictator who forces them to do so. All of a sudden, democracy is out of the window. So why the same principle can’t be applied to food, sleeping, tantrums and others?

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