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My Theories

Through the course of my one year experience with my son, I have developed several theories such as the 4N and Power of No to better help me raise my son.
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Barack Levin

Author: Barack Levin

Archive for September, 2009


Posted by Barack Levin on 29th September 2009

One of my goals, with my kids, is to teach them to stand up to adults to get what they want. I do not want them t be intimidated by adults or to be shy towards them. I want them to understand that adults are just like kids, but simply bigger. If my kids need to ask an adult for something, I want them to know how to interact with them. 

Tonight, I had an excellent opportunity to continue my teaching. After a long day, I just had to get out, so I told my wife that we were going to go to Starbucks to get something hot to drink. We packed the kids in the minivan and headed out.

When we got there, I ordered some hot chocolate for me, some tea for my wife and warm milk for the kids. We sat down and when the order was ready, we gave each of the kids their warm milk. My son loves his milk with a dash of honey. When he found out he had no honey in his milk, he asked me if he could get some. My opportunity was revealed. I called him over to where I was sitting in a wide armchair and nudged him in the direction of the counter. I told him to go to the attendant and to say loudly, “excuse me sir, can you help me?” and to continue from there. And so he did. He approached the counter and with a lot of self-confidence, called the attendant. The first time was too low, but the second time, he got his attention. The attendant came to him and asked “how can I help you, sir?” My son, without hesitation, said “I got the milk, but I also want some honey.” No problem” was the answer. “How much do you want?” My son answered back without hesitation. “Just one spoon please.” The attendant replied, “Why, no problem,” and my son got his request. He was so pleased. He came back to us smiling and happy.

He now understands that he can address an adult with enough self- confidence to explain his need and to get it fulfilled effectively.

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Climbing Trees

Posted by Barack Levin on 29th September 2009

My son started a new hobby; he likes to climb trees. I guess a new stage in his development is the testing of his boundaries and the testing of his abilities. The other day, I was thinking about this new stage. What was so intriguing about climbing trees? I came to the conclusion that it was the trees’ unpredictability and instability. Plus, their height is just there to challenge the exploration sense in my son. I have no problem with him climbing trees and he enjoys it. My problem is with his sister.

As soon as she saw her big brother climbing the trees, she immediately got interested and wanted to try it. At first, I helped, but in a short time, she gathered her self- confidence and did not want any help. She wanted only to mimic her brother. On one hand, my concern was that they were 18 months apart and she was not aware of it and she was not very stable yet. On the other hand, I could not overprotect her. I needed to let her try.

Last weekend, we found a nice shopping plaza with some short, but branched trees. My boy saw them and had to conquer one of them. He climbed it as high as he could. At one point, he would simply hang from a branch with both hands and eventually he decided to jump. Now, I know my son and I know he knows his boundaries, so when he tried to jump, I knew he had already assessed the risks and decided they were minimal. He, of course, was fine, but when my little girl saw him, she wanted to try too.

I told her that she could, but only from a lower branch. A few minutes later, she was holding on to the branch with her dear life and then let it go causing her to safely fall to the ground. I was happy to see them enjoying themselves.

Since I saw that they were fine, I let myself sit down on the curb and I watched them playing on that tree.

At one point, my little girl was holding the same branch and I got a bad feeling, but it was already too late. She was not paying close attention and one of her hands slipped. The second one joined the first one and she plunged to the ground face first. She landed with her mouth on the dirt and scraped her knee on a stone. She, of course, immediately stood up, all shaken from this ordeal and started to cry. I know my kids and I know that in most cases, the cry is really worse than the pain, but this time she was in shock. She was trembling and bleeding. Still, I did not want to make it a scene and I saw an opportunity to teach her something new. Wanting to do first things first, I took some water and tissue and asked her to sit down. I wiped her face and blood while talking to her and asking her questions. “What happened to you? Why did you slip? Tell me what happened.” I have already learned that once a kid is engaged in a conversation, it is harder for her to concentrate on the crying and indeed within a few minutes she stopped crying and began telling me what happened. Now that she had seen that the matter was not serious and nothing major happened, we started with the joking. “Why did you leave the tree? Why did you hit the ground? What do you think Mommy will say?” I know that joking this way takes away the pain and trauma completely. Within five minutes, we were back to normal. The bleeding had stopped. She was soon clean and happy and began to joke about her fall.

For me, these incidents are part of life. I believe that bruises are a part of growing up. I do not take them very seriously and I teach my kids that bruising can be part of the game and that they need to know to act on pain accordingly. I want them to understand the words, “no guts no glory.”

Posted in Tips and Advice | 1 Comment »

Japanese Restaurant

Posted by Barack Levin on 21st September 2009

Yesterday, we decided to go to a Hibachi restaurant. I chose this restaurant, not only because of its light fat free menu, but because I knew that the Japanese chef would put on a show with his tools and hot cooking plate located right on our table. The kids were amazed at his tricks, cutting food and throwing it from a distance to their plates, clicking with his pepper and salt shakers, flaming the steaks and more.

At our table, there was another set of parents with older kids, a boy thirteen years old and a girl eleven years old. They also enjoyed the show. The first items on the menu were the vegetables. The chef prepared carrots, mushrooms, zucchinis and onions. He cooked them in a special sauce and when they were ready, picked them up from the hot cooking plate and placed them in our plates.

When he turned to the teenage girl, she told him that she didn’t care to have any vegetables. Her mother, justifying that statement, said, “She never eats vegetables.” The chef skipped her and continued with the mom. When he was done with the other family, he started to place the vegetables on our plates. My kids were first and, of course, accepted the load of vegetables. The mother could not hide her surprise. “You see,” she said as she was turning to her daughter, “they eat their vegetables and so should you.” The girl, of course, continued to refuse.

I thought that this was an excellent example of how parents lose a power struggle when their kids are young, so the kids grow up to hate vegetables, possibly causing their body so many nutritional deficiencies.

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Posted by Barack Levin on 21st September 2009

One of the issues that I was struggling with was how to put a fine line for my kids between not being shy and timid when talking to adults and the other extreme of just going off with any adult that approaches them. The first step was to teach them to talk to adults while I am present. I would deal with the rest later.

We went to an Indian restaurant the other day with my kids and my parents. At the end of the meal, we were all chatting as we prepared to leave the restaurant. At one point, I leaned over to my little girl, who is three and a half years old, and told her to go to the waiter to ask for the bill. She looked at me and asked if her brother, who is five years old, could go along. “Of course,” I said, and they both went. They returned with the bill. I gave them my credit card and told them to go back and say “Here you go sir.” and then to wait for the credit card slip. They brought the slip to me; I signed it and they found the waiter in order to return the slip to him. It is a small step, but an important one to show my kids that adults are humans too and that they should not fear them.

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Posted by Barack Levin on 20th September 2009

Weekends are sacred for me. It is the only time that I have some time for myself and plenty of “potential” time to rest. During the week, I drive the kids to school and back, which means at least two hours on the road every day. So, when the weekend arrives, I am ecstatic. Finally I have some time to sleep. Of course, with two kids in the house, it is not easy. On the weekends, they used to wake up around 7:00 in the morning and they wanted to play, so I had to come up with a plan.

The night before, I remind the kids that it is the weekend and that when they wake up, they are to play quietly in their rooms until, we, the adults, wake up as well. Now, on many weekends, I get to sleep late, until around 8:00. I then join my wife, who has woken up before me, and the kids, who have woken up and are playing in their rooms.

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Dragon Fruit

Posted by Barack Levin on 18th September 2009

I went to the farmers market to shop for vegetables and fruits for the week. The market I go to is in the Chinatown area of the city and it always has great varieties of excellent quality fruits and vegetables. Many of the items on shelves are items that I have never seen before in my life and would not know what to do with them if I bought them.

My mother was in town for a visit and came with me to the store. While we were looking around, we saw a fruit that I had never seen before. It was called a “dragon fruit.” It is a green avocado shaped fruit with orange stripes. It is a very strange looking food, indeed. My mother wanted us to take one home to try.

When we got home, my mother opened the fruit to taste it. It looked even more bizarre on the inside than on the outside. It was borderline grayish with black seeds. She tried some, liked it, and that evening we offered some to our kids. Needless to say, even though it was the first time that they had ever seen the fruit, they stayed true to their mom’s motto “always try before you say,’ no.’” They tried the fruit and they loved it.

I was happy to see that they were not afraid of a new food item and would try a fruit for the first time.

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Plan B

Posted by Barack Levin on 8th September 2009

We went to some friends for dinner today. They have a 5 year old boy and 2 year old boy. Almost the same ages as our kids. The mother is an excellent cook. The table was covered with exotic foods from plain rice to honey glazed chicken. Naturally, after a while, the conversation slowly started sliding towards talking about kids and as our friends’ little one was finishing up his plate, the mother says she always has a plan B for her kids. When I asked what she meant by that, she said that if her kids do not like her cooking, she always have a plan B in the form of chicken nuggets, hotdogs and chips.

I have had, and sometimes still have, the same problem with my kids. My wife is also an excellent cook, but now, from time to time, and more often, when they were younger, our kids refused to eat the food that she served. Not that she was cooking something extremely bizarre or something with a weird taste to it, we are talking peas, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, squash and the likes. All of a sudden our kids simply do not like this food anymore. I have adopted a different to this selective food eating habit. First and foremost, my wife is not a servant or a cook on demand for the kids. She cooks what she thinks is suitable and most importantly balanced and healthy for the kids. She does not have the time nor the patience to start preparing plan B foods.

My approach was different and it started at an early age, but the good thing about it is it can adopted at almost any young age with a guaranteed 100% success rate, as long as the parents are consistent with their behavior.

When I face such a situation, I simply tell the kids that there is simply nothing else to eat. If they are old enough and start to argue or point at something else at the fridge, I simply say that mom is not going to prepare it and give a choice – you can either eat what’s on your plate or go to bed hungry. At an earlier age, I was not that rough and if they refused the food, I would take the plate away and waited. They of course protested by crying and after several minutes I have introduced the same plate to them. This cycle might have stopped after one try or several tries, but the end result was the same – the kids ate whatever was on the plate. I do not believe in plan B for food, because it can lead for the child to start demanding other things as well and the more the parent caves in the more the child wants.

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Concrete Day

Posted by Barack Levin on 7th September 2009

Labor Day and the long weekend challenge that it presented, caused me to try to think of a family project in which we could all participate. The project that came to mind involved our driveway.

We share a driveway with our neighbor.The driveway starts at the street and then splits up in a “V” shape into the respective entrances to our houses. Over the years, the gap in between the two sides of the “V” shape driveway eroded and the concrete simply vanished. Now, we have a long nasty trench that has already caused several scratches on the bottom of some our guests’ cars and at least one flat tire. Filling up the trench with concrete, seemed to me like a great project.

I went with the kids and bought twenty 80 lb concrete mix bags and brought them home. At home we had the kids wear their sandals, working clothes and gloves. My role was to lift the bag onto the wheelbarrow. My older son, who was five years old, was in charge of tearing open the bag. My little girl joined him in pouring water into the mix while I was mixing  it. When the mix was ready, my kids took the wheelbarrow down the driveway to their mom. Then, I helped empty the contents in to the trench and my wife laid down the concrete.

Within two to three bags, the process became automated and my kids actually assisted us tremendously. Naturally, they could not go through the whole twenty bags and stopped after ten or so, but the lesson was learned. They were happy to help and proud to work with their parents. It showed them that they could contribute to a project for the well being of the family.

Today we went out with the kids to check the concrete patch. They were happy to walk on it and were proud to have participated in the project.

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