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Barack Levin

Author: Barack Levin

Archive for November, 2009

Crazy Glue

Posted by Barack Levin on 23rd November 2009

In my previous post I discussed how my son and I started building a model plane from a kit. We are advancing. This project is really not for my personality. There are so many small parts that only the Hubble telescope can locate them. But my son is having a blast and that’s all that matters. He is doing about 70% of the work. He reads the instructions, locate the parts by their numbers, detach them from their tray and glues them together. I am there for some help and support.

When we started the project we used regular white glue but shortly after we ran into a problem. Firstly it would take forever for the glue to dry which would slow down the process and secondly when the glue dries it always leave some residue on the parts and they look kind of dirty. I remembered that we had some crazy glue in the house and decided to give it a try.

My son, who is only 5.5 years old, never used crazy glue before but I was determined that he would handle the glue, apply it to the parts and continue just as before. I showed him how to use the new glue and off we go. First obstacle – my son got some glue on his fingers and when he touched his other finger they stuck together. He was somewhat perplexed and surprised. I told him to detach the 2 fingers and wash his hands. From there on, every time he felt some glue was still on his fingers he either washed it off, or simply let it dry up on his finger. The second obstacle came about with the small parts. As soon as he applied the glue and held them, they stuck to his finger. I had to teach him to put a very small drop and if the part stuck to his finger, to take it out and rinse the finger or let the glue dried.

Once we tackled these problems, work on the plane resumed as before. My son has now become an expert working with te crazy glue and enjoys seeing his plane taking shape.

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Model Plane

Posted by Barack Levin on 10th November 2009

My little boy is a little engineer. He likes to build, analyze structures and overall delve in the mechanic of things. For example, when we go to the fun fair, when he is on a ride he looks not at us or his friends, he is looking at the device that makes the ride go and tries to figure out its functionality. My little boy, who is only 5.5 years old, is also very good with hands. His drawings are very neat, he likes to construct things and he loves to take things apart and find out how they work.

I, on the other hand, am exactly the opposite. I have 2 left hands and the peak of my home improving triumph is changing a light bulb. Since I do not want my kids to grow like me I am taking the necessary steps to educate them as much as I can about things that I do not like even to do.

As winter approaches, I need to find some activities for my kids and decided to go ahead and buy a model plane for my son. We went together to the store and he picked a cool jet plane. We put it on the table and I told him we will start the next day. The next morning, as soon as he opened his eyes, he jumped out of bed and said: “Dad, can we build the plane?”. “You need to go to school”, I said, “when you come back we can start”. Later on that day I picked him up from school the first words out of his mouth were: “Can we build the plane?”. I was extremely sick that week and unfortunately had to disappoint my kid for several days but as I got better we got to the task at hand.

He took out all the parts, took the instruction booklet and started trying to figure out what to do. At first I helped him understand the concept that each part is numbered and he needs to find the right parts by their numbers. Next step was to show him how to release the parts from their trays without breaking them. The third step was to check the instructions on how to attach the different parts together and the last step was to glue them.

He was and still is having so much fun building the plane and I do my best not to get frustrated with all the small little parts and my clumsy uncoordinated hands.

As we are building our plane I was thinking on how this activity is better than any TV show or computer game. It helps my boy further develop his fine motor skills, it helps him with math and numbers, it helps with grasping 3D objects and their relations to each other, when the plane is done, it will help his self esteem, it helps in reading and following instructions and above all, it deepens the bond between a father and his son.

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Posted by Barack Levin on 9th November 2009

I woke up early this morning and my little girl woke up right after me and so we had our breakfast together waiting for her brother and my wife to wake up. In the meantime I wanted to do something with my little girl, but we could not go to her room because it is on the second floor close to the other bedrooms and I did not want to wake anybody up.

I looked at the countertop and found my project. The day before I went to the pharmacy and refilled my prescriptions. I take plenty of pills each day and so my bag was full with all sorts of medications. I called my little girl over and asked her if she wanted to help arrange the pills. She immediately agreed and dragged a chair next to the medication drawer (which is in her reach and never locked). We took out the bottles of the old medications and placed them on the countertop. Then, we took from the bag one bottle at a time and I let her open it, use the knife to open the aluminum cover and pour the pills from the almost empty bottle to the new one. We worked on this project for about 20 minutes. My girl was very happy to help and was disappointed when we ran out of bottles to work with.

She placed all the bottles in the drawer and dragged the chair back to the dinning table. I got close to her and asked if she knows that she can never touch what is inside the medication drawer. It was of course not the first time I have asked her and I already knew the answer but wanted to enforce it in her brain just in case. The answer was quick to come: “Only dad can use this drawer and I can open it only if dad is telling me to do so”.

So right and so affective. Simple solutions for complicated problems.

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No Control – Number 2

Posted by Barack Levin on 9th November 2009

I was thinking about something new the other day. I was thinking about child proofing devices to lock doors, drawers, electrical outlets, toilette seats and other. I was thinking about those stupid medication caps that may be child proof but more often than not are also adult proof. I was thinking about fenced play grounds and the way they are always enclosed. I am finding out that they all have one common thread. They are all “excuses”. What I mean by that is that they are all excuses for our (parents) inability to control our kids. We have reached such a level of loss of control that we no longer trust our child upbringing, but need to heavily rely on outside devices.

There is simply no reason why a house should be “child proof” is a kid is raised properly, there is simply no need for those stupid medication caps is a child is taught not to approach them and there is definitely no reason for fenced playgrounds if the child knows better than to run away into the distance.

It is sad, but it is a true, we are slowly caging our kids in a non real world expecting them to rationalize things that should not even exist.

Personally, I think that every child can be easily taught what is good and bad, and given the tools to handle such situations on his own.

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No Control

Posted by Barack Levin on 9th November 2009

We went to a play date today. One of my little girl’s classmates organized it in our favorite park. There were about 20 kids all together, playing and running around. Each of the parents brought some snacks and food for the kids and overall we spent very good time outdoors in the warm winter sun.

As all parents do, we let the kids play and started getting to know each other better. We know some of the parents and met several new ones. At one point we gathered in a group of about 6 parents talking everyday things and slowly shifting our conversation to our kids. Each parent had a different horror story about his kid. This kid does not eat anything, this kid can not fall asleep, this kid throws a tantrum, that kid has anger management issues and so on. It was amazing to hear all of that but the common thread for all the kids was no good healthy eating and no parental control.

We had nothing to add to this conversation, but when we were asked about our kids we simply said not only do they like to eat, they like to eat healthy food, they go to bed all by themselves at night and we do not have problems such as the other kids.

On the way back home, I was thinking about this conversation and had an epiphany. I know why the kids do not eat healthy foods because their parents do not have it at home and if they finally do, they do not insist that the child eats what’s on its plate. I know, that I have faced that situation with my kids more than once. They look at their plates and decided they do not like what’s on there. But unlike many other parents, I do not give up. I give them a choice that could make. They will be responsible for its outcome and the choice is very simple: a. you eat what’s on your plate b. you go to bed hungry. And you know what, there was not even one time that my kids preferred the latter and if they did, nothing would happen to them if they went to sleep hungry. I doubt they would. Instead they will come back at a later time and ask for food, and the same plate that was given to them before, it still waiting for them. I have yet a child who prefers to continue on without a food than eating what’s on his plate and finishing it. It is all a matter of will, not the child’s but the parent’s. If the parent decides – enough is enough – the kids will eat whatever is given to him.

And so while we were driving back home I told my wife why some of these kids are out of control, hyper or can not sleep at night. Their little bodies are in constant state of malnutrition and I believe that at such a state, the mind gets the body in a survival mode. The body is starving for healthy food and is on alert to find it. I truly believe that these kids are hyper because their bodies are not balanced and asking for “real food”.

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Solve your own problem

Posted by Barack Levin on 7th November 2009

I was carpooling with my boy and his friend. On the way home, his friend had some problems putting on his seat belt and asked my son to help him. My son uttered back: “Solve your own problem”. I usually do not interfere in my kid and his friends conversations and did not interfere this time as well but checked and verified that the other kid was able eventually to put on the seat belt.

When we got back home, after dropping the other kid, I asked my son why he said it to the other kid. I wanted to know where he learned this phrase, because we were definitely not the source. His answer to me was very sweet and surprising: “Our teacher says it to us. When we have a problem in math or writing and we go to her, she tells us to solve our own problems”.  Now, I do not interfere too much with school stuff. I ask some questions about the day and get the brief summary from my son, but I do not email or call the teacher at all. I see what he is getting from school and if I put his feedback into the picture, I know exactly what happens at school. But this attitude from his teacher pleasantly surprised. It means that she as well, believes that kids can solve their own problems. We, the adults, do not need to jump every time they encounter a new and problematic situation. Let them figure it out, but the problem is that most kids are not given the right tools this day of age do tackle such issues by themselves and rely heavily on their parents help.  

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Draw me a house…

Posted by Barack Levin on 7th November 2009

My little girl is almost 4 years old and still draws like a 3 year old kid. She can draw circles, lines and some shapes, but she can not or does not want to put them together to something that can actually be called drawing. I think that drawing is one of the kid’s best tools to show the parent what he is capable of for the parent to check his progress and even mood. We all saw the TV shows and movies where a kid is given a task to draw a picture and from the picture the parent or the professional can detect that something is wrong with the kid.

I decided it is time to change her approach toward drawing and started with the process. One day I asked her to draw a house. She of course said that she can not and so I told her: “Listen. It is very easy, you draw a square and on top of it a triangle. That’s it”. She was still not convinced and asked me to draw the house. Since I know she knows how to draw her shapes, I suggested a deal. I would draw the square and she would draw the triangle. She agreed and voila we got a house. She continued to decorate the house and add windows, doors and grass and I observed her thinking, what would happen tomorrow when she wants to draw a house. 

And indeed, the next day, she wanted to draw a house again. This time, I did not give up. I told her it was her drawing and she needs to do it by herself. She looked at me and at the paper and went to her room. 5 minutes later I checked on her and right there in front of my eyes that ere was a beautiful drawing of a house that she did all by her self. Needless to say that I hugged and kissed her and when the drawing was done, we posted it on her door.

Since then, her artistic talent is getting better. Now she is venturing into drawing people and animals and she is very proud of her creations.

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I am shy

Posted by Barack Levin on 2nd November 2009

I was talking today to one of my boy friend’s mom. We were all at the park and having a good time while the kids were goofing around. Our chat was of course about kids and their behaviors. The mom  talked about her kids and said she had an issue with one of them. “He is very shy” she said. I thought that if a child is shy it is a great challenge for the parent to “fix” the problem. The fact that the mom has identified the problem was a first good step towards finding a solution, but from my experience, the jump from identifying the problem to actually solving it is very far. I have witnessed many parents who knew how to describe the problem but did nothing to fix it and simply lived with it or took strange measures to tackle the problem.

For me a shy kid should be an easy, fun and exciting problem to fix and I should know better. My boy was so shy 2 years ago that it was impossible to get a word out of him in the presence of other people. But I identifying the problem and decided to solve it. My solution was simple enough. Since my boy is shy around other people, does not how to approach them and tries to avoid such situation I have decided to purposely face him with such situations and give him the tool to handle them.

For example, each time we went to eat out or went to the store I gave him my wallet and gave him the instructions on how to pay with my credit card. I told him to approach the cashier and ask her to give him the bill, once she did he had to open the wallet give her the credit card and wait for her to give it back and the slip. His reward was to sign the slip with a pen. Slowly but surely I have extended that to other situations as well. We would see a policeman in an event and I would ask my boy to go to him and ask for directions, we saw a neighbor and I asked my boy to go to him and ask him if he can play in the street in front of his yard. Small things, but every time I had to interact with an adult, I let my little boy do it instead of me.

Slowly but surely my boy started to get out of his shell. The beginning was very difficult. He was very shy and in many cases did not want to do what I asked him to do but as he gained more and more confidence he found out that adults actually like kids who are not shy. He would start getting free balloons at the store, stickers at the supermarket and food samples at the grocery store. He started to understand that adults actually like independent self confident kids and reward them for such a behavior.

In this mom’s case, and if she asked my advice, I would have recommended the same approach. Put her child in these uncomfortable situation so that he has to get out of his shell and lose his shy attitude.

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Computer Vs. Friendship

Posted by Barack Levin on 2nd November 2009

My boy has several good friends from school. We are going out with them and parents to restaurants, parks and fun events. My boy considers them as good friends and from the feedback I am getting from the other parents, they also consider him as a good friend.

It is because of that sensation that I had that my boy and his friends like to be and play together, that I was puzzled buy a new and emerging behavior that I started noticing recently.

At our house we have only one TV set and no computer games. I do not believe in those at such an earl stage. May be when my son hits 6 or 7 I will get gaming system to the house but for now I have none. I am a minority in this approach. All of his friends have some kind of a gaming system, TV based or a portable unit. What I am trying to find out is that my boy’s friends prefer to stay at their home ad play their computer games rather to come to our house and play with our more traditional games. Which basically means that his friends prefer to be socially alone and interact with a faceless computer rather than playing with another human being outdoors or even in his room.

I find this behavior very disturbing and proves my point that exposure to TV and gaming systems at an early age produces non social children who prefer their home than going outside and playing with their friends.

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