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Barack Levin

Author: Barack Levin

Archive for April, 2010

Sprite

Posted by Barack Levin on 27th April 2010

We went with the kids to a Mexican restaurant the other day. While I am not a big fan of Mexican food (nothing personal, I just think it is very heavy and I am not into that kind of food), my wife loves it and since she has the last word in our house, you can already guess that I had no options. The Mexican restaurant she likes has an outdoor seating and the weather just called out for us to take advantage of it and enjoy ourselves eating in the beautiful late hours of the day.

We loaded the kids and headed to the restaurant. The wait was not too bad. We waited for about 20 minutes. In that time, we enjoyed the live Mariachi band playing some of our favorite songs. As we got seated, the waiter approached us with our drink orders. Usually, we all get water and if we order the kids meal they also get some juice. On that specific night, for whatever reason, I was craving for Sprite and ordered one for myself. And this you need to know about our family’s drinking habits. We do not have in our house any carbonated drinks. None. Zero. Zilch. We all drink water, milk and on occasion watered down juice. Since my kids are still very young (4 and 6), they have never tasted these types of beverages in our house and we try to educate them that these drinks, while sometimes are good for adults, are not for kids and they understand it.

As I was getting my drink, my kids went ahead and asked what it was. I told them it was Sprite and my son said: “ooh, I love Sprite”. His comment caught me by surprise since according to what I know, he should not know even the name of this drink. I just had to ask:” How do you know what it is?” and his answer was very surprising. “We had a party at school and they gave us some”. My wife and I stared back at him with wide open eyes, hardly believing what we just heard. We repeated our mantra that such drinks are not for young kids, but later on that night we talked about this very subject.

Why would school serve such drinks voluntarily to kids? Don’t they know what’s in them? Don’t they know they have no added nutritional value? Don’t they think it is the school’s role to help parents educate their kids to eat healthy? Where is the responsibility here?

I am still contemplating about it, but I think that eventually I will send a note to school about it to have them think it over.

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Crying After Playing

Posted by Barack Levin on 24th April 2010

I have been faced with a new problem recently. I am finding out that when my kids are having a good time playing with friends, in the playground, watching TV or engaged in another entertaining activity they are all smiles and giggles. However, the minute we end that activity, they start complaining: my leg hurts, I am hungry, I am tired, I want to go home already or they start crying and whining. At the beginning I was sure that it was a one time occurrence so I let it slide, but when I saw that this is becoming a repetitive behavior, I decided that enough is enough.

The next time around, I was well prepared. We ended our play time at the playground. We played for nearly 4 hours and the kids were just done and tired. They would not admit it, because kids, being kids, always want to play more and not go home, but 4 hours of hard play took their toll and I could see how they start to show the first signs of fatigue.

So, before, they even had the time to complain and irritate me and while still playing, I called them over and said in a very plain language: “You have just finished playing for 4 hours.  You did not complain, whine or nag for the duration of your play time so I am already warning you, this is not the time to start hearing you whining. The same way you did not complain while you were playing, I expect you to behave the same way until you go to sleep.  If you do start whining, next time we will not play as much and you will go home earlier”. This was my warning shot across the bow to let them know I am serious. They nodded for understanding and we completed packing our things into the car. There was no nagging or complaining that night until we go home.

Since that day, I am giving them the same lecture every time we are about to finish an activity and it works like a charm each and every time.

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No Vegetables

Posted by Barack Levin on 22nd April 2010

We went to the park yesterday to goof around with our kids. We have invited several of our friends to join us and indeed 4 of them showed up in complete play gear which included bikes, scooters, balls and more; overall, a great afternoon at a great park.

M post today is about the dinner we were having in the park. Around 5:30 the kids were famished and asked for their food. We took out sandwiches which we prepared earlier on. The Sandwiches were made from whole grain bread and had in them some cottage cheese, bean sprouts, snow peas and tomatoes. Our kids devoured them with a side of a boiled egg and drank water to accompany them to their hungry stomachs. My wife and I had the same meal and ate with the kids. Shortly after we started eating, one of my girl’s friends joined us. She is also 4 years old and was accompanied by her father. Let me describe how I saw her approaching us. In one hand she was holding a bottle of Sprite, in the other hand she was holding a store bought sandwich made of white flour with ham and cheese and in her mouth she was chewing gum. I looked at her in dismay. Why would any parent give their kids a bottle of Sprite? What’s the use? What is the nutritional value in it? Besides, this bottle contains so much sugar that can be her whole calorie consumption for the day. And the chewing gum? What is that for? What is the added value in it? To get the body used to chewing something all the time? And the sandwich? I can understand that not all parents like or want to cook. That is fine, but at least buy her a healthier meal.

They sat down next to us eating their meals. The girl was interested in what we were eating and when she saw all the green stuff, she refused to take a bite. Her father said: “She does not really like vegetables”. And I was thinking:” And?… And you let her continue with this behavior? Don’t you think she needs those vegetables? Don’t you think her body needs them to develop normally? Do you really think you are doing her a favor by caving in like this?”

But I kept my thoughts to my self. I simply think that parents are not their kids’ friends. They should not try to be nice to them or try their kids to like them by caving in to their tempers. Parents need to insist on what they think is important and yes, vegetables are important.

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Bullying – An Afternoon Conversation

Posted by Barack Levin on 19th April 2010

We had some friends over at house the other day enjoying the beautiful sunny weather. The food was great, conversation interesting and even the kids decided to cooperate and played nicely with our friends’ kids.

Our friends’ son is the same age as our son and they are best friends so it was no surprise that we, the adult, have a lot in common and a lot to share. At one point of the conversation our friends raised the issue of bullying. They said that their son was bullied at school and that they told him that if he is being hit, he should hit back. So far into the conversation I agreed with everything they said. The next phase of the conversation became more interesting. They continued on saying that their son told them that if he hits back he is going to have problems with his teacher and their answer to him was that if it happens to tell the teacher that the other kid hit him first. At this point I had to interrupt and point out something important. I said: “When you ask him to explain to his teacher that he is right for hitting the other kid you put him in a very delicate situation. He is now confronting an adult, and not just any adult, but his teacher, the one he believes has authority over him and can actually cause him problems. In his mind, he simply can not stand up to her and say it, he will be too afraid. You need to avoid this conflict situation all together and get him out of the equation”. “And how do you do that?” they asked. “Simple enough”, I replied, “If such a situation does happen and he needs to face his teacher he should tell her that he hit the other kid because this is what his parents told him to do and if she wants to, she can talk to the parents”. I think that when it comes to authority, the parents are the highest authority and everyone else comes next. In this case, the kid knows that he can not confront the teacher, but his parents can and not only that, he knows that his parents will back him up on his actions so he is not terrified to tell this to his teacher. In this way, he takes himself out of the conflict and put the blame on his parents. It is easier for him to cope with such a situation this way.

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Chocolate, Chocolate and for Desert – Some More Chocolate

Posted by Barack Levin on 18th April 2010

I talked to a friend of mine yesterday who has kids about the same ages as my kids. Apparently, his parents flew in for a 3 week visit to see and be with the kids. He was of course very happy (not to mention the kids) and said his parents are helping him care for his kids.

While we were talking, he nonchalantly blurbed out that his parents brought tons of chocolate candies for the kids.  He continued to add: “It is ridiculous. The kids wake up in the morning and already get 2 bars of candy and it continues this way throughout the day. I even find chocolate candidates in the bathroom”. I did not say anything, but I was thinking about his comment. He is the parent of his kids. He is responsible for them and in charge of them so if he thinks that something is wrong, he needs to act on it.

If he thinks that his kids eat too many candies than stop talking and start acting. Take the candies away, throw them to the garbage or ration them. I can think of many ways to solve this problem is a few very simple steps.

This goes back to an earlier point I have made. The first and hardest task parents face with is to identify the problem. Once they do, the next big task is to find a solution for it. It seems to me that many parents fail in the first step and the few who finally overcome that hurdle, only sit there and complain about the problems instead of trying to fix them.

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A Walk in the Park

Posted by Barack Levin on 17th April 2010

Last Wednesday we went with the kids to the park. I have loaded them up at 4PM and headed to an afternoon full of fun. The local park organizes on Wednesdays an Ultimate Play Date afternoon and the park is full with parents and their kids, music players, several kids’ activities and more. At the park we let the kids roam and find things to do. Last Wednesday they were into the music payer and stayed next to the stage to look and listen. I set down close by enjoying the fresh air, music and the sun.

Soon after, my wife arrived together with several of our friends with their kids. We let the kids play together and release some energy.

At one point my son who is 6, was thirsty and asked for water. We did not bring any with us, but the park has several water fountains available. My son knows where they are as do we. They are exactly at the opposite side of the park, a walking distance of about 1.30 minutes for a kid. Running, probably cuts it down to about 1 and the whole trip to and back is about 5 minutes tops. From our place at the park we can not see the water fountains but my son knows exactly where they are and the way back. My little girl who is 4, asked to join him and we said of course. Off they went by themselves to the water fountains with no supervision.

When our friends saw them walking they asked if we approved and I said yes. They asked if we are not afraid and I replied “from what?” and they said that my kids might not find their way back or someone might kidnap them. I looked at them and said that I trust my kids and prepared them for such events. If they are lost they know exactly what to do and since the park is full with parents and kids I doubt anyone will put their hands on them and besides, if somebody does, they know what to do. It was very hard to explain that I simply know my kids and I know what they are capable of. I have tested them in the past and know that they know their way around, I also know that they do not need me chaperoning them every step of the way. They can do things on their own.

And indeed, 5 or so minutes later, my kids came back to continue playing with their friends with another independence enhancing experience under their belt.

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Selective Mutism

Posted by Barack Levin on 15th April 2010

I was watching TV the other day when I stumbled across an interesting documentary and decided to write about it. The segment was about a family whose child (8 years old) stopped talking when she was about 4 years old. Since that age, she only talks to her parents and one her girlfriends, but she does not talk to anyone else: not to her grandfather, grandmother, teacher, at school or at the restaurant. Not even one sound, one word. Instead, she writes her answers.

The documentary went on and asked how it happened and the answer was that around the age of 4, the child and her mom were in the public swimming pool enjoying the day when the girl turned and asked her mom for something, only to find out that she was not talking to her mom but to a stranger. From that day on, her anxiety grew and she simply refused to talk to strangers.

This whole story could have been a very funny anecdote and I thought that at that stage they will tell us, the viewers, that it is not that serious and it was only a game the child was playing, but to my surprise they accompanied the girl around and verified everything that was said. She was indeed not talking to anyone but her family and best friend. It was heart breaking to see the grandfather talking to her and not hearing her reply. He has been trying to get a sound out of her for 4 years.

As the show progressed they of course gave her some treatment and indeed towards the end of the show she started getting out of her shell. And here comes my point.

This is an excellent example how something so minor can get out of proportion. First the kid throws some kind of a fit; her parents dismiss it and do not pay attention to it. “It will go away on its own” they say. When it does not, they simply get used to their kid’s caprice and live their lives according to it. Later on, when they realize that they have a problem on their hands and it is growing, they give it a bombastic name and than all hell break loose. Teachers, assistants, experts, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, doctors, nurses, speech therapists and a slew of other professionals storm at the problem, create a new industry out of it, write books about it, lectures, build up web sites, start communities and go to the press with a problem that should have never been even begun. And what do you get? One little girl’s mood swings creates a whole new field in parenting and psychology. You tell me if this is completely absurd and ridiculous?

If you agree with it, I ask you to also take a good look at your kid and read this post again. This time instead of reading this post about a “refusal to talk” issue, try changing it to “refusal to eat vegetables” or “refusal to stop watching TV” or “refusal to sleep” or “refusal to lose the pacifier” or refusal to get potty trained” or any other problem you have with your kids. Interesting isn’t it? You get to the same conclusion. Your kid is dictating how you will live and you follow it through by never trying to fix the problem and as a result, whole new industries are being born just because you could not say no to a child.

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Pay Per Chore

Posted by Barack Levin on 14th April 2010

I have been asked many times before what is my stand on pay-per-chore? For those who are not familiar with the subject, here is a short explanation. In order to entice kids to help in the house whether it is to help with the dishwasher, folding the laundry, clean up their rooms and mowing the loan, parents turn to money. They offer a very simple deal: you will do the chores in the house I ask you to and I will pay you for it. We will determine a compensation scale and every time you complete your chores, you will get your financial reward.

Many parents who favor this approach suggest that money is a great incentive for their kids to buy and get their favorite clothes, gadgets or other items and, they add, instead of giving them an allowance, this way, our kids, work for their money. It is educational, motivational and instills in these young kids the true essence of hard work.

And I say, are you crazy?

When you go the pay-per-chore route, what do you really show your kids? You demonstrate that there are 2 casts in the house: the wealthy – the ones with the money and the poor (obviously the ones without the money). The rich people tell the poor people what to do and the poor people HAVE to do it or otherwise they will not get a financial compensation. In essence, instead of creating a warm and loving family environment you have created a work place like environment. You, the parent, are the boss, and you have your subjects to do their chores for pay. Not only that you teach them that you are the all powerful parent, but you demonstrate something else, something that is far more dangerous. Because you are using the money approach, it can work both ways, and I have seen it happening. You think that if you pay for the chores YOU want your kids to do, they will do it and get paid for it, but the lesson they get completely different. Now, they can blackmail you. Now, chores that they used to do without any pay can be used against you to blackmail you. Simple things like brushing their teeth, doing their homework or even going to the park can become money leverage systems designed to get more money out of you.

So in the end, what did you accomplish? Nothing. The same way you hate going to work everyday and do the things that you hate doing and get paid for it, guess what? You just taught your kids the same lesson.

There is of course a better way to deal with this issue but this is a subject for a later post.

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Skinny Mommies – Fat Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 12th April 2010

I see it everywhere. They are in the malls, the parks, the movies, restaurants and even at our home. I see those moms who maintain a very strict diet and look skinny and in shape. They watch what they eat, they go to the gym on a regular basis, they visit the Yoga place several times a week and they read every label before they buy the food product. These mommies treat their bodies like holly temples. They are always in top shape, wear make up, read and ready for the latest plastic procedures available and overall make sure that they look good and feel as best as they can.

And then, there are their kids. And this is where the contrast begins. While the mommies are very cautious about their bodies, they use their kids as a garbage disposal. The kids eat junk food, drink sodas, get used to eating processed foods, hardly have any activity, spend their days in front of the TV and computer games, have very small interaction with their parents and slowly get fat and inactive. And so you see more often than note, a mommy who looks fabulous walking hand in hand with an obese and uncontrollable kid.

And I have to ask myself. If this mom would not be such a narcissist and would invest only 10% of the time she dedicates to herself to her kid, what astonishing results she would get, what a great kid she could have.

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Kida and Planes

Posted by Barack Levin on 11th April 2010

Last night we took the return flight back home -a 13 hour flight on a full plane. Friends always tell me that I am brave (or crazy, depending on who you talk too) taking my kids alone on such long flights. I think not. I think that if you know how to control your kids and prepare them for the flight, the experience is very positive and enjoyable.

The flight last night was exactly that. We boarded the plane around 10:30PM and took off an hour later. Until we climbed to the cruising altitude it took about 1:30 hours. During that time the kids were playing with the Nintendo DSI and watching some movies on the online entertainment system. About 30 minutes later we were served dinner. The kids and me ate and about 1 hour later (if you are keeping track of the time, we are already talking 1:30AM), I prepared them to sleep. We had a little fight. I usually let the kids sleep on the floor of the plane between the 2 rows of seats. This time, the supporting legs of row in front of us were tight and there was space for only one kid. They started arguing who will sleep on the floor and who will sleep on the seats and finally I have made a decision that they will both squeeze together on the floor and sleep side by side. They could not be happier.

Since I have been flying for so long, I came equipped. I took out of one of the carry-ons 2 big pillows and 2 extra blankets. I dealt with the sleeping arrangements and within 5 minutes, they were both fast asleep, me, on the other hand, have problems sleeping on planes, so I watched some movies and dozed on and off. About 5 hours before landing they woke up. At that time I was just exhausted. They started again with the DSI and TV and I told them that I was going to close my eyes and go to sleep. They were just fine with it. I slept for 2 straight hours while they were doing whatever they were doing and not disturbing the other passengers. I woke up because of a very bad dream where I dreamt that my little girl was running into the road and almost got hit by a car. I opened my eyes with my heart still beating fast just to see my little girl watching her movie. She looked at me and said: “Daddy, why did you wake up? Go to sleep” and so I did for another hour when we started our landing approach.

We all had a great flight and got home happy and rested. This comes to show you that flying with kids should not be horrendous experience and can easily be enjoyable.

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The Miracle of life? Come On, Give Me a Break.

Posted by Barack Levin on 7th April 2010

Ahh… delivery day has finally arrived, the expected mother and the soon to be father are rushing to the hospital and prepare for the blessed event. As they both hold their breath and the pushing starts, the slew of hospital staff gather around the soon to appear baby and prepare for that special moment and in other words – The Miracle of Life.

Yes, that is the nickname we have coined for this event – The Miracle of Life. For 9 months the initial sperm and egg had performed a miraculous journey – merging together to create another person and this person, this miracle, is just about to come out and introduce himself to the world.

Here is a short allegory that will be used as a seaway for my next segment in the story.

A farmer bought a new chicken for his farm and to his surprise discovered that it laid golden eggs. Every morning when he entered the barn, there it was – another golden egg. Undoubtedly a miracle, but the farmer was not satisfied. He wanted more gold and so he decided to take the most “logical’ step: he would cut the chicken open to get all the gold out. Of course when he did that, he killed the chicken and forever lost the golden egg and his miraculous chicken.

Back to the miracle of life with this story in mind. So the baby is finally here, the miracle of life has made his appearance and what do we do from that point on? Do we cherish this miracle? Do we nurture it? Do we give him love and support? Do we even appreciate this miracle? and the answer my friend is not only do we not appreciate it, we, the parents, actually destroy this beautiful miracle. You ask me how? Here you go:

We give him to strangers to grow him up for us

We do not spend enough time with him

We do not act as role models for him

Instead of giving him the love he needs, we flood him with unnecessary toys

Instead of giving him good, solid skills we teach him to be selfish

We do not feed him well and fill his body with junk food and chemicals

We yell and punish him although we know it does not work and never look for other means of disciplining

We cave in to all of his caprices and live with them instead of changing them

We never listen to him

And the list goes on and on.

Just like the farmer, we are choking and killing or most precious thing in the world – our kids – our miracle of life.

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Fruits and Vegetables

Posted by Barack Levin on 5th April 2010

I met a friend today and his son (3). We went with our kids to the beach to enjoy a beautiful spring day. While the adults were talking, the kids were playing in the sand and emptying the sea into the hole they dug.

After a while, my kids came to me asking for food and I took out the items I have prepared for them. The box contained bell peppers strips (orange and red ones), pear slices, apple slices and persimmon slices in addition to some cottage cheese sandwiches. I called my friend’s kid and asked if he wanted to join us for lunch, he nodded for approval and I gave him one of the sandwiches. When we were done with them, I took out the bell peppers and offered them to all the kids. Mine took theirs and my friend’s kid refused to take one. I looked at my friend and he told me that his son does not eat fruits or vegetables. I asked him why not, and he said that he just does not like it.

I should not have said anything, but it was already too late, the words just came out. “You know that he needs those to develop in a normal way” and my friend answered “I know, but my wife does not insist on it”. Since I was already into the discussion I answered: “Yes, but he is your child too and you need to care for him”. He was not ready for this answer and just looked at me thinking about what I said. So I continued: “Let me tell you a story. One day, my son, when he was about 4 years old, decided that he did not want to eat avocado anymore. He ate everything else, but avocado. I tried to question and understand why but got no reasonable answer besides the ‘I do not want it’. I was afraid that it might continue to other food items and decided to take an action. For the next week or so, ALL of our meals contained some type of avocado in them. My kid saw it and said he did not want to eat it, so we gave him an option ‘it is up to you, you can eat the dish or you can go to bed hungry’. And guess what? He ate everything and within 2-3 days his avocado dislike was gone”.

My friend looked at me and said: “my wife will never agree to this” to this I replied: “you are not your kid’s friend, you are his parent and as a parent you have the responsibility to educate and raise your kid in a proper way and not just cave in to al sorts of obsessions he comes up with. Parenting is about making hard decisions and carrying them out to benefit your kid”.

I do hope that he will think it over and see that indeed a non fruit and vegetable eating kid can spell disaster in the long run.

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A Sure Way to Raise Unhealthy Obese Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 3rd April 2010

I have been observing other parents, their kids and their interaction with each other, and developed a sure way to raise unhealthy obese kids. If you follow these easy to follow steps, you have great chances of growing an overweight inactive kid who will, in time, become an obese kid.

Step 1:

When they are still babies, let them decide what they can and can not eat. If they insist on eating no vegetables – simply do not give them any, do not force it on them, and if they prefer to eat only bread do not try to suggest anything healthy for them to eat. Satisfy their hunger an always cling to this famous phase: “at least he is eating something”.

Step :

When going out to restaurants, make sure you go to fast food restaurants only and load your kids’ plates with French fires, ketchup and of course do not forget the sugary milkshake or apple pie at the end. If you want to excel, super size their meal.

Step 3:

If you drink soda or any other high calorie none nutritional drink, make sure they taste it. Don’t say no or even think about stopping drinking it. After all, it is you right to drink it. Make sure that your kids are hooked on that taste from an early age so that when they grow up they can yell and scream on you to buy them their favorite drink.

Step 4:

Avoid physical activity at all costs. Make sure you equip their room with a TV monitor and that is on whenever they are there. Also, make sure that you have another TV set in your living room and that this TV set is always tuned on a kid’s channel full with commercials for unhealthy foods and useless toys. Make sure that when your kids eat their dinner, they continue watching their favorite program so that they do not miss one single scene.

Step 5:

When they grow up, let’s say around 2-3 years old, buy them a computer with unlimited access to the internet. Introduce them to some sites where they can play online instead of going out. If you want to top yourself, also get them a handheld video game so that even when they are out, they can continue to sit and play their favorite game instead of running around.

If for any reason you start to get concerned about their weight, no worries. The best and sure way to fight it is to buy them some dietary supplements and dietary foods. For example, instead of getting them regular soda, buy them a diet one. After all, their bodies are already used to these chemicals anyway and should not have a problem coping with them easily. This has to be the sure way to lose some weight. Adults do it this way, so why not kids.

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Wine vs. Junk Food

Posted by Barack Levin on 3rd April 2010

We were invited to a small event with some family members and friends. We were not the only ones with kids and our kids mingled and played with the other ones. After awhile we were all ready to start our meal. The kids set with us around the table.

Food was served and my kids were happy to eat what the grown ups were eating which meant some salad as the appetizer, orange soup (made of sweet potatoes and carrots), chicken with some broccoli and some rice and for desert some home made cake.

I am already used to my kids eating the same food we eat and for other kids to be picky so it was no surprise that “special” food was served for the other kids. The “special” food contained chicken nuggets, French fries and ketchup. Desert was the same.

Since this was a celebrative event, the host of the party, during the meal, poured some wine to our glasses for a toast. My kids saw that everyone is having some wine and wanted to try some too. I did not have any problem with that, and poured some wine into their glasses and they toasted with the grown ups and during the meal continued and finished what was left in their glasses.

At this point during the meal I got some very uneasy looks from other parents and was even faced with the question if it is not too harmful for kids to drink wine at such an early age (6 and 4). I told them that the quantity they were having could not hurt them and I do not think it will have any affect on them. I did not receive any approvals from any one else, and the other kids were not allowed to sip some wine. But that made me start thinking and I got to this conclusion. I think that junk food is much more harmful than a sip of wine every once in a while. If the other parents were really concerned about their kids’ health, they would not have given them junk food to begin with. That sip of wine is nothing compared to the damages junk food can cause. It is like wine is taboo, but junk food is fine.

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Is it just me or the world has gone completely mad?

Posted by Barack Levin on 2nd April 2010

We went to the playground today with the kids. It was a beautiful sunny day and the playground was full with kids of all ages, from your tiny little babies to kindergarteners and older. As usual, after about an hour of play, the kids start to get hungry and I started seeing parents taking out their food items to give I to their kids. I did the same. When I go with my kids I prepare their food in advance. It is always fresh and contains snacks such as fruits and vegetables or if we are going for a long time, some sandwiches made out of whole grain bread, some avocado, tomatoes and sprouts. As for liquids, my kids get only water and none of the juices or sodas.

As I was giving out the food to my kids I looked around to see what other kids are eating and surprise, surprise, I was the only parent who brought non processed food for his kids. All the other kids were eating directly from store bought bags. The contents of these bags contained high calorie snacks, nothing natural and full of fat, sugar and salt.

It is no wonder that kids get obese and dislike healthy foods when their parents simply give them so much processed unhealthy food items.

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