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Barack Levin

Author: Barack Levin

Archive for June, 2010

Child labor and bonding

Posted by Barack Levin on 30th June 2010

Sometimes the smallest things can impact my life and my connection with my kids without even planning it. The following example shows that even when you are in pain, you can make it into a game and have your kids work for you and help you.

The other day I threw my back. Terrible pain, I could hardly walk straight. It does not happen to me a lot, but when it does, my lower back feels as if someone stuck in it at least 30 extremely hot and sharp darts. With each movement it seems as if these pointy darts just go deeper and deeper into the tissue and tear it apart. It gets to a point where it is even hard for me to even breathe. I take a deep breath and I can feel the incredible pain in my back. Suffice to say, than when something like this happens, I am in no mood to play with the kids, but they don’t really care. They want to play with their daddy. So, just like a wounded animal, I drag myself upstairs to their room and try to gather my remaining energy and play with them, but I feel miserable. I can not sit straight and my whole body is twisted. Within in minutes I need to change my sitting positions and several minutes later, change it again. But then, I got an idea.

I tell the kids I got a great new game for them. Their eyes sparkle with anticipation. I get myself off the bed (very slowly) and onto the carpet. I lay face down, after some heavy moaning on the way there and ask the kids to bring me a pillow. They do, and I shove it under my head. And here comes the fun part. I tell the kids to step on my back and walk up and down on it. Their little bare feet start tapping on my back like a masseuse massaging my whole body. The feeling is great. The tiny feet manage to reach every knot in my body. And the kids? They love it. It is a game for them. They continue like that for several more minutes and when they are tired I ask them to do something else. I ask them to stand on my lower back and then raise their bodies and stand on their toes. They do so and their body weight just drives these little toes right into my back releasing some more moaning from me.

We continue like that for several more minutes and to my surprise, this amateur massage helps me relieve some of the pain. I kiss my little kids and explain how they helped me with my pain. They are of course very happy to do so. It was only a game for them after all.

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Fun little game

Posted by Barack Levin on 29th June 2010

Here is a fun little game that I like to play with my kids and it is a good starting point for parents who decide they want to spend more time with their kids and less time in front of the TV.


1 dad or mom

1 (or more kids)

1 bedroom door that does not reach all the way down to the floor

1 or more thin and small items (pens are the best)


Place mom or dad on one side of the door and child on the other. Tell child to be ready and start rolling things under the door from your side to his. Continue until you sides hurt from laughter.

If you want to upgrade the game, give you child a small blanket to try and block the items you are trying to roll on his side under the door.

I have spent hours with my kids playing this game and even though they are 6 and 4, they still love the game and constantly come up with new strategies to enhance it.

Good luck

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Dislocating my shoulder

Posted by Barack Levin on 28th June 2010

Imagine this scenario. It is 10:30 PM, you are in bed, the kids are in bed, you turn on your side just to hear a fairly familiar popping sound followed by extreme sharp pain in your left shoulder. Yes, I popped my shoulder. It is not the first time it happens to me and in previous incidents I was able to pop it back in. This time was different. This time it happened in my left shoulder and for the first time. To make a long story short, we could not pop it back and decided to go to the ER.

But what about the kids? They are already asleep. A quick call to a baby sitter and our neighbor discovered that they are not home. Quick brainstorming, while my hand is still in pain, and we decide to wake up the kids and take them with us to the ER.

If you ever had to wake a kid during his deep night sleep, you probably know what the challenge is all about, but we could not afford to waste time.

My wife woke up the kids, and just like adults told them: “Dad does not feel well and we need to go to the hospital. We are taking you with us”. The kids, just like grown ups, woke up (half dazed) and followed us to the car, and I have to emphasize followed, because we did not have to carry them, they understood the gravity of the situation.

We spent close to 3 hours in the hospital. My boy (6), slept there on the chairs and my girl (4) played quietly with the doll she brought and entertained herself.

The fact that we treat our kids like adults proves again and again that in an emergency situation they will fully understand what is expected from them and behave accordingly.

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I did not get a balloon

Posted by Barack Levin on 26th June 2010

I went with the kids to an event. We had a blast. There was a very good magician with some really cool tricks for kids (and even adults). He was very engaging and the kids were mesmerized by his magic tricks.

At the end of the magic show, the magician and his assistant were giving out some balloons. From the beginning I could already see that they do not have enough balloons for all the kids. And indeed, within a few minutes the balloons ran out and kids who did not get a balloon started screaming and yelling at their parents that they wanted one too.

My kids were among the ones who did not get a balloon. They came to me and asked if I could get one for them. I told them in very simple terms that the magician ran out balloons but next time, in another event r place, we might get a balloon. They looked at me, nodded for understanding and went along to play with their friends. A mom who was sitting next to me, holding a sobbing kid who did not get a balloon asked me how I did it. I told her that I always talk to my kids in their terms but as grown ups. I draw them a picture of what is going on and give them the tools to analyze the situation and reach a conclusion that even if they do cry and ask for a balloon, it is not going to help them, it is not going to change the reality. Since I have done it many times before, they already know that what I say is really the final word or else I would have done my best to get them a balloon, and with that, they are satisfied and go their own ways.

I believe that when kids trust you and believe in you, as a parent, they are easier to handle, but in order for them to do that, you must earn their trust first and this is where many parents fail and suffer the consequence.

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Sibling Rivalry is not a must

Posted by Barack Levin on 26th June 2010

I hear many parents complaining about the problems they have with their kids with this very subject. Usually, it is the younger child who is jealous of the older one and causes the mayhem. In our family, this very natural behavior happens as well, but I am not about to let my kids grow up fighting each other. Instead, I take the rivalry and flip it so that my kids will work together towards one goal. How do I do that? Here is a good example.

My older son (6) was drawing birds and cutting them out. He is very talented when it comes to creativity and I let him experiment with new ways to explore this talent. My little girl (4) was with us in the room. She was reading a book next to me, but as soon as she saw that her brother is doing something that she might be able to do as well, she started challenging me and him. She started by taking away the page that he was drawing on, when he complained, she tried to take the scissors and than the colored pens.

When I realized that she is not doing it on purpose to upset but in order to participate, I came up with a plan. She can not draw birds, because she had not reached that level of expertise yet, so I knew I could not help her on this front, but my plan was to have them working together towards one goal.

So I suggested something very simple that not only will engage both of their creativity skills, but will also let them work together. I suggested that my son will continue making his birds and turned to my little girl and told her: ”Do you know that once these birds are ready, they will be hungry. What can we make for them to eat?” She knew the answer (of course):”Worms” she answered. “Perfect” I said “Here is a piece of paper and what I want you to do is draw worms, cut them out and we will feed them to the birds”.

In seconds, the rivalry between them ended and now they were working towards a common goal. At the end not only did they have a great time working together, they also played together with the cut out birds and worms they created.

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Shots and lying to your kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 24th June 2010

Every parent is familiar with this scenario. Day care or school calls in to remind you that it is time for your kid’s annual checkup. You already know the true meaning behind it – your kid is scheduled to get his shots for the year. Now it is up to you to prepare your kid to the needle which will penetrate his skin, hit a nerve on the way and cause him to cry. Your child isn’t stupid either, he already heard and knows what a shot is and is afraid of the pain, but he comes to you for reassurance: “Will it hurt mom?” This question can pop up at your house or at the doctor’s office but the answer I hear many parents tell their kids is: “Don’t worry it won’t hurt”. The kid hears, reassures himself just to be surprised that the shot does hurt him and mommy lied to him.

I take a different approach. When my kids are scheduled for their vaccination I let them know about it in advance. I tell them what is going to happen. When they ask me if it is going to hurt, I always tell them the truth: “Yes, it will”, but there is more to it. I need to run blood tests almost every month and decided to take the kids with me so they can see how I behave. They came with me, they saw the nurse prep me and stick the needle in me. I took it to the extreme and faked a cry to make they laugh. They got the point – it hurts but not to the point of crying.

A month ago I went with my son to his annual check up. He is already 6. I told him he will get a shot and he was ready for it. The nurse came in, got the syringe and suck it his leg. I looked at him ready for the tears to come pouring down. To my surprise he was looking at the nurse smiling. Not a single tear. She put the ban aid on him and asked if it hurt and he said: “Yes, but not too much”.

I wrote this post to show that when you treat kids like adults and tell them the truth they understand and implement, but when you lie to them and treat them like babies, well they behave like babies.

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Meanwhile at the water park

Posted by Barack Levin on 22nd June 2010

We went to the water park on the weekend for a day of fun under the sun (and without the kids). We had a great time there but this is not what this post is all about. This post is about a mother and her kid I saw sitting down and eating their lunch.

The mother was a big large woman. She ordered herself a pizza. Her kid, who was probably 6-7 years old, sat next to her ready for his lunch. To my very surprise, she took out a salad for him and placed it in front of her kid. He did not object. Apparently, he is used to eating vegetables. She opened the salad container for him, drizzled some dressing on it and he started eating happily ALL of his vegetables, while the mother was eating her pizza.

Seeing them together eating this way just proves my point. If you are an adult and you do not care about your health and what you eat – that’s your problem, but you can still eat unhealthy and use your authority to have your kid eat and love eating healthy food. There is no conflict here and it is possible to do and this mother showed that it can be done if you only put your mind to it.

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The way to lose control over your kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 13th June 2010

You want to know why your kids are out of control? Why you feel like their servant? Why you feel like they always need you? Here is a good example of how to do it.

We went to see some friends with kids the other day. The grown ups set at the table and the kids were playing around. The kids’ ages are 6 and 3.

At one point, the little guy came around thirsty. His mom lowered her own glass, got it closer to his mouth and let him drink. He never touched the glass with his hands. He left the room and went to play. Shortly after he returned. He was hungry. His mom gave him a piece of cake on a plate and set it on the table. He pointed at the chair she was sitting on and said: “My chair”. So, very naturally, she stood up and let him sit.

It is with these little things that we show our kids who is really in control. Instead of preparing a cup for him to drink from and asking him to bring his own chair, she taught him how to control her to do exactly what he wanted her to do.

And after that I hear parents complaining that they can not control their kids. Of course they can not; they let their kids control them. They literarily show them their kids how to control them.

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Transfer of power

Posted by Barack Levin on 13th June 2010

My previous post was about shipping the kids to their grandparents, but I thought I needed to add some more to it.

It is not enough to simply transfer the kids from our hands to their grandparents’ hands; the kids need to understand that the authority is transferred as well. In our case, we decided that the week we spent in France would be used to transfer that authority. From day one, we let grandma to take control over the kids and their schedule. She was the top authority, or as president Bush liked to say it, she was the decider. She decided when to eat, what to eat, when to go to sleep and when to have some quiet time. We on our side only provided guidance, not more than that. When the kids came over to ask us for directions we always referred them back to grandma.

This way we trained the kids to go to grandma first, as she was now taking control of their lives. This plan worked. Within two days, the kids automatically went to her with their problems and their needs and seemed not bothered at all for not having us around.

When we left back to the US it was already second nature to them to be with grandma and we knew everyone will have a great time.

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We shipped the kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 4th June 2010

Summer break is finally here and we had to make a decision what to do with the kids. On the one hand we had the obvious option of summer camps, but my wife suggested an alternative one. Apparently, she and her parents were skimming a devious plan. – ship the kids for the whole summer break to her parents in France. Unfortunately for us, my young girl is not 5 yet or otherwise we would have let them fly by themselves to France. So my wife decided to fly with them for a week, stay with them and her parents and come back leaving the kids behind.

At the last minute I have decided to join them as well. I also deserve a short vacation in beautiful France.

We can run with this plan because we know our kids and trust them. Although they are only 4 and 6, they are very independent and self reliant. It is a breeze for them handling the language and as long as they get plenty of activities (which my in-laws already lined up for them), everything should be fine.

The only down size of course is for us not having them for about 9 weeks. But it also gives us some time to enjoy ourselves and the activities we want to do without the kids. I am seriously thinking of hopping to Jamaican in one of these weekends.

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