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Barack Levin

Author: Barack Levin

Archive for May, 2011

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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Grown Up Picky Eaters

Posted by Barack Levin on 17th May 2011

Over the years and after meeting many struggling parents, I have a rare opportunity to glance into the future of young picky eaters. I have the chance to see what they grow up to be and how they end up in their teen years and all I can say is that – the picture does not become prettier as they grow older.

Once a picky eater establishes the rules in the house and treats his parents like his servants, his dictatorship only grows stronger. It escalates to more than just picky eating; it escalates to controlling the very foundations of parenthood.

When picky eaters grow up they become even more aware of what they will agree to eat or not. Take bread for example – a simple and basic food item. Well, I have met teenagers that took picky eating to the extreme. Not only that they will only eat bread, but they have to have a specific brand of bread, which means that the parents have to go to a specific store to buy it for them or travel across town to get that specific brand. But it does not end up there; it spreads like wild fire to all directions. Milk has to be served in a specific temperature, eggs have to be sliced a certain way, paste has to be from only one kind and rice can not be too sticky. What’s amazing is that parents keep on bowing to this craziness and supply their now grown up picky eaters with their needs.

My point – fight picky eaters when they are still young, don’t let them get out of control and let them determine how you will live your life.

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A Glimpse into Pure Happiness

Posted by Barack Levin on 13th May 2011

Some parents believe that expensive gifts and presents are the key to the happiness of their kids. I have already written about toddlers with iPads, youngsters with iPhones and even kids with motorized $400 battery operated jeeps. It seems that the trend is to measure our kids’ happiness by how much money we pour on them.

This post comes to show the exact opposite. Kids do not need expensive complicated gifts. All kids want is to be happy and get an appropriate gift that will answer their needs.

My son turned 7 this week and I already knew what I was going to get him – a new bigger bike and by new I mean, new to him, but used bikes. He was riding a 16’ wheeler and I decided to upgrade him to a 20’ one. I did not go to the closest store, instead I visited several used stores and of course Craigslist. Eventually I found exactly what I wanted in a very good condition and bought it in a fraction of the price a new one costs.

My son got the gift and was speechless. He did not care that it was not brand new, he did not care that it did not have a monitor. All I could see on his face was a pure raw look of content. He gave the bike a try and that was the moment when I could see into his soul and witness the wave of happiness flooding him. It poured out of every pore in his body. Later, when he rode in the street with me his facial expressions reveled his true emotions. He was beyond happy, it was surreal for him. He could ride his new bikes day and night without stopping.

This was my glimpse into a pure moment in my son’s life. You do not have to be rich or give expensive presents to your kids. You only need to give them the attention they need. I have never witnessed such a moment before but I sure hope I will still have many opportunities to do so in the future.

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Falling and Bleeding

Posted by Barack Levin on 10th May 2011

I went with the kids, some of their friends and their parents for a walk in the woods. Needless to say everyone had a blast. The kids were running in the creek, climbing the banks, playing hide and seek in the woods and burning energy. The adults sat and chat.

At one point, we all set down next to a natural pool and chatted while the kids were playing on the other side of the pool in the woods. They were climbing rocks and tress and jumping around. Very shortly after they started playing we heard one of them crying. We could not see who it was, but one of the kids popped up from the other side of the pool and announced that my girl is crying. My rule is very simple about crying. First off, come to me and show me what the problem is and we will talk after. I do not run like the end of the world is near to check what happened. I called for my little girl to come over, but she kept on crying. I knew she needs her few seconds to calm down and come to me. I gave her these few seconds but still, she is crying and another one of her friends comes announcing that she fell. It is not the first time she falls and I am really not worried and so I called her a third time. When I still got no answer from her’ one of the other moms could not help it anymore and went to check on my little girl. A few seconds later she came back carrying her and set her next to me. By now she stopped crying and I asked her what the problem was. She answered that she fell and scratched her legs and indeed her legs were muddy and scratched all along her little legs. I told her to just wash it off in the water and continue playing. She refused. She said the water is cold. I told her to wait for a while and than wash herself. She agreed. I asked her if she was hurting and her answer that it hardly hurts her.

Two minutes later she was all washed up and playing again.

I wrote this post to show other parents that there is no need to make a commotion out of any injury or make a drama out of some scratches. This is the way kids learn. No harm by falling and bruising. Let’s not treat our kids like they were made out of glass.

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Sanitation and Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 8th May 2011

There is a growing trend in recent years to sanitize anything and everything concerning kids. I am very much against it. If you sanitize everything, how will there immune system develop? How will it learn to defend itself? When the environment is constantly clean, kids will develop lazy and inefficient immune systems and this fact alone will haunt them for life.

Unfortunately for me and because of my kidney transplant, I have to live in a sanitized environment (or at east I thought so at the beginning). On my return from the hospital I spread sanitizing dispensers all around the house and the kids were forced to sanitize their hands every time they passed one.

With time (now 6 weeks after the procedure), I have discovered that simple hand wash is good enough for them and decided to immediately take out all of the dispensers in the house. The event that triggered my reaction was that one day my little girl set to eat dinner with us when all of a sudden she bolted out of her sit and ran to the corridor. I asked her what was the matter and she answered that she forgot to sanitize her hands. This is exactly the behavior I do not want her to have for life.

Now the dispensers are gone, I pay a little more attention to how I touch my kids and everyone is happy, especially me. My kids do not have to live in a sanitized environment.

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Kids and Money

Posted by Barack Levin on 6th May 2011

My kids’ school had a book fair and we were all invited. Usually I do not go to these events because we get our books at the library but this time was different. Each kid also wrote his own book and wanted to show us what he wrote. Each kid also brought home a list of books he wanted to buy and their prices. I had no intention of buying them any books and told them so.

As we got to school, we met with the other kids in their classrooms and their parents. One of the parents apparently was struggling with the same book purchasing dilemma and came up with a beautifully elegant solution. She gave each of her kids $5 and told them to go and buy whatever they wanted at the book fair. I immediately adopted her approach because I thought it would be great for the kids to learn the value of money and more importantly, to make their own decisions with the limited budget that they have about their purchases. It took them about 15 minutes to roam the book fair until they found the books they liked and get back to me with their findings.

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Knee Scratch

Posted by Barack Levin on 5th May 2011

We were playing basketball outside with the newly bought used basketball net. The kids and I were having a blast until my son made a wrong move and scratched his knee on the rough cement ground. In seconds he was sitting down on the floor crying and yelling that his knee hurts. His knee started to bleed and both I and my wife approached him. As we did, we told him to stop crying and tell us what was wrong with him. He decided against it and continued to cry and yell. We asked him again to calm down and tell us what the problem was. He refused so my wife, without hesitation told him: “If this is your choice, than you can continue crying and I am leaving. Call me when you have clamed down” and with that she turned her back to him and walked to the house. My girl and I continued playing basketball right next to him. When he noticed that the attention is not on him any more, he stopped crying. At that instant, I called my wife back and she took him to wash off the blood and he returned to play with us.

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Walking Wallets

Posted by Barack Levin on 5th May 2011

I have noticed recently that many kids see their parents as no more than walking wallets. Their parents purchase their kids’ love by buying them stuff. It is pretty amazing but it happens everywhere. I went to CVS and saw a mom picking up a prescription. Her 2 year old son brought from the aisle several toy cars. I am sure that these toys were not on her buying list and still when he brought them over and showed them to her, she simply told him to put them on the counter and she paid for them.

Over time, the child will realize that his mom is a walking wallet and his demands will grow larger: new video system, new TV, new PC and so forth.

When it comes to my kids, they already know the answer when it comes to spontaneous purchases. If it is not something that we have discussed in advance but failed to put it to my shopping list, I will get it for them but if it fails to answer this criteria then it is out of the question. They have already learned by now that if I say No, I mean it. There is no reason for them to beg and yell. The answer will still remain No.

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