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Barack Levin

Author: Barack Levin

Independent Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 15th March 2012

Parents often times tell me that they have clingy kids and that they try to teach them to become independent.

To that, I always tell parents:

Independence can not be given, nor can it be taken – independence needs to be earned !

Think about it this way. Independence is a product that you would like your child to have, it is a powerful tool to have and a very desirable skill to poses, but as with any other products, you can not just give your child his independence and he can not just take it for you. There is a transaction here and just like in a commercial transaction where currency is exchanged to purchase the goods, in order for your child to “purchase” his independence he needs to pay for it. His currency of choice is: Trust.

As soon as he can show you that you can trust him, you can sell him his independence.

For example, if he does not run away from you – you do not have to hold his hand every time you cross a street, if he goes to bed alone – you can let him decide if he wants to read a book first and so on.

With the use of the trust currency, your child will slowly become independent.

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Helping Kids Remain Safe

Posted by Barack Levin on 7th February 2012

There is a very common conception that in order to keep our kids safe, we have to make sure we protect them and follow their every move. It starts with the toddler who is caged in his own house with door gates, continues to padded table corners and ends at outlet covers.

This attitude towards safety continues on into later stages in childhood. Kids can not climb tree because they can fall and they can not ride bicycles on their own in the park because will they get lost. The underling idea with this misconception is that if we “hide” these dangers from our kids, we can keep them face.

I of course think this is a foolish approach. I think that we need to expose kids to these “unsafe” environments and give them the tools to understand what is so dangerous about them. The tools that we give them will help them assess other “unsafe situations” that we might have not thought about and eventually result in a child who is self aware of his environment and feel safe because he knows his limits.

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Learning From Our Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 6th February 2012

I think that is a very known fact that kids can teach us, adults, many lessons that we have either forgotten over the years or never gave a second thought too. My son (7.5) taught me a simple but effective lesson the other day.

My kids know not to walk behind cars in our carport or at a parking lot. We continue to remind them that they are small and drivers can not see them in their rear back mirror. Apparently, my son did not see it only as a warning but also as a problem that needs to be solved and he started working on a solution.

The other day he came and said:

“You know daddy, when we walk behind cars they can not see us because we are too small, but I think I have a solution for them to see us”.

I looked back at him quite surprised. He was very serious and seemed to have put a lot of thought into his solution.

“And what would you suggest you do?” I replied

“I think that if we have to go behind cars we just need to raise our hands, this way, the driver can and will see a hand in his mirror and will understand we are there and stop the car” He looked back at me with his big brown eyes waiting for a reply.

I thought for a second and said:

“You know, this is actually a very good idea. Although I still do not want you to go behind cars, if you raise your hand a reversing car has a better chance of spotting you”.

His smile back showed me how proud he was of his solution and the fact that his dad approved of it and I learned a new lesson from my son on how to solve serious problems with a very easy solution.

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Parents Complacency

Posted by Barack Levin on 20th January 2012

The most interesting thing I encounter during my consultations to parents is there inability to look beyond the event horizon of their lives and understand the issues hey are facing. I call it: Parents Complacency.

This term describes parents’ tendency to accept t what is becoming a new conception regarding their raising their kids. Parents Complacency can be found everywhere in the way they behave, the food they give to their kids, the way they talk to their kids and in many other areas. I usually point out to parents exactly where they comply with misconceptions and the look on their eyes is priceless.

For example, parents take it for granted that their kids need to “hydrate” after every physical activity, which is of course not true. Kids do not need to drink every 20 minutes of playing in the park. They have the capability of goofing around without constantly being attached to a water bottle. I show these parents that by always keeping their kids “hydrated” they create a dependency relationship where their kids always turn to them for water instead of just being independent.

Another example is the picky eaters. Parents learned to accept the fact that their kids are picky eaters. This is the way kids are. I show these parents how to overcome this hurdle and find out that their kids love to eat fruits and vegetables.

Parents Complacency can be found in other areas as well. The new trend that I hate the most is sanitizers. All of a sudden, kids have are attached to these semi transparent bottle and every time they tough something they just have to use the sanitizers. I do not know if these parents heard about the immune system, but I can promise you that it is still alive and kicking in their kids’ bodies. The fact that there are kids are constantly sanitized causes the immune system to become lazy triggering in more illnesses and diseases.

Don’t become and complacent parent yourself – ask the right questions, tackle those issues that bother you.

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Life without TV and Video Games

Posted by Barack Levin on 9th January 2012

Many parents keep asking me:

“Barack, you always preach how TV and video games are so bad for our kids, but if I take them away what can I do with my kids”

My answer to them is composed on a list of various activities:

Cook with your kids, teach them how to play a musical instrument, teach them a second language, have them do some art projects, experiment with some woodwork project, teach them a third language, let them read, have them ride their roller blades, let them work in the yard, ask them to help with the laundry, tell them to write a story, let them take the dog for a walk, let them write a song and perform, ask them to clean their rooms, have them ride teir bikes, tell them to set the dinner table, show them how to clean the house and more and more. This is only a partial list of course.

Once I show this list to parents I always get the same answer:

“Barack, this is impossible. No kid can ever have such a to do list. They will never follow it and will never complete it. And your crazy idea about a second and a third language is ridiculous. It is simply unfeasible. “

I reply back with a smile:

“Not only that it is feasible, I have 2 kids who are already doing it – my two own kids”

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Children as Consumers

Posted by Barack Levin on 27th December 2011

I remember a time, not too long ago, when kids used to be, well, kids. They spent their time playing outside, socializing and from time do their homework. Childhood back than was very simple and it was not too long ago, only 20-30 years ago.

On birthdays the gifts ranged from erasers to pencils and birthday parties were done at home with very few good friends or outdoors in a park with the whole class. Kids were just kids. They did not require much and they were not given much. They were happy with the few toys they had and were happy to share them with their friends.

About 15 years ago I started to notice a change. Kids became a targeted segment of the market, and as such kids lost that stigma of “being kids” and got a new definition – Consumers.

Now. Since the big companies do not really care about us, adults – old fashioned consumers, why would they care about kids as soon as they are also categorized as Consumers?

We already know that food for adults has lost its taste, lost its texture, lost its nutrients and the food industry could not care less. Now are kids are treated the same. The big  orporations only care about their bottom line. Who cares if a child eats 1000 calories in one sitting? The soda ad does not show the calories, it shows how cool it is to drink soda. Who cares that cartoons cause our kids not to develop their physical abilities? The media companies want them to watch TV so that they can sell more ad space. Who cares that technology gadgets cause our kids to become unsocial? The technology companies only want to sell more games.

Our kids are brainwashed since day 1 with garbage on a daily basis. Their developing brains are not exactly sure what is real and what is not any more. The big companies hook them up on products as captive audience for life. And what do we, the parents do? Nothing.

We let that background noise and bad influence enter our homes and our lives without even noticing them.

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Detached Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 23rd December 2011

I sometimes suggest parents that I work with, to try and run this exercise in their heads to demonstrate to them why their kids do not accept their authority. Try it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Today’s kids from an early age are deposited at day care when they are only a few weeks old. Busy parents drop them there as early as 7AM and pick them up again as late as 6PM. As a matter of fact, the new born spends most of his day with strangers.

As the new born becomes an infant and more aware of his surrounding he still spends most of his time with strangers and when he gets home, his parents are tired from a day’s work so they let him watch TV or play some video games.

The infant grows up and becomes a kid. He now goes to kindergarten or school. His days end at 2:30 but most of the time his parents can not take him home at this time and so they have two options. The first one would be a nanny to take care of him until 6PM and the other one – an after school program. At this age, kids still do not see their parents for more than an hour a day.

On weekends, from a very early age, the situation is not much different. Parents want to rest or run their errands and so the kids’ room or basement equipped with the latest gadgets are the new entertainment center. Not only that the kids do not spend enough time with their parents, now they suck their values, behavior and look on the world from flickering; unrealistic, animated icons.

If you were a kid raised this way, what would you think? How would you behave? Would you accept your parents’ authority?

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Politically Correct Curse Words Vs. Reality

Posted by Barack Levin on 16th December 2011

The other day, it dawned on me how ironic the censorship is. We all know that the media is blipping 7 curse words. And why do they do it – so that young years, god forbid, do not hear these awful and offensive words and again, god forbid, repeat them.

At the same time, these same media outlets, which “save” our young kids do not censor anything else; themes which are much more harmful to our kids. Examples? Here you go.

Did you watch a kid movie or even a cartoon lately? Have you noticed how much violence they feature? These flicks for kids are full of physical confrontations and violence. These flicks literarily teach our kids how to become violent.

Have you seen video games for kids recently? Do you know that the best selling titles are shooting games? From an early age we teach our kids how to hold a gun, shoot at other people and kill other animated human being. We are desensitizing our kids.

There is more. The media that we expose our kids to portrays women as needy and  dressed provocatively on the border line of sex objects. From an early age we teach our kids that women should be treated as second hand citizens and plant the idea that females always rely on males for their protections and that males see in women a sexual object and nothing else.

I despite the feverous efforts of the media and the government to enforce the 7 curse words and at the same time pump superficial ideas into our kids’ minds.

Incoming search terms:

politically correct swear words (17), politically correct swearing (1), politically correct word for cursing (1)

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Padded Basketball Court Floor? Are You Serious?

Posted by Barack Levin on 15th December 2011

I took my son to a new basketball practice program yesterday. Practices and games are held at the local elementary school’s basketball court. We arrived just before 6PM, ready to meet the new kids and parents. My son found a basketball while I introduced myself to the coach. On my walk to sit down and watch the practice I have noticed that the balls bouncing off of the basketball court sound a little muffled. At first I gave no second thought but then it hit me: The court’s floor was padded. Yes, you are reading this correctly – PADDED with a thick felt like material. I just could not believe my eyes. They padded the court to prevent injuries!

What next? Bubble wrap the kids before a game? Put helmets on each one? Replace the basketball with a sponge ball so no one gets hurt? How far will we take these ridiculous steps to so called “protect” our kids? There is no limit any more to stupidity.

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Sleeping Habits

Posted by Barack Levin on 13th December 2011

We experimented a little with our kids and their nightly sleeping habits. When they were babies and later infants they slept through out the night and napped here and there. As they grew up we tried to time their night bed time to see what would be the perfect time for them.

Even though they are now 7 and 6, bed time never changed. It still stands on 8PM every night except for weekend nights where we let them stay late until 9PM.

Our kids wake up at 7AM every weekday and leave the house 30 minutes later to be at school right before 8 in the morning.

Time and time again I have witnessed the effects of having them go to sleep late during school days. By late I mean, late by even 30 minutes. On those rare occasions, our kids are cranky in the mornings, barely able to drag themselves out of bed and have to go to bed even earlier the next evening. For me, I can not imagine having a kid sleep less than 11 hours per night and still function normally at school but I know many parents whose kids go to bed much later than 8PM on school days and I also see the results. They reflect in their homework, patience, class work and more. These kids drag with them, from childhood, sleep depravations and sleep disorders that later on in life do affect normal mental and developmental progress.

If you take into account that my kids are super active when they get back from school and not lie around watching TV all afternoon – you get that special kick as to why my kids (and any kid for that matter), need and have to sleep 11 hours a night.

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Snacks After the Game

Posted by Barack Levin on 12th December 2011

My kids participate in several sports activities. During winter time it is basketball season. They have a practice once a week and a game on the weekend. There is somewhat a twisted tradition that attached itself to the games like a leech attaches to your skin.

At the end of every game, while the coach goes over the highlights of the game, one parent provides snacks to the kids. It does not matter if the game finished right at lunch time or just before dinner time – it does not matter all. Snacks are brought out of their bags and distributed to the kids. If the kids would have gotten an apple, banana or even some grapes, I would have thought nothing of it, however, what the kids get are always store bought salty and sugary snacks. The irony here is that these kids finally had some physical activity and moved their untrained bodies to burn some calories and now they are getting empty calories as a compensation of their effort. So sad.

But there is another side to it. Kids are getting used to be rewarded by food for their efforts. Just like the Pavlov effect, where the dog drools when he hears the bell ring even though no food is offered, same with kids. They are being trained to receive fatty unhealthy foods at the end of every activity.

No wonder we grow a generation of fat, physically unfit lazy kids who are used to eat junk food.

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At Starbucks and Talking to Strangers

Posted by Barack Levin on 7th December 2011

Last night I had a last minute business meeting at 7PM. My wife was at yoga and I had to take the kids with me. The meeting was taking place at the nearest Starbucks and was schedule for about 30 minutes. Instead of approaching my kids with “bed” news about dad going out, I flipped the news in their favor.

“Kids” I said “I have a surprise for you”

“What is it daddy?” They ask

“We are going to Starbucks where you can buy hot milk and a cookie for desert”

They are jumping off their seats in excitement.

“You need to take your books to read while dad needs to talk to his friend”. They immediately agree and off we go.

As always, they purchase what they want by themselves. They approach the cashier and tell her exactly what they need. She rings them up and they also pay. They grab their goodies and go to sit on the sofa opening their books and reading while dad decides what he is going to have.

I choose my cookie and hot milk too and take my time ordering. My contact, which I only know through emails, has not arrived yet. When I am done, I take a look at the kids and see them talking to an adult sitting close to them on the sofa. Other parents might freak out, but not me. My kids know very well how to talk to adults and when. They know that if their dad is with them at the store, they have no problem engaging in conversation with anyone there. I smile and approach them.

As I do the person they talked to stands up and asks for my name and introduces himself. He is my contact person and without knowing it talked to my kids.

We sit down to take care of business and he tells me how parents are freaking out when other unknown adults talk to their kids. I briefly tell him about my theory and he smiles understating it completely. We get to business and every once in a while I glance at my kids. They are busy reading and drinking their hot milk. The meeting goes without a hitch and after 30 minutes we are done. During that time I did not have to quiet my kids, talk to them or even approach them because of something that they do. I conduct my meeting as if they were not there.

This brief and unimportant incident comes to demonstrate parents that kids can be obedient and under self control with proper upbringing.

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Fun with the Simple Things in Life

Posted by Barack Levin on 7th December 2011

Many parents ask me: “How can I engage my kids? What can I talk to them about? They never want to tell me anything any way”. My answer is very simple: engage them in the simplest everyday things. Make benign things a fun and mind blowing experiences for them.

I was going to visit a friend who lives in a gated community. The kids were with me at the car. Before reaching his gate and keying the entry code, I had a great idea.

“Kids” I turn back.

“Yes” they answer

“We are approaching his house but we need to key in his gate code to enter the community. I do not remember the code but I know it is 5 digit long. Do you mind trying to guess what it is?”

I can see how their eyes sparkle. Dad needs their help. They consult with each other for a few seconds and come up with a series of 5 digits.

“Ok” I reply as we stop by the keypad “Let’s try. Give me the numbers” and they do. I hear behind me: “3, 2, 7, 8” a little commotion and the last number comes in as well “5”.

I reach the keypad and key in the right code given to me by my friend but say out loud the numbers they just gave me, asking them to repeat them one more time but slowly.

“3, 2, 7, 8 and 5” I call out loud as the keypad beeps my entries.

To my kids’ utter amazement, their imaginary “code” works and the gate opens.

This small incident was the talk of the day. They could not believe how smart they were to guess the code.

It is the simple things in life that ignite our kids’ imagination. No need for cumbersome and elaborate electronic toys or video games.

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Rocks and Candies

Posted by Barack Levin on 21st November 2011

My son’s (7) teacher started to teach a class the class a new topic – Rocks. They go over the different rocks, layer, types and definitions of each type of rock. To better demonstrate to the class how the layers of rocks look like, she decided to physically show them through an observation.

She took two pieces of bread. Spread some peanut butter on one slice to show the lava layer, put a layer of M&Ms on top of it to show a layer of rocks, spread chocolate on top of them, to show the layer of earth and spread cookie crumbs for the top layer. She finished by topping all of it with a piece of bread and gave each kid a sandwich to eat.

And I have to ask myself – in face of obesity in this country, the over use of candies and the barrage of sugar we face our kids with – is this really the right tool to use? Can’t she use something other that candy that the kids can learn from?

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Car Pool TV

Posted by Barack Levin on 19th October 2011

On my way to drop the kids at school, I see quite frequently how the portable TV is blasting away at other car pooling vehicles and I always ask myself the same question: Why?

I am pretty sure that when the kids wake up, the TV in the house (or worse – in their bedroom), is already up and running and I am also pretty sure that when they get back to school the same happens as well, so why do these parents need to also extend it to their cars?

For me, dropping the kids in the morning is a great time to talk and chat with my kids. They woke up up 30 minutes before, they are full with energy from the night, in good mood and have lots on their minds as they ready themselves for the day. It is that in these morning car chats I find out a lot of information about their needs, wants, fears and wishes. In one of those chats I discovered that someone was bullying them, in another one I found out that my girl was also playing with boys and in another who was the class clown. The car ride in the morning and the afternoon can provide a wealth of information considering my kids’ life, so why ruin it by watching TV?

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What Do You Think Is Going To Happen?

Posted by Barack Levin on 18th October 2011

I always like to ask families I help the following question: “What do you think is going to happen” and I give them an example.

For instance, what do you think is going to happen to your child if he is beaten every day since birth? What do you think is going to happen to your child if he is consistently under fed? Or what do you think is going to happen to your child if he is deprived from sleep for years?

I deliberately choose extreme and shocking scenarios to get the families think about consequences of such actions in order to driver my real point across. These families are of course outraged at such examples and immediately attack back with worst case scenarios for that poor kid in those examples and I let them rage a little, release steam.

When they are done, I ask them another simple question that usually is the beginning of our discussion at helping them with their kids: “What do you think is going to happen to a kid who is in front of flashing, blinking and dancing monitors in front of his eyes most of the day?” It is at that time that these parents become very quite and understand what I was driving at. Their kid’s behavior is influenced by his habits and these habits need to be changed.

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Ritalin for kids 4 years old

Posted by Barack Levin on 17th October 2011

I just heard that the FDA approved the usage of Ritalin for 4 year old kids. I think it is a shame. Instead of treating the root cause of the problem – we drug our kids and the US government allows it. I am pretty sure that some powerful drug industry lobbyists “helped” getting to this conclusion.

The truth is that by some very simple means such as cutting off video games to young mind, banning TV from their lives, providing physical activity outside and providing them with nutritional food, we can solve this problem easily.

However, parents do not want or have no time to invest the time or provide the attention needed to solve these problems. They are looking for the quick easy to use short cut solutions. It is easier to give a pill then to address the real issues.

We are drugging our kids for no reason and we will suffer the consequences later. I only feel pitty for the poor kids who have to go through this process and lose their souls and their normal development in the process.

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Fun with the Tooth Fairy

Posted by Barack Levin on 12th October 2011

My son keeps on losing his teeth and has been getting some money as exchange for his fallen teeth. One night he came to us with a new tooth in his hand and went straight to his room to hide it under his pillow.

The next morning he rushed down the stairs all excited. “Mom, Dad”, he shouted “You will not believe that” and he continues “After I left the tooth under my pillow last night, I checked it again today and you know what I found?” “No” I asked. “I found $5 and an olive”. “An olive?” I asked “Why an olive?” “I do not know. May be it was her snack and she forgot about it. I do not know”.

For the rest of the day he could not stop talking about the tooth fairy and the olive. He told every one he knew and we just kept laughing quietly.

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102 Fever

Posted by Barack Levin on 2nd October 2011

My girl (5) came home 4 days ago complaining about a sore throat. Complaining may not be the right word here, because complaining when associated with kids’ illnesses usually means crying, fatigue and annoyance. She was more like reporting that her throat hurts sometimes when she ate or when she sneezed. My wife checked her temperature and she had a 100 degrees. My wife ran to the medicine cabinet to give her something to lower her fever. I stopped her on her way. “Why?” I asked. “Because your daughter has fever”, my wife replied. “And?” I asked. My wife looked at me her not wanting to understand what I meant by that and I continued. “She is not complaining on everything. She looks perfectly normal. She acts perfectly normal so why load her up with drugs. Let her natural defenses take care of this virus. Nothing will happen to her if she fights it”. My wife thought about it and agreed.

My girl seemed to be fine and went to school the next day. She came back home, again not complaining but only reporting about the same symptoms. My wife checked her fever. It was 102. My wife became nervous and decided it was strep throat and that she had to be taken to the doctor’s office. “How do you know?” I asked. “She complains her throat and she has high fever. This is strep.” “Well Dr. Mom”, I replied, “I understand your concern but this might not be strep. 102 for a child is not considered high fever, besides she does not complain at all. She looks perfectly fine, but I promise you that if this thing does not go away, I will personally take her to the doctor’s office tomorrow”. Since my girl did complain about headaches, we gave her something for that and she went to sleep. Towards the morning she coughed hard and we eased her up with some coughing syrup.

She woke up in the morning. Fully rested and the virus was all gone. Personally, I think that we over medicate our kids, we over protect them from everything and o not let their immune system to develop correctly. Not every fever or cough requires a trip to the doctor’s office.

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4 Reasons Why Our Kids Will Grow Fatter and Fatter

Posted by Barack Levin on 29th September 2011

It is no secret that the phenomena of over weight and obese kids is growing and has become and epidemic. Everybody talks about it, even the first lady, Michelle Obama but here is why nothing will be done to reduce this risk.

The first reason is the food industry. The shove empty calories into almost everything our kids eat. Their lobby is so strong so no real measures will ever be implemented to curve this trend of the, As we move along we will continue to see more and more fattening foods and empty calories thrown as our kids

The second reason is the Hollywood\TV\Video Game industry or in other words “the entertainment industry”. They on their side pump our kids with devices that eliminate any physical activity (and please do not tell me that the remote controls that help you actively play in front of the TV are physical activity). The lack on any physical activity combined with excess food links directly to reason number 3 – The pharmaceutical industry.

This industry, who has long time ago noticed this trend is already or will soon start to, provide pills for kids to lose weight or control their erratic behavior that results in more eating. This industry is not stupid to just sit on its ass and not provide a “medicated solution”.

Which brings me to reason number 4 which is the only reason we can control – Parents. Us, parents, do not spend enough time with our kids and let them do whatever they want to do, eat or play with. We do not care of excess food because we do not have time to read the labels or cook a decent meal, we do not mind our kids brain washed by the garbage or TV or violent video games because it gives us some time off and if we have a problem with our kids, a pill for every ill will be shortly available on a pharmacy shelf close to you.

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