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Barack Levin

Author: Barack Levin

Blog Archives

Sheen Guard or no Sheen Guard for kids– That Is The Question !

Posted by Barack Levin on 24th September 2011

My kids started soccer practice and were asked to buy sheen guard. I had to but this another step in the direction of insanity when it comes to “protecting” our kids. Kids their age (7 and 5) do not need sheen guard. They can not hit as hard. Even kids older then my kids do not sheen guards and so I was asking myself, why do parents and coaches insist on sheen guards and come to this conclusion.

Kids are not eating well and as a result, their bones do not develop as well either. Instead of having flexible bones like they are suppose to in this age, the lack of basic nutrients cause brittle bones. You might ask yourself, how do I know that? And my answer is very simple. My kids eat well and also very active and adventurous. They fell, slip and dropped from many so called dangerous places like trees, inflatable, park equipment and more. They never broke anything. They did get scratches and bruises but nothing more. Other kids who fell from their bikes or from a stair managed to fracture a bone or two.

So because of the hysteria that kids might break their bones, now they need to wear these useless sheen guards.

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Trophy Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 19th September 2011

Parents do not realize it but they do it all the time. They invest little to almost no time with their kids and expect the best from them. Parents leave the education and behavioral shaping of their kids to the “system” which includes school, TV, Video Games and the such. The “system” can not provide a kid what he needs the most: attention and love and so these kids grow up without proper attachment to their parents and more importantly, no parental influence what so ever. As a result, they adopt the environment behavior which is more often than not is an unacceptable behavior. As a result they start to deteriorate in school and studies, but their parents want only one thing. They want their kids to behave well. So they dress them up in the best designer clothes, buy them the latest gadgets and bribe them with money only so that they are seen with them in public they will put on their best behavior.

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The Reason I am Against Video Games for Young Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 11th July 2011

My son (7), wanted a DSI. All of his friends, this is what he told me, had one. I am very against video games at such a young age (he asked for it when he was 6), but at the same time, I do not want him to be that different and so, my wife and I came to an agreement with him – we will buy him a DSI but he can only play for 20 minutes a day on it.

A year later and the agreement is still in place. Because we are such an active family, most days he does not even have the time for these 20 minutes. We thought that we reached a good balance.

The only exception to the rule is flight time. When the kids fly (with or without us), we allow him to play on his DSI as much as he wants too.

Case in point. When the kids flew by themselves to France a month ago, we were reported by their grandparents that our son played on his DSI most of the night. He landed with his eyes completely red from not sleeping and looking at the small screen.

This just proves my point that if you let kids play too much in front of a screen, they get addicted to it. They display the same symptoms as drug addicts: they are craving for more, can not control themselves, focus on one thing and one thing only and willing to sacrifice anything and everything else just to get their fix. If this behavior with video games can not be called addiction, I do not know what can.

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New Pass Time Activity

Posted by Barack Levin on 7th June 2011

In our house, the kids do not watch TV for many reasons (listed in previous posts). We are a very active family and almost always on the go, even on weekdays but sometimes, we also slow down the pace and the kids have nothing to do.

A week ago, this scenario came true. The kids played together and after awhile go bored. They came to me for solutions and suggestions. I had none but than I saw my son’s (7) homework lying on the table. It was a math sheet with up to 20 addition and subtraction exercises. I had an idea. I asked him to bring them over. “Are these your homework?” I asked. “Yes, they are.” He replied “I already finished them”. “You want to tell me that this is all the math you know?” I asked. “Of course not” he said “I know more than that”. “Ok” I said nodding my head. “How about you?” and I showed the homework to my girl (5.5). “Can you do these?” I asked. “Of course” she answered with no hesitation. “I do not believe you” I said to both of them. “Let me check”. I went to my PC and visited a math practice site. I printed out some math worksheets similar to the ones my son brought and gave them to my girl. I continued and printed out multiplication and large number addition and subtraction worksheets for my son. “Here you go” I said. “Show me you can do them”.

They both went to the table to worked on them giving me some more free time. They came back 10 minutes later with the solved worksheets. Several mistakes but overall, a great job. My little girl still write in mirror writing and calculated with her fingers, but she got most of them right. They were so proud of their work and asked for more. We spent about an hour solving math problems. This is now becoming one of their favorite new pass time activities.

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Bye Bye Kids

Posted by Barack Levin on 7th June 2011

Last day of school has finally arrived. The kids were excited and celebrated with their friends the end of the year. But there was another reason for celebration, mainly for us – the kids will fly for the first time, all by themselves on a trans Atlantic flight or in airline terms – unaccompanied minors.

We have prepared them for that day for weeks. It is not the first time they fly but still, we had to tell them that the whole air crew is at their disposal for any question or help that they might need, to ask for food when hungry, to request something to drink when thirsty and even stand up and go the bathroom when they need to even if the seat belt sign is on.

We reached the airport and the air crew was super nice. The pilot had even taken them to the cockpit and showed them the instruments. The flight was delayed by 2 hours and finally took off.

On the other side of the Atlantic, 9 hours later, 2 grandparents were waiting for the kids at the airport. The stewardess came out stating that they were easy kids. They played on the DSI most of the flight (our rule in the house is 20 minutes per day, but on flights we let them play as much as they want).

The kids will now spend the summer break with their grandparents, we will have our own well deserved summer break, it is cheaper to send the kids overseas than to send them to camps and my in-laws will have the kids for 2.5 months. Win-win for everyone.

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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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Kids and Thunder Storms

Posted by Barack Levin on 24th April 2011

I met a mom to a 3 year old toddler and she told me this story. Her son is afraid of thunder storms. Every time he hears the thunders or sees the lighting, he gathers the whole family and asks to turn off all the electric appliances and all the lights in the house. He huddles with his family in the living room with a flash light until the storm is over.

Some might think it is a very cute story. I do not. I see it as encouraging a questionable behavior instead of eradicating it. What the mom does is to augment his fear and fuel it by participating in his games. Nothing good can come out of it, instead, she should replace his fear associated with thunder storm with pleasant experiences. How do you do it? Petty simple.

The basic principle is to have fun during a thunder storm. This is how I did it with my kids when they were afraid of the noise and light. First, I told them why we have the thunder. I explained that the clouds they see in the sky bump into each other and make this horrific noise but that there is nothing to be afraid of. I also told them that because they bump together they also create the light. The second step was to associate thunder storms with a pleasant experience. During the next storm, we put on our boots and coats took an umbrella and a plastic cup and went to the rain. Why the plastic cup? Here is why. We extended our hands with the cup from under the umbrella and filled them with rain drops. We drank the water and continued to our scheduled party. We jumped in some paddles, floated some leaves over some “rivers”, built some dams from branches and got completely soaked. That was in a middle of a thunder storm. The first time out they were still afraid, the second time less and the third time onward were happy to do it. Now they are not the least afraid of thunder storms even if me and my wife are shaking during a severe one.

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My son is a loner

Posted by Barack Levin on 5th April 2011

My son, who is now almost 7, had the problem of being shy when he was younger. I took things to hand and used my “un-shy” technique on him and it worked great. Recently I have found out that I have only accomplished part of my goal. He is no longer shy with adults and knows perfectly well how to approach them, but with other kids his age things are different. He prefers to be a loner. Because of my health condition, I was not able to address this issue, but now that I am back on track, this is now my number 1 priority. I called him over the other day and explained things to him in the best most forward way I could:” You have only 2 friends” I started “Do you think it is good?” He actually did not see a problem with that. “You see” I continued “if you have only 2 friends and you want one of them to come for a sleepover but he is busy and the other one is out of town, you got no more friends. I am not asking you to have 50 friends, but at least 5 good ones.” He started stating that he has lots of friends and started counting them. “You see” I replied “I only consider friends those who come to our house or you go to theirs at least once a month. None of the names you gave me are considered friends. You should try to get some more friends”. “How do I do that?” he asked. “Simple enough” I replied. “When you go to recess and play, ask someone to join you. If you see other kids play, ask them to join the game. Even in the park, where you do not know anyone but see some kids play together, simply approach them and ask to join in. The worst that could happen is that they will say No”.

On Sunday we did go to the park and he did see some other kids playing with a ball. “Here is your chance” I said and pointed at them “Go and try” He did and 30 seconds later he was immersed in good play time with them.

I have decided that it is my role as a parent to make sure that my son is not a loner kid. I want him to be socially active, I want him to have friends and I want him to have a good time. This is the first step, but I plan on many more steps to have him reach this goal.

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DSI Addiction

Posted by Barack Levin on 1st April 2011

I am seriously contemplating if my decision to buy my son a DSI device was the right decision. We limit his play time to 20 minutes a day and it has been this way for about a year now. Lately, we started to find out that he is possessed with his DSI. I already wrote another post about his “forgetfulness” when he holds the device in his hand. Yesterday, we had another incident.

My wife took the kids to my girl’s gym. My son is not allowed to play there so he left his DSI in the car. On the way back from the gym, he was excited to start playing with his DSI and forgot about everything else. He did something that even as a toddler he never did. He ran in the parking lot and was almost run over by a car. Both my wife and I see this incident as a warning sign. We called him over at dinner time for a talk. We told him about our decision: “You are too pre-occupied with the DSI. When you hold it or about to play with it, it is as if everything else melts away. We can not agree to this behavior. Today you were almost run over by a car just because your mind was already thinking about your DSI. We decided that this can not go on anymore and this is your last warning in this matter. If we catch you one more time delving into the DSI device and forgetting about everything else, we will simply take it away from you indefinitely. You are a big boy now and can make your own decisions. Your actions will determine if you can have the DSI or not”. He nodded (well, he has no other options anyway).

We hope that this is the end of this story.

Incoming search terms:

dsi addiction (18)

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iPads at School

Posted by Barack Levin on 30th March 2011

I received an email today, that my kids’ school has decided to buy the kids iPads to play and learn with at school. I do like the Apple products and I do have an iPhone for the last 4 years. I have no need for the iPad and I was kind of perplexed when I read that email.

I am not so sure that kids who are 5, 6 of even older, should have access to iPads at school. I would rather prefer that school teaches these kids to enjoy reading books for example. I can already see what is going to happen when they introduce the iPads. Each kid is going to delve into his own world, completely disconnected from the rest of the class. All social interaction will be gone, discussions, communication and interfacing with the teacher will go out the window. I truly believe that at this age kids should be exposed to other things rather than stick there noses in another blinking computer screen.

May be when they are 8 or 9 they can be introduced to the iPad, but not so early. For some reason society believes that technology is our savior and kids just have to be exposed to it as early as possible. I am against this approach. Let them understand and experience the reality first before they start with an alternate one.

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At the Dentist

Posted by Barack Levin on 23rd March 2011

Today my kids (6 and 5) went to the dentist. My son had a chipped tooth and 2 small cavities and my girl came there for cleaning only. My parents are here on a visit and since I can not drive because of my transplant, they took the kids to the dentist.

My wife got a call from the dentist’s office. His assistant was on the line: “I want to tell you that I am in this business for almost 2 decades now.” the assistant started “During all of my time working with kids, I have never seen a kid that felt so comfortable and behaved so well at the dentist’s chair like your son did today. Most kids come to our office and when they sit on that chair you can see on their bodies and faces that they are afraid; their whole posture changes. During treatment, they cry, yell and fidge. Your son, was exactly the opposite today. He sat comfortably, let the dentist work on him and never made a peep. I am telling you, I have never seen anything like that. You should reward him”.

My wife came home, called the kids over and told them what the dentist said. She continued on saying that as a reward we will go to eat ice cream. The kids cheered (me too).

The sub title for my book is: A stay at home dad’s quest for raising great kids. I think that my unorthodox ways and different philosophies for raising kids proved itself. When you use the right tools you get great kids.

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Bicycle and crying

Posted by Barack Levin on 20th March 2011

My kids already know that I do not put too much emphasis on them crying. As a matter of fact, any time they come into the house crying they are met with the same answer: Either you stop crying and tell me what your problem is so that I can help you or go to your room to cry. It is a very simple trick and it works every time. I see other parents handle their kids crying and I can not believe all the fuss they are making about it, especially, when their kid is injured. It starts with the panic dash towards the kid, lifting him from the ground while he sobs, checking his tiny body from all angles in a hysterical way, carrying him back to the bench, trying to calm him down and the worst of it all, getting out of their beg all sorts of lotions, sprays, ointments and other first aid contraptions to treat the wound. Once the wound is treated (if they do not rush back home to apply even more drastic measure to the little scratch), they hold their kid as if he was china and consult him for many long minutes.

Me? I use a completely different approach and here is an example. My little girl started learning to ride her bike without training wheels. It was expected that she would fall and I of course let her know in advance that it is most likely that she would hurt herself, but that this is an integral part of the learning process. One afternoon, she was riding her bike in our street. She was already riding by herself. She tried to make a turn and did not make it. Instead, she fell and her bike fell on her. Now, I was probably 200 feet away from her. I saw her falling and heard her crying. From that distance I told her to stop crying and get back on her bike. She continued crying. I weighed my options and cried out to her one more time to get up, but again nothing. So without any hysteria, I walked down to her. I did not run or rushed to her. Just walked. It took me probably 15 seconds or so to get to her. As I did, I asked her what the problem was. She answered sobbing: “I fell”. “Ok” I said “We have 2 options. Either we go home or you continue with your bike. You decide.” You know what she did? She got up, cleaned her pants and with her puffy red eyes got on her bike and waited for me to give her the first push to start the bike. No creams, no band aids, no lotion, anti bacteria ointment or any first aid for this matter. She had a scratch that we cleaned with some water when she got back home 15 minutes later and that was it.

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Music Class

Posted by Barack Levin on 3rd March 2011

My son started keyboard music lessons last August. The beginning was very promising. He liked it and practiced at home. Recently, however, I find myself almost forcing him to practice the material he learned during his lesson. He always comes up with excuses: not now, I am tired, tomorrow or I do not feel like. I called him over for a talk 2 weeks ago: ”You need to practice more so that you are able to progress with your keyboard lessons”. He agreed but nothing has changed.

2 days ago, my wife and I called him over for another talk. I am not one of these parents who force their kids to participate in something that they do not like. If he decides that he does not want to continue with his lessons, it is fine with me. I am not planning on him being the next Mozart. My wife was in control of the conversation: “We need to understand if you want to continue with your music lessons” “Yes” he answered “So you need to know that you also need to practice. I am not asking you to practice 7 days a week but only 5 and only for 5 minutes each time. That is the deal”. My son got back at her: “But I do not feel like practicing all the time”. “It is not a problem” she said “We can cancel the whole thing all together”. “But I like to go to music class” he said. Here, she got out the final argument: “Your classes cost us money. Lot’s of money so we make the decision in this matter. These are the options you have. You either practice 5 times a week for 5 minutes, same as when you do your homework or we cancel the whole thing. It is up to you. Sleep over it tonight and let us know tomorrow”.

He thought about it and to my relief decided to continue with his music classes.

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Parents and School

Posted by Barack Levin on 1st March 2011

I am not one of those parents who need to constantly be in touch with his kids’ teacher. As a matter of fact, I believe in the philosophy of “live and let live”. I want to send my kid to school and not hear from his teacher and on the flip side, I promise not to bother her with requests for progress reports, answering my developmental questions, having her deal with behavioral issues and so forth. As a matter of fact, besides meeting the teacher at parent-teacher conference days, I do not want to hear or see the teacher at all.

I am not writing this post because I hate teachers or because I think they are useless. On the contrary, I believe they are doing an extremely important job. However, my role as a parent is to send my kid to school ready to learn and with the ambition to be there and acquire more knowledge. It is my responsibility to check up on him, to make sure his behavior is up to par, that his developmental needs are met and that he is doing fine socially. As a result, I do not expect the teacher to contact me because she has no reason to do so. I prefer that she invests her time and resources in teaching my kid than in preparing progress reports or monitoring his behavior.

The first time I met my kids’ teachers this year and after the small talk I told them about my philosophy. I was not sure how they would accept it but surprisingly enough they agreed. I am only assuming that they also do not want to be bothered with the every day chore of keeping an eye on my kid and updating me. They just want to teach.

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