Did You Hear The Rumor? On Food Day We Target Obesity

I heard a rumor that there is an obesity issue in the US? Have you heard that too? Do you believe it? I have to admit that when I look around, I have to say, yes- I do.

I heard a rumor that the obesity issue is getting worse not better. Have you heard that too? Do you believe it? I do.

I heard that this obesity issue even affects our children – our kids – kids in elementary, middle and high school. Have you heard that too? Do you believe this? Sadly, I do.

I heard the rumor that October 24 is Food Day a national program designed to not only call attention to the issues described above- but to offer solutions. Here are the goals of the group:

  • Reduce diet related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
  • Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness
  • Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
  • Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms
  • Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
  • Support fair conditions for food and farm workers.

Many well known people support Food Day, people such as, Dr. David Satcher, MD, former US Surgeon General, Elle Krieger, Chef, Author and TV food host, Michael Jacobson, PhD, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

With activities in thousands of locations across the country, I’m sure you can find a way to participate. For more information, locations and activities please go to Foodday.org.

We can all do more to promote healthy eating in our homes, schools and communities. The better we eat, the better our health, the better the feel. We can teach our kids a better way forward and offer the hope of a long and healthy life.

Halloween Pumpkin Carving Safety Tips

Halloween is a fun time of costumes, candy, and carving of pumpkins. Unfortunately, one little slip and that fun could be over and you might be rushing to the emergency room.

Accidental lacerations and puncture wounds to the hands and fingers are common injuries seen in emergency rooms around the country during this time of year due to Halloween pumpkin carving. Some of these injuries require surgery and months of rehabilitation, such as the injury Brad Gruner, starting quarterback for the University of New Mexico, suffered last Halloween when he sliced a tendon in the pinkie of his throwing hand and was out for the rest of the season.

If you’ve ever carved a pumpkin before, you know from experience how slippery and tough they can be. It is all too easy for a knife to slip or for it to go through the skin and out the other side where your other hand might be holding it steady. Do yourself (and your family) a favor and follow a couple of safety tips this year to prevent an accident.

Leave the carving to the adults. Kids under the age of 14 should not do the actual carving or cutting. They can draw on the pumpkin the design they want it to have but let an adult carve it.

Use special pumpkin carving tools instead of kitchen knives. Pumpkin carving kits are easy to find in most stores in the weeks before Halloween. These tools are usually smaller, less sharp, and easier to control than a kitchen knife and less likely to cause a laceration or puncture wound. Make sure to use a well-lit, stable, dry surface to work on. Keep hands and tools clean and dry to minimize slips. While carving, leave the top on so you don’t stick your hand inside the pumpkin and risk cutting it.

Decorate your pumpkins without carving them. There are many ways to decorate a pumpkin that do not require risking an injury. Kids can use markers, paint, and even glue on embellishments to create a fun or scary pumpkin design.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!


Safe Halloween pumpkin carving

Halloween Safety Tips That Are No Trick

Hand Surgeons Warn of Pumpkin Carving Dangers

If you’ve ever carved a pumpkin before, you know from experience how slippery and tough they can be

Want a Child with Values & Self-Respect? Set Rules & Say No

By the time they reach school age, a child is as skilled at debating as politicians on the campaign trail. But while their persistence can wear you down, giving in to their pleas will only encourage them to keep it up.

“If you’re looking [to raise a] respectful child with good self-esteem, then start saying no,” says Michelle Borba, educational psychologist and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. “If you say no, and your child learns to accept it, your child learns to accept your values.” Borba also notes that research shows kids who are raised in less-permissive homes have higher feelings of self-respect and more confidence.

You have to start saying no now, though, because it only gets harder later, says Borba. Here are her top five steps for how to say no — and have your child really hear it.

1. Review your rules.

Every six months, take time to think through exactly what your expectations and values are: what you’re saying yes to, what you’re saying no to, what is non-negotiable and why you feel that way. Also consider what you want to teach your child with the rules you’re setting. Without the conviction of your beliefs — knowing what you won’t accept and why — you’ll be more likely to cave in when he starts pushing.

2. Make a formal announcement.

Once you’re sure what you will and won’t tolerate, call a family meeting and explain the rules. Be matter-of-fact and non-critical; laying out your expectations shouldn’t come off as punitive. And by explaining your reasons for each rule, you’re showing your kid that you’ve given this a lot of thought and you’re serious. “It’s a guideline for your values, a family mission statement,” says Borba.

3. Get on the same page.

Whether you live in the same home or not, try to reach an agreement with your parenting partner about which rules are non-negotiable. Then, put them somewhere where everyone can see them. “Even if there are only three rules, mark them in stone,” says Borba. “If you don’t have them written and posted on the fridge, your child will water you down.” The other benefit to hanging them up? “Whenever your child has a friend over, he can point to the fridge.”

4. Don’t engage.

When your child starts pestering despite the rules, say as little as possible in response. If you’ve told him that you don’t want a video game system in your home but he argues that everyone else has one, respond with, “That’s what they do in their house.” If you have a gaming system but have decided that your child is too young for teen-rated games, don’t hesitate when he says, “But I’ve played them at my friend’s house.” Say “Not in my house,” — and leave it at that. “Too much explanation continues the power struggle,” says Borba. “How you handle a wordy kid who wears you down is to stop talking yourself.”

5. Avoid confrontation.

If your child pesters for sweets at the store after you’ve told him no, don’t tolerate one minute of it. He’s been disrespectful by ignoring the rules, says Borba, and that demands action. Follow your conviction, even if it’s inconvenient for you. As soon as your child starts pestering, stop shopping and tell him you’re going home. Or give him a time-out in the car while you stand by. Will it be embarrassing for him? “Yes,” says Borba, “and thank goodness it is!” Sometimes, a little embarrassment makes the point better than any scolding could.

Raising Kind, Sensitive Children

“Why should I care how he feels? He’s not my friend.”

“So what if I made him cry. He’s a wimp.”

“How was I supposed to know he would take it so bad? I was just joking.”

Sensitizing children to how someone else feels is a significant and serious enterprise. Kids can’t do this alone – they must be supported, supervised, and encouraged to develop sensitivity and consideration, and parents play a key role in this endeavor.

The true parenting challenge is to use those unplanned moments when a child’s behavior is unacceptable as a learning tool to become more responsive to the feelings of others. Besides, that’s always the best kind of lesson: one that helps the child discover for herself why she should be kind and realize her uncaring, insensitive actions may affect others by understanding how the other person feels.

Martin Hoffman, a world-renowned researcher from the University of Michigan, discovered that the most common discipline technique parents of highly considerate children use is reasoning with them about their uncaring behavior. The parents’ “reasoning lessons” helped sensitize their children to the feelings of others, and realize how their actions have consequences.

It’s an important parenting point to keep in mind in those moments when we confront our own kids for any uncaring deed.

Seven Ways to Squelch Insensitivity and Boost Empathy

Here are seven ideas you can use almost anytime to tune up your child’s awareness of the feelings of others.

1. Praise sensitive, kind actions

One of the simplest and most effective ways of enhancing any behavior is by reinforcing the action as soon as it happens.

Whenever you notice your child acting in a sensitive and caring manner, let her know how pleased it makes you feel:

“Karen, I love how gentle you are with your sister. You treat her so softly, and it makes me so happy knowing how caring you are.”

2. Show the effect of sensitivity

Sensitive, empathic, kind acts – even small ones – can make a big difference in people’s lives, so point them out to help your child see the impact his actions made.

“Derrick, your grandmother was so pleased when you called to thank her for the present.”

“Suraya, did you see the smile on Ryan’s face when you shared your toys?”

3. Draw attention to nonverbal feeling cues

Pointing out the facial expressions, posture, and mannerisms of people in different emotional states sensitizes your child to other people’s feelings.

As occasions arise, explain your concern and share what clues helped you make your feeling assessment.

“Did you notice Grandma’s face when you were talking with her today? I thought she looked puzzled. Maybe she is having trouble hearing. Why not talk a little louder when you speak with her?”

“Did you see the expression on Meghan’s face when you were playing today? She looked worried about something because she had a scowl on her face. Maybe you should ask her if everything is OK.”

“Let’s read the book together and look for people who seem mad. Then we can make our face look the same way.”

4. Ask often, “How does he feel?”

One of the easiest ways to nurture your child’s sensitivity is to ask her to ponder how another person feels. As opportunities arise, pose the question often, using situations in books, TV, and movies as well as real life.

“How do you think the mommy feels, knowing that her little girl just won the prize?”

“The tornado destroyed most of the town in Georgia; see it here on the map? How do you think the people feel?”

“How do you think Daddy feels hearing that his mom is so sick?”

Each question forces your child to stop and think about other people’s concerns, and nurtures sensitivity to their needs. Ask those “how would you feel” type questions often.

5. Use the formula: “feels + needs”

Michael Schulman and Eva Mekler, authors of Bringing Up a Moral Child, reviewed studies and found that an effective way to increase sensitivity is to ask children questions to help them discover people’s needs and feelings. Such questions were found to expand children’s awareness of what people might be experiencing. As a result the children became more sensitive to how they might be able to help.

To use the idea with your child, look for occasions to draw attention to people’s feelings and then ask her to guess what the person might need in order to remedy the feeling. Here is how a parent might use the method:

Parent: Look at that little girl crying in the sandbox. How do you suppose she feels?

Child: I think she is sad.

Parent: What do you think she needs to make her feel better?

Child: Maybe she could use someone to hug her because she hurt her knee.

6. Explain your disapproval of insensitive behavior

Whenever your child displays insensitivity, be sure to explain why you consider the child’s behavior to be unacceptable and “insensitive.”

Simply explain what concerns you about the behavior, and how you feel about uncaring actions. This is the moment you make sure your child clearly understands what is wrong about the behavior, and why you disapprove. And you’ve helped your child shift his focus from himself to considering how his actions can impact other people. Martin Hoffmann’s research in moral development found that parents who consistently use “reasoning-type stretching lessons” raised more sensitive, caring, empathic children.

“I’m very concerned when I see you treating your friends without considering their feelings. You may not treat people unkindly. Let’s talk about ways to be a kind friend.”

“That was insensitive: I expect you to treat your friends the same way you’d want to be treated.”

7. Set a consequence if insensitivity continues

If your child continues to display insensitivity towards others’ feelings, then it’s time to set a consequence. Remember, consequences must be meaningful, appropriate to the child’s age and temperament, and “fit the crime.” The best consequences for insensitivity are also authentic ways for the child to make amends. For example, forbid your child from playing with a friend until your child understands he must treat others kindly. Your rule is: “If you can’t treat people nicely, you can’t play.”

Another option is to demand your child apologize sincerely to the recipient. This might be drawing or writing an apology or apologizing in person or with a phone call.

And keep on in your quest! Find those day-to-day moments to boost your child’s sensitivity. It’s our surest answer to reducing peer cruelty and making the world a kinder and more caring place.


Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research . The Big Book of Parenting Solutions has been released and is now available at amazon.com.

Sync with Your Spouse on Discipline Style

Is your wife a strict disciplinarian, while you prefer to let things slide? Is your husband a yeller, while you are an “inside voice” kind of mom? When you have different parenting styles, it can often feel like you’re at odds with your spouse. Here are strategies from Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block (Bantam), for navigating this common parenting conundrum.

Don’t sweep your differences under the rug. To raise happy, well-behaved children, it’s crucial to try to find common ground. Otherwise, kids get mixed messages and quickly learn which parent will let them get away with more. Once a month, hold a “parents only” meeting to discuss your discipline differences. This is your chance to be honest about your concerns. “Write down two or three things each,” says Dr. Karp. “You and he get a turn without interruption. The only ground rule is you both have to listen with respect and speak with respect.” Your goal isn’t to sway each other, but to ultimately come up with some rules that you both feel comfortable enforcing.

Don’t disagree in front of your kids. “Kids look at us as a loving and safe force in their lives,” Dr. Karp says. “Seeing parents arguing, especially about them, shakes them to their foundation.” Kids might get angry or frightened and feel like they’re the “cause” of the parents’ problems – which lowers their confidence and self-esteem. So if you object to the way your spouse is handling a situation resist the urge to say anything until you are alone.

Find creative ways to compromise. Let’s say it drives you crazy that your husband yells at your child when she exhibits normal toddler behavior, like sticking her hand in the cat’s food bowl or pulling away from you while walking on the sidewalk. It drives your husband nuts that you’re lax about situations that could put your child at risk for physical harm. Try to decide together that it’s OK for him to raise his voice when Katie’s darting toward traffic or engaging in other dangerous behavior, but for mild, age-appropriate infractions, he needs to try distraction before yelling or scolding.

Keep family members out of it. “Don’t bring up each other’s family,” says Dr. Karp. For instance, avoid making remarks like, “Of course you yell and scream; you’re just like your father.” Besides being disrespectful, this behavior forces your partner into a defensive mode, making it harder to move forward and find the best solution.

Embrace a little bit of difference. “It’s crazy to expect all the adults in a child’s world to react in exactly the same way,” says Dr. Karp. In fact, by maintaining a dash of your individuality – even when it comes to discipline – “you’re teaching your child emotional intelligence. They learn what they can expect from one adult versus another. And that’s a good thing.”

For National School Lunch Week: Childhood Obesity Revealed

This past Monday marked the beginning of National School Lunch Week (NSLW) 2011. According to Sarah Fudin, Social Media and Outreach Coordinator for MAT@USC (the Master of Arts in Teaching program for the University of Southern California), “it’s important that we help students understand where food comes from and the nutritional benefits that go along with the food they consume. During National School Lunch week, the School Nutrition Association, as well as teachers, parents, community members and educators around the country will help highlight to students the benefit that school lunch can provide for kids to grow strong and healthy.”

According to the School Nutrition Association, this year’s NSLW theme, School Lunch – Let’s Grow Healthy provides an opportunity for schools to try something new while promoting locally sourced foods. “From a harvest-of-the-month menu to a school garden to a meet-the-farmer educational presentation, there’s a farm-to-school model or activity that can fit the needs of any school or district!”

In support of the School Lunch – Let’s Grow Healthy theme, MAT@USC has created an infographic on childhood obesity with statistics sharing lifestyle, nutritional, activity-related and consequential facts relating to children. It is an easy to read (and pretty disturbing) cause and effect diagram that shows how we got here and what can happen if we continue.

I think it’s time we started paying attention to childhood obesity…  What do you think???

Childhood Obesity Epidemic Infographic
Brought to you by MAT@USC Masters in Teaching