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My Kid Has a GREAT Smile! How Could He Have Tooth Decay?

boy in costumeWe as parents care about our children’s smiles; knowing this, it’s hard to understand all the media attention around the rise in “dental surgeries”. Who are these kids and what’s going on?

The answer will surprise you. We are not looking at neglected children. This is a widespread problem affecting children across demographics. These children range in age from 3 to 6 with multiple baby teeth (as many as 6-10) that contain cavities, and as a result they now require general anesthesia to complete the treatment.

But how is that possible – dental decay is preventable! The problem is that these cavities are forming when our kids are young – they can be caused from sugary, sweet drinks and snacks before bedtime or something as simple as giving your child bottled water instead of tap water because it does not contain fluoride. Dental decay may be easy to prevent, but the signs are also easy to overlook

So what can you do about it:

  • Be aware, by checking your children’s teeth looking for white lines in the teeth and dark areas. These are signs of enamel breakdown that turns into decay.
  • You should also continue to help your child brush their teeth until the age of at least 7.
  • Do not give your young child a bottle of juice or milk at bedtime. The sugars in these drinks will sit on your child’s teeth, bathing them in sugars, ultimately causing decay.
  • Lastly get your child comfortable with the dental office. Take them every 6 months for a dental check up in a child friendly dental office.

Does Your Family Need New Web Rules?

Having traveled the country working with middleschoolers and high school students to build their self-respect and spread respect for all, I’ve also spoken with hundreds of parents. And it’s no surprise that their top concerns are consistently issues like cyberbullying, sexting and online safety.

Keeping kids safe used to be about curfews and “Don’t talk to strangers.” But now, savvy parents are quickly realizing that the Web – and all the devices kids use to get online – needs to be a part of the family rules too.

Here’s my advice to come up with your own set of Web family rules that will keep your kids better protected – and give you some peace of mind:

1. Ask your kids what they think.

Nobody likes rules just handed down to them – and this makes getting compliance with the rules even tougher. Ask your kids: What are your friends or other kids doing online that you think is unsafe? When you’re online, are you ever worried about your safety? See what they say.

Then share your concerns, like: “I know that when you’re on social networks, anyone can talk to you, and I worry about people with bad intentions reaching out to you or trying to meet you offline.” Or “I don’t like cyberbullying either – what can we do about it?”

Also mention any concerns you have about other online privacy issues – like how hackers can steal identities or predators can lift personal information to try and harm your kids offline.

The bottom line: Get their ideas first for your family Web rules. They’ll have great ideas, and they’ll be more likely to buy into the rules if they help create them. Commit to yourself to listen to their ideas – without interrupting or criticizing. At The Respect Institute, the No. 1 way kids tell us they feel respect is: “When people listen to me.” If you listen to them in noticeable ways every day, when your kids face a safety issue online, they will be more likely to open up to you for support.

2. Set the rules.

With a quick Web search, you’ll be able to find many resources to help you round out your rules. Check out NetSmartz.org or IKeepSafe.org for tutorials and tips. Once your family rules are set, talk them through with your kids. Ask your kids to comment on each one, pose questions and suggest changes. When your family rules are final, post them where everyone can see them.

3. Decide on consequences.

Again, have your kids do the work! Ask them what they think should happen if a rule is broken. Add your two cents. (As a parent, you always reserve your right to set the final boundary to keep your kids safe.) Then, write and post the consequences next to the rules.

Most important, create a space where your kids can ask you for help. We are all afraid of getting in trouble if we break the rules, right? But the goal here is to keep your kids safe. And that ultimately comes down to them seeing you as someone they can trust. So even though you’re all setting the rules together, let them know they are guidelines to keep them safe, and that if they ever break a rule or face a situation they don’t know how to handle, they can come to you. Let them know you will listen and you will hold off “freaking out” to support them. In the end, this kind of connection with your kids will go a long way to protect them.

Overweight & Obese Kids: What’s Going On & What Can We Do?

The problem:

About one out of three American children can be considered overweight and that rate is growing very rapidly. Additionally, according to the CDC, in the years 2015-16, approximately 14-20% of our kids were considered obese. The causes are multiple and are most likely societal in nature and not caused by a health condition. Most parents who realize that their child is overweight come to the Doctor to have “their glands checked”. It seems just about everyone knows someone who has a thyroid or other glandular condition that has been blamed for that person being overweight. In fact, a medical problem in kids is one of the least likely causes for obesity.

If one takes time to carefully dissect our current society one would easily be able to notice the low rates of exercise in children and the high rates of sedentary activities. The television and the computer now rank among the chief contributors to the increase in overweight children. In addition, local budget cuts have resulted in elimination of some physical education and intramural sports. And yet another reason for obesity in our kids may be the result of the busy lifestyle of some dual working parents who have very little time to prepare healthy foods- so it‘s fast foods for the night, and it is easy to find the root causes for obesity in this country. As easy as it is to pinpoint some of the reasons for obesity, it is extremely difficult to do something positive about it.

Not only is it time consuming to prepare healthy meals but it is more expensive to buy than a typical American diet and in this economic slump it might not be the first place people wish to spend their money.

On top of these reasons there are certain environmental and familial factors that will contribute to overweight children. If the familial body type is not thin and wiry, this trend will tend to continue through generations and it becomes easy to “blame” the overweight problem on “genetics”. In fact most overweight kids have overweight parents who just do not recognize the “problem” in their children.

What to do

Again, the first thing to do if you think your child is overweight is to take him or her to the primary care provider for an evaluation, looking for the rare and very unlikely medical cause. The diplomatic nature of the approach your Doctor may take to this problem might belie the serious nature of the issue. Beware, it is very serious! The use, by your health care provider, of graphs and charts in the office at the time of the discussion can be very helpful to you, pay attention.

Your Doctor may discuss in front of your child and in a very frank manner, all the medical repercussions of becoming an overweight adult: high blood pressure, increased rates of diabetes, heart disease and strokes just to mention a few. Your child will probably be asked to help resolve this problem. That is very important because without his/her help any attempts will probably fail. After all, you can only control what your child eats when he/she is in the house: once out of the house for the day, it’s all on him or her- that’s tough!

The following are some ideas I believe can help when approaching your overweight child.

Diet related issues

Before you begin to count calories there are some simple mechanisms to put into place.

  • Feed your child on a smaller plate than usual but fill the plate- the visuals help to keep the total intake down.
  • Do not allow “seconds” and desserts should consist of such dishes as fruits and low fat products.
  • Watch out for the “innocence of toppings”. These may carry the majority of calories in the dish you are preparing: low fat or no fat substitutes can now be found in your supermarket for salad dressings etc. You can probably eat a pound of potatoes and gain somewhere near a pound, but if you add the butter, cream and bacon that usually accompany those dishes all bets are off as to the accumulated weight gain.
  • Begin to become aware of the information on the labels of just about all foods.
  • This is not a bad time to institute low fat and low cholesterol “diets” in hopes of altering adult behavior in the future as this is a major contributor to poor cardiac health in this country. In particular, stay away from foods containing, transfats, unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as these can contribute to plaque buildup in arteries beginning at a young age; concentrate instead on fruits, vegetables and fiber.
  • Rid your house of all snack foods, whole milk and carbonated drinks as this must become an entire family affair.
  • While I approve of skim milk after the age of 2 years old I do not approve of artificial sweeteners for children, as many of the past artificial sweeteners have fallen into disrepute at one time or another, and carbonated drinks and juices are generally “empty calories” devoid of anything nutritionally useful except for sugar which he/she does not need.
  • Remember, the object of a “diet” is not necessarily to lose weight initially but to begin to alter life styles as your child grows into adult hood. Weight loss is a bi product or “collateral damage”, if you wish, of the particular “diet” you chose.
  • When you begin to concentrate on weight loss you should aim for no more than 1 – 2 pounds per week as anything faster has a high likelihood of failing.
  • Let your child enjoy an occasional birthday party filled with cake, ice cream, candy etc. Total abstinence will breed discontent.

Don’t forget exercise

The flip side of the coin is, of course, exercise: a reasonable diet without exercise or, vice versa, is like one hand clapping. Family endeavors will be most likely to generate the best results. Encourage sports of all kinds as this not only yields some of the exercise component but builds a sense of belonging and responsibility.

Build in “rewards” to recognize your child’s effort in trying to adhere to this new life style. You might very well encounter resistance at your initial efforts to begin this program but stick with it as it will greatly improve the quality of life for the entire family.

Teaching Kids to Apologize: A Step-by-Step Guide

Five steps to help kids learn the lost art of saying “I’m sorry.” The steps work for adults, too!

Have you noticed how apologizing has become almost a lost art these days? A great number of adults – not kids – seem to have forgotten how to say that glorious two-word phrase, “I’m sorry!” And if the offender (whether it be government officials to movie stars to plagiarizing authors to “poor-sport” athletes to our own friends) does give an apology, notice how it often sounds insincere?

Sorry!, the Perfect Book by Trudy Ludwig

How are kids going to learn this great skill unless we model it ourselves? That’s why I adore Trudy Ludwig’s book, “Sorry!” (Tricycle Press – available on amazon or in your local bookstore). It’s plain wonderful. I have to admit I’m a big fan of Trudy’s books (her other books “My Secret Bully” and “Just Kidding” are fabulous also).

Rarely do children’s books model for young readers personal accountability and responsibility the way Sorry! does.

Sorry-TrudyLudwigTrudy’s thoughtful, one-of-a-kind story on the power of apology shows how a child can take ownership of a hurtful behavior and then right his or her wrong. The story also offers invaluable life lessons on empathy and compassion to children (and adults) alike.

Sorry! also helps kids see from the other side — how their actions were hurtful and why they should make amends. And that’s exactly what is missing too often. Kids seem to be on “auto-pilot” when they apologize. “I’m sorry” is said too quickly with no meaning behind those words.

Pick up a copy! It’s one of those perfect books you want to keep on your shelf for the perfect moment.

Five Steps to Giving a Sincere Apology

As you read Trudy’s book and discuss the reasons why it’s important to make amends, teach your kids the simple five steps for apologizing. The skill of apologizing (along with 25 other critical friendship skills) is from my book, Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me: The Top 25 Friendship Problems and How to Solve Them. Many teachers are turning the steps into a chart and posting it in their classroom.

You’ll have to model these steps with your children until they finally understand the parts of a sincere apology.

Keep in mind that the easiest way for kids to learn how to apologize is by copying our own example. So the next time (and the next….and the next….) you make a mistake, admit it to your kids. Just make sure you add two powerful words, “I’m sorry!”

Essential to our children’s moral development is realizing that personal actions do impact others. If you do something that causes another person pain, you need to make amends. The phrases to say to your child as you teach how to apologize are in quotations. Of course, put in your own words and values in your discussion, but remember that the key is that kids need to know there must be sincerity in their words. You’ll also need to take your child’s age and maturity into consideration as you begin the process of teaching the skill. As children’s moral maturity and empathy develops, so will the meaning of their words.

Step 1. Think about what you did wrong.

Get specific. “Did you say something that hurt your friend’s feelings? Did you say something behind her back? What exactly are you sorry for?”

Step 2. Find the best time and place to apologize.

“If you really, really can’t face your friend, you could write a letter or call him on the phone . But find a time when you won’t be interrupted and you can focus on telling the person your concerns.” Usually it’s best to keep the apology private so as not to embarrass your child. But that, of course, depends upon the circumstance.

Step 3. Say what you’re sorry for.

“Be brief, sincere, and honest. Say exactly what you did that you’re sorry for “I…..[fill in what you did]…and then add ‘I’m sorry’. You might want to briefly describe what happened. Your friend may see it differently, so it’s a good idea to share your view of the problem.”

4. Tell how you are going to make things better.

“So what are you going to do about your actions? Tell your friend! Just saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t necessarily fix things. Let your friend know what you plan to do to make things better.”

The key here is to help your child think about how the other person feels – disappointed, upset, mad, sad. Discuss the thoughts and feelings that can evolve. Sincere apologies help the injured or hurt child know that the child cares and wants to make things better – not an easy task, especially for a young child. As Ludwig points out: “Making a sincere apology is hard work. It requires personal responsibility and remorse for the wrongdoing, along with a determined effort to make up for the hurt one has caused others.” Stress that apologizing is hard work. It can be embarrassing – after all, the child is admitting he was wrong or even has a weakness! “It actually takes courage and strength to honestly admit the error of our ways,” Ludwig points out.

5. Give your friendship time to heal.

“Remember, you can’t make anybody do anything she doesn’t want to do. And that means you can’t make your friend accept your apology. All you can do is admit you’re wrong and try to make amends.”

Then practice, practice, practice at home so your child can use the skill in the real world.

Showing children a skill is always more powerful than telling them …so model it. Then remember to admit when you’re wrong and say a sincere, “I’m sorry!” to your kids.

When kids recognize there are consequences to their actions which can be helpful or hurtful it helps them take a big leap forward in becoming more thoughtful, compassionate and responsible. Our job as parents is to help stretch our children’s moral development. Stopping and helping our children learn and practice the skills of apologizing is an important part of boosting their character.

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Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180Dr 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 is available at amazon.com.

But Mom, what if it’s more than a sprain?

Among the most common injuries to young people is a sprain to the ankle joint, which happens when the ligaments stabilizing the joint are stretched too far. A sprained ankle may result in swelling, bruising or tenderness over the affected ligament — which causes pain and limits the function of the joint. The immediate treatment for an ankle injury is to rest it, elevate it and apply ice to it for 20 to 30 minutes three or four times a day. You can also give anti-inflammatory pain medications such as ibuprofen to your child, and put a wrap or brace on the ankle to reduce swelling and speed up recovery.

These measures usually allow the sprain to heal on its own, but if after a few days, the pain is uncontrollable or your child still has difficulty putting weight on her foot, have her examined by a doctor. A fracture of the bones in the ankle generally causes an immediate throbbing pain and an inability to put pressure on the foot — along with bruising, swelling or tenderness. It can also cause deformity of the foot. If there is severe persistent pain, a misshapen appearance to the joint or a total inability to bear weight on the foot, take your child straight to the doctor or the emergency room.

**Editor’s Note:  COVID-19 is causing some parents to delay getting medical treatment for themselves or their children out of fear of contracting the virus.  When in doubt, call your child’s pediatrician. Let them be your guide in these challenging times

If We Want Ethical Kids, They Need to Learn “Honor” From Us

We all wish to grow healthy, happy relationships with our children. We interact, play and talk with our children to enjoy one another and feel connected. In those moments when we are in conflict with our kids at home, we wonder “What can I do to enhance my relationships with my children?”

One way to improve our relationships is to show that we honor one another.

In its simplest terms, honor is the degree of value, worth and importance you place on a relationship. It is granting another person a position of value in your life.

You likely model honor in your own home naturally. You are caring, loving and trustworthy. If you are ready to delve deeper, here are some steps to spring you forward in the depth and experience of teaching honor in your own home.

Honor begins at home here’s why:

  • You are your kid’s finest role model. If you respect your children in your words and behaviors they learn to do the same with others.
  • Honor is about allegiance, when you teach your children to honor their relationships they become friends who stand up for one another, support one another and are true to each other.
  • Honoring honesty, hard work and patience builds children who value hard work and completing tasks to their rightful end.

Reflect for a moment: Do you honor your relationships? Is it important to you that people honor and give value to what you say and feel? How do you show your kids that you honor them?

Here are some questions to ponder. You might even wish to write them in a journal and note what you do, when and why? This process will bring honor front of mind, help you monitor your tone and change your behavior as needed.

  • Do I talk with my children eye to eye?
  • Do I share their exuberance when they show me their schoolwork?
  • Do I make their lunches based on what’s quick or do I buy food that will keep them healthy, and that they in turn like?
  • Do I take phone calls in my car when I am with my kids?
  • Do we make an effort to sit down to family breakfast and dinner?
  • Do I attend my children’s activities and pay attention to them, or do I take calls on my cell phone while my children are doing their best to show me their achievements? **Editor’s note:  although Covid-19 has significantly curtailed our children’s ability to participate in a number of activities, the question is still worth considering: when you are with your child, are you “with them”?
  • Do I involve my children in the tasks of everyday life such as cleaning, cooking and caring for our home? Or do I tell them “I’ll do it” because that is easier than working through the process with them or dealing with pending messes?
  • Do I take the time to genuinely learn about my child’s interests?
  • Do I schedule my work hours when the kids are doing their schoolwork (irrespective of location), or do I work at home all hours of the night when they are not engaged in schoolwork and need time with me?
  • Do I focus on what my children do right rather than what my children do wrong?

No one is perfect, but when we strive to be mindful about how we honor our family, it builds trust, respect and love.

In relationships where we honor one another, listen to our children’s unique voices and really hear what they need, we improve how we communicate, how we express our love and how we get along across a lifetime.

If you are ready to take steps today try this:

  1. Be consistent with your children.
  2. Be attuned to their individual needs.
  3. Respond to your kids by getting off the couch, computer or phone and going to them. Proximity matters when you are communicating with your children.
  4. Take your child’s concerns seriously. This means acknowledging their feelings. Do not mock or tease your children. Sarcasm is painful and it cuts deeply.
  5. Match your child’s exuberance and excitement by sharing whole-heartedly in their joy.
  6. Give your children your undivided attention in the moments they need you.

If we wish to raise ethical kids in this complicated world, we need to begin with the lessons we teach at home. Being present, modeling respect and showing the meaning of honor is a solid start at any age.