Getting Your Kids to Cooperate without Losing Your Cool

Rona Renner, RN., author of Is that Me Yelling?
Topic:
Getting your kids to cooperate without losing your cool.
Issues: becoming aware of yourself; understanding everyday triggers; adapting your parenting style to your child’s temperament; dealing with the yeller in your family; dealing with difficult situations, disorders, and differences.

How to Keep Your Teen Safe and Insurance Rates Down

Every year, around 14,000 teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are killed in car crashes. It’s no wonder that parents are afraid of letting their children hit the road on their own—and that they take every possible precaution to keep their children safe. It’s also no wonder that insurance rates for teens are incredibly high. Fortunately for parents of teens everywhere, there are programs in place that can help keep kids safer on the road, and keep their insurance premiums as low as possible.

Safe Driving Courses
There are a number of safe driving courses out there that go above and beyond the training that traditional driver’s education courses offer. Most of them are aimed at young adults 15-25. They usually last about four hours and teach young drivers about:

  • How to avoid underestimating risks on the road.
  • The danger of driving with knees (something young drivers—and plenty of adults—commonly do).
  • Dealing with peer pressure, as well as texting and other handheld distractions.
  • State and local laws.

According to the National Safety Council, these safe driving (sometimes called “defensive driving”) courses reduce the risk of car accidents for young drivers.

And here’s your bonus: Many insurance companies discount the cost of young driver insurance for those who complete the course.

Good Grades
As an added incentive for students to do well in school, good grades = lower insurance premiums. Research shows that students who do better in school are less likely to get into accidents on the road. Young drivers will generally qualify for a good student discount if they:

  • Have a 3.0 (B average) GPA or better or are on the honor roll/Dean’s List
  • Are under age of 25
  • Are enrolled full time in high school or college/university.
  • Can provide proof of academic performance (generally a report card issued by the institution)

Teen Driving Contracts
American Automotive Association (AAA) developed a parent-teen driving contract in coordination with various insurance companies, and the idea has really taken off in the last five years. These contracts aren’t legally binding; they’re simply an agreement between parents and teens that lays out in writing what the expectations are for the teen before he or she takes the keys and hits the road alone. Contract can be altered to fit individual needs, and are auto-filled with recommended guidelines for each category. The categories are fairly extensive, and include:

  • Privileges such as curfews, number of passengers allowed in the vehicle, and weather conditions that would limit driving.
  • Rules the teen is expected to follow, such as basic road rules, keeping in contact with parents, and potential risks.
  • Consequences for irresponsible behavior and driving while the keys are in the teens control.

Teen driving contracts help teens gradually step into the responsibilities of driving, make them aware of the consequences for not following the rules, and still allow them to have some freedom. In some cases, insurance companies offer discounts for parent-teen driving contracts as long as they are kept on file with the company.

Financial Responsibility
One great way to keep teens responsible behind the wheel is to require that they bear some of the financial costs. They’re much more likely to be attentive and cautious behind the wheel if they know that consequences for their failure to do so will come out of their pockets. At the very least, you should make sure your teen knows that he or she will be financially responsible for:

  • Any tickets, whether for moving violations or parking.
  • A set dollar amount or fixed percentage of the cost to repair the damaged vehicle if the teen is at fault.
  • The cost of insurance on the vehicle. The teen should pay the difference between your old insurance rate and your new rate with the teen driver added.

Giving your teen a financial stake won’t reduce the cost of insurance, but it will help keep your teen safer on the road.

Keeping Kids Occupied in the Kitchen

If you’ve got little kids, you know that making meals can be one of the toughest times of the day. The kids want all of your attention—right now—and you want to keep them clean and occupied so they don’t become a danger to themselves or anyone else. One of the best ways to keep kids busy in the kitchen is to let them “help” you with meal prep and cooking. You could give them an actual pot full of water, but your toddler or preschooler will turn that into a slippery mess in 30 seconds. A better (and far less messy) option is to set your child up at the kitchen table with some pretend food to “slice,” “dice,” and “cook” while you do the real thing at a nearby counter. Here are some very realistic kids’ cooking sets that will make your little one feel like a real grown-up.

melissa & doug sandwich makingCooking and Kitchen Sets (Melissa & Doug)
Melissa & Doug have a pretty broad selection of cooking and kitchen sets that are made of either wood or felt. The Sandwich Making Sets come with everything your child will need to make a delicious sandwich, including bread, rolls, lunch meat, pickles, hamburgers, and more. If you go for the wood set, the pieces stick together with bits of Velcro; the felt pieces stick together on their own. Both come with a wooden knife (that isn’t sharp, of course). To make sure your child gets the recommended daily allowance of pretend fruits and veggies (and, maybe to encourage him or her to eat the real thing at mealtime), check out the Cutting Fruit Set. You get seven pieces of various fruits and veggies that can be sliced into a total of seventeen pieces, which can be reassembled into some really weird combinations that will get you and the kids giggling. The food makes a fun “crunch” noise when kids “cut” it with the included wooden knife. Comes in a wooden storage crate. $20 on http://www.melissaanddoug.com

Alex Toys Tea Set Sticker PartyTea Set Sticker Party (Alex Toys)
Here’s one that combines two kids’ favorites: tea and stickers. This 13-piece, ceramic tea set comes with more than 100 stickers that your kiddo can use to decorate and customize. Then, all he or she needs to do is send out the invitations, make sure there are enough chairs for the guests (which may or may not include stuffies), and start pouring tea while you get your Alton Brown on. The Tea Set Sticker Party comes with four cups, four saucers, a sugar bowl, and creamer, and let’s not forget all those stickers. $19 at http://www.alextoys.com

b Toys Let's DishLet’s Dish (B Toys)
A lot of kitchen toys are aimed at girls, but B Toys, makers of all things awesome, has a completely gender-neutral kitchen set made of brightly colored, durable plastic. It comes with a green tray that’s perfect for serving hors d’oeuvres to special real or imaginary guests, breakfast in bed (or on the couch) to mom or dad, or chips and dip on game day. The dishes, cups, and (safe) silverware can be used with pretend foods or real foods, something the kids will get a real kick out of. Best of all, everything in this set can be washed clean with soap and water. This well-made set will last for years. $20 at Target http://www.target.com

Is That Me Yelling? + The Sense and Nonsene of Alternative Medicine

Rona Renner, RN., author of Is that Me Yelling?
Topic:
Getting your kids to cooperate without losing your cool.
Issues: becoming aware of yourself; understanding everyday triggers; adapting your parenting style to your child’s temperament; dealing with the yeller in your family; dealing with difficult situations, disorders, and differences.


Paul Offit, author of Do You Believe in Magic?
Topic:
The sense and nonsense of alternative medicine.
Issues: What is “alternative medicine”?; megavitamins actually increase the risk of some cancers and heart disease (something well known to scientists but not to the general public); celebrity spokespeople (Like Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vaccine campaign) who have no medical background and are doing more damage than good; alternative medicine treatments that actually work.

Seek and Maybe Ye Shall Find

What’s more fun than a good, old-fashioned game of Hide and Seek? This week we take a look at three fun, new twists on that timeless classic.

education outdoors snipe huntSnipe Hunt (Education Outdoors, Inc.)
If you’ve ever been to an outdoors camp, you probably spent some time hunting for snipe. Counselors and experienced campers would talk about the elusive creature, hand out sacs, and take newbie campers out into the woods to hunt. We’re not completely sure what the purpose of snipe hunts is, except to give the older campers a chance to laugh at the wide-eyed naiveté of the younger ones who, of course never catch anything. But now there’s a way to make snipe hunts a reality. The Snipe Hunt kit comes with two snipes (named Biela and Smartin) and a “nest.” If you play with teams, each team hides their snipe, and the first team to find the other’s and get it back to the nest wins. Alternatively, one person could hide one or two snipes and everyone else hunts. If they haven’t been found 2.5 minutes after being activated, the snipes start beeping. After five minutes, the eyes start to blink.  Can be played inside or outside, day or night. A fantastic family activity. Retails for under $25, batteries inlcuded. Ages 6 and up. http://www.educationoutdoors.net/

usaopoly treasure traxTreasure Trax: The All in One Scavenger Hunt Game (USAOpoly)
This is one of the most engaging games for the preschool set we’ve seen. The idea is pretty simple: scatter a series of clues that ultimately lead to some kind of reward (what that means is completely up to you). Treasure Trax comes with 60 brightly colored, illustrated, thick cards: 30 depicting locations, 18 with clues, and 12 with animals. There are several ways to play. One person (most likely an adult) can set up a step-by-step hunt. For example, you might start by giving the hunter(s) a card with a picture of a kitchen table. On the kitchen table, there’s a card with a picture of a bookcase. On the bookcase is another card leading somewhere else. For older kids, you can incorporate the color and animal cards and make a matching game. Start with an orange card and send the child off to find a card with a picture of something orange (a tiger, for example).  Treasure Trax is great for matching, focus, and memory. But we especially loved how flexible it is. You can have as many or as few steps as your child’s attention span will allow—but be warned: this game is so fun that attention spans have a tendency to get longer. It can be played with teams or as a one-on-one parent-child activity. You can play it indoors or out, and it’s a wonderful way to turn rainy days into adventures. For ages 3-5, but slightly older kids will have fun too. Retails for under $20 wherever you buy your toys or at http://usaopoly.com/

r&r games hide and seek safariHide & Seek Safari (R&R Games)
This is a moderately high-tech version of the old hotter-colder game. The box comes with two items: a monkey (or tiger, depending on which package you buy) and a wand. Someone activates the monkey (batteries included) and hides him somewhere. Everyone else activates the wand, which has LED lights that flash when you’re getting warmer and beeps when you’re really hot—like a Geiger counter. Unfortunately, the monkey has to be hidden in sight—the wand won’t work if he’s in the fridge or under the bed. But it’ll give hours of fun for kids 4-6. Retails for under $35. Additional wands are $13.99. http://www.rnrgames.com/