Exploring the Culinary Arts

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m not a whiz in the kitchen but I learned enough as a kid to make it through college without having to subsist solely on peanut butter sandwiches and Ramen noodles. My wife and I both cook meals but we can’t seem to get our son (age 11) remotely interested in cooking. How do we get him interested in learning how to cook for himself?

A: You’re absolutely right—everyone should be able to cook enough to feed themselves. Most of us will never become great chefs, but it is possible to get your son to join you in the “not-a-whiz-in-the-kitchen” category. At the very least, knowing how to cook a few things will improve your son’s diet–kids who can cook are less likely to rely on fast food and more likely to eat healthier foods. There are a number of other advantages, which I’ll get to in a minute. But your first step should be to try to figure out what your son has against getting in front of the stove.
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When Tempers Flare

Dear Mr. Dad: My son is six, and he’s still having temper tantrums. Call me crazy, but I thought they would have petered out long ago. Most of the other parents we know say their kids stopped having tantrums when they were two or three. But my son is giving no indication that he’s going to relent anytime soon. What should we do? How long do we have to wait for him to stop?

A: Since you asked for it, I’ll tell you: You’re crazy. If you think you can just sit around and wait for your son to grow out of throwing tantrums, you’re going to be very, very disappointed and frustrated. In fact, given how long this has lasted, there’s a good chance that you and your spouse are the reason your son is still having tantrums in the first place. The only way to bring his reign of terror to an end is for you to step in and start doing something about it. Now.
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But, Dad, Everyone Else Has One…

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have been debating this for some time but have yet to agree: When should we let our 10-year old daughter have a cell phone? She says all of her friends have one and, as far as I can tell, she’s right. I don’t feel that she needs one, nor do I think she’s old enough for a $400 piece of equipment. My wife disagrees and says our daughter needs a phone for safety. I’ve been holding my ground, but the pressure from wife and daughter is getting unbearable. What do we do?

A: Let’s start with a reality check. I’m betting that, despite what you’ve seen, not all of your daughter’s friends actually do have a phone. According to a recent study by the National Consumers League, only 56% of 8-12-year olds (“only” is a relative term).That said, as the dad of a 10-year old daughter, I feel you. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all, black-and-white solution. Cost definitely figures in somewhere, but it’s mostly about maturity. Some 9-year olds might be able to handle the responsibilities of having a phone while some 14-year olds might not be.
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You Forgot to Do Your Chores? Again? Really?

Dear Mr. Dad, My wife and I are extremely frustrated that we are always seem to be reminding our children, ages 10 and 14, to do their chores. They know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, but they’re constantly “forgetting”—even if it’s something they’ve done three times a week for the last six months. We’ve discussed this with some of our friends who have kids about the same age, and they all have the same problem. Is there some way to get kids to do their chores without having to nag them over and over?

A: Kids have been “forgetting” to do their chores since the beginning of time—and parents have been nagging just as long. I’m sure Ma and Pa Cro-Magnon got sick and tired of reminding their cubs to put their spears away or take the sabertooth out for a walk. No question, kids sometimes “forget” their chores as a way of getting out of doing them (an approach that’s often successful). But sometimes they really do forget—even after being reminded 174 times. Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire cure for this kind of selective memory loss, but there are a few strategies that may help.
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When Too Much Is Too Much

Dear Mr. Dad: We’re a pretty busy family. Our two kids are in lots of extracurricular activities (Scouts, sports, drama) and we also do a lot of things together as a family. Lately, both kids have seemed more run down than usual. I’m feeling a little guilty because I suspect that it’s because they’ve got so many things going on. How do you tell when your kids are doing too much?

A: Sounds to me like your kids’ lack of energy is the result of burnout, and I agree with you: the likely culprit is trying to cram too many activities in to too little time. But don’t beat yourself up too badly. Childhood burnout is incredibly common these days and with pressure coming in from friends, family, the community, and the kids themselves—it’s hard to say who’s responsible.
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Lies: I Really Want to Believe You, But….

Dear Mr. Dad, I have a real problem with my ten-year-old daughter: Just about everything she says is a lie. If she tells me she’s texting a girl friend from school, it’s probably a boy. If I ask whether she’s cleaned her room, she’ll look me straight in the eye and tell me Yes, even though I know (and she knows I know) that she didn’t lift a finger. If I were to ask her if grass is green, she’d probably tell me it isn’t. Why is she doing this and how can we get her to stop?

A: Telling lies is a part of human nature, and it starts very early in life. A study on lying done at Toronto University in Canada found that about 20% of two-year-olds lie, but by age four, 90% were doing it. And the lying doesn’t stop when we grow up. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that 60% of adults can’t make it through a simple 10-minute conversation without telling at least one lie (in fact, people in the study told an average of three lies in that 10-minute period).

Lying is a learned behavior. When we’re very young, we look at the adults in our lives as all-powerful and all-knowing. Trying out a lie—and getting away with it—shows us that people can’t read our minds. As we get older, we discover that lying can sometimes get us out of trouble and may even help us avoid getting punished. The more successful the lies, the more often they’ll be told.

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