Monday, February 19, 2007

Judgment calls: More playing, fewer French fries

Nothing gets my inner sanctimommy more riled up than seeing a two-year-old drinking from a baby bottle ... filled with soda. Or a relative telling me that her toddler goes to bed at 11 p.m., “because she’s not tired before then—she just refuses.” Or overhearing a parent say that the only furniture in each of her children’s rooms is a bed, a TV, and a Playstation, “because they’ll destroy everything else.”

In times like these, what I need are a few copies of Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge® Guide to Raising Healthy Children, by pediatrician Jennifer Trachtenberg (new from Collins), to distribute. Then I could stand back and let the good doctor sensibly, succinctly describe why kids need to eat healthy foods, get a decent amount of sleep, and stay active—plus offer a pretty realistic plan for helping them do so.

I can’t say that I learned anything especially new in this book, save a few tips on boosting nutrition (example: challenge kids to pick out a rainbow of fruits and vegetables at the supermarket—eating a variety of colors pretty much guarantees a healthy dose of vitamins and antioxidants). But maybe that is the point. The advice here is not gimmicky or instant-fix. It’s solid, straightforward, and sane. It’s also convincing, especially the sidebars listing both the short- and long-term effects of “bad habits” such as poor nutrition, couch potato-ism, and slacking on preventive care and safety.

I wouldn’t suggest reading this book all in one go, lest you feel overwhelmed by the changes you probably ought to be making. Start with a chapter or two and incorporate some of Dr. Trachtenberg’s tips. Once they’ve become a good habit, move on to something else. You can use the RealAge Healthy Kids Test, either in the book or online, to figure out where you need the most help. (But if you’re anything like me, you already know—you just need a kick in the butt to remind you to work on it.)

What I liked: The book features several helpful charts and checklists, many of which you can find online if you’d like to print them out. There is also an excellent set of questions you can use to assess your child’s self-esteem. One useful chapter provides brief profiles of chronic conditions (from asthma to autism to cancer), with overviews of their prevalence, symptoms, and treatments, plus links to organizations where you can get more detailed info. Another chapter offers short reviews of more than two dozen other helpful websites.

What I didn’t: Simple is good—to a point. Sometimes Dr. Jen (I know—yuck) gives off too much of a breezy, easy-for-you-to-say vibe. Her advice on quitting pacifiers and thumbsucking—vices with which I am well acquainted—boiled down to cold turkey for the former and sticker charts or gloves for the latter. Dude, we are so beyond that point.

Who it’s for: Any parent who’s resolved to instill life-long healthy habits in her kids—or change some not-quite-so-healthy ones. I will caution you, though, that it’s very mainstream. There is nothing here about delaying or refusing vaccines, alternative or Eastern medicine, reducing kids’ exposure to chemicals, or even eating organic (except one short item about milk).

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tallulah said...

We did a great rule starting Jan. 1st.
For every hour the kids are active outside, that's how much time they earn on the computer or t.v.
It has changed their lives! Sometimes they go days with just playing outside in their free time.

BlondeMom said...

I love Tallulah's idea. I'll wholeheartedly admit my kids watch way too much TV in the winter. I've actually started challenging myself to not just mindlessly flip on the idiot box in the mornings. Spring is much easier for running around in the yard and getting ye old ya yas out!

But seriously, soda in a bottle? Damn. I definitely feed my kids some occasional junk (like PopTarts) but soda is one thing I've tried to steer clear of even with my oldest who is 4 1/2.

movin'mom said...

Everything in moderation huh?

My kids can pretty much recite every commercial on the tube right now...but I like tv too!

They are all smart, athletic, and picky eaters are not allowed in my home. SO, even though they each have their moments, my goal is to make sure that they are healthy, polite, social, loving and HAPPY children.

if we're in a restaurant they can order a coke, if their at a party, they can have candy, if their homework's done, they can watch tv.

Lisa said...

I couldn't wait to read a review on this book... So far, I've sort of gone back in forth in my overall opinion...

binkytown said...

I'm not sure I buy this "real age" business but I got sent a copy of this and it's basically free advice so I'm definately going to read it! Cold turkey on the binky? Ha. Please.

Lady M said...

Thanks for the review. Getting rid of pup/pats (the pacifier) is going to be our next trick. Oh boy. Not sure that we'll survive cold turkey.

Heather said...

I read it and pretty much agreed with everything you wrote!

My binky advice--we made a grand occasion of getting rid of it, we talked it up for weeks. The binky fairy came for my daughter's third birthday, took the binky and left behind a fabulous princess box in its place. One tearful bedtime with "I want to be 2 again" but it was really never discussed again.

PeppermintDani said...

Hi Cathy,

Thank you so much for taking the time to review Good Kids, Bad Habits for us... we really appreciate the feedback!

I just wanted to let your readers know that they can get the 'Digital Book Preview*' if they'd like to take a quick look at it for themselves. Just email your name and address to dbaldwin at realageinc dotcom and I'll send it off.

Thanks again and happy reading!
-Danielle Baldwin
RealAge Parenting Center

*Preview includes Table of Contents, Intro, Chapter Two and Nutrition Charts.

Her Bad Mother said...

I haven't gotten past the quiz at the very beginning of the book, that rates your 'health' factor. Gah.

scribbit said...

I'm totally with you. I'm always nagging the kids to get away from the screens--t.v./computer/you name it.

And once I saw a baby with a bottle of Yoohoo. It made me want to yank it away and flog the mother with it. I refrained--but I wanted to. :)

Damselfly said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll definitely check it out! (And just how does someone drink soda through a nipple?!)

Mom101 said...

I have a copy coming my way so thanks for a good summary.

Meanwhile, if seeing a kid drinking soda out of a bottle makes you a sanctimommy, I'm right there with you. Although I'd like to think there's a line between sanctimony and just good common sense.