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Fit Generation: 9 Fun Ways to Sneak Fitness Into Your Day

Fun, everyday ways to sneak fitness in with your kid. Plus, get healthy eating tips, exercise ideas, and more ways to shape up with Parenting’s Fit Generation!

By Shaun Dreisbach
1. Hit the playground!“It’s honestly better — and far more fun — than any gym,” says Stefko. The monkey bars and mini-rock wall build upper-body muscle. Jumping off the climbing structures boosts bone density and leg strength. Heck, even the swings can be a good core workout. It’s like an outside circuit course.
2. Play a game. Kick-ball, tag, jumping rope, wheelbarrow races — they’re classics that absolutely count toward your child’s daily activity requirement. For younger kids, try Move Like an Animal (it’s a huge hit with the children Stefko works with). Call out the name of a critter and challenge your child to mimic the way it moves: hop like a frog, balance on one leg like a flamingo, stretch like a cat, and so on.
3. Speed wash the car. Kill two birds with one sponge: Get that heart rate up and make the family car spotless. See how fast you can get it soaped, scrubbed, and hosed down—and try to best it next time.
4. Check out a class. Take your child to an open gym at the local gymnastics center and let her try out the equipment, or head to the indoor climbing wall or skate park for a lesson. One-offs like this are good because they let your kid try out a bunch of different activities to see what she likes best — without the time and money commitment of full-on, three-days-a-week lessons (which your child may end up hating).
5. Use people power. Ditch the car and walk or bike when you can. Pedal to the pool, playground, or pizza shop, and trek the mile to school on foot.
6. Inspire her. “Bring your kid to a sporting event — a Major League Baseball game or a high school volleyball match — so she can see and be motivated by the athletes,” suggests Stefko. Before or after the game, kick around a ball together, shoot baskets, or play a little backyard volleyball.
7. Wobble hobble. Have your child place a water balloon between his knees and race to the finish line without dropping it. In just 15 minutes, he’ll burn nearly 70 calories. Perfect for summer playdates. Benefits: cardio, coordination, balance, mood booster.
8. Backyard bowling. This is the sneaky-fitness version of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Grab empty plastic bottles from the recycling bin and set them up like bowling pins. Take turns trying to knock them down with a soccer ball or kickball. Benefits: cardio, flexibility, balance, coordination
9. Garden party. Help your child choose some fruits and veggies to grow, plot out the garden, and tend the plants. (Hint: Opt for lower-maintenance items like tomatoes, zucchini, and carrots—kids have been known to forget a watering or two!) This idea is a better-health tri-fecta: Digging and planting is serious activity, it’s something fun the whole fam can get involved in, and you get super-fresh, organic food out of the deal. Don’t have room? Volunteer at a local community garden. Benefits: strength, cardio, flexibility, mood booster.

Instead of Spanking Your Kids, Try These 10 Effective Alternatives

A study published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics discovered a link between adult-onset mental health disorders – including substance abuse and anxiety – and childhood physical punishment – including spanking – thereby begging the question: How should parents discipline their kids?

1. Cool down first. Never discipline when you feel angry with what your child has done. –Deborah Chelette-Wilson

2. Take a time-out. – Deborah Chelette-Wilson

3. Give the child time to calm down. Your child will not hear your message if he/she is stressed out. –Deborah Chelette-Wilson

4. Listen to your child. After you both have calmed down listen to what your child has to say about his/her behavior. – Deborah Chelette-Wilson

5. Understand the reason for your child’s misbehavior. Armed with an understanding of your child’s thinking, you may find that the misbehavior is really a reactive child engaging in a developmentally expectable behavior that needs your guidance, rather than punishment. – Deborah Chelette-Wilson

6. Tell your child what was wrong and what is right. When considering how to help the child, reassure him/her of your love and then explain why the behavior was not okay and what he/she needs to do next time. This is the behavior you want. Too often we tell children what not to do and leave off what they need to do. – Deborah Chelette-Wilson

7. Take a breath. Spanking often happens when you’re so frustrated you don’t know what else to do. So, take a breath, count to ten, and tell your child you need a few minutes to think it through. This will give you time to calmly think about a next step, or ask for help. (And you’ll be modeling a great problem-solving technique!) – Fern Weis 8. Turn the situation into a learning experience. What you really want is for your child to learn something. Punishments (like spanking or taking something away) teach him/her to become clever at getting around you and your rules. But they don’t make kids more cooperative. – Fern Weis

9. Give your kid more responsibility with age. With tweens and teens, you lose trust and credibility when you pile on the rules and punishments. They’re old enough to be part of a conversation and understand how their actions are inappropriate, or affect others.. This is the time for you to hand off responsibility to your tween or teen, not be in a power struggle. – Fern Weis

10. Provide your child with a choice. No matter what their age, kids like to have choices. They feel they have some control, and are less likely to have a tantrum or give you the attitude that leads to everyone having a meltdown. – Fern Weis

Written By Fern Weis And
 Deborah Chelette-Wilson For YourTango.com.

Before You Live Together

Dear Dr. Bill,

My boyfriend and I are talking about marriage.  We live in different states and would like to save money for our wedding, so we’re thinking about sharing an apartment.  I have a 6-year-old daughter who loves this man dearly.  The plan is for my boyfriend to have his own room and I would share the other with my daughter.  What do you think?

–Jessica

Dear Jessica,

If you and your boyfriend are Christians and are committed to purity, I think this plan is a bad idea.  Although your intentions may be good, you will be subjecting yourselves to a tremendous amount of temptation.  The bible tells us to “flee from sexual immorality” and to live in a way that is “holy and honorable.”

You also need to consider the message that this living arrangement would send to your daughter.  God’s design for sexuality is that it is a beautiful gift, meant be shared between a husband and wife in a life-long, committed marital relationship.

If that is the message you want your daughter to learn, you will be sending her a confusing, mixed message by living with your boyfriend—even if you are able to resist temptation.

If you and your boyfriend are already physically involved, you should know that the research on cohabitation isn’t pretty.  Couples who live together before marriage have a 60-80% higher divorce rate.  They have higher rates of domestic violence and are more likely to be unfaithful.

Also, if a couple lives together and the woman becomes pregnant, there is a high likelihood that the relationship will end within two years, leaving her to raise the child on her own.

Let me recommend an excellent book that will help you make wise decisions in your relationship.  It’s entitled “Before You Live Together” by Dave Gudgel.

Thanks for writing Jessica.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

Click here for the audio version of this article.

5 Reasons Every Parent Should Beware of Instagram

You think you’ve got your kids under control when it comes to Facebook and their security settings? Think again. My 13-years old is now using Instagram and I found out it’s whole other ballgame when it comes to concerns. Here are some things you should be cautious about.

18 Point “Teenager” Phone Contract

1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?
2. I will always know the password.
3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”. Not ever.
4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am. If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.
5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill.
6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs.
7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
8-9. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
10. No porn.
11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.
12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear — including a bad reputation.
13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.
14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO — fear of missing out.
15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.
18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You & I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.

When Our Children Lie

Dear Dr. Bill,

Ever since my second daughter could walk and talk, she has been sneaky and a little deceitful.  She’s now almost 6-years-old and is very smart and sweet, but her tendency to lie and misbehave without regard for consequences continues to baffle me.  Recently has begun lying right up to the point of absolute denial because she was afraid of facing discipline for disobedience.  What should I do?

–Krista

Dear Krista,

It’s likely that your daughter has found that lying works for her—at least some of the time.  She’s learned that telling a fib helps her to avoid or at least delay punishment.  So the first step you need to take is to make the consequences for lying much more severe than for other types of misbehavior.  In other words, if she deliberately breaks one of her sister’s toys, she will receive a consequence, but if she LIES about it, her punishment will be considerably more severe.

You’ll need to clearly explain this to her, so that she knows in advance that she’s much better off telling the truth and admitting to an infraction, even if she does experience a negative consequence for her misbehavior.

The key is to follow through, and to find consequences that are truly meaningful to her.  For example, let’s say her favorite activity these days is playing with Barbie dolls.  If she tells a lie, she loses Barbie for two days.

In addition to consistent, powerful consequences for lying, you should also begin praising her when she tells the truth.  We often forget how important it is to “catch our kids being good.”

My guess is that you’ve fallen into a negative cycle with your daughter, and the best way to break that cycle is to consciously work toward praising and rewarding her when she obeys and tells the truth, rather than simply punishing her when she disobeys or lies.

Thanks for writing Krista.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, just click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

Click here for the audio version of this article.

5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen

By Vicki Glembocki

A few months ago I crashed headfirst into my most frustrating parenting problem to date: My daughters were ignoring me. I could tell them five times to do anything — get dressed, turn off the TV, brush their teeth — and they either didn’t hear me or didn’t listen. So I’d tell them five more times, louder and louder. It seemed the only way I could inspire Blair, 6, and Drew, 4, to action was if I yelled like one of The Real Housewives of New Jersey and then threatened to throw their blankies away.

This was not the kind of parent I wanted to be. But their inability to obey or even acknowledge my husband, Thad, and me made us feel powerless. While walking through Target one Saturday, I heard no fewer than five parents say some variation of, “If you don’t start listening, we’re walking out of this store right now!”

I recognized that at least part of the problem was me. After much lamenting about my lame parenting skills, I got lucky: A friend’s mom mentioned what she calls “the Bible” on the subject: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. When I checked it out at fabermazlish.com, I saw that there’s an accompanying DIY workshop for $130 (both were updated last year in honor of the book’s 30th anniversary). Granted, the authors are moms, not child psychologists or toddler whisperers. But the book was a national best-seller, and parents continue to host workshops using the authors’ ideas.

To see if their advice still held up, I wrangled four equally desperate mom buddies and ordered the workshop. I got two CDs and a guide with directions for leading the group. We met every Tuesday night in my living room for seven weeks, spending much of our 90-minute sessions talking about our struggles with listening-challenged kids as if we were in a 12-step program. We followed along as actors played out scenarios on the CD, did some role-playing of our own, and completed weekly homework assignments, such as reading parts of How to Talk and Liberated Parents, Liberated Children, by the same authors, and then applying our new communication skills. Not all of Faber and Mazlish’s advice rang true for us. Their suggestion to post a to-do list on the fridge so we wouldn’t have to keep reminding our kids of their responsibilities, for instance, didn’t pan out (especially because I had to keep reminding my girls to look at the note!). But other tips truly got our kids to start paying attention — and, better yet, got us to stop screaming at them. Carrie, the mom of a 6-year-old, summed up our collective reaction by the end: “This really works!”

1. Say it With a Single Word

The situation My daughters have only one assigned chore: to carry their plates to the sink when they’re done eating. Still, not a night went by when I didn’t need to tell them to do it, sometimes three times. Even that didn’t guarantee they would — and who would finally clear them? Take a guess.

The old way After they ignored my repeated commands, I’d sit Blair and Drew down and preach for ten minutes about how I wasn’t their servant and this wasn’t a restaurant.

The better way Kids usually know what they’re supposed to do; they just need some simple reminding. “They’ll tune you out when you go on and on,” Faber told me. “Instead, try just one word to jog their memory.”

The result After dinner one night, all I said was “plates.” At first the girls looked at me as if I were speaking in an alien tongue. But a second later, they picked them up and headed for the kitchen. After roughly a month of reinforcement, I don’t need to say anything; they do it automatically. “Teeth!” works equally well for getting them to brush, as does “Shoes” to replace my typical morning mantra: “Find your shoes and put them on; find your shoes and put them on”. And when I hear Blair screaming, “Give me that!” I simply say, “Nice words” (okay, that’s two words). I practically faint when she says, “Drew, would you please give that to me?”

2. Provide Information

The situation My friend Michele had just served lunch when, as was her habit, 2-year-old Everly jumped off her chair, climbed back on, turned around, stood up, and then stomped on the cushion.

The old way When Everly wouldn’t respond to a patient “You need to sit still,” Michele would get annoyed and say something like, “How hard is it to understand? You must sit down!” Everly would cry but still not sit. In the end, she’d get a time-out, which didn’t change her behavior.

The better way State the facts instead of always issuing commands. “Who doesn’t rebel against constant orders?” asks Faber. (I know I do.) Kids aren’t robots programmed to do our bidding. They need to exercise their free will, which is why they often do exactly the opposite of what we ask them to. The trick is to turn your directive into a teaching moment. So instead of, “Put that milk away,” you might simply say: “Milk spoils when it’s left out.” This approach says to a child, “I know that when you have all the information, you’ll do the right thing,'” Faber explains.

The result The next time Everly played jungle gym at mealtime, Michele took a calming breath and then said, “Honey, chairs are meant for sitting.” Everly smiled at her mother, sat down, and then started eating. “That never happened before,” Michele reports. She still has to remind her daughter now and then, but in the end, Everly listens. The technique applies to other situations as well. Rather than saying, “Stop touching everything,” Michele now points out, “Those delicate things can break very easily.” Ditto for “Legos belong in the green bin so you can find them the next time you want to play with them” and “Unflushed toilets get stinky.”

3. Give Your Child a Choice

The situation Three days after our final session, Joan took her kids to Orlando. At the Magic Kingdom, she handed them hats to shield the sun. Her 6-year-old put hers on willingly. Her almost-5-year-old, Sam, refused.

The old way “I’d try to persuade him to cooperate,” Joan says. Inevitably, she’d end up shouting, “If you don’t put it on, you can’t go on any more rides.” Then he’d bawl his eyes out, and no one would have any fun.

The better way Offer your child choices. “Threats and punishment don’t work,” Faber explains on one of the workshop CDs. “Rather than feeling sorry for not cooperating, a child tends to become even more stubborn. But when you make him part of the decision, he’s far more likely to do what’s acceptable to you.”

The result Joan left it up to her son: “Sam, you can put your hat on now or after you sit out the next ride.” Sam still wouldn’t comply. “But after he missed out on Peter Pan’s Flight, I said, ‘Sam, here’s your hat,’ and he put it right on,” Joan says.

4. State Your Expectations

The situation Amy let her kids turn on the TV before they left for school. After one show was over, she’d take Adrian, 4, to get dressed while Angela, 7, kept watching. But when it was Angela’s turn to get ready, she’d whine, “Just ten more minutes. Please? Pleeeeeeeaaase!”

The old way Amy would yell: “No, you’ve watched enough. That’s it.” Angela would complain some more. Amy would yell, “I said no!” Then, after more begging, she’d add, “You’ve already had more TV time than Adrian. You’re being ungrateful.”

The better way Let your kids know your plan ahead of time. Amy should tell Angela something like this: “After you’ve brushed your teeth and are totally dressed and ready to go, you can watch a little more TV while I get your brother dressed. That way you’ll be on time for school.”

The result The first time Amy tried this tactic, Angela turned off the TV without saying a word. But the second morning, she refused and started bellyaching again. Amy quickly realized she hadn’t reminded Angela of the plan in advance this time. So the following morning she stated it again clearly: “When I leave with Adrian, I expect you to turn off the TV.” Success. She finds the strategy equally effective for other situations (“No starting new games until the one you’ve just played is put away”).

5. Name Their Feelings 


The situation Carrie’s daughter Tatum, 6, was happily blowing bubbles with a friend. Suddenly, Tatum stormed into the room, wailing, “Mina’s not giving me a turn.”

The old way “I’d say something like, ‘There’s no reason to cry over this,'” Carrie says. What would Tatum do? The opposite — cry more and likely ruin the rest of the playdate.

The better way Parents need to listen too. “Everyone wants to know they’ve been heard and understood,” Faber argues. Telling a child to stop crying sends the message that her feelings don’t matter. Kids often cry (or whine, yell, or stomp) because they can’t communicate why they’re upset or don’t know how to deal with the emotion. “You need to give them the words to express it,” Faber says.

The result Next time, Carrie looked Tatum in the eye and described what she thought her daughter was feeling: “You seem really frustrated!” Tatum stared at her in surprise and then announced, “I am.” Carrie held her tongue to keep from giving advice (“You need to…”), defending her friend (“Mina deserves a turn too”), or getting philosophical (“That’s life”). Instead, she said, “Oh.” Tatum kept talking: “I wish I had two bottles of bubbles.” Carrie asked, “How can we work this out so it’s fair to you and Mina?” Tatum said by taking turns. Carrie suggested they use a kitchen timer, and Tatum explained the plan to Mina. Everyone wound up happy. “It’s hard to stop yourself from saying too much,” says Carrie. She’s right. Phrases like, “You never listen to me” and “How many times do I have to tell you?” become ingrained in our brain. During the workshop, my friends and I realize that it’s going to take a bit of practice to stop uttering these expressions. But that’s the entire point: to change the way we talk to our kids, so they not only understand what we’re trying to say but actually want to listen. 


This article first appeared in the January 2013 issue of Parents magazine.

Marijuana & Teenagers

Could marijuana be linked to psychotic symptoms in teens?   Or are psychotic teens more likely to use marijuana?

According to a story on Reuters Health, new research from the Netherlands has looked at the relationship between pot and psychosis.

Earlier studies found links between marijuana use and psychosis, but scientists questioned whether pot use increased the risk of mental illness, or whether people were using pot to ease their psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions.

Dr. Gregory Seeger, medical director for addiction services at Rochester General Hospital in upstate New York, says “What is interesting in this study is that both processes are going on at the same time.”

Dr. Seeger says researchers have been especially concerned about what (THC), the active property in marijuana, could do to a teenager’s growing brain.

He points out that adolescence is a vulnerable period of time for brain development, and that individuals with a family history of schizophrenia and psychosis seem to be more sensitive to the toxic effects of THC.

In the Dutch study, the researchers found a “bidirectional link” between pot use and psychosis.

For example, using pot at 16 years old was linked to psychotic symptoms three years later, and psychotic symptoms at age 16 were linked to pot use at age 19.

The new study doesn’t prove that one causes the other, but Dr. Seeger believes there needs to be more public awareness of the connection.

He says: “I think the marijuana is not a harmless substance. Especially for teenagers, there should be more of a public health message out there that marijuana has a public health risk.”

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Click here for the audio version of this article.

Healthier Kids in 2013

Here’s a New Years’ resolution that will help your child stay healthier in 2013. Give them cheese and veggies as an afternoon snack.

A new study has found that healthy snacks can help take the edge off of kids’ between-meal hunger pangs.  In fact, it may even help put a dent in rates of childhood obesity.

According to a story on WebMD.com, children who were given cheese and vegetables as a snack ate 72% fewer calories than children who snacked on potato chips.  The impact was even greater for kids who were overweight or obese.

The study involved about 200 kids entering third or sixth grade. They were given chips, cheese, veggies, or a combination of veggies and cheese, and allowed to snack freely while watching a 45-minute TV show.

Kids who chose the veggies-only option took in the fewest calories, but those offered the combo snack or cheese only took in about the same number of calories. Either option meant far fewer calories than those who were served chips, which suggests that replacing potato chips even with cheese alone may be an option.

The good news is that children will accept healthier snacks.  Erin Corrigan, a clinical nutrition manager at Miami Children’s Hospital in Florida, says “snacks are an important part of a child’s diet if you provide nutrient-dense foods.”

Although cheese can be high in calories, it is also high in protein and calcium, Corrigan says “Fruits and vegetables have more fiber, which helps people feel full quicker and longer.  When combined with protein it’s the perfect combination for a well-balanced snack.”

Other possible healthy options include and yogurt and granola, hummus and veggies, and peanut, sunflower, or almond nut butter with fruit or whole-grain crackers.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Click here for the audio version of this article.

Rude Grandson

Dear Dr. Bill,

My 9-year-old grandson likes to express his views in a rude and critical way.  Recently, I took him and his younger siblings on a trip to Florida.  But when things weren’t going the way he wanted, he began to criticize me about how his little sister who is 4, wasn’t having any fun.  In reality, I had made a special point of entertaining her while her brothers were fishing.

We seem to get into a situation like this every time we spend an extended amount of time together.  I love my grandson dearly, but I can’t stand his rudeness.  What should I do?

–Nicole

Dear Nicole,

If your grandson is rude and critical, that is a character problem that his parents need to deal with.  I’m assuming you’ve discussed this issue with his parents—if not, you need to.

Naturally you’ll want to choose your words carefully, and whatever you do, don’t criticize their parenting skills.  Instead, let them know how much you love your grandson and want him to succeed in life.  Explain that you’ve noticed he often expresses his opinions in a rude and critical way.

If his parents agree that it’s a problem, ask if they would like your input.  If they’re open to it, you might suggest they read a good book on instilling character in kids.  One suggestion is Jill Rigby’s book “Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World”.

If his parents deny there is a problem with his behavior and react defensively, there are obviously much larger issues at play in the family.  In that case, you can only control how you respond to your grandson.  Be loving but firm, and instruct rather than simply getting angry.

Thanks for writing Nicole.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

Click here for the audio version of this article.