5 Great Things That You’ll Gain As a Parent From Intermittent Phone Fasting

Everyone is doing intermittent fasting as a diet/get healthy plan these days.

You know, the thing where you only eat between about noon and 8PM?

Well, how about this: intermittent phone fasting!?

This is where you only use your phone for a few hours at a time throughout the day and thereby avoid insulting your friends and family and you stop getting in so much trouble with your boss.

It’s an idea whose time has come.

Believe me!

We all know that it’s no good for babies to have you on your phone while you’re nursing.

We ALSO all know it’s no good for kids to see you on your phone when they need you to be looking at them and telling them how great it is that they can run/jump/draw/pull down the curtains so well.

AND we all know it’s no good for your relationship when you’re supposed to be cuddling but actually you’re looking at your phone.

I could go on.

But you get the idea.

How about letting yourself gorge on your phone for a few hours a few times a day? You decide when the best times of day for you are. And the rest of the time, you put it away!

Turn it off.

Don’t get alerts, dings, twangs or alarms.

Just turn it off!

I guarantee you of the following:

  1. You will feel less distracted and harried.
  2. Your children will feel better and more nurtured.
  3. Your partner and/or friends will like you better.
  4. You will actually get a few things done.
  5. You will feel proud of yourself for wasting less time.

Good luck! And if you get hungry, just eat a little popcorn.

3 Principles Which Will Help You To Nudge Your Children into Doing What you Want –

Or — the gentle art of Choice Architecture

Every day we make thousands of decisions, most of them unconsciously. What we decide often depends on the way in which the choice is framed and the context in which a choice is made. Economists have been concerned with how people make decisions and behavioral economists specifically, among them Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler, were the first to incorporate insights from psychology into their work.

Thaler has developed a whole science revolving around how people make choices.

In its highest application, this science is used to help people to make the choices that are best for them. This is called “Choice Architecture” and Thaler writes about this in his books “Nudge” and “Nudge, the Final Edition”.

Here we are going to apply these ideas to parenting — and for transparency’s sake, I will say that all the ideas in this post are stolen from this brilliant man!!!!

Principle #1

Think about what words you choose when you speak with your child. This can drastically alter what choice your child makes!

For example, when you want your child to go to bed, you say, “Are you ready for bed?”

And your child says……….”No”.

Of course. What do you expect them to say?

Thaler would say that you have constructed the question in the wrong way.

If you want your child to go to bed, you need to say, “OK, time for bed! Do you want to jump into your bed like a frog or slither into bed like a snake?”

Or something like that.

You can give your child a choice. You can give him or her SOME power and agency. But you DO NOT give them a choice about WHETHER or not they go to bed.

Principle #2

To get your child to do what you want them to do, make the choice simple for them.

For example, let’s say your child is five and you want them to get dressed in the morning on their own. And let’s say your child has put up some resistance to doing this.

Ask yourself why.

Investigate.

Figure out what’s making it hard for them to get dressed on their own.

Let’s say you go into their room and realize that their drawers are a mess, full of clothes that are too small or for the wrong season.

Or let’s say you think about it and realize you gave your child six choices about what they COULD wear. You know the old, “do you want to wear a dress or leggings or maybe tights and a skirt or here’s a nice pair of jeans you liked last month.”

No.

In the first case, your child might be unable to get dressed because he or she finds it so frustrating to look through the drawers and find something.

If you need to, help clean and organize the drawers. Put things that are appropriate for the season in the drawer, get rid of all the old stuff and put pants and shirts and socks and underwear in different places so they are easy to find.

And, if you have to go a step further, lay out two outfits — but no more.

Make it easy for your child to do what you WANT them to do.

Look for whatever obstacles are getting in the way of their doing what you want and REMOVE THE OBSTACLES!

Principle #3

If you want to reduce certain aspects of your child’s behaviors, make those behaviors you don’t like harder for them to do.

Let’s say your child likes to run around at night after bath and before bed. He gets himself all excited and then it’s hard to get to bed and the whole process takes too long. You’re exhausted by then anyway and this makes it worse.

Try something new. Pick your child up in his towel (let’s say he’s five or younger) and say something loving and distracting (“oh, you’re so snuggly after a bath”) as you walk to his room. Once there, shut the door(s) without saying anything and then help him get the pajamas on. If you need to, make up a story — this is our bear den — let’s be cozy here. Do you want two books or three? Let’s make this room our princess castle, here’s your princess nightie. ETC.

In other words, get your child to their room without making a big deal of it, shut the doors and don’t let them out.

But do it quietly. And subtly.

This way you reduce your child’s ability to run around wildly. The trip between the bathroom and the bed is obviously a hard one for your child and one that invites running! Removing the obstacles to their doing what you don’t like, in this case, means removing the temptation — and the ability — to run around

Or let’s say you don’t want your child to eat so much junk food.

Sorry — but you’re going to have to either hide the junk food you like or stop buying it all together. And don’t go to fast food places together either. If you want your child to stop eating so much junk, make it hard for them to find any!

These three principles WILL help — if you think about how to use them. They are not magic. They won’t make parenting a snap in five minutes as so many blogs promise you their advice will do — but they WILL help.

Thank you, Richard Thaler! The next book you write should be for parents!

Screen Time for Kids – AGAIN!!!!!!!

Screen time is one of the biggest headaches of parenting life these days. I’ve written about this before and I’m quite sure I’ll be writing about it again.

1. As Stuart Dredge says in The Medium Daily Digest, “This isn’t just about setting time limits. Screen time can be something creative and fun that we do together, rather than something my children do alone while I nag them to come out on a walk.”

Researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute and Cardiff University interviewed 20,000 parents with children between the ages of two and five regarding the online habits of their young children, and said “If anything, our findings suggest the broader family context, how parents set rules about digital screen time, and if they’re actively engaged in exploring the digital world together, are more important than the raw screen time.”

“Actively engaging in exploring the digital world together” can involve using devices WITH your children – whether playing online games or using educational software.

But this is hard. It means not always using computer time for your child as time that you as a parent can get other things done.

But perhaps it’s also more realistic than just setting draconian limits on screen time. Our children live in a digital world.  They were born into a digital world.  That’s why they are sometimes called “digital natives”.  And that is why they NEED to learn how to use devices but also learn how to LIMIT THEIR OWN USE OF DEVICES.

This is where parents come in. Using devices WITH your children and then demonstrating when it is time to take a break to eat or to get outside and ride a bike is a way to model good digital/online habits. 

What our children really need to learn in the long run is ONLINE SELF REGULATION.

Parents can also have their kids show them their favorite Youtube channels. You don’t have to do this every day – but perhaps once a week each child in your family could get a chance to show you what they like. In my house we do that at the dinner table. You may prefer to do it at another time – perhaps on a weekend when you have more time. But this way you can see what they are watching (or at least SOME of it) and engage with them about it.

2. Screens are not a good idea just before bedtime.  Multiple studies have demonstrated the harmful effects of blue light on sleep.  Moreover, the content of what kids are watching/doing/playing may be exciting or overstimulating and these feelings in and of themselves can interfere with sleep. This goes for instant messaging and Facetiming too!

3. If your child is getting angry or acting out when you tell them it is time to get off the screen, this is a sign that they need more help from you – not more punishments. This is happening in every home – and there’s a reason.  Online activities are so pleasurable, they are hard to stop.  And they are especially hard to stop when your child is right in the middle of something.  

– Try to talk with them about stopping when they finish a game or a video…even if they have 3 minutes of time left.  Talk to them about how much easier it is to stop when you have completed something than when you are right in the middle. Offer to apply the 3 minutes to their next screen time.
– Try giving a 10 minute and a 5 minute warning when they have limited time left to use the screen.
– If this doesn’t work, try sitting with them for the last 5 minutes and turning the game/activity off FOR them at the end.  They will hate this.  They may throw a tantrum.  But the next time they need to stop and you come over to sit with them, they may get off when it’s time!

Thanks to Stuart Dredge whose excellent post in The Medium Daily Digest inspired THIS post!

Baby Gorilla Born for the First Time in the Cleveland Zoo’s History – what happened next and what we as human parents can learn from this!

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo announced that for the first time in its 139 year history, a baby gorilla has been born there.

The baby was born to Nneka, a 23 year old female, and Mokolo, a 34 year old male.  

This was Nneka’s first baby and either she did not know how to care for her baby or she was not interested.  

However, Fredrika, or Freddy, the troop’s oldest female, who had raised four infants herself, WAS interested, and she took over.

The team at the zoo had been preparing for this possibility for months.  They had brought in a stuffed gorilla baby and had bottle fed the “baby” in front of the female gorillas.  They also rewarded the female gorillas if they brought the “baby” to a team member for feeding.

After the actual gorilla baby’s birth, Freddy held the baby almost constantly and brought him to team members for feeding when he seemed hungry, just as she had been taught to do with the stuffed “baby”.

Weighing around three pounds at birth, newborn gorillas are in almost constant bodily contact with their mothers for the first six months of life and they nurse for about three years.

SO much like humans, right?

But one problem – humans, at least in Western societies, usually do not have an older female readily available if they do not know how to care for their first babies – or if they are ill or suffering from postpartum depression. AND parents usually don’t have a team available to help if there is a problem during the early weeks and months of a baby’s life.

What can we learn from this?

Well, it’s been said many times, but it DOES take a village. Or a team. Or a grandmother, aunt, uncle or a few friends.

Before YOUR baby is born, think of who you want on your team.

And if you already have children and don’t feel like you have enough help, try to bring some relatives or friends closer.  And if this isn’t possible, look for a parents group in your community where you can meet other parents and possibly make new parent friends with whom you can trade some babysitting, advice or support.

After all, we are ALL primates – and we can learn more about parenting even from our cousins, the gorillas!

Blame Shifting

Today in our parenting group one mother talked about how, when she was angry with her toddler, her partner told her that she was out of control.

She quickly went from being angry with her toddler to being angry with her partner.

Things escalated.

Blame shifting happens fast when people are angry.

“How dare you tell me I’m out of control??? You try getting him to put his shoes on! In fact, why don’t you try? I’m going up to take a shower. And don’t ever say that to me again!!”

You’ve probably been there – at least a few times.

But let’s dissect this: toddlers, and children in general, can be frustrating. Especially when THEY feel frustrated. This particular toddler wanted to wear his mother’s shoe to school. Not both of her shoes. Just one of her shoes. His mother was trying to reason with him – and getting nowhere.

This little boy was yelling louder and louder. His mother just did not seem to be getting it! Why couldn’t he wear her shoe to school?

And as he yelled louder and louder, his mom found herself yelling louder and louder. Her partner was at least partially right, things WERE getting out of control. But the mom was so flustered that his saying this to her only made her feel worse. She felt that he was blaming her for not handling the situation better. And of course she was already angry with herself for not being able to manage her toddler. So, inevitably, her anger shifted to her partner.

This is easy to do.

So we discussed this in the group. The consensus was that it is often helpful to talk about this sort of situation when it is NOT happening – and for parents to agree with each other what can and should be done at the moment that will not cause the frustrated parent to feel blamed.

One mother suggested trading off – when she feels too frustrated she asks her partner to step in. She has found that this serves two functions – first she gets a break to calm down and second, her children learn that when they go too far, there is a consequence.

Another parent suggested having a “safe” word or phrase. In her case, the word is “breathe”. When things are getting out of control, she has asked her partner to say this to her and she has found that it actually helps her to take a step back from her own anger – and to take a deep breath.

Blame shifting happens at other times too – in arguments, when everyone is under stress, when people feel guilty and want to place the responsibility on someone else.

But it is never particularly productive.

More Social Media Advice From A Teen


So, remember that 19 year old I wrote about a few weeks ago? The one who gets her friends to pile their phones on the table when they eat together so that no one looks at their phone during the meal?  Well, she has more ideas.

This week she told me that she had an exam that she was worried about.  So what did she do?  She decided to analyze her own social media use.

She looked at her phone to see what apps she spends the most time on – and found out that by far, she looks at TikTok the most.  Very scientific approach, right?

So she deleted TikTok for two days prior to the exam so that she would get those hours back – and use them for studying.  

Self control being what it is, she knew she could not stop herself from looking at Tiiktok if it was still on her phone.  

Teens of all ages as well as young adults have told me that they simply cannot stop themselves from checking social media – sometimes as much as every 2 or 3 minutes. 

Young teens have complained to me that they just don’t know what to do.  They know they shouldn’t do this – but they find themselves doing it anyway.  And for some highly motivated kids, this is distressing – they want to do well at school and they know their use of their phones is getting in the way.  One young teen boy cried in my office as he told me how guilty he felt – he knew he should be studying more, reading more and doing other things that were better uses of his time but Youtube was sucking him in every day after school and he just couldn’t stop.

People have compared social media use—as well as computer gaming, Youtube and other computer activities— to an addiction.  And I tend to agree.  The in-the-moment pleasure derived from doing these things, the immediate surge of gratification gained from looking at these sites is so powerful.  Reading and studying?  They don’t stand a chance. 

So, parents, you are in a difficult spot.  Recommending that kids delete their apps, even temporarily, will be met with protest and push back.  What are you to do?

Maybe just leave your computer open to this post for a while and let you kids walk by and see it for themselves…..

Or talk with your kids about the ideas here, just to see what they think.

Let The Kids Eat Sugar! (In Moderation)

By Karen Libber Fishbein, LCSW, and Samuel Libber, MD

Halloween is almost here, and candy is everywhere! My daughters (ages 6 and 8) are very much looking forward to celebrating the holiday after missing out last year due to COVID-19. Thinking about the sugar consumption that will follow this festive day may be overwhelming to some parents.

In this post, Samuel Libber, MD, and I hope to put your mind at ease. Dr. Libber is a pediatric endocrinologist with over forty years of experience. He is also my father and a fellow sugar lover.

Dr. Libber and I both believe that establishing healthy habits surrounding sugar intake is an important task that parents can take on.

Sugary treats are everywhere and equipping our children with realistic and healthy approaches to sugar consumption will benefit them throughout their lives.  

Part One: Karen’s Observations As A Mother

To start out, I will share my philosophy on sugar consumption in children. I believe that children who are typically developing (and don’t have medical issues that impact how sugar is metabolized) can benefit from being offered certain sugary treats. In my present-day home (with my children) and in my home growing up as a child, dessert is/was offered as a reward for consuming a healthy meal. A “healthy meal” is defined by a meal that includes  protein, fiber, whole grains, a calcium source, and fruits and/or vegetables.

As a result, my daughters consume sugar on a daily basis – and so did I when I was growing up.

Some folks and some fellow parents might wonder how this impacts my children.

Here are my  reflections:

–  First of all, sweets are not viewed as a forbidden fruit in our home. My daughters both understand the rules listed above and realize that as long as they adhere to mealtime standards, they will earn a sweet treat.

   We do monitor that the girls don’t go too far with their dessert treats. I believe that when kids are offered treats as a reward for healthy eating, they learn how to self-regulate their sugar consumption. Once my oldest daughter ate too many marshmallows after dinner and was sick to her stomach during the night.  Since that happened, she has never binged on sweets again. I truly think that learning the hard way was an effective means for her to gain a deeper understanding about her body.

– Secondly, I think that when children are offered sweets regularly, it reduces the “scarcity mindset”. If children know that dessert will be available to them, they are less likely to spend time worrying about when and how they are going to get some candy or a cookie.  They also may not feel the need to overeat  sweets when they receive them, since they know that there will be opportunities to partake in the near future.  Interestingly, when other children come over to play, I notice that kids whose parents strictly restrict sugar often go straight to our candy jar upon their arrival. Not only is it the first stop, but the experience often involves overeating. When my daughters come home from school or from other activities, heading straight to the candy jar is usually the last thing on their minds. They are more interested in playing outside with friends, playing with toys/games, or having time to decompress.

A final observation I have about children living in a sugar-friendly home is that they often model the adults around them. So, for example, I am a dessert lover, and since I was given sweets after healthy meals from a young age, I find that I know how to control the amount of sweets I eat as an adult and I am able to moderate my dessert intake. At mealtimes, my daughters observe me eating healthy, balanced meals, and they know that I will enjoy dessert right along with them after the meal is over. I believe this gives me more credibility in their minds and lets them know that I too understand the importance of eating healthy, while also enjoying the indulgence of dessert. I feel strongly that children who view their parents eating a variety of foods, and positively accepting their bodies will then be more likely to adopt this behavior in their adolescent and adult lives.

Many folks may wonder what this sugar consumption means in terms of my girls’ physical health. I will share that both of my daughters are in the average ranges of height/weight. Staying physically active is something that we value as a family. Both of my girls often run around and play outside with their friends, sometimes for hours at a time. Additionally, they swim, dance, go to the playground and take walks all around Philadelphia. We try to come up with fun, physically active activities on a regular basis.  This mindset is integrated in our day-to-day life just as much as having sweet treats is.

Part Two: Dr. Libber’s Perspective As A Pediatric Endocrinologist

One lesson that I’ve learned over the years is that there is tremendous variability in how interested kids are in sweets.   Some of this may be environmental, and some may be innate.  In any case, many kids are not at all motivated by sweet foods and are fine finishing their meals without desserts and steering clear of sweet snacks between meals.   But when kids do desire sugary foods, certain rules should prevail:   Snack foods between meals are best designed around fruits, vegetables and savory foods.  Desserts, if sweets are offered, should have carefully controlled portion sizes without visible offerings of “seconds”.  If children are still interested in further dessert items, those should center on fruits and not on baked goods, ice cream or high-calorie processed foods.  

Many of the challenges in the diets of American children may be averted at the “supermarket stage”.   If parents concentrate on buying healthy food such as fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid purchasing unhealthy or overly processed foods, choices stay available to the child but become more limited.  If the choices are apples with cinnamon and raisins versus chocolate chip cookies, many of today’s kids would likely go for the cookies.  However, if parents refrain from purchasing chocolate chip cookies and the choices boil down to sliced apples versus mandarin oranges versus banana slices with jimmies, kids are still presented with options.   Furthermore, any of the latter choices are healthier than the chocolate chip cookies. Another tip to cut back on sugar intake is to avoid juices, sodas and artificially sweetened drinks.

Health problems due to excess sugar are well-documented.   There are potential dental concerns, behavioral concerns, weight-gain concerns and later in life, concerns over the consequences of too high a caloric intake —high blood pressure, diabetes, blood lipid problems, heart disease and many more.

Childhood is a great time to start setting patterns that could last a lifetime and help to prevent a large variety of health challenges later in life. Remember the wise words of my daughter – portion control, plenty of outdoor play and avoidance of the “scarcity mindset” when it comes to dessert. It’s never too late – or too early – to get started!

HALLOWEEN READING WITH KIDS

From Lisa Walton Medium Daily Digest:

16 Spine-Tingling Halloween Books Kids Will Love

Spooky stories are a great way to draw in reluctant readers

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

It’s the season of witches and warlocks, goblins, and ghosts. And one of the best times of year to hook your kids with a good book. Even reluctant readers are often sucked in by the thrill of a good mystery or ghost story. Here are 16 spine-tingling Halloween books that kids will love.

Take advantage of the eerie allure of Halloween to pick a book that will delight your readers. From mildly-spooky to spine-tingling to sweet, there is a book just right for every reading appetite.

This spoiler-free list includes Halloween choices for readers of all ages.

Picture Books (Grade K-2)

Room on the Broom

by Julia Donaldson

This classic Halloween read about problem-solving, friendship and making room for everyone is sure to bring a smile to young readers.

How to Catch a Monster

by Adam Wallace

This sweet bed-time story is just spooky enough to qualify for Halloween. It reminds kids that things aren’t always as scary as they seem.

Bonaparte Falls Apart

by Margery Cuyler & Will Terry

This Halloween story is chock full of monsters. With encouragement and support, they help Bonaparte keep himself together during a stressful transition.

Frankie Stein

by Lola M. Schaefer

One of my favorite Halloween stories of all time. Frankie Stein is not the child that his parents expected. This story about love and family teaches children and parents alike that it’s okay to be different.

Young Readers (Grades 2–4)

Case Closed #1: Mystery in the Mansion

by Lauren Magaziner

This choose-your-own-adventure story is packed with puzzles and clues. The readers join the story to help Carlos and friends solve the mystery and save his Mom’s detective agency. This book is the first in a series so it’s a great way to get kids excited about reading.

The Nocturnals

by Tracy Hecht

Three unlikely friends learn about friendship, teamwork, and laughter as the Nocturnal Brigade solves unexpected mysteries of the night. This series is perfect for virtual learning. Visit the website for printable online activities and educator guides.

It’s Halloween, I’m Turning Green, My Weird School Special Series

by Dan Gutman

Another kid favorite! I couldn’t included a list of Halloween books without a selection from My Weird School. Join A.J. and the gang from the laugh out loud funny My Weird School series in a holiday-themed chapter caper about candy, costumes, and more.

Middle Grade (Grade 4–7)

Ghosts

by Raina Telgemeier

After Maya and Cat learn their new town is haunted, Maya becomes determined to meet a ghost. But Cat is not interested. Can Cat put aside her fears and make the spirits appear?

The Haunted Lighthouse

by Zander Bingham

A classic mystery that kids will love. After Jack’s aunt buys an old lighthouse, odd things begin to happen. Mysterious figures in the windows, strange noises, flickering lights. Could it be haunted?

Ghost Squad

by Claribel Ortega

This action-packed debut novel weaves a thrillingly spooky tale about family and phantoms.

Premeditated Myrtle

by Elizabeth C. Bunce

This smart new series combines unexpected plot twists with a strong female lead trying to earn the distinction of most daring and acclaimed amateur detective ever. You can’t help rooting for Myrtle.

Spirit Hunters

by Ellen Oh

We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh bring us this captivating ghost story about a seventh-grader who must face down the dangerous ghosts haunting her younger brother. Its twists and turn will have you guessing with every page.

Young Adult (Grade 8–12)

One of Us Is Lying

by Karen McManus

This New York Time Bestseller is one of my favorite reads. The twisty plot keeps you guessing until the end. Five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out? Who did it? Can you guess? You can’t go wrong with any of McManus’ books.

Cemetery Boys

by Aiedn Thomas

This modern ghost story is perfect for Día De Muertos. A transgender Latinx boy summons a ghost to prove to his family that he is a real brujo. Only now he can’t get rid of the spirit? A wonderful book for Halloween and beyond.

Rafa and the Real Boy

by Emily Juniper

This exciting new release blends family drama, romance, friendship and suspense. Readers will find themselves engrossed in Rafa’s complex, emotional journey and guessing at what is real and what’s not.

Smartphone Fatigue

Recently a 19 year old I know told me something shocking.  She said that she wished her friends would use their cell phones LESS when they are together.

I have to say, I was really surprised – and elated!

She said that everyone’s constant phone use got in the way of talking to each other.

HALLELUJAH!

Here was living proof that even teenagers get tired of seeing their friends on their phones all the time!  It’s not just parents who feel this way!

And I suspect that plenty of teens feel this but just don’t say it.  I suspect, as I said in my last post (see “Attentional Insult”) that teens, kids, even adults feel a little bit hurt each time they are wanting to talk to someone and instead see that person looking at their phone. 

This teen even had suggestions!  She said that sometimes when she and her friends go out to eat, they put all their phones in the middle of the table so that no one uses a phone during the meal.  She said that she grew up in a house where phones were not allowed at the table and she actually liked this rule.

So parents – what can you do to help your kids and teens with phone use? Take a tip from this teenager – and The American Academy of Pediatrics.  Ban phone use during meals.  No phones at – OR UNDER – the table for anyone – and that means you, too!