Things Not To Do: Toddler Toothbrushing Edition

Our son Nicholas is seven years old now and sometimes puts up a fuss about brushing his teeth, but he’s nowhere near as resistant as he was when he was a toddler, and the lesson I learned then still seems to apply.

Soon after his teeth emerged and we started brushing them, the novelty wore off and he began to resist this drippy, tickling intrusion into his mouth.  I understand the objection, but I was determined both to take good care of his new little teeth and to teach him that toothbrushing is part of the daily routine.  He’d turn his head away, refuse to open his mouth, run away, and sometimes cry.  Some nights we’d let it slide, but one day when he was 22 months old he had sardines for lunch and garlic for dinner and horrible-smelling breath, so I was determined to brush his teeth…and it took forty-five minutes to get it done!  I wrote this account of the ordeal: Read more…

The Toilet Seat Position Problem, Solved!

It’s an age-old battle of the sexes (well, at least as old as toilets with hinged seats): When a male has raised the toilet seat, should he then lower it, showing courtesy to females sharing the bathroom? or should the female take responsibility for checking the position of the seat before she uses it, showing respect for the male’s manly needs?  I realized just how many people have how big a problem with this debate when I worked for an invention marketing company, where at least one invention out of every hundred was somehow addressing the issue of toilet seat positioning.

My brother and I solved this dilemma when we were pre-teens.  Our solution is equally convenient for both sexes and also improves bathroom cleanliness and safety! Read more…

Summer Vegetable Sunflower Blop

Sometimes I have trouble thinking of a good name for a recipe, especially when it’s something I have been making for myself without talking to anybody about it, because in my mind it can be called “kind of like what I made the other day” or “mmmmm” or “RY3A0128” or whatever.  The name for today’s recipe comes courtesy of the Hearth and Soul Blop Hop, a recipe linkup that may just have a typo in the name this week, but I am feeling inspired by the idea of a Blop Hop, which sounds so much more lively and charming and Dr. Seussian than anything involving a blog, a word which still really sounds to me like it refers to something slimy and smelly that washes up on the beach.  You wouldn’t want to eat that, but try my delicious Blop! Read more…

Things Not To Do: Song in Your Head Edition


Hey, it’s really great how I am focusing on my work, not like last Friday when I got “Total Eclipse of the Heart” stuck in my head and couldn’t get rid of it and it was driving me nuts.

Forever’s gonna start tonight! has taken on a whole new meaning.

If you are plagued by a song in your head, do not allow it to trigger a Sneaky Hate Spiral.

Do not sing the song to your seven-year-old child by way of explaining why you keep smacking your head and scratching your ears.  Your child may be pleased by your melodramatic singing (you will find it’s impossible to sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” recognizably without sounding melodramatic) and demand that you sing it again and/or start singing it himself.  Now you will never escape.

Welcome to Earth Suburb.

Read more…

Babies and Television

Children younger than 2 years old should not watch any television at all.  The experts have been saying this for more than a decade, yet a lot of the parents I know think this is such an absurd idea that nobody could possibly comply with it.

We did.  Almost.  We occasionally took Nicholas to restaurants where a television was playing in the background.  We occasionally turned on the Weather Channel long enough to see the forecast.  When he was 13 months old and the Steelers were in the Super Bowl, Daniel and I watched about 15 minutes of the game even though Nicholas was in the room.

But we never, ever turned on television for him to watch before he turned 2.  When we were at someone else’s house and they had the TV on, we took Nicholas out of that room if at all possible.  I estimate that in his first 2 years, he spent a grand total of about 10 hours in the presence of a turned-on television.  We have limited his screen time since then (he’s 7 now) so that he averages less than 2 hours per day of TV and computer put together.

Why?  Because I’m a developmental psychologist, and I think those experts are on to something.  Early television viewing increases obesity and decreases school engagement. Early television viewing changes the arteries in the eyes, increasing the risk of high blood pressure.  Early television viewing swamps babies with stimuli they don’t understand yet find so visually compelling that it’s hard for them to look away.  The earlier television viewing becomes part of a person’s routine, the harder it will be for them to live without it–and watching television, though it can be fun, is in most ways a waste of time.  Even educational TV programs don’t teach very young children anything.  Before becoming a mother, I read The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn (see my review here) and was determined to protect my child from television.  Daniel agreed with me.

But then, when I was 7 months pregnant, an odd sound made by the elevator at work reminded me of the “Rubber Ducky” song from “Sesame Street”, and I suddenly felt devastated–how could I deprive my child of the joy of knowing Ernie and Big Bird and…and LOVABLE FURRY GROVER?!  Read more…

Treasure Chest

We’ve been having two main problems with our seven-year-old Nicholas since he was about three.  Recently, I thought of a new strategy that just may be working to solve both problems!

One problem is that Nicholas is sometimes rude, bossy, and defiant.  Not all the time.  Sometimes he’s quite a delightful companion for hours at a stretch, maybe even a few days in a row, but then all of a sudden something twists and he starts acting very annoying!  (We now understand why people of olden times believed children were possessed by demons!  It’s often a really sudden change, as if our nice Nicholas has been taken over by someone else.)  He’ll argue with every instruction we give him, use a snarling condescending tone of voice, and scream, “You’re interrupting!!!” every time anyone else tries to speak–even when we’re answering the question he just asked–yet he interrupts us over and over again.  Daniel and I don’t want to allow our child to treat us this way, both on principle and because it usually upsets us, but up until this point we hadn’t found any consistently effective strategy other than taking away his television/computer time.  Putting him in time-out sometimes helps, but often it simply shifts the epic struggle from whatever was the original issue to getting him to go to his room and stay there.

Our other problem is that Nicholas wants to have a lot of stuff.  He keeps bringing home things he finds, buying things with his allowance, drawing pictures, getting gifts, etc., etc., and then he leaves his stuff lying around on the living-room floor or the dining-room table and says he’s going to put it away “later” and never gets to it.  Daniel and I are aware that we are hardly perfect in our ability to deal with stuff, so we’re not trying to hold him to an unrealistic standard of perfection; we just want to be able to go about our daily lives without stepping on Legos, shuffling around pyramids of stuffed animals, or taking trains off our placemats and heaps of artwork off our chairs before each meal.  We’ve tried various approaches to encourage clean-up and organization, with only mild success.  The most effective way to deal with the tide of stuff is to clean up when he’s not around and confiscate a lot of his stuff; some of it goes in the trash/recycling and some in the pile of things to be sold or donated to people who’ll take better care of them.  He often doesn’t notice what’s missing because he has so much stuff!

The weekend before last, we had a yard sale.  As I was sorting the items to be sold, after Nicholas went to bed Friday night, I had a brilliant idea! Read more…