Saturday, March 10, 2007

Good Kids, Bad Habits

Recently I was asked by the good people of the Parent Bloggers Network to check out a new book that’s hitting bookstores everywhere. So I did. And I found that Good Kids Bad Habits by Jennifer Trachtenberg, M.D. gives parents a plethora of information. And then she gives even more information. And then some more. And some more.

The Test.
I like a book that starts with a test. It keeps you on your toes.

This is true with Good Kids, Bad Habits. It starts you off with The RealAge Healthy Kids Test…so you can find out your kid’s real age. Very cool, I thought. But then, I am a sucker for quizzes, tests and the like, so I immediately dove in.

The test, or series of six tests, took me 15 minutes to compete.

As it started out, I was kicking some serious butt, and I started getting all Sanctimommy thinking how much I completely rock. I breezed through questions like “Does your child always ride in a car seat?” (Um, yeah.) and “Is your child always supervised in the bathtub (Duh). But then, as the quiz went on, I realized there’s a lot of stuff I haven’t really thought about…like if my home has been tested for radon (Wha? Huh?), or if my 17-month-old knows the universal sign for choking (Are you freaking kidding?), or if my child ALWAYS wear sunblock when he goes outside (Um, um, well, um, uh, no).

So, even though I think I’m no slouch, the Hurricane did not finish in the top category of good kids with good habits, (which means he got an Impressive! score, not the coveted Wow! score), and I discovered three basic things:

1. I found that The Hurricane is negative four years old. (So. As far as I can tell, that means it’s so 2003 around here. I’m single, living it up and drinking way too many Lemon Drops. Or. Uh. Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. Or behind myself. Or something.) And,

2. Even though we’re doing a pretty good job, there are still a few simple things we can do to help him develop and foster good habits. And,

3. Establishing these good habits starts with us. We are his examples, after all. Do as I do and all that.

The Information.
It’s a good frame of reference. And the thing about this book is, really, it’s a reference book. The information isn’t really complex; there’s not really anything in there that is revolutionary; but it’s fairly comprehensive, and it’s something you could pull off the shelf to use as a reminder and a benchmark throughout your child’s life. I like that. It’s full of tips and ideas to help you on the path to healthy habits. And, believe me, the path is packed with info.

The book’s basic stance is that it’s relatively simple to create healthy food habits, play habits, hygiene habits, study habits, etc. that will last a lifetime.

I’m sure this is true. That said, I just turned 36 over the weekend, and this is stuff I’m still learning.

Earlier this year, we had a health scare in our family that scared us all straight. Or straighter. And this book was just another reminder that most things in life come back to choices and habits. According to the book, and a variety of other things I’ve read, it takes a little while to form a habit and a lifetime to maintain it. And it’s a good reminder for me to make better choices for myself, for my family, for my role as an example for my favorite kid.

The Goods.
It’s comprehensive. The book covers healthy norms from age 7 months to age 17, so this thing should be useful for a while (Unless everything changes…Remember when it was okay to eat as much pasta as you liked as long as you didn’t eat beef? I’d say the trend has flipped, how ‘bout you?) But really, there is so much information in this book…from how to select the best school, healthcare provider, or babysitter; to a quick discussion vaccinations and autism; to tips on how to tell the difference between moody “growing pains” and depression …you could pull this bad boy out and index-shop as you have questions and as your child grows.

It’s practical. The other really good thing about this is it doesn’t seem to be trendy. Even though the concepts aren’t earth-shattering, I kind-of dig the common sense approach. It seems like a good reminder of the way my grandparents lived…eat sensible portions of healthy things, live an active lifestyle, and never stop learning and bettering yourself.

It’s applicable. The author gives specific advice for how to make healthier choices, from a smart alternative-snack chart to an age-appropriate activity chart. The information is simply parceled, presented, and practiced. I’m keen to apply many of the tips to myself to see better results. In fact, there are a few items I’m going to put in my pocket this week and try out for a while. After all, it starts with us, right?

The Bads.
It’s not hardback. While paperback is a positive for a lot of people, and this does make it more affordable (the book is $21.95, not bad for a reference book), more portable, etc., it’s not for me. I like things hard and bound. Especially reference books. But if you’re a paperback person, you’ll love it.

It has so much information. As they say, your strength is always your weakness. This is true here. This book is really comprehensive; so comprehensive, that when I got to the chart about the different types of germs my child could be exposed to, or the one on how much selenium my 17-month-old should be consuming (By the way, what the hell is selenium?), I was done. My mind was tired. So it's not something you read in one sitting. It's a reference book.

The Verdict.
I really think this book is a must have. If only because it’s a really good benchmark-reminder of the path we should all be attempting to journey. And I think it would be a wonderful shower gift for that first-time parent. Mainly because first-time parents are always looking for any and all information they can get their hands on. And that’s a habit we could all adopt.

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