Biting and Hitting the Hand that Feeds

biting teeth
biting teeth

Photo credit: gigabiting.com

Dear Mr. Dad: Our son just turned one and, almost like flipping a switch, he went from the sweetest, happiest little guy to smacking and biting. It’s bad enough when it happens at home, but my husband and I are beyond embarrassed when he attacks friends or strangers. Is it normal for babies to turn mean like this? Normal or not, how can we get it to stop?

A: No one knows exactly why, but right around their first birthday, most babies go through a stage that involves hitting and/or biting everything and everyone in sight. So, yes, biting and hitting are normal, and it’s unlikely that he’s “turning mean.” However, as you said, whether it’s normal or not, this behavior needs to stop. Before you can do anything about the behavior, though, you need to figure out what’s behind it.

According to child development experts, there are lots of possible explanations. Your baby may be hitting or biting because: [Read more…]

#MilitaryFamilyFriday: Saving Money + Being an Absentee Landlord

At one time or another, most of us run into some tight financial times. Being on a military salary—which, as we all know, isn’t the greatest in the world—doesn’t help. But, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to save money, whether you’re trying to build your retirement fund or just socking away a few extra bucks for a rainy day. Here are nine tips that will help you save money, even on a military salary. Read the rest of this article on my about.com minisite.

If you’ve been living off base in a property you own, it also means that you have to figure out what to do with your current home. The most obvious choice is to simply sell the house. But what if the housing market is down or you’re underwater? Should you keep the house and become an absentee landlord? Read the rest of this artilce on my about.com minisite.

I’m always looking for great organizations, programs, and other resources to help the men and women who serve our country. If you’ve got a suggestion or referral, please drop an email to armin [at] mrdad [dot] com.

#MilitaryFamilyFriday: Acing the Military PFT

Throughout your military tenure—starting possibly even before you get to boot camp–you’ll be required to pass the standard PFT (physical fitness test) and meet basic weight standards. Here’s everything you need to know to totally crush the PFT. Read the rest of this article on my about.com minisite.

I’m always looking for great organizations, programs, and other resources to help the men and women who serve our country. If you’ve got a suggestion or referral, please drop an email to armin [at] mrdad [dot] com.

Ready to Roll(er Coaster)?

Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I are going to Orlando to visit some theme parks with our kids, ages 4 and 8. We’re all super excited, but I’m worried about how to make sure the kids have a good time and the adults still feel that we’ve had a vacation. Any suggestions?

A: I am so jealous. My 12-year old daughter and I love roller coasters and for years we’ve been talking about doing an extended coaster tour. It’ll happen one of these days. But let’s get back to you. Going to amusement parks with kids as young as yours and still having fun yourself will be challenging. But it’s definitely possible. Here are some ideas that will help.

  • Go online before you get in line. Make an adults-only visit to each park’s website. Find out their hours, age- and height restrictions, ride closures, whether you can bring in outside food, whether they have lockers, and so on. Most sites have recommendations for families with young children. Once you’ve mastered all that, go back and visit the sites with the kids—but show them only the things that they’ll actually be able to do. There’s no sense getting them excited about rides they can’t go on. Then, have them put together a list of their favorites.
  • While you’re online, follow the parks on social media (so you can get money-saving discounts and followers-only access) and download the apps for each park you’re planning to visit. Besides including maps of the park—complete with where all the bathrooms are—the apps usually include schedules for shows and photo ops with characters, restaurant menus, and more.
  • Plan your meals. To get your money’s worth, you’re going to want to stay at the park all day, and you’ll need to eat. Of course, it’s more convenient to buy all your meals and snacks in the park. These days your food options go way beyond burgers, fries, and fried donuts. Most now offer all sorts of ethnic options, and you’ll almost always be able to find fruit, veggies, and other healthy foods. If money is an issue, bring as much food as you’re allowed to (details will be on the park’s website).
  • Plan your day. The kids (and maybe you) will probably need some breaks during the day. If you’re staying at a nearby hotel, consider going back for a nap and a dip in the pool. Then hit the park again. If not, all the parks have air-conditioned theaters that are great rest spots.
  • Stay cool. Everyone needs a hat, plenty of sunscreen, and a water bottle. No exceptions. According to ThemeParkInsider.com, “more visitors suffer from sunburn, rashes, heat exhaustion and heatstroke than all other injuries put together.”
  • Start really, really early. If you get to the park before it opens, you can dash to the most popular rides before the lines start getting crazy.
  • Think safety. If your child has a tendency to disappear into crowds, consider a wrist bungee or harness. A lot of kids (and adults) find them horribly embarrassing, so the mere threat of using one might be enough to keep the kids nearby. You might also consider one of the many GPS trackers; some can be worn on the wrist, others attached to the kids’ clothing.
  • Split up. If you and your husband want to go on adult rides, think about having one of you stay with the kids while the other goes in the single-rider lines, which are almost always shorter. Then switch.
  • Remember, you’re on vacation. Relax and try to see the parks—and the world—through your children’s eyes.

#MilitaryFamilyFriday: Parenting a Child with an Emotional Disorder

Between the frequent PCS moves, the potential for lengthy deployment, the difficulty maintaining long-term friendships, and other issues, military children are more likely than civilian children to develop mental health conditions, including emotional disorders. In this article, we take a look at what emotional disorders, how to recognize them, and how to get help. Read the rest of this article on my about.com minisite.

I’m always looking for great organizations, programs, and other resources to help the men and women who serve our country. If you’ve got a suggestion or referral, please drop an email to armin [at] mrdad [dot] com.

Volunteering: It’s Not Just About You Anymore

via flickr
via flickr

via flickr

Dear Mr. Dad: I have to admit that my wife and I have been a bit self-centered in our adult lives, focusing on our work, earning money, and supporting the family. We’ve done quite well financially and we’ve both decided that we should start giving something back to our community. We want to get our kids involved too, but they’re pretty young—only 5 and 7. Honestly, I don’t even know where to start. Are the kids too young? And what’s the best way get going?

A: Your kids are definitely not too young to volunteer in their community. In fact, there’s no such thing as too young. Plenty of people bring babies to visit nursing-home residents or shut-ins, and preschoolers and early elementary school kids often go on field trips to the same places to sing holiday songs , put on a play, or just draw pictures. Bringing a smile to the face of people who don’t have a lot of joy in their lives is a wonderful gift. Middle schoolers can volunteer to read to a blind person or tutor kids their own age in reading and math. Teens can coach inner-city sports teams or build houses with Habitat for Humanity. Ideally, volunteering is a selfless act—you do it to help someone else, not because you’ll profit from it. But thinking way into the future, volunteer work looks very good on college and job applications.

Doing things as simple as serving meals at a local homeless shelter (or, when the kids are older, delivering meals on wheels) shows your children that you’re walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. Of course volunteering often gives kids some insight into just how lucky they are. It can also provide opportunities for them to learn about problem solving and cooperation, hone new skills, and discover talents, interests, and skills they never know they had. Perhaps most importantly, it teaches them to be more tolerant of people they might never come in contact otherwise—people from different cultures, ethnicities, education levels, and socio-economic status. At the end of a day (or even just a few hours) of volunteering, you’ll discover that your family has benefitted as much as your community has—though in very different ways.

As you consider which of the millions of opportunities to get your family involved in, here are a few ideas to keep in mind:

[Read more…]