Bullying = A World of Hurt

Which phone call is more disturbing for a parent, one informing you that your child is being bullied or one telling you that your child is the bully? Surprisingly, most children will experience both roles at some point on the road to adulthood. Either way, as a parent, you have to respond quickly. The sooner you get involved the better it will be for your child, no matter which role he happens to be playing at the moment

Why kids bully
Many factors contribute to bullying. First, children are not born with social skills. They learn through trial and error. In addition each child needs to find out how he fits into his peer group. Throughout elementary school and high school children learn how to deal with others in a variety of situations and they don’t always get it right. Sometimes a child might feel threatened by another and resorts to bullying to feel ‘safe’, or to maintain his perceived position in the group. Another child bullies in order to get the attention he is not getting elsewhere. Lastly, a child could be modeling his behavior after a parent or older sibling—are there any bullies in your house? Even too much teasing constitutes bullying and should not be tolerated at home or anywhere else.

Who are bullies?
Since most kids are a bully sometime during childhood is it fair to say that there is a ‘type’ of child who bullies? While all kids might try out bullying once or twice there are kids who habitually use this behavior in their dealings with others. Generally speaking, habitual bullies fall into one of two categories. One group is made up of the popular girls, the athletic, good-looking boys—members of the in-crowd. Kids in the other group tend to be children who have been marginalized themselves, possibly through bullying, and are typically kids with poor grades who aren’t involved in sports or other school activities. However, just because a child fits into one of those categories doesn’t mean he is a bully.

Signs Your Child is Being Bullied

Complaints about headaches and stomach aches

Unexplainable injuries from self or others

Changes in attitude, behavior, and achievement at school

Lost or damaged property

Changes with friends and social circles

Changes in sleep or eating habits

Reluctance / avoidance / inability to talk about it

Expressing no interest in anything

Intense feelings of hopelessness, shame and depression

Who gets bullied?
Here again, most kids end up on the receiving end of bullying at some time. There are, however, certain traits that predispose a child to being a target. Kids are quick to pick up on any physical or cultural difference, which can be useful tools for bullies. Children with physical and learning disabilities can be at risk. A child who stutters, or is extremely shy or even kids who dress outside the norm can be bullied. Kids who stand out by excelling in sports or academics can be targeted. More subtle targets are the children who have trouble reading and responding to social cues, like children with Asperger’s.

Defining bullying
Bullying can take many forms. It can be teasing that goes too far, name-calling, stealing or breaking another’s belongings—even physical violence. Another form of bullying is spreading rumors about, or excluding a child from the group. In recent years, technology has put a dangerous edge on bullying through the use of smart phones and the Internet. Whatever form it takes, though, bullying makes children miserable and fearful for their own safety. If bullying is allowed to continue a child can suffer negative consequences for life with problems like depression and low self-esteem.

Where does bullying happen?
Bullying can happen anywhere at any time, but it most commonly occurs in the absence of adult supervision. Think about the times during your child’s day when he is with other kids and there are few or no adults around: playgrounds, cafeterias, the neighborhood, or public places like skating rinks, libraries and swimming pools. Does your child walk to and from school? That is a prime opportunity for bullying to occur.

Boys tend to be more physical bullies.
They often target smaller, weaker kids who are less likely to fight back. Stealing money, lunches or property is more common with boys. Threats of violence or actual physical harm, is more likely to happen with boys.

Girls on the other hand, tend to bully in less overt ways.
They frequently use tactics like telling others not to talk to or play with their victim, excluding them from social activities or spreading damaging rumors about another. In junior and senior high school, girls are more likely than boys to use electronic devices and the Internet to bully, although boys are catching on to this as well.

Why victims remain silent
Children who are being bullied frequently remain silent or are reluctant to talk to anyone about what it going on. First, they are afraid of retaliation. Secondly, some believe that they have done something to deserve the treatment, and will be further punished if they go to someone in authority. In fact, many parents and teachers hold the belief that if a child is being bullied, he has done something to warrant it. Little wonder that children keep quiet, desperately hoping it will just stop. Adults need to make clear that bullying is not acceptable at home, school or anywhere, including the Internet

Cyber-bullying: the ultimate torture
If you think bullying on the Internet is the same as a shove on the playground you’re wrong—cyber-bullying triples the risk of suicide in teens. Middle and high school age kids are well aware that images and text on the Internet or cell phones, is indeed, available to the entire world. There is no place for them to escape the notoriety that has been pinned on them. It is easy to understand a victim’s sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

Cyber-bullying allows bullies and their followers to cause unbearable pain to a classmate without being able to see their victim as they are acting. Without the consequence of seeing the victim’s pain, kids can go too far. This is obviously bad for the victim but it is also bad for the bullies. Children need to see the consequences of their actions, hopefully before it is too late.

What recourse do parents have?
If the phone call you receive tells you that your child is being bullied there is a great deal that you can do to help him. First though, take a deep breath and try to take in the information, calmly. Maintaining your composure will help your child as much as anything else you do. Actually that is good advice for the parents who receive the other phone call, the one telling them their child is the bully.

Help for the victim

Find out who is doing the bullying and where it is happening. If it is at school, you can arrange to meet with your child’s teacher and devise a plan to help keep him safe. Do not suggest a meeting at school with the bully and his family. Those meetings get heated and out of control; in the end little is accomplished. Still, it is your duty as a parent to approach the bully’s parents if the problem is in your neighborhood, but if it is at school have the administration do that.

You can advise your child to avoid the places where he might encounter problems and you can teach him ways to respond to bullying. Sometimes simply telling the other kid to ‘knock it off’ or by making a joke of the taunt, your child can defuse the entire situation. What about fighting back? That sometimes makes bullies back off, but unfortunately, your child needs to know that he then risks being punished as well. It needs to be stated for parents of both bully and victim that parents are legally responsible for their child’s behavior and assault is illegal at any age.
Lastly, bullies seldom target a child with a circle of friends. Even one good friend can be enough to discourage a would-be bully. If your child struggles socially, help him find that one friend through play groups or other activities.

Help for the bully
Bullies need help too. They attempt to control other kids through dominating, hurtful behavior. If left unchecked, they can assume that pattern for life. If your child is the perpetrator, you want him to understand that what he is doing is wrong and it won’t be tolerated. He will likely try to shift the blame and make excuses for his behavior, but he needs to acknowledge that he has hurt another person and that his behavior was not acceptable. If talking and reasoning don’t work, rescinding privileges, grounding, keeping him indoors when other kids are out playing are all strategies that help modify behaviors.

The important role of bystanders
In most episodes of bullying there are more kids present than the two main participants. The other children might be friends of the bully, the victim, or they might be bystanders not associated with either child. But the bystanders are the key to ending bullying. Bystanders have tremendous power. They can tell adults what is going on and they can let the bully know that they don’t approve of his actions. Fitting in with other kids is crucially important to school age children and they do not want to risk the opinion of others by backing a bully. Sometimes the disapproval of other children is enough to discourage the bully as well.

Discuss bullying with your kids. It is important that they know how to respond to bullies and that they can help other kids. It also lets them know that they can come to you for help if they need to.

Slow Down with Slow Cooking

This School Year: Breakfast is for Champions

This School Year: Breakfast is for Champions

No one needs to be told the pace of living is just too fast. From the time the alarm clock (or the baby) starts the day, until bedtime, parents have a daunting number of things to attend to—rushing from jobs to games, lessons, and practices, then back home and ‘what-the-heck’s-for-supper’?

If you don’t already own a slow-cooker, think about investing in one. You won’t believe how many uses you will find for this inexpensive and indispensible kitchen appliance. If you have one, start using it more. The Internet has hundreds of free recipes. Since we are focusing on breakfast we chose three recipes that cook overnight while you sleep.

This won’t completely remedy your busy life but it can help slow things down a little, and put a nutritious breakfast on the table that will give your champions a flying start to their school day. If you are really short on time, use a crock pot disposable liner to spare yourself the clean up.

Deluxe Crockpot Oatmeal

  • 2 C. cow’s milk, almond milk or coconut milk
  • ¼ C. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. melted butter
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ to 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 C. oats (old-fashioned is best)
  • 1 C. finely chopped apple
  • ½ C. raisins, dates, dried cherries, or craisins
  • ½ C. walnuts or almonds

Grease the inside of crockpot. Put ingredients inside crockpot and mix well. Cover and turn on low heat. Cook overnight or 8-9 hours. Stir before serving. Makes 4 Cups, or 6-8 servings.

slow-cooking2Breakfast Cobbler

  • 4 medium apples peeled and sliced
  • ¼ Cup honey
  • 2 Tbls. melted butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 C. granola cereal

Spray inside of Crock-Pot with nonstick spray. Place apples in slow cooker add in remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low 7-9 hours, or overnight. Serve with milk or a dollop of Greek yogurt. Real maple syrup can be substituted for the honey.


slow-cooking3Overnight Egg Bake

  • 32 oz. bag of frozen hash brown potatoes
  • 1 lb. cooked ham, cubed
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 ½ Cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ tsp. salt and pepper

eggs, milk and seasonings until well mixed. Pour over the ingredients in the slow cooker, cover and turn on low. Cook for 8-10 hours, until casserole is set and eggs are thoroughly cooked. Check the temperature of the eggs to be sure it’s done.
If you have a new, hotter cooking crockpot, you’ll need to check this after 6 hours and it will probably be done after 7 hours. Eggs should reach a temperature of 160° to 165°.

5-2-1-0 A Healthier Way to Live

If you can remember this simple sequence of four numbers—5-2-1-0—you will have the basic guidelines to a healthier lifestyle on hand at all times. While this program was devised for children, it can be utilized by all family members. In fact, your kids will be more compliant if you adopt the changes along with them. Example can be a powerful tool. Why not suggest that the entire family go for a walk or bike ride; Work together in the garden; or play some back yard sports together. The children benefit from your example and you will all benefit from the healthier foods and activities.

Your child’s good health begins with you. See how many creative but simple ways you can incorporate 5-2-1-0 into your family’s daily life. Simple solutions are usually the ones that are remembered and used. You want to promote healthier snacks, so stock the refrigerator not the cupboards. Fresh fruits like apples, grapes, bananas and pears require little preparation and should trump cookies and chips. Kids who don’t like cooked vegetables might snack on them raw served with a healthy homemade dip. Mix 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt with ½ cup reduced fat mayonnaise. Then add dill weed, some onion flakes and other seasonings, or come up with your own recipe that is low in salt and fat. Find additional ideas on the Internet.

Remember portion control.  It is one of the most important eating habits for kids to acquire and yet it is often overlooked.

Whenever possible and reasonable, give kids some choices at the grocery store and in meal planning. Including them in the process helps ensure their cooperation.

Will this require commitment on your part? Yes, it will. Learning to shop smart, and use simple recipes can help though.

Provide options that will replace screen time, like family game night using board games; reading time; or even discussing each other’s day. Do you have a hobby that you might like to share with your child, or vice versa? Make switching off the television, computer and game devices a positive, not a punitive action.

Adults don’t make changes readily and neither do kids. Start slowly and introduce changes bit by bit.  We are not suggesting that this will always be smooth and easy and readily accepted by all children and teens.  Your family might not hit the target completely, week after week, but the goal of raising healthier, fitter children is worth the effort.  Helping your children establish healthy life habits now will provide them with the tools they’ll need to be healthy adults.

Savory Meatball Stew

The days might be longer now, but there is still enough of winter’s chill in February and March to make this recipe especially welcome on a cold, windy evening. Why meatballs? Economy for one and for another, kids who are fussy about eating chicken or beef will nearly always eat meatballs. Hurrah for healthy hemoglobin! This particular recipe was chosen because it seems to be very versatile. You can make this stew from scratch as listed or substitute store-bought ingredients, like frozen vegetables and ready-made meatballs, or how about vegetarian ‘meatballs?’ Add spices for an ethnic twang then cook on the stove or in a slow cooker. Serves 6

Ingredients For meatballs

  • 1 lb. any lean ground meat
  • 1 onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1⁄2 cup cooked rice, cooked quinoa or bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried, crumbled oregano
  • 2 Tbls oil of your choice

Mix above in food processor (chop onion first if you make the meatballs by hand). Shape into 18-24 uniform meatballs and brown in the oil in frying pan or Dutch oven.

  • 2 cups any broth
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 4 medium carrots cut into 1” pieces
  • 4 medium potatoes, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 28 oz. can tomatoes, juice and all
  • 1-3 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper or for additional flavor add garlic and some basil

Drain most of fat from Dutch oven and sauté second onion. Then add all remaining ingredients including meatballs. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to maintain simmer until vegetables are tender. (Frozen Veggies usually cook up much faster than fresh). 30-60 minutes.

Or allow meatballs and sautéed onion to cool then add all ingredients to slow cooker. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Melon Ambrosia

Try this for a light and refreshing dessert.

1 cup watermelon balls or cubes
1 cup cantaloupe balls or cubes
1 cup honeydew balls or cubes
1/3 cup lime juice
2 Tbls. sugar
2 Tbls. Honey Fresh mint
1⁄4 cup flaked coconut (toasted or not)

Put melons in a bowl; combine other ingredients and pour over melon, toss to coat. Sprinkle with coconut and garnish with sprigs of fresh mint.

Growing Peanuts in Minnesota

When my grandmother planted a row of peanuts here in Minnesota to appease my younger brothers, she wasn’t expecting a horticultural success. And it wasn’t, although they did manage to coax a few stunted specimens out of the ground. The real reward from that exercise was watching her grandkids fall in love with gardening.

Enjoying gardening, and having a willingness to try new foods go together. These are the markers of successful gardening with children, not necessarily filling your freezer or pantry for the coming winter. Have realistic goals and be aware that they will spill the seeds, they will ‘weed’ the wrong plants, and of course they will get dirty. Try not to take things too seriously– When working with kids, taking things too seriously almost guarantees failure. In spite of the mud and dirt, there are many good reasons for trying:

  1. Gardening is a fun way for families to spend time together outdoors, engaged in moderate physical activity. Everyone can help, everyone works together.
  2. Kids are far more likely to eat lettuce, green beans or tomatoes that they have planted, watered and nurtured themselves.
  3.  Children are not born with the patience or the ability to deal with long-term projects. Gardening is a good way to help them learn that some things take time.
  4. There is of course a nutritional value to growing even a small amount of your family’s food. Fruits and vegetables can be served at peak freshness and be as organically grown as you choose.
  5. There is a financial reward here as well. Write down the cost of one package of green bean seeds and then compare the amount you harvest with grocery store prices.

Those are the reasons why; here are some ‘how-to’ tips for novice gardeners:

If you are a first-time gardener, keep it small. You might even want to start out this year with a simple container garden. Plant crops in various containers that can be placed on your deck, or somewhere in your yard that receives six or more hours of direct sunlight daily.

Plants in containers will need to be checked for moisture, daily or twice-daily in hot weather. You don’t want to drown the plants either so make sure your containers come with drainage holes or add some yourself.

Starting seeds indoors– DON’T. Why? Unless you set up a light system, your seedlings will be tall and leggy and not survive the transition to the outside world, and if they do survive, they will be weak and unproductive. Plant seeds directly into your containers at the appropriate time. Here is the opportunity to really get your kids involved. Children love to plant seeds. So if they are messy and spill some of the smaller seeds, don’t worry, be happy. Buy extra seeds when working with kids. And be sure to let the kids make some choices, maybe even one wacky one (peanuts, remember?)

Harvesting is another garden chore that kids love to be a part of. Show them which veggies are kitchen-ready and let them help with the picking.

So having discussed why, and how, here are some thoughts on what plants you might want to try:

Tomatoes and sweet peppers (the red, orange and green varieties) n eed about one 5 gallon container per plant or try the new upside down containers. This is one crop where it is probably easier to go to a garden center and buy seedlings. Tomatoes and peppers are hot weather crops so make sure you put them out after danger of frost (after May 20th).  They are heavy feeders and like to be fertilized. Kids often prefer cherry or grape tomato varieties.

Lettuce is a cold weather crop and can go out quite early—even April depending on the weather patterns. Sow these tiny seeds in rows, in inexpensive rectangular tubs. Try a variety of lettuce types. Lettuce grows fairly quickly and you can reseed bare spots that you have already harvested.

Cool Beans! Green Beans are another kid-friendly crop. Decide if you want to plant bush beans or pole beans. The first kind is usually grown in rows that produce one heavy crop followed later by a second lighter one. But these can also be grown in containers. Pole beans need to grow up against a trellis, on so mething that their tendrils can grasp. Some people use straight narrow poles from garden centers or branches arranged in a ‘tee-pee’ then plant the beans around the outside perimeter. VOILA you have created a shady, green, outdoor play space for your little gardeners. Pole beans tend to produce small usable amounts of beans all season long.

If your family enjoys broccoli, rejoice. It is another easy-to-grow crop and usually produces enough to freeze a few bags for later consumption. Broccoli florets should be soaked in salt water before preparing them for the table or the freezer to remove pests.

Try zucchini, a notoriously easy and productive plant that will provide you, your friends and neighbors with an abundance of the versatile produce. You can find creative recipes such as one that substitutes zucchini for apples in apple crisp! Or layer slices of zucchini into your lasagna.

Go on, eat some flowers like nasturtiums. This plant’s young leaves add a spicy flavor to salads and their flowers are safe and edible. So are the flowers of Johnny-Jump-Ups, pansies and violets. Remember this is supposed to be fun for the kids and help them rethink foods. Speaking of flowers that can be used as a food, kids adore watching the progress of sunflowers as they rise up from seed-in-hand to towering giants. If you don’t want to toast the seeds for your family you can always serve them to grateful birds throughout the fall and winter.

Lastly, devote some time and space to flowers, even if they are not edible. Home grown vegetables feed the body, but flowers are food for the soul.



Better Guidelines for Better Nutrition: ChooseMyPlate.gov

Parents rarely fail to notice that their child is gaining too much weight; no parent is ever happy when it does happen. Identifying the problem is just the beginning, though, because it can be difficult to turn things around and help the child return to a healthier height/weight proportion.

In the last decade, the problem of obesity in our society has spread from adults to even very young children and has become a national epidemic. Doctors, nutritionists, and others involved in health care, in concert with government agencies, have constructed new and hopefully more effective visual aids and guidelines. In the early 1970s Sweden began using a food ‘pyramid’ to help people learn healthier eating habits. Other nations followed, including the United States. As new nutritional information became known, the pyramid was modified to reflect that data. With obesity at an all time high and health care costs keeping pace—new aids and new tactics have been developed.

Gone completely is the ‘pyramid’ analogy. It has been replaced with the simple, understandable image of a plate filled with the correct ratios of different food groups. Correct ratios? Who decides what is correct and how did they arrive at those figures? It turns out that food science is just that, a real science with hardcore data. There is data that quantifies optimum nutrition for human beings of all ages, calculates healthy height/weight ratios, and establishes how much we should consume from the different food groups.

So how does this image of a plate filled with four food groups help the average person with meal preparation? Well look: On the plate we see a slightly larger portion of vegetables and whole grains, followed by equal amounts of proteins and fruit. To the side, there is a small portion of dairy.  One has only to glance at that picture to get the idea of how a dinner plate ought to be loaded, as well as one for lunch and breakfast.

To see so many overweight people, you would think that we are over-nourished, but it is possible to be overweight and undernourished in essential proteins, vitamins and minerals. And in spite of having access to so much healthy food, our nation as a whole is becoming less healthy. Young people are developing not only type II Diabetes, but heart and lung disease. Worst of all, new research is beginning to show a relationship between overweight and cancer.

While your family is still young is the perfect time to make changes in your family’s eating habits. Check out the United States Department of Agriculture website: choosemyplate.gov.

The goal of the choosemyplate.gov program is:

  • to help people make healthier selections
  • to reduce portion size
  • to eat the food groups in proper ratios
  • to eat a wider variety of foods
  • and, of course, exercise more

The USDA website has so much usable, and excuse the pun, digestible information that it would be a shame not to make use of it.


When Mother Nature cranks up the heat folks in Minnesota and Wisconsin head for water. Whether it’s the lake, or beach, a pool, or even your own backyard, playing in water is one of the best ways to cool off and still be active. We are fortunate to have so many area lakes, pools and water parks to choose from; most of us are only minutes away from some kind of recreational water facility.

Because so much of our summer activity revolves around water PYAM pediatricians recommend swimming lessons for all children. Even if your child doesn’t master swimming in one session, he will still be taught basic water safety rules. That alone can save lives.

Here are the sobering facts: 3,000 drowning deaths annually in the United States; children aged four and under have the highest death rate from drowning; and lastly, drowning is the second leading cause of death for children aged five years to 24 years.

To protect children from drowning, there is one cardinal rule that must be followed every time your child is near water: NEVER LEAVE A CHILD ALONE NEAR WATER, NEVER.

When planning for parties and nights out, responsible adults designate sober drivers—so, when your kids are near water, designate an adult to stay focused on the children, even if there are lifeguards on duty. Take turns being ‘it’ and have frequent shift changes. The larger the group you are with, the more vigilant you need to be. With two or more families, it is easy for one child or toddler to wander off and be missed in the head count.

In addition to the Water Safety Rule #1, here are some other reminders that can help you and your kids have a happy and safe summer.

  • Buddy system—pair kids up and explain the importance of watching out for each other.
  • No running, pushing or shoving near pools.
  • Even kids who can swim need supervision.
  • When the weather is bad avoid the water
  • Use age-appropriate life jackets—small children need a device that will keep their heads above water
  • Floaties and inflated toys are not to be used in place of approved life-vests or other flotation devices.
  • Never dive into less than 9 feet of water. It the depth of the water is unknown, jump in feet first.

Remember that whenever people spend a lot of time in the sun, they need to rehydrate. Kids can get so wrapped up in the moment that they don’t want to stop for a drink. Make them, those little bodies dry out much faster than our adult models do.

Don’t forget that sunlight reflected off water accelerates burn times.

By all means bring snacks, but try to include some healthy selections. And just so you know, kids don’t need to wait an hour after eating before heading back into the water. There is not one documented drowning from swimming too soon after eating. Myth busted.

Turkey Wild Rice Salad

This recipe is a classic and if you have never tried it you should. It can be made with either turkey or chicken, red grapes or green and there is almost nothing you can do to make this recipe fail— guaranteed every time.

3 cups cooked wild rice (rinsed and drained)
3 cups cooked, cubed turkey/chicken
1⁄2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1⁄2 cup chopped celery
1-8 oz can sliced water chestnuts (rinsed and drained)
Halved, seedless grapes, green or red
2/3 cup cashews (optional)

Mix together and pour over salad 2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup milk
2 Tbls. lemon juice
1⁄4 tsp. dried, crumbled tarragon

The Rocket’s Red Glare

Firework displays are part of many summer activities including ball games, State Fairs, and of course the Fourth of July.

When watching professionally-run displays there is little  chance that you will be injured, but when dealing with fireworks at home both those setting off the fireworks and bystanders run the risk of mild to fatal injuries.

It is important to remember that fireworks are made with gun powder and do not always function in a predictable manner.  For example, firecrackers that explode sooner than expected or rockets that have a delayed explosion. Even sparklers which we tend to think of as harmless can ignite clothing, causing severe burns.

Please remember that fireworks can cause blindness, third degree burns, and permanent scars. Keep yourselves and your children from becoming one of the seven thousand people who suffer firework injuries each year.