Tips to Be a Better Dad
Go Rock Climbing
Sometimes the simplest idea is the best one, and an undemanding day climb remains one of the easiest and most convenient ways to spend an afternoon with your kids. For very young children -- or until the weather improves -- consider starting out on a climbing wall at a local gym or outdoor retailer. Most offer introductory lessons, along with harness and climbing shoe rentals.
Online retailers like Three Ball Climbing (threeballclimbing.com) and TO THE TOP (tothetopwalls.com) offer smaller, less-intimidating walls that you can install at home to practice and help build confidence.
"Kids are natural climbers," says Margaret Wheeler, President of the American Mountain Guides Association. "That's what they do before you ever tie them into a rope. Kids get scared going up high, though, so keep it fun and lighthearted and they'll usually ask to go up again."
On the first attempt, let your kid climb just above the ground, then ask them to lean back and test the rope. "That way," Wheeler says, "they'll know the rope can hold them if they lose their grip." You can also start on smaller cliffs -- they'll have an easier time reaching the top, and will be more inclined to graduate to a bigger challenge.
When buying gear, look for a top-quality brand like Camp (camp-usa.com) or Petzl (petzl.com). Both sell kids' climbing helmets, rock shoes, and children's harnesses. Look for well-trained mentors. "A single-pitch instructor is the one that's nationally recognized," Wheeler says. "People who've gone through that will know exactly how to help out a kid who's stuck or scared."
More from Men's Health: 5 Tips To Raise A Healthy Kid
Go Instrument Shopping
Schools with a strong musical program may give students an academic edge, Long Island University researchers say. They found that second-graders taking twice-weekly piano lessons at school performed significantly better on vocabulary tasks than those who didn't play a note. "The piano students improved their listening skills with music, and that may have helped them hear and store vocabulary words more efficiently for future use," says study author Joseph Piro, Ph.D. While private lessons should do the trick, Piro believes that children may be more eager to learn an instrument if the instruction occurs in a group setting, such as in a class or at school.
More from Men's Health: Why Music Makes Kids Smarter
Make a Healthy Grilled Cheese
"All children love grilled cheese sandwiches, and my kids especially love this version," says Wolfgang Puck, owner of more than 100 restaurants worldwide. "And so do I."
This recipe's a favorite with all four of Puck's sons, who range in age from 2 to 19.
What you'll need:
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
- 4 slices sourdough or whole-wheat bread, cut 1/3-inch thick
- 6 thin slices Fontina cheese (or Swiss or mozzarella)
- 4 fresh basil leaves
- 2 slices prosciutto
- 1 large organic Roma tomato, cut into 8 slices
How to make it:
- Preheat panini maker, double-sided indoor grill, or cast-iron skillet set to medium heat.
- Mix together mustard and mayonnaise. Brush one side of each slice of bread with mixture. On plain side, stack 2 slices cheese, 2 basil leaves, 1 slice prosciutto, and tomato slices. Sprinkle tomato with freshly ground black pepper. Layer on remaining cheese and top with remaining bread slice, mayo side facing outward.
- Cook sandwiches side by side in panini maker or indoor grill, about 3 to 4 minutes, or until cheese has melted and bread is brown and crispy. If you're using a skillet, place a heavy pan on top of sandwich to weigh it down. Cut sandwiches diagonally. Serves 2.
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By now your average teen is probably more interested mimicking the aerial theatrics of Sean White than actually mastering the basics. Help them play catchup by enrolling in a beginners' snowboarding class. Many ski lodges (such as those owned by Vail Resorts) now offer them. While you can rent the snowboards and pads, you'll also want to pack a thick pair of thermal underwear, a heavy fleece and jacket, and multiple pairs of socks. Look for brands like Burton , Under Armour , and DC . Shops like dogfunk and The House sell everything you need. Don't neglect goggles, either -- few things will halt your progress faster than a face full of powder. A good pair of Oakleys will run you about $90.
When you're ready to get onboard, check ahead to get a read on the recent snowfall. Most snowboarders consider powder -- a light, untouched layer of freshly fallen snow -- to be the ultimate surface, but crud (when the powder gets packed) and crust (when the top layer hardens) are acceptable, and sometimes even preferred, when starting out. First-timers should stick with slopes marked by green circles (elementary) and blue squares (intermediate). Those black diamonds may look enticing, but keep away until you've at least comfortably navigated an intermediate challenge.
More from Men's Health: Connect with Your Teenage Son
Start Reading Food Labels -- With Your Kids
"Contrary to popular belief, kids can learn to make wise food choices," says David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of public health at Yale University and a father of five. "Make it easier by having a wide variety of foods available, but only the healthiest options in each category."
Example: They can pick whatever drink they want, as long as it doesn't contain high-fructose corn syrup or exceed 100 calories per serving. Another trick: Steal a page from Eat This, Not That! For Kids and use visual comparisons to demonstrate how much sugar or salt is in their favorite foods. If you show them the three teaspoons of sugar in each bowl of Froot Loops, they'll think twice.
More from Men's Health: Eat This, Not That! For Kids
As kids struggle to form identities in our sometimes violent, often materialistic, always tech-obsessed world, they can become more self-centered and less sympathetic. "You'll never turn your son or daughter back into the wide-eyed child they were just a few years ago," says C. Andrew Ramsey, M. D., an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. "But you can chip away at their cynicism by calling them to action." Hal Edward Runkel, family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting, brought his young son to traffic court with him so the boy could see accountability in action. Likewise, Ramsey says, the simple act of volunteering for a day can pay dividends. Kids will see they can make a difference, and they'll be inspired by other people out there doing it every day.
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Focus Your Kid's Energy
Maybe you don't want a hat-trick-scoring, scholarship-winning, oboe-playing phenom of a child, but our competitive society makes them think otherwise. This explains why so many kids have trouble focusing, says Ramsey. Make sure your kids understand your expectations. Explain that developing skills is about mastery. "Whether your child's role model is Tom Brady or Beyoncé, let them know they ascended to lofty heights because they mastered one skill," Ramsey says. "Learn to go through one door and many others will open for you; try to go through five doors at once and you'll go nowhere."
More from Men's Health: How to Teach Your Kid Anything
Keep Them in the Game
If you want your kids to stick with things, let them quit, Runkel says. "Just make sure they taste the full pain of quitting." When Runkel's son was 8, he wanted to quit baseball. Runkel told him, "Sure, but you have to tell your teammates and coach." The boy couldn't do it. He's played seven seasons now. This works with schoolwork, too: "If your kid wants to give up because a project is too hard, say, 'OK. Tell your teacher you quit and you'll take whatever grade is appropriate.' Trust me, they'll stick it out."
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Stay Out of It
Unless one of your kids is dangling the other out the window, don't say a word. You're not listening to only one side, and you're not acting as moderator. "As soon as you become involved, they're no longer interested in finding a solution; they're interested in getting you on their side," says Anthony Wolf, a child psychologist and author of Mom, Jason's Breathing on Me! The Solution to Sibling Bickering. If they keep pestering you, tell them that if you step in it'll be a problem for both of them. Stick with your rigid neutrality, and they'll learn that pleading their case is fruitless. More important, they'll learn to compromise quickly.
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Prepare For Emergencies
You've already taught them what 911 is, where the fire extinguishers are, and the fire escape plan, right? That's the easy stuff. The tricky part is teaching them calm, Runkel says. "In a crowd, tell them to look for people they can trust -- the calm and present authority figures. Follow their commands. Avoid panic and people who are panicking." The best time to talk about emergencies, Runkel says, is during dinner. "Asking kids around the dinner table in a mature tone makes them feel more grown-up. And you want a grown-up level of responsiveness from them during an emergency."
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