Monday, February 19, 2007

Maven Says: Good Kids, Bad Habits

I was an overweight kid who has fought weight demons all my life. Trying to keep my kids from the same fate is constantly on my mind. So, as the Mom of two girls I've tried to be open with them about choices--healthy ones and not so healthy ones. Collins new book, Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge® Guide to Raising Healthy Children, by Jennifer Tratchenberg, M.D. seemed to be a way to measure how well I was doing.

Overall, I thought the book was a kinder, gentler version of the Discovery Health Channel's Show, Honey We're Killing the Kids! In the show, they start off by showing the parents a giant image of what the kids will look like as they grow into adulthood if they continue with their current habits. It is a bit scary, okay more than a bit! The book takes a much gentler track. In the beginning there is a quiz that covers 6 areas from nutrition and exercise to safety. Based on your scores in those areas and on the ages of your children you can focus on the parts of the book where you get the lowest scores (1-10 scale). This definitely makes the book easier to digest, knowing you don't have to change everything at once. At various points in the book it gives Real Age projections about what habits will make your children older or younger than their chronological age when they reach adulthood. The suggestion that you follow-up on your changes by re-taking the quiz every 90 days was a bit more work than I was planning.

Throughout the book "Dr. Jen" uses the 4I's--Identify, Inform, Instruct, Instill--to describe how to deal with various situations. Identify the issue, Inform your kids about it, Instruct them how to deal with it, and Instill the good habit. There are shaded boxes on nearly every page of the book giving additional facts or resources on the subject matter being discussed. The book also has charts, tables, and online resources at the end of each chapter--along with a reminder to check out I would like to have seen a few more well written True Parenting Stories as I thought they added a new voice to the book outside that of the pediatrician author.

While I have worried most about nutrition and exercise I was surprised to learn that one of the areas where we need the most work is safety. The reminder that accidents are the number one cause of death in kids 1-14 was a real wake up call. With Boobah being nearly three when we moved into our new house we didn't do as thorough a job as we should have child-proofing our new house. We will be putting in a new medicine cabinet, cabinet locks and re-fitting the girls' bike helmets.

I didn't learn anything new, but I don't know that there is "new" information on any of the areas. The easy to read and digest format had good examples of how to establish good habits--even if they aren't always fun. I would rather have a root canal than take my kids to the grocery store but I appreciated the suggestions for establishing healthy eating habits by letting kids go to the store and pick out new foods and learn to read labels.


  • Easy to read

  • Straight forward examples and strategies

  • Lots of charts, examples of forms, and web resources

  • Real Age predictions tie current behavior to future health

  • Break down of areas into age categories and highlighting the areas most applicable for each throughout the book (rattle, teddy bear and backpack symbols)

Not So Good

  • Oversimplified in some areas

  • The goofy "Up" theme to the chapters, Gear Up, Chin Up, Smarten Up...Give it up already

Recommend It?

Definitely suggested reading for parents who've made it through What to Expect When You're Expecting and What to Expect The First Year. The age appropriate break-downs also make it a handy guide for kids transitioning from toddler to preschooler and early elementary to late elementary school--can be consulted again for each age group. A good common sense guide for understanding how what kids learn today sticks with them for the long run.


Katrina said...

Thank you for this book review. I also worry that I am passing on my bad habits to my kids. I recently borrowed "Dr. Sear's Lean kids" from the library but have not had a chance to read it yet.

I think I will look for this one as well.

Mayberry said...

That's a great comparison with the Discovery show. Never thought of it that way but you are totally right.

(Also, "give it up" -- ha! totally right about that too.)

PeppermintDani said...

Hi Heather,

Just wanted to say a big 'Thank You' for reviewing the book for us!

If your readers are interested (as I posted on Mayberry's blog as well), I have a free 'Preview' of the book that I'd be happy to send anybody who is interested in checking it out. Just send me an email at dbaldwin at realageinc dot com and I'll send it over.

Anyway, thanks again for taking the time and happy blogging! (boy am I corny...)
-Danielle Baldwin
RealAge Parenting Center

greeblemonkey said...

Thanks for the suggestion, I will check it out!

mothergoosemouse said...

Great review!! Thanks for reading and writing it up.