Are You a Free-Range Parent?

Would you let your 9-year-old ride the New York City subway alone?

In 2008 Lenore Skenazy did. After writing a column about leaving her son in Bloomingdale’s with a subway map, a MetroCard, and a $20 bill, she was labeled “America’s worst mom” by national media outlets across the political spectrum including the Today show, MSNBC, Fox News and NPR. The boy made it home without incident.

I almost know the feeling. When my 7 year-old ran ahead of me to board a Prague metro train, I questioned what he would have done if we had in fact been separated. He explained, “take the metro to Anděl, transfer to the 6 tram, get off at Kavalirka, and walk two blocks.” He had no money. He didn’t speak the local language. Yet he knew exactly what to do after just a few days in town. (Of course, I would have been worried sick!)

Across the country, parents have been arrested, investigated, and even lost custody for simply letting their kids play unsupervised for brief periods of time — even in their own front yards. According to Skenazy, many Americans perceive little difference between letting their kids walk to school and letting them walk through a firing range. Any risk is seen as too much risk. She ultimately launched the free-range parenting movement to promote building problem solving and self reliance skills. If we do not let our children explore and discover boundaries on their own, we can limit their ability to grow and function as they get older.

Last month, Utah became first state to pass a “free-range parenting law” which changes the definition of neglect so that a parent can no longer be arrested for a crime as simple as letting their child play at the park, walk to school, or run an errand. The law permits mature kids with good judgment to do things alone.

As parents we sell our kids short when we over-protect. A child who thinks he can’t do anything on his own eventually can’t.

Our kids are capable of amazing things. For this week’s Walk the Walk consider taking some small steps toward independence.

• Is your child ready to go to the restroom alone at a restaurant?
• Is your child ready to walk to a neighbor’s house without an escort?
• Is your child ready to stay home alone while you run an errand?
• Are YOU ready to to loosen the reins a bit?

As always, encourage your family to Walk the Walk — one step at a time.

Until Next Time,
chick*u*do, co-founder

Are You a Responsible Digital Citizen?

Lately I’ve been having a lot of conversations about what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. From hardcover books to articles published by the New York Times, you’ve probably noticed at least some of the ink given to the topic.

Statistics about Generation Z are alarming, especially the fact that overall measures of happiness are plummeting. A 2016 survey from Common Sense Media found that 78% of teens check their devices at least hourly. This obsessive behavior disturbs daily activities, creating patterns similar to substance abuse.

But when should adult media habits enter the discussion? We are all guilty of minor offenses like checking a quick work email while listening to a story about playground drama on up to major infractions like texting at a stop light — or even while operating a moving vehicle.

The old adage “do as I say, not as I do” is not going to cut it. Like it or not, you are your child’s number one role model when it comes to technology. Nothing will change until we acknowledge our personal struggles to tame the 24-7 stream of news, work, and entertainment. We are always connected.

At chick*u*do, we are developing a mobile manifesto to accompany our new parent-child technology contracts for smartphones and tablets. Here’s what we’ve written so far:

We declare that mobile devices no longer own us. Our children are more important than (time-sucking) social media feeds. Our spouses deserve more attention than (fake) news. And our pets are far more entertaining than (most) YouTube cat videos.

We are done stressing about internet speed. Moving forward our focus will be connecting in person with family and friends, and we will fight the urge to live inside our smartphones. Standing strong against FOMO, we choose to lay down our devices and live in the moment.

What do you think? Would you be willing to commit to any or all of the following restrictions?

• Making first 10 minutes and last 30 minutes of every day device-free.
• Refusing to text/email while driving, even at stop lights.
• Calling people on special occasions instead of sending a quick text or social media post.
• Silencing devices while socializing with other human beings.
• Leaving home without a device for a minimum of 20 minutes each week.

Join us on Facebook to brainstorm ideas for our manifesto. We can’t wait to hear what’s on your mind!

Until Next Time,
chick*u*do, co-founder

Is Smartphone Addiction a Thing?

The Case for Technology Rules

Mobile phones are everywhere these days, flooding our lives with both the literal beeps and figurative noise of a 24-hour news cycle and social media feed. The relentless pull of digital distractions can be particularly difficult for young people with less developed impulse control than adults.

Recent headlines reflect growing unease about young people’s ubiquitous access to mobile technology. In January alone, Apple investors publicly urged the company to develop additional monitoring tools and the New York Times raised the issue of phone “addiction.”

According to an American Psychological Association (APA) survey of over 3,500 U.S. parents, 58% say they worry about the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health, 48% say that regulating their child’s screen time is a “constant battle,” and 58% say they feel like their child is “attached” to their phone or tablet.

Parents have reason to be concerned. Current research shows that the average American receives his or her first phone at age 10 and spends over 4.5 hours a day on the device. A 2016 survey from Common Sense Media found that half of teenagers felt addicted to their devices, and 78% checked their devices at least hourly. Such obsessive behavior disturbs daily activities, creating patterns similar to substance abuse.

Teens who engage in limited cell phone use (up to 1 hour a day) report being happier than teens with either unlimited access or complete restriction. If you want to help establish good habits and prevent dependency, try the following:

Set Expectations
Start with a discussion about smartphone etiquette and sticky situations. Encourage mindful device usage, avoiding urges to check a device when sitting face-to-face with friends or family. Our decorative parent/child mobile phone agreements are designed to guide an initial conversation and serve as a regular reminder of the responsibilities that come with smartphone privileges.

Monitor Use
Studies show that people significantly underestimate the amount of time they spend on screens. Apps like Moment track overall usage with a breakdown of time spent on individual apps. Using algorithms detect issues like cyberbullying, sexting, and depression, Bark helps protect children online without compromising their privacy. Screenagers and Savvy Cyber Kids provide amazing resources for parents concerned about screen time.

Take Breaks
Simply removing smartphones from the bedroom at night can make a huge difference in quality of sleep, self esteem, and overall health. If kids resist, try apps like OurPact to disable specific apps during set hours.

Model Behavior
Of course we parents are struggling with the same addictive behaviors as our children. Remember, kids are watching — and following — our lead. How will you curb your own bad habits in the coming weeks?

Until Next Time,
chick*u*do, co-founder

Defining “Kindependence”

Do you find yourself asking difficult questions at the end of the year? And setting (sometimes unattainable) goals to change the whole world order every January?

At chick*u*do, we spent the majority of 2017 discussing the concept of “kindependence.” To be successful in life, every child needs to practice being independent — with a dash of kindness added to the mix. And the secret to achieving this goal? We parents need to step back and practice letting our children be independent. 

According to author Michael Thompson, “Independence is like high jumping: You have to run and jump and sometimes fail, and then put the bar back up and run and jump again. As a parent, you’ll wince when your kids hit that bar, but you can’t jump for them.”

The ultimate job for every parent is to raise kids that are prepared to leave home, and it’s never too soon to start teaching your little ones life skills. January is a great time to create new habits for you and your family.

For this week’s Walk the Walk, start a conversation with your children about kindependence.

• Write the term kindependence on a piece a paper.
• Ask your kids to interpret the word.
• Explain what the word means to you as a parent.
• As a family, write a definition of kindependence.

• Post your final draft in a family space for reference.

Point to the definition when you assign new chores or your kids react negatively to existing assignments. Give your kids one new task in January, be it packing lunch (with u*do*lunch!) or tackling their own laundry. As always, encourage them to Walk the Walk — one step at a time.

Until Next Time,

chick*u*do, co-founder

The Green Kitchen Gift Guide

With the new year approaching, it’s a great time to make a family resolution to reduce household waste. The following items will make great stocking stuffers for family and friends.

Mesh Produce Bags
By now, we’ve all seen — and hopefully used — reusable grocery bags, but think about how much additional plastic your family wastes packing up produce at the grocery store. These BPA-free mesh bags come in many sizes and are easy to clean using the gentle cycle (air dry). You can also use them to purchase bulk items like nuts and rice.

Beeswax Wrap
Did you know there is a natural alternative to plastic wrap for food storage? Made from cotton fabric coated in beeswax, this wrap is reusable, economical and environmentally-friendly. Order online or make your own!

Fabric Sandwich Bags
There are loads of washable sandwich/snack bags on the market today. Look for food safe fabrics that are phthalate, lead, BPA, and PVC free. They are perfect packing sliced fruit, sandwiches, and dry snacks in school lunches. Encourage buy-in by letting your kids pick their favorite patterns and designs.

Travel Cutlery Set
This stainless steel flatware comes with a carrying case for school lunch, travel, camping, or even take out. Don’t need chopsticks on the go? Replace them with your favorite reusable straw.

Reusable K-Cup Filters
If you love the ease of Keurig coffee, cut waste with reusable K-Cup filters. These stainless steel micro mesh filters also allow you to make your own gourmet ground coffee in a Keurig brewer.

Be sure to discuss why you are making changes at home with your family. Ask your kids

• How well do these new products work for you?
• What kind of reusable lunch items are your friends bringing to school?
• Do you have any ideas about how we can reduce waste in 2018?

Take the conversation a step further by writing online reviews of the products you bring into your home. As always, encourage your kids to Walk the Walk — one step at a time.

Until Next Time,
chick*u*do, co-founder

Weekday Lunch Hacks

Giving Back

As the holiday season approaches, many parents face the annual question of “how much is too much?” From sweets treats to gifts galore, American families face a slippery slope towards spoiling our next generation.

Encourage gratitude in your family’s attitude this holiday season by blocking off some time to give back. No matter what your age, volunteering in your community has untold benefits. You not only get to help others but also get to have fun, meet new people, and try new activities.

A positive volunteer experience offers kids an energizing escape from the pressure they face at school and home. Research shows youth who volunteer feel more connected to their community, adapt better to unfamiliar social situations, have better social skills, and are less likely to engage in risky behavior.

A commitment to giving back is one of the most precious gifts you can give your kids. Talk to your kids today about how they would like to give back. Make a plan, and give reluctant children an opportunity to invite a friend along for the ride.

Seeing Environmental Problems — and Solutions

This morning I stumbled upon our family copy of 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12. I’m sad to report that this little gem appears to be out of print, but flipping through the book reminded me about the power of experiential learning.

If you want to encourage your kids to become good stewards of planet Earth, make a plan to visit these four locations.

The average American generates about 4.5 pounds of trash per day. The majority of our waste is buried in landfills, a huge source of methane and groundwater/soil contamination. Your local landfill is far from the prettiest place on Earth, but the smells alone will encourage your kids to re-double their recycling efforts.

Recycling Center
Recycling creates a closed-loop system where unwanted materials are returned to manufacturers for use in new products. It not only saves resources but also prevents pollution, supports public health, and creates jobs. Nearly 90% of what we throw away could potentially be recovered through reuse, recycling or composting.

Center for Hard to Recycle Materials
If you live in a place with a permanent drop-off facility for household hazardous waste, consider yourself lucky. In Atlanta, CHaRM provides educational sessions about the importance of proper disposal of hard to recycle materials. Each year the organization diverts thousands of pounds of items from Metro-Atlanta landfills and water systems.

Water Treatment Plant
The science and engineering required to deliver potable water is truly amazing. Seeing this effort first hand will encourage the whole family to conserve water and reduce pollution. In Atlanta, Hemphill Water Treatment Plant is generally open for tours once or twice a year.

Don’t under estimate the power experiential learning. Make Google your friend on this mission — you needn’t travel far to drive home a serious environmental message.

The Last Straw

Every piece of plastic ever made is still on this planet in some form. Since we know that single use plastic is filling our landfills and clogging our oceans, it’s time to start considering the long-term impact of our behaviors — and teaching our kids to do the same. Giving up plastic completely is daunting so start small by saying no to plastic straws.
Step 1
Take the “OneLessStraw Pledge.” This nonprofit organization was founded by two kids on a mission to cut plastic straw usage worldwide. You get to choose how much to donate for every plastic straw used — or accepted — during the next 30 days. The bigger the number, the easier it will be to break your straw addiction.
Step 2
Do the change by saying ‘no’ to straws. Many servers are trained to automatically give you a straw with your drink. Get in the habit of asking for your drink without a straw when you order.
Step 3
If you simply can’t live without a straw, hop online to order a set of reusable stainless steel straws. These durable straws are easy to clean with a scrub brush and are dishwasher friendly. If you prefer a straw suitable for hot liquids or ones which do not have a metallic taste, consider glass straws. Either way, be sure to keep a stash of reusable straws in your car or purse for use on the go.
Step 4
Let your family to become part of the solution. If your kids are inspired (and they will be), encourage them to spread the word about the OneLessStraw Pledge.
Banana Dog

Hacking It: Simplifying Lunch

Regardless of whether your family uses our u*do*lunch product, weekday lunches do not need to be complicated. Here are some quick and easy suggestions to simplify the process:

  1. Get creative.
    Your child wants a vegetable or fruit, yet you find that the majority of what you buy spoils before you finish it? Who says that the produce needs to be fresh? Today’s frozen produce options come packed with almost the same nutritional value as fresh (and in some instances, even more if picked ripe and in season). It’s a great idea to keep frozen vegetables and fruits in your house! This way, your kids can pack these as part of lunch the night before and only use what is needed for lunch. It’s a win-win in your house = kids get what they want and you reduce waste (for more on waste, see last week’s blog)!
  2. Be flexible.
    If you want your kids to try new foods, allow them to try them in a variety of ways. Yes, we realize that several of our vegetables in u*do*lunch are a little loose (potatoes are usually more of a starch, as are corn muffins). You want your kids to try olives? Why not start with olive bread? Set rules so that your child isn’t constantly picking the starch option as the vegetable. And use this time to explain both variety and nutritional values. Even if you don’t think he/she is listening, we bet you’re wrong (and hey, isn’t it worth being wrong here?).
  3. Have fun!
    Your kids watch everything you do. Have fun with the process and your kids will pick up on it. Does your kid like nut butter (or sunbutter) but is tired of sandwiches? We don’t blame them! Try something slightly different — like a banana dog! Spread nut butter on a bun, and pack an unpeeled banana (so it doesn’t turn brown). You kid can assemble their own banana dog at lunch.

Want to learn more ways to optimize u*do*lunch? Join us for a workshop the evening of Sunday, November 12 at the Center for Love and Light. It’s FREE with every purchase of u*do*lunch kit. Enter promo code “workshop” at check-out, and we will provide your kit that night! Click here for more information and to register today! Spots are limited.