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The Trick to Getting Kids to Talk About Their Day? Hugs.

Fatherly's resident family and parenting expert answers questions about mansplaining, plastics and getting a kid to talk about their day.

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Fatherly,

I’ve been hearing a lot more reports about plastic being bad for kids. I don’t get it, really. My parents used a ton of plastic stuff when I was growing up and I turned out fine. Isn’t this fake news or something? Am I really harming my 3-year-old by warming up their oatmeal in a plastic bowl?

Alec,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Hey, Alec. I truly appreciate your skepticism. Too many people just swallow the health stories they read and end up living stressed-out, panicked lives. So good on you for exploring a bit more. That said, there are problems with kids and plastics that I hope you’ll take to heart.

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The reason you’ve likely heard about plastic and kids recently is that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a statement on “indirect” additives in food manufacturing. By that, they mean the chemicals that are involved in the manufacturing of food packaging.

What does the packaging have to do with the food? Well, here’s the thing: when the packaging is heated, it can release chemicals into the food the packaging contains. The worst of these are BPA and phthalates due to the way the body responds to them.

BPA is an estrogen mimic and has been linked to early puberty, increased body fat and decreased fertility. It’s not for nothing that BPA is banned in the use of baby bottles and sippy cups. The use of certain phthalates in products like teethers was banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission just last year. The reason? Because they have been linked to problems with male genital development, cardiovascular disease, and childhood obesity.

And you may say you turned out alright, but many of these plastics are relatively new to food production and science takes time. It’s possible that suspected links will become firmer links as more studies are conducted. The whole situation is pretty illustrative of that old saying: “Better safe than sorry.”

The thing is that there are risks here for your kid. So, honestly, why not use something that’s not plastic to heat up that oatmeal? There are other options out there. Many of them are microwave safe and remain pretty dang unbreakable.

Thanks for seeking an answer, Alec. And keep on questioning.

 

Fatherly,

So the other day I thought I was answering my wife’s question about politics and she said I was mansplaining. What the hell is mansplaining? She seemed pretty angry about it. So how can I not do it again?

William
Topeka, Kansas

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Here’s a hot, quick-tip for you, William. If you ever hear yourself utter the words, “Well, actually … “ to a woman, you are likely on the verge of a mansplaining, essentially the act of ignoring a woman’s knowledge on the subject in favor of your own. But while it’s great to be aware of that phrase and stop yourself in your tracks, the definition of mansplaining can use a little more nuance. Let’s break it down.

While the word “mansplaining” is fairly new, women have been experiencing the phenomenon for years. It occurs any time a man interrupts a woman to offer his expertise on the a subject. This is particularly annoying when the man is uninformed and knows less about the subject than the woman. The term itself was widely used by feminist writers and thinkers before it hit the mainstream where it was widely adopted as a way to call dudes out for being pedantic jerks.

Now, am I saying that is what you were doing when your wife accused you of mansplaining? Nope. I wasn’t there and I’m not dumb enough to take anyone’s side. However, if she was “pretty angry” at you, then you might want to take a step back, consider the idea of mansplaining and take an honest look at the conversation.

Look, as men, we were raised to feel that we were the natural born leaders of the world. That’s a pretty heady story to have heard most our lives. Unfortunately, the story was also wrong. Still, we built habits, sometimes annoyingly aggressive and thoughtless habits, based on that story. We don’t even stop to consider that we know less than the woman we’re talking to. It’s a subconscious habit, but that doesn’t make it forgivable.

Here the thing: Now that you know what mansplaining is, you need to try and stop doing it. Not only with your wife, but also other women who likely won’t confront you. It’s simply the decent thing to do. And I have faith in you, William. I really do. Because you cared enough to ask this question and that’s the first step to making a change.

 

Fatherly,

My daughter just started second grade this week and but when I ask her how school is, she’s already shutting down. How do I get her to talk about her day without resorting to bribing her with treats?

Cesar
Salt Lake City, Utah

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Who told you bribery with treats was a bad thing, Cesar? She’s not a government official. You’re not going to go to jail if you get information from her by slipping her a crisp cookie on the down low. But, sure. I get it. Sugar isn’t the best for kids. So, you’ll need other methods. I got you.

The key to having a child that talks about their day is to model the behavior yourself. What does that mean? Talk about your own day. That doesn’t mean you tell her everything. You’re not going to gripe about your boss or co-workers or anything. Keep it simple. Bring it down to a second graders level. Use emotional language. Talk about what aspects of the day made you happy or sad. What made you smile and laugh? These are things that kids can understand as long as the subject matter isn’t beyond them. Talk about lunch, or friends, or the weather. It won’t take too terribly long before your daughter understands that talking about the day is something people do.

When you do start to ask your daughter about her day, it’s important not to badger her. The pressure could make her even quieter. Instead, consider the fact that your kid has been disconnected from you all day. She’s been in a crazy, fast-paced environment and needs to get grounded. So, start out with a hug and some calm body language. Maybe engage in some quite play to help the reconnection along. This will help both of you collect yourselves.

While your daughter is physically close, take some time and make some observations about her. This will provide a good way into the conversation. If she has marker on her fingers, for instance, you can say: “Hey, I noticed marker on your fingers, I wonder if you were drawing today.” These kinds of concrete observations are better than making assumptions about how your daughter is feeling because you might get it wrong which can be a bit alienating.

When she does open up, make sure she knows how stoked you are about it. Using emotion words. Will help. Let her know it makes you happy, or proud or even excited when she talks to you about her day.

And then give her some candy.