Deborah Gilboa, MD
Dr. Gilboa is a mom of 11-, 9-, 7-, and 5-year-old sons, a family physician with Squirrel Hill Health Center in Pittsburgh, PA, and a parenting speaker whose advice is found at AskDoctorG.com.
What’s your favorite parenting tip? Tell your kids the truth even when it’s hard. Sometimes that’s the truth that they can handle developmentally. But the key is don’t lie. It will come back to bite you.
What surprised you most about parenting? I’m an only child, and I’ve been very surprised by the power of sibling relationships. I always wanted to have siblings, and I’m amazed at the strengh of the sample of your sibling, both those close in age and older. So often the behavior of my oldest sets the tone for all the kids in my family.
How do you get your kids to eat healthy food? I always keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter, and my sons can eat fruit anytime they want. Also, I have “free” snack drawer stocked with healthy snacks that they can eat anytime, such as apple crisps and other single-ingredient snacks.
My sons are only allowed to eat these snacks sitting at the kitchen table. Wandering around snacking is not a good idea! First, it’s a choking hazard. Second it makes a mess. Third it encourages a bad habit. If you need to eat, you should sit down and enjoy it.
I don’t worry about healthy snacks “ruining” someone’s dinner. I’d rather have my kids eat a healthy snack before dinner than be cranky and hungry.
How do you work exercise into your family’s life? There’s no lack of activity in my house, so working in exercise isn’t something I’ve had to worry about.
My kids get a limited amount of screen time each day. But because you can watch TV while you exercise, if they’re exercising, they can “buy” extra TV time.
How do you recharge your batteries? I love to read historical and romantic fiction. I try to read each night in the bathroom while my sons are in the tub. They love to play in the tub; they’ll stay there until their skin looks like prunes. I also read for 15 minutes while I eat lunch.
My husband and I have cultivated a good stable of college-age babysitters. When you have four boys, you need a college age sitter! We live in a college town, and we have some sitter who go to the college and other sitters who live here and come home on break. So we’re covered year round.
We have a lot of male babysitters, which works out well with our boys. We generally ask them to find their own way here, but we drive them home, certainly after dark. My husband and I go out alone once or twice a month.
The University of Pittsburgh’s Jewish University Group held a speed-sitting session for families. It’s like speed dating, only you get to meet potential babysitters. We’ve also placed ads for babysitters in the university’s paper.
To test out potential sitters, I have them come over one night at bedtime. This way I show them our bedtime routine, and I also get to evaluate how they are with my kids.
To communicate with the babysitters, I text rather than call. I find that they’ll respond to a text more quickly than a voicemail.