JJ Levenstein, MD
Dr. Levenstein is a mom of one son in college, a pediatrician in private practice in Southern California who serves on the clinical staff of two hospitals, and co-founder of Baby Silk, the first personal care line for babies developed by pediatrician-moms
How many children do you have? I have one son; he’s in college.
What’s your specialty? I’m a board-certified pediatrician.
What’s your favorite parenting tip? Be the parent—not your child’s best friend. You have to be able to say “no,” and you don’t always have to qualify that no. Sometimes it’s “just because I said so.
What has surprised you most about parenting? In general, it’s easy if you and your partner agree on how to raise your child and stay on the same page. Of course, your child’s temperament and needs may change that plan, somewhat, but we have always been aligned together and created reasonable but firm boundaries for our son. Kids really need to know their limits, and Max knew his. He’s grown into a respectful, ethical and good kid, as a result.
How do you get your kids to eat healthy food? I gave Max a wide variety of table foods during his first year, and I didn’t spare too much in the way of seasoning and variety. It was apparent he had a great palate from the beginning.
As he got a little older, and a little more finicky, I had to get creative. We grew a number of veggies in pots on our deck, and since he “owned” the responsibility of watering them and picking them, he also was invested in eating them.
I brought him into the kitchen very early to assist me. We learned fractions by measuring and adjusting recipes, and he was more apt to eat something he had a hand preparing. As we traveled with him, we tried to avoid the “child” plate and share our bites with him. As a voraciously hungry adolescent, there was never a problem getting him to try new foods, and to this day he remains an adventurous eater.
How do you work exercise into your family’s life? Max’s dad is very physically active in his job, so he stays in shape naturally. Max started karate at three, and he was a green belt by seven. As his maturity level was too young to proceed to higher belts, he switched to roller hockey and played until high school. We encouraged him to ride his bike to school at least half the time. Once we got our first dog during middle school, walks with Tobey were a family affair. In high school, he was in marching band all four years, so his exercise was built in. Now at the University of Michigan, he walks several miles a day and actually dropped weight his freshman year.
How do you recharge your batteries? I cook, get a massage now and then, participate in a book club monthly, and just chill on the weekends. I’d rather have friends over and cook than go out. For me it’s the best form of therapy.