For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two questions from readers. First, does “better rest” exist? I think it does, and I give the two “types” of rest I find to be the most effective. Second, a parent writes in with two common issues—pickiness at the dinner table and an obsession with tablets. What can a parent do to deal with a kid who only wants pasta and rice? And how to handle tablet obsession?

Let’s go:

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Michael asked:

Great article Mark. Are there forms of rest that are “better” than others?

Certainly. Whenever I’m “resting,” I keep two concepts in mind.

Active rest: If you’re of sufficient fitness, as I think most of my longtime readers are by now, you should be able to stay active on your off days. Taking walks, going for hikes, playing with your kids, doing yard work, and other low-intensity activities that require physical movement should all be fair game, even after a hard training day. Or especially. I find the best way to recover from a grueling case of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is to go for a long walk and get the blood flowing and the limbs moving.

Mental stimulation: Rest your body but keep your mind active. Use the downtime to dig into that backlog of books you’ve been accumulating. Try some writing, if only to get your thoughts down in tangible space.

Brionte asked:

I want more on parenting primally. Despite my best attempts, it seems my kid only wants to eat rice and pasta these days. We started her on lots of fruits and vegetables but she seems to have lost her taste for them. Maybe it’s a stage? Also, we got her a tablet and she’s glued to the thing. We have to hide it! I’m worried about her generation.

There’s more parenting posts coming down the pike, but let’s address your two main concerns.

Pickiness is definitely a stage. Don’t make it more than it is: annoying as hell, but something parents have been dealing with for centuries.

You can work with her cravings, but make the foods they promote more nutritious.

  • Slip ground meat and veggies in with the rice and pasta.
  • Make stir fries with rice and other, healthier stuff. Gradually adjust the rice:other stuff ratio.
  • Egg yolks blend seamlessly into pasta sauces.
  • Make rice with rich bone broth instead of water.
  • Pasta and rice can be made more nutrient dense. Think meat sauce and cacio e pepe instead of plain butter pasta. Think risotto instead of steamed rice.

Sometimes getting the kid involved in cooking makes them interested in eating the food. And I don’t just mean “picking out produce at the grocery store.” I mean, get a step stool, hand the kid a spatula, and let her stir the hot food cooking in the hot pan over the hot burner. This may take incredible patience (and maybe a little courage) on your part. Yes, she’ll spill food all over the place. Yes, she may touch something hot or fling sizzling rice onto your work clothes.

The hardest thing about parenting is to trust the child—and accept the fallout. A little momentary pain (or mess, or tears because hot stoves are hot) is worth the long-term rewards of having a kid who knows their way around a kitchen and actually agrees to eat food.

As for the tablet, get rid of it. I know, I know. It’s the 21st century. Technology is the future. I don’t disagree with that. Technology is what makes humans human, from stone axes to wheels to smartphones. It’s great stuff. And it’s here to stay. Get on the bus or get left behind.

Your four-year-old isn’t going to fall behind all the other kids because she’s running around outside, doing somersaults, learning to swim, climbing trees, reading books, finding bugs, scraping her knees, drawing and coloring instead of staring at a screen for several hours a day. Many parents have the illusion that plopping their kids in front of an iPad will magically produce the next Zuckerberg. That’s not how it works.

The Silicon Valley demigods didn’t grow up with smartphones and screens. They didn’t have an iPhone in the nursery. They certainly had access to technology, but it was rougher around the edges. Less curated and user-friendly. They paid their dues in suboptimal middle school computer labs, endured ridicule and bullying. They created social networks in dorm rooms, not whittled away their free time taking the perfect selfie. And as grownups, many of the biggest names actively prevent their children from using the technology they’ve foisted on us. In the past year, many of the people who engineered the addictiveness of social media have warned against their own creations.

Having access to this tech from infancy onward is a huge and unprecedented experiment. It’s never been tried. Maybe it works out great. I suspect we’ll manage as a society.

This may be the hardest part: Limiting your own use. They watch you. They do what you do. They “learn it from watching you.” Don’t forbid your kid from looking at her beloved tablet, only to devour yours  And when you do use it in front of them, make it “special.” Don’t just whip the phone out at the slightest hint of downtime. Don’t idly scroll through your social media feed just because the water’s about to boil and you have maybe 40 seconds before it does. Don’t check your phone at every stop light. Instead, state an intention—”I’m going to check my email, then be done” or something similar. Try to use it sparingly, and behind closed doors as much as possible.

Continue to use the thing for Facetime with grandparents, watching nature documentaries on sick days (Planet Earth 2 just came out on Netflix and is great—check out the penguin episode), stuff like that. But don’t let it be the default activity, the fallback.

Implicit in all this advice is the fact that you’ll probably have to endure some whining and tantrumming. That’s okay. It’s not that bad. Just wait it out, maintain composure, don’t give in.

Good luck. It’s not an easy thing, parenting. But you’ll do it!

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care and be sure to leave your own input down below. I know we’ve got a lot of great parents who read this blog. Kids, too, feel free to chime in if you’re out there.

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