Kids and Caffeine

Parents used to warn kids that caffeine would stunt their growth. These days, they’re more likely to take them out for a Frappuccino. writer Linda Carroll reports on new research into the effect of coffee and caffeinated drinks on kids.  It turns out that even low doses of caffeine —the amount you’d find in a can of soda or a cup of coffee — had an effect on kids’ blood pressure and heart rates.

Interestingly, researchers found that after kids went through puberty, caffeine had more potent heart and blood pressure effects on boys than girls.

It’s the cardiovascular effects that have experts most concerned, with some advising that kids shouldn’t have caffeinated drinks until their late teens.

Dr. Kevin Shannon, a professor at the UCLA, says “There are lots of things we can’t do because we’re not old enough or mature enough.  Caffeine should probably be added to that list.”

The study showed that low doses of caffeine slowed the kids’ heart rate and increased their blood pressure.  A slower heart rate might be the opposite of what you’d expect, it’s not a new finding

At low doses, the heart slows down to compensate for rising blood pressure, At higher doses, the heart speeds up.

What has doctors particularly worried is the popularity of energy drinks, which often contain high levels of caffeine.  At high doses, caffeine can bump blood pressure into the danger zone and spark life-threatening heart arrhythmias.  It can also trigger neurologic symptoms, including seizures.

So the best advice for parents is keep caffeine away from your kids.  Here’s an idea–instead of a cappuccinos or a can of Rock Star… what about I don’t know—water or milk!

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

What’s the Best Sleeping Arrangement for Baby?

Dear Dr. Bill,


We have a 6-week old baby at home and I’m wondering what you think about having him sleep in our bed.  Some of my friends say the best place for a baby to sleep is next to his mom.  What do you think?




Dear Tammy,


That’s a great question.  Advocates of the so-called “family bed” believe that having their baby sleep with them gives the child a sense of security and comfort they won’t get in a crib.  They also point out that in other cultures, parents often sleep in the same bed with their children.


Critics of the family bed raise concerns about parents rolling over and crushing or suffocating their baby.  They also point out that the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, may be higher in these situations because adult bedding materials may not be a safe environment for a sleeping newborn.


In fact a study published in the Journal Pediatrics found that the risk of suffocation is 20 times greater when infants are placed in adult beds rather than cribs.


Sleeping with a newborn may also cause the parents sleep to be disrupted because newborns have a different sleep cycle than older children and adults.


As they pass through different sleep phases, babies tend to move around and make all kinds of noises, and sound as if they are waking up.  This may interfere with mom and dad’s sleep, which can affect their mood, their concentration, and their frustration level during the day.


Most child development experts and pediatricians agree that children need to learn to fall asleep in their own crib or bed.  A bassinet placed next to the parents’ bed during the first few months of a baby’s life can be a good compromise.  And snuggling with your child in bed in the morning after everyone is awake can be a wonderful bonding experience.


Thanks for writing Tammy!


I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Why many “Cool” Kids Wind Up as Troubled Adults

Were you jealous of the “cool kids” back in high school?  Would you believe that YOU may wind up happier than they are?

New research has looked at the so-called “cool” behaviors displayed by middle-schoolers.  It found that although they made kids more popular in the short run, that effect wore off quickly and eventually backfired.

In fact, by early adulthood, the cool kids were more likely to have criminal records, abuse drugs and alcohol, and have troubled relationships.

Lisa Tolin at NBC News, reports on the new study.  She says the world may actually be one big “Revenge of the Nerds.”

Researchers at the University of Virginia looked at what they called “pseudomature” behaviors — trying to act older than you are.  Those behaviors included more romance and “making out,” minor crimes like shoplifting or destroying property, and picking the best-looking classmates as friends.

In middle school, it paid off — kids who engaged in those behaviors were rated as more popular by their peers. But by age 15 or so, they weren’t anymore. And by 23, they had real problems.

They were more likely to do things like abuse drugs and alcohol, engage in drunk driving, get into fights, and show up late for work. They were also more likely to have criminal histories, and were judged by their peers as worse friends.

So why does this happen?   One reason may be an escalation of “cool” over time. The kid who impresses his friends by shoplifting may find those friends demanding more serious crime over time.

Also, “cool” behavior can interfere with more mature development.  For example, kids who have early romantic relationships may spend less time with friends. And if having “hot” friends makes you popular, you may miss out on developing real interpersonal skills.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

“Overshairing” on Facebook

Do you “overshare” on Facebook? It could be because you’re lonely.


According to, a new study done in Australia found that Facebook oversharing can indicate personal loneliness.


The researchers surveyed 600 female Facebook users, and found that those who identified themselves as “unconnected” and “lonely” tended to make a whole lot of information about themselves public—including favorite activities, quotations, movies, books, TV shows–even their street address.


They would also thoroughly fill out the “about me” section, with 98% of people in the “lonely” group sharing their relationship status publicly. ”


Dr. Yeslam Al-Saggaf, one of the study’s primary researchers, says “It makes sense that the people who felt lonely would disclose this type of information. They want to make it easier for others to initiate contact with them, which may help them overcome their feelings of loneliness.”


In other family and culture-related news, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released its latest report about teens and risky behavior.


The good news is that fewer teenagers reported drinking alcohol. And a smaller number of teens are smoking cigarettes. Teen fights at school have fallen by half in the past 20 years—probably because schools are cracking down.


On the not-so-positive side is the percentage of teens who text while driving. A full 41% say they’ve texted or emailed behind the wheel during the past 30 days.


Another big jump was in the percentage of teens who spent three or more hours in front of a screen on school days. And that’s “recreational screen time”–in other words watching videos, playing video games or using a computer or smartphone for something other than schoolwork.


For more information on the new report, visit and enter “youth risk” in the search engine.


I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Could Divorce be Contributing to Childhood Obesity?

Kids face a variety of challenges when their parents divorce, and one those challenges could be gaining WEIGHT.

HealthDay is reporting on new research done in Norway that found that boys are especially prone to excess weight following a divorce.

In a study of 3,000 third-graders, doctors found that boys whose parents had divorced were 63% more likely to be overweight or obese, compared to boys whose parents stayed married.

Lead researcher Dr. Anna Biehl says “Knowing which factors are associated with childhood overweight and obesity is crucial, and is the first step toward being able to prevent it.”

Dr. Biehl and her team caution that they simply found an association between divorce and weight gain, but they can’t say divorce is the cause. They also didn’t account for how long parents had been divorced or lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise.

There are a variety of reasons why kids from divorced families might gain weight, including less supervision at home and family stress

Sara Rivero Conil, a child psychologist at Miami Children’s Hospital points out that divorced families sometimes turn to unhealthy coping behaviors, including emotional eating and decreased activity.

Also, single parents might feel too pressed for time to cook nutritious meals.  Dr. Conil says “Some may resort to unhealthy foods because they are quicker to prepare.  Or a parent who has the kids on a weekend may want to indulge them.”

She encourages parents to keep to a normal routine after a divorce and to maintain a healthy environment, including diet and exercise.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Stressed Out? Grab a Donut.

Feeling stressed?  Grab a donut.  Actually, you SHOULDN’T grab a donut, even though hormonal changes in your body may cause you to crave one.

Medical News Today is reporting on a new study that found that stress can activate certain hormones located in our oral taste buds – ones that detect sweet tasting foods,

Researchers working with mice found that stress can increase the body’s secretion of glucocorticoids or GC’s, hormones that activate GC receptors in the cells. These receptors, located on the tongue, are found in cells in the taste buds responsible for identifying sweet, savory and bitter tastes.

The highest level of GC receptors are found in taste cells that detect sweet and savory tastes.

In the study, the mice under stress had a 77 percent higher level of GC receptors in their taste cells, compared to non-stressed mice.

The researchers didn’t say how they got the mice stressed out—and I really don’t want to know.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Rockwell Parker, says “Sweet taste may be particularly affected by stress.  Our results may…. explain why some people eat more sugary foods when they are experiencing intense stress.”

The researchers point out that taste buds aren’t just found on the tongue, but in the gut and pancreas as well.

They believe that stress may also affect taste receptors in these areas – but say that further research is needed.

If you are going through a lot of stress in your life right now, my suggestion would be to eat healthy, get plenty of sleep and exercise, and meditate on this verse from 1st Peter, chapter 5:  “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you.”

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Teaching Gratitude

Dear Dr. Bill,

I have a question about my 5 year-old daughter.  She recently had a birthday, and, as she unwrapped her gifts, she kept looking around.  I asked her what was wrong and she said she was looking for the REST of her presents!  I was dumbfounded.  How should I deal with her selfish behavior?  And, how do I encourage her to have a grateful heart?




Dear Jodie,


Given that your daughter is 5 years old, I wouldn’t be too concerned about her comment.  5-year-olds are still learning concepts like unselfishness and gratitude.


Unfortunately our materialistic, consumer-oriented culture doesn’t help.  Kids are conditioned to believe that they are entitled to everything they want, right now…and of course they should always get the biggest and best of everything.


One of the best ways to teach your daughter gratitude is by modeling a grateful attitude yourself.  Remember to express thankfulness to God on a regular basis…even for the simple things like a roof over your head and food on the table.


Also, model gratitude in your relationships with others..  Make sure to express thankfulness to friends, relatives, and co-workers…and not only when they do something special for you.  Let them know how much you appreciate them just for who they are.  Express that kind of unconditional gratitude to your daughter as well.


Another way to help your daughter develop a grateful heart is by serving others who are less fortunate.  Perhaps you could volunteer at a local homeless shelter or look into sponsoring a child through Compassion International.


By the way, an excellent book that will give you more ideas on this topic is “Growing Grateful Kids” by Susie Larson.


Thanks for writing, Jodie.


I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Fun Thoughts About Dad

Father’s Day is just two days away, and kids, I hope you’re planning on making your dad breakfast in bed—or better yet, helping him clean the garage!


A few years ago I had a chance to interview Carey Casey, the president of the National Center for Fathering in Kansas City.


Each year, Carey’s organization conducts something they call “Father of the Year Essay Contest.”  Over 100,000 school kids submit essays on the topic “What my Father Means to Me.”  I thought you might enjoy hearing a few of their creations.


Here’s one from a first grader:

“My dad is the best dad ever. I would kiss a pig for him.”  Well, isn’t that nice.

Another first grader wrote this:

“My dad is a Frito-Lay man. That is an important job because Frito-Lay means chips, which is food. That is so important because you could not live without food.”  Obviously a future nutritionist there.


Here’s one from a fourth-grader:
“Sometimes as a joke I’ll put my stinky socks in his briefcase, so at work the next day he will think of me!  How thoughtful.


And finally, this one from a seventh grader:

“Fatherhood is a lifelong commitment. I have seen through my father’s actions, words, and decisions that he will be committed to me and my life from the second I was born, almost 13 years ago, to the day I die….Even if you assembled the most brilliant team of scientists and artists there was, there still is no possible way you could duplicate my father.”

Wow—now THAT is beautiful!  And it was written by a 13-year-old!  I pray that my kids will say that about me when THEY get to be teenagers!


Happy Father’s day, from all of us at Shine.FM!


Listen to today’s audio here.

Being a Godly Husband & Father

Dear Dr. Bill,


I’m 25 years old and a dad with two kids.  My daughter going on 2 and my son is only 2 months old.  I grew up without father, and I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.  I’ve never had anyone to teach me about family morals, and lately my wife has been nagging me about being a better father. What can I do to lead my family the way that God intended?




Dear Mike,


I appreciate your honesty…it’s tough to grow up without a dad.  Now that you’re a father yourself, you’re realizing how important it is to have that role model.  The first thing I would encourage you to do is to find a mentor who can help you learn what it means to be a godly husband and father.


A great place to start is your church.  Ask your pastor if he can help match you up with an older, mature Christian man in the congregation who would be willing to give you some guidance.  You might also look for a men’s group that disciples guys and helps them to develop into the kind of  men God wants them to be.


If you’re not studying the bible on a regular basis, make that a priority in your life.  You can find great advice on developing godly character in Chapter 5 of Galatians and Chapter 3 of Colossians. There you’ll find that God wants us to develop character traits like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and self-control.


Given the tension with your wife, I’d encourage you to find a Christian marriage and family therapist.  If you call the counseling department at Focus on the Family,they can refer you to a licensed Christian counselor in your area. The number is 1-800-A-FAMILY.


Finally, let me recommend an excellent book that will help you.  It’s called “Lead Your Family Like Jesus” by Ken Blanchard, Phil Hodges, and Tricia Goyer.


Thanks for writing, Mike.


I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Brain Protection

Do you speak more than one language?  Good news—it could protect your brain as you age.  And that holds true even if you learn new languages as an adult.

HealthDay is reporting on the study, which included over 835 people born in Scotland in 1936 whose first language was English.

They were given mental skills tests at age 11 and again in their early 70s.  In the group, 262 people were able to speak at least two languages.  Most of them learned a second language before age 18, but some learned it after that age.

Those who spoke two or more languages did much better on the mental skills tests when they were older, especially in the areas of general intelligence and reading.

The positive effects of bilingualism were seen whether people learned new languages when they were children or adults

Study author Thomas Bak at the University of Edinburgh, points out that this study is the first to measure childhood intelligence while examining whether learning a second language affects mental skills later in life.

Dr. Bak says “Millions of people around the world acquire their second language later in life. Our study shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the aging brain.”

He says although the study showed an association between learning a second language and having a sharper mind later in life, it wasn’t designed to determine a cause-and-effect link between the two.

Parlez-vous français?   Sprechen Sie Deutsch?   I’m hoping this works!

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.