Dr. Oz Discusses His New Parenting Book, Raising 4 Kids and His Recent Cancer Scare

Filed under: Books for Parents, Celeb News & Interviews

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Dr. Mehmet Oz has written a new book on parenting. Credit: Robert Trachtenberg, Sony Pictures Television

Ever since Oprah Winfrey helped put Dr. Mehmet C. Oz on the map back in 2004, the cardiothoracic surgeon has been busy talking about health issues on TV and in books and magazines.

At the 2010 Daytime Emmy awards, Oz won in the category of best host for his nationally syndicated TV program, "The Dr. Oz Show." Oz, 50, also is a New York Times bestselling author, a featured columnist in Esquire and Oprah's monthly magazine, O. He is the father of four children (Oliver, 11, Zoe, 15, Arabella, 19 and Daphne, 24), and he's been married to Lisa Oz, an author, for 25 years.

ParentDish caught up with Oz recently to discuss his newest book, his own parenting style and his recent cancer scare.

ParentDish: Your newest book, "YOU: Raising Your Child" is out now. It's the seventh book you have co-authored in the YOU series. Can you please explain what the YOU series means?
Dr. Mehmet Oz:
My partner, Dr. Michael Roizen, and I began writing the YOU series in 2005. What we discovered was there was a lot in the world of medicine that wasn't being explained well to the public. We decided to give information by putting a little edge to it to help people understand and create awareness on why things matter.

PD: You are a world-renowned surgeon. So what makes you an expert on writing a book about raising children?
I have done a lot in my life, but the most important job of them all was raising my four kids. When you are up in the middle of the night due to diaper rash, or you have a child that can't sleep, is nervous about school or has a food allergy, that is when you become an expert in this field. Since I dealt with all of these issues four different times and I am a medical doctor, I took those two roles to develop the essence of the book.

PD: So, a lot of this book is based on personal experience?
It was my personal experience that motivated me to write it.

PD: How would you describe your role as a dad?
Typical. My children tend to go to their mother first when it comes to solving problems. I know I am respected, but it is their mother who has their ear because she probes deeper than me, which is what they want.

PD: Can you explain?
For example, I'll ask the obvious question: "Where were you?" Lisa goes deeper by asking the extra questions: "With whom? Why were you there? What time did you go there?" It is these questions that result in the deeper discussion and emotions that come forth. On the physical side, they go to her because she has the remedy for the sore throat or she has all of those topical things that seem to work well when they have symptoms of something. I get called in to find out if it is serious or not.

PD: As a father, do you feel you made mistakes along the way?
I made lots of mistakes. Parents will always make mistakes. The question you need to ask yourself: Did I do it out of love or not?

PD: Was this book your way of teaching parents how not to make the same mistakes you did?
That was the goal. I wanted to be explicit about what I wish I had known. One example is when to panic over a fever and at what age? Another example for me is sleeping. We did not understand how to get our kids into a sleep pattern. It cost us a lot of sleepless nights when they were young, and for 16 years Lisa and I never slept normally because the kids were either in our bed or, if we left them alone in their bed, they associated it with abandonment.

PD: You also touch upon the subject of how to prevent child obesity. Is the problem really that bad?
It is a huge problem and it's far worse than many people realize. It is increasing at a rate that dwarfs adult obesity. I mean, I was operating on 25-year-olds who have been obese since they were 10, and, because of that, their arteries were hardening so they required bypass surgery. What's next? Stroke?

PD: Is that why you included the chapter "How to Make Family Fitness Fun?"
We have to get people outside playing again and by that I mean the parents and the kids. Playing is also how you learn about conflict resolution; it is how to learn to win and how you handle loss.

PD: Do you follow the advice you preach at home?
You can ask my kids. Daphne, my oldest, wrote a bestselling book called "The Dorm Room Diet" when she went to college. The adage is, "If it is nice, you are out." We have been saying that since they were little children.

PD: With all of the changes going on with our nation's health care system, is that why you slotted an entire chapter to teaching parents how to navigate the medical world?
We work closely with the Joint Commission, the major national organization that credentials hospitals and doctors. One thing parents don't know how to do is get high quality health care for their children because they don't know how to get it and ask the right questions in order to get it.

PD: What do parents need to know about this confusing system?
You need to figure out where the best children's hospital is near you. Even if you have to drive, go there. The Children's Miracle Network represents 170 of these major hospitals.

PD: Professionally speaking, how would you describe the medical field and do you think it is going downhill because of all the changes the Obama administration has made?
I don't think it is going downhill. I think the doctors that go into medicine are passionate about taking care of people. Is it getting more challenging to take care of patients? Yes. But I don't think the current regulations make it more difficult in the way you think.

PD: Speaking of treating patients, you recently has a scare yourself. How are you feeling?
You are kind to ask. I am doing well. I had a pre-cancerous polyp in August. On my 50th birthday I had to go for a colonoscopy. The polyp is out and I am going to get screened again in a few months just to make sure we left nothing behind. But overall, I feel great.

PD: How did you tell your children that Dad was going to the hospital?
We waited until after my daughter got married, which was on a Saturday. The next day, when I was driving everyone to the Sunday brunch, that is when I told them.

PD: How did they take it?
I did it in the car and I did that for a reason. If you can be doing something with your children while you are giving them bad news it helps ease the blow because it allows the information to just soak in. It also gives them the freedom to let the whole moment breathe and take in what you are telling them while focusing on something else. Overall, I will say it was an upbeat and very clear message about what had been found.

PD: Because of your medical background, did you know what to expect or, because you were the patient, you were terrified like the rest of us?
It makes it easier because I have a deeper insight to the problem.

PD: Are you working on another book?
I am. I am in the process of writing a book for teenagers that will deal with the issues they face, such as drugs, sexuality, allergies and teenage skin problems.

PD: Between your successful TV show, books, magazine columns and radio appearances, when do you have time to be Dad?
I am a complete hermit from Friday afternoon until Monday morning. I deny any requests to go out on the weekends because the only thing I want to do is to stay home with my kids. I either take them to practice or their recitals, or I am there when they get home. We eat together, work out together. We play together and do all of the things that normal families do.

PD: So you are MIA during the week?
Even though I tend to get home past 8 p.m. during the week, I always try to tell Oliver a bedtime story, because if the last thing a child hears is your voice before they go to sleep at night that is the last thing they will commit to their memory. It is a beautiful way to connect with your child and something I deeply cherish.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.