Children with Determination: Dr. Robyn Silverman Announces the Powerful Word of the Month

Dr. Robyn Announces July’s Powerful Word to Powerful Parents and Families

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmpk69CFSGY]

Have a Powerful Month!

Parents Lying to Children: Necessary or Hypocritical?

Lying to our Children: The Elephant in the Room Meets The Hypocrite in the Mirror

By: Dr. Robyn Silverman

Lying.

In the wake of honesty month, for Powerful Words, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Parents often lie to their children. It’s OK, right? After all, our parents did it. Most parents still do.

You eat a cookie before dinner and then deny it. You call in sick to work and tell them you had a day off. And yes, you may have even told that you didn’t inhale.

But if we’re supposed to lead by example, why do so many parents lie to their children? We often tell our children that lying is (nearly always) unacceptable. Parents lie for all different reasons; from lying for the protection of their children, to keeping details about sex, drugs, smoking, death, war and peace ? Is it ethical? Hypocritical? Wise? Necessary?

Some things to consider:

  • Reasons for lying
  • Possible benefits from telling the truth
  • Goals for child as a parent

(1) Reasons for lying: First to consider is why you’re lying to your child in the first place. Most parents lie just to keep their kids from being prematurely pushed from their comfort zones. That’s a good reason. After all, information that we give our children should be age-appropriate so that it can be easily understood and processed.

  • Why it can be a bit hypocritical: Well, we ask children to not only tell the truth, but not to omit details of the truth either. Then we go ahead and do a covert cover up, leave out pieces of the story, or just tell them a bold faced lie. Let’s call a spade a spade here.
  • Why it can be necessary: When children are asked to listen and accept truths prematurely, it can be very scary and confusing for them. Parents often know best. Yes, some topics are not meant for little ears and others need to be explained very delicately or in broad brush-strokes. If you’re unsure how to handle a touchy situation, talk to your Pediatrician or other helping professional.
  • Parents Biggest Mistake: Your child asks you a question and you tell him that he’s too young to talk about such things (i.e. sex, drugs, smoking, etc). Mark my words, he’ll either (1) find out from another source, (2) become so interested in it that he gets into some trouble (forbidden fruit), or (3) he’s already doing it or thinking about doing it and you just missed your opportunity to talk about it with him!!! Don’t make this mistake!!!

(2) Benefits from telling the truth: Telling the truth can also be beneficial in certain situations. Some children would take their parents’ admissions of past mistakes as a point of connection between them. Children can also learn from your past mistakes or the mistakes of others. They also may appreciate and show gratitude for their current lifestyle, opportunities, and support system by knowing what came before them to make it possible. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, children and teens will learn about drugs, sex, war and other touchy topics from someone—make yourself their first and most credible resource.

  • Be sure to express your opinion: If you choose to tell the truth about your own past experiences and mistakes, be sure to talk to your children about why you believe it was a mistake, what you wish you had done instead, and how you feel about your children participating in such situations. Show the amount of disapproval such a thing deserves such as sex at a young age or drugs.
  • Be sure to ask questions: Don’t be the one who does all the talking. Ask your children and teens how they feel about these topics, questions and concerns that they have, why it’s of interest now, and how you can help them the most. Let them tell you their stories and talk to you about their fears, interests, and worries. Listening is one of the best things you can do.
  • Caution! Remember to make your explanations age-appropriate. In many cases, it’s best if details of crazy parties, early sexual experiences, drug use, and smoking, were left out. Explaining too much in detail might give the kids the impression that you miss what you used to do or that you feel it was a good idea—even if you don’t believe that at all. Children also don’t need to hear many of the gory details of the current war your brother or niece is helping to fight—but rather, the hard work their doing, their bravery, and the band of brothers and sisters that are working to keep them as safe as possible so that we can all be safe at home. By the same token, when you are divorcing filling your child’s head with information about spousal infidelity, stealing, cheating, and backstabbing is not appropriate—but rather, that while his parents no longer love each other or can live with each other, both parents will always love him, care for him, and it’s in no way his fault. As yourself, how does this information serve my child? And remember to think about why they might be asking—for reassurance, for basic information, for safety, or what?

(3) Goals for Child: Think about your goals for your children. If you shelter them, it may backfire. They feel unprepared or lied to—and this could put in question your credibility. On the other hand, too much information can be confusing and scary. You must really listen to your child and help him without overwhelming him. You must teach him integrity, honesty, and trust, without compromising yours.

  • Note: Telling them all of your past mistakes may make them wonder about your credibility—if you did X, did you also do Y? In addition, watch those double standards! Telling children not to smoke, while smoking yourself, can be a tough fight to win.

I know, it can all be very uncomfortable, right? To tell the truth or to tell a lie? Powerful Words do make us look harder in our own mirror. At least we’re almost onto a new month…determination…get out your running shoes!

copyright: Dr. Robyn Silverman

Clipart credit: Jupiter Images

Body Image and Boys: The Adonis Complex and Steroid Abuse among Teens

Steroid Use in Boys…furthering the discussion.

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Powerful Parents are certainly a passionate bunch. I guess my article on steroid abuse among teens stirred up some good discussion yesterday in light of the cultural response to body image problems among our youth. Perhaps you were surprised that boys were affected just as girls have been affected. What else can we expect?

With so much concentrated focus on the war against obesity, it shapes up the insecurities in children who say to themselves, “I don’t want to be fat, I don’t want to be cast aside, put down, or put out, so I will do whatever it takes, even if it means putting my health as risk, to be thin, muscular, and admired. Is this the message we want to send to our youth—spooned to mouth by Hollywood starlets, He-man Gladiators, and appearance-driven magazines? To be thin, muscular and unhealthy rather than risk being called “overweight” or worse yet…“average?”

Research has shown that dieting and attending to one’s physique in negative ways has become so prevalent that the behavior of in a way, has become normalized. That means that those people who are NOT dieting, participating in some abnormal or disordered eating patterns, or trying to alter their body through surgery, drugs, or laxative abuse, are in affect, abnormal. One preteen in one of my Sassy Sisterhood Girls Groups said it clearly a few summers ago, “if you’re not dieting or something like it, you’re considered weird, snobby, kind of stuck on yourself, or like, NOT normal.” Great. What youth, whether we’re talking about a boy or a girl, wants to be abnormal?

So they reach out for assistance. They restrict food, they purge, they take laxatives, or they dope up with steroids. Well, what did we expect? Do you ever hear societal reverb recalibrated to say, “lose weight but don’t go too far?” Of “eat healthily, exercise wisely, and then accept yourself at the size your at? No. We hear…be better, faster, bigger! Be More! More! More!

I did an interview a few month’s back for a teen website in which I was asked about boys and body image. Here is a part of my answer:

Boys are dealing with something that is now informally being called “The Adonis Complex”—named after the Greek mythology figure Adonis who was half man and half god—he was considered the ultimate in masculine good looks and ideal physique for men. And, if you are familiar with Greek mythology, Adonis had a body that was so perfectly beautiful that Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, fell in love with the site of him.

So what parents need to know is that while it’s not as common as it is for girls, (in fact, girls are 3 times as likely to feel bad about their bodies than boys) boys are also at risk of developing unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders. In fact, according to a study done in Australia, about 45 per cent of men were unhappy with their bodies to some degree, compared with only 15 per cent of men only 25 years ago. Remember, Boys are changing too—they also want to look good and desirable to others—they value the opinions of others, and they recognize that there is a connection between positive attention and how they look.

Research into boy’s body image has shown males are concerned with having that lean muscular look and of course, this makes them want to lose weight and increase their muscle mass- often in unhealthy ways. And the bottom line here is that again, messages that come from parents and the media have a strong influence on body image for teen boys as well as teen girls—but while it may be a large concern—and it deserves a lot of attention, we can do something about it—we can help our kids feel confident, healthy, happy and worthwhile-and that is what I am trying to do with my work with children, teens, parents, and educators.

So we must expect teens to come up with ways that make them “the best.” Because we tend to pay attention to the best. Who pays attention to mediocre? In our society we want it all—even if it means that we chisel away at ourselves, our health, and our self worth to get there. Yes, I’m talking abut the teens…but you know as well as I do, we’re also talking about adults. And somehow, we’re supposed to serve as examples.

In a world in need of role models that don’t come in retouched slinky dresses or couched in pumped up doped-filled muscles, we ask those who are truly trying to make a difference to scream the loudest. So go ahead…scream!

One of our resident role models, Amy Jussel, Executive Director of Shaping Youth (an Organization for which I am an Advisory Board member and Body Image expert, piggybacked my article on Steroid use in boys, which I wanted to share, at least in part, with all of you:

Take it away…Amy!

Awhile back I wrote about body image issues offering “equal opportunity toxicity” as young boys have increased body dysmorphia, emulating buffed boy, ripped six-pack icons of video games and ‘hunks’ modeled and merchandised ad nauseum.

Not getting alarmist, as we’re still in single digit growth percentages, but it’s worth the focus on BOYS who have been gaining on girls in eating disorders and tanked self-esteem as media and marketing serve up a quest for the almighty ‘hotness’ and adolescents end up with The Adonis Complex reverb.

This Sunday on our own Shaping Youth Advisory Board member Rona Renner’s radio show, you can hear the doctors tackle “adolescent body image” (podcasts archived too) as Rona and her guests help teens develop a healthier image of themselves beyond the media machine.

Gee, let’s start with Lightyear XSTREAM Energy. (and no, not the Buzz Lightyear kind) This energy drink contains Yohimbe, claiming to be an aphrodisiac and “natural sexual enhancer used for impotent males.” Or perhaps this new summer ’08 flavor of citrus “Crunk” which you may recall originated in ’04 with rapper/producer Lil John and the late Sidney Frank, of Jagermeister and Grey Goose libation fame.

Now, um, tell me, doctors…”Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what I see?”

The media/marketing blitz selling kids ways to last longer, get stronger, “be hot with a shot” is complicit in the escalation of body image problems wreaking havoc on this appearance-obsessed generation of kids.

Girls may receive more press about disordered eating and such, but ‘Bigorexia’ (photo credit at left from Ditch Diets Live Light by blogger Cari Corbet-Owen) is on the rise. (See Cari’s primer called ‘Who Gets the Adonis Complex?” for a helpful snapshot of milestones in media moments for male context)

These media corollaries are backed up by researchers like Alison Field, Harvard Medical School professor of pediatrics and lead researcher on the GUTS study [Growing Up Today]…

A synopsis of her outcomes with males?

“Although fewer males than females are preoccupied with a desire to be thinner, a non-trivial number of males are preoccupied with a desire to have more or better defined muscles. The latter concern is rarely assessed in studies that include males.”

And it’s more common than once thought, with a direct correlation of risk factors between boys unhealthy means used to gain weight, (e.g. steroids) and girls unhealthy means lose weight, (e.g. bulimia, diet pills, etc.) tied to “wanting to look like same-sex figures in the media.”

Ahem. Causal link, anyone? When I have 5th graders in our counter-marketing sessions worried about dieting and muscle mass, (boys AND girls) I’d say Houston, we have a problem.

How would Shaping Youth “counter-market” the buffed boy/steroid bit? (and intake of supplements of all kinds promising the lean, mean teen machine?)

Point to articles like this from Parenting Teens.com for starters:

“Teens abusing steroids may suffer reduced sperm count, shrinking testicles, impotence and difficulty urinating. All of this intimately associated with the equipment most men value very highly.

Teens on steroids also risk losing their hair and inappropriate breast development. One has to wonder how many takers there would be for steroids if these side effects were listed alongside the much-vaunted ‘desirable’ effects. This is why education on the (in excess of 70) side effects of steroids is almost a sure way to deal with steroid abuse among teens. The fact is these young people are simply unaware of this.

Imagine a pack of steroids bearing this equation: “Enormous increases in brute strength” soon followed by the shrinking of testicles, impotence, lowered sperm count and hair loss. With the writing on the wall few teens can dispute the ill effects of steroid abuse. It is still true that the underlying problem of low self esteem and poor body image must be addressed. Rest assured that if it is allowed to lie there unattended it will not go away. Instead it will find another destructive outlet.”

Info on Rona Renner’s Radio Show for this Sunday:

(1-877-372-KIDS) or listen when posted on the website Details: The doctors will be talking about media and peer pressure to be thin or look sexy, as well as some of the ‘acting out’ that transpires with body insecurities in the form of cutting, eating disorders, depression or anxiety. Hey, maybe Dr. Robyn would call-in to Rona’s radio show and write us a guest editorial recap? Hmn…

Related Resources/Body Image/Boys

NIDA for Teens (Fact Sheets)

Adolescents Bulk Up Their Bodies, USA Today

The X/Y Factor by Rachel Abramowitz, L.A.Times

Tween Boys/Putting on the Spritz by Lori Aratani, L.A. Times

Shaping Youth Packaging Boyhood: Corporate Pirates Raid Boys’ Souls

Bigorexia & Muscle Building: Ditch Diets & Live Light.com

The Adonis Complex: How to Identify, Treat, & Prevent Body Obession in Men & Boys (book)

I’m, Like, SO Fat!: Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices About Eating & Exercise (book)

Looking Good: Male Body Image in North America (book)

About-Face: Body Image Books/Tips on Body Acceptance

NIDA: Anabolic Steroid Use in Teens, 2005

Kids Health: Steroids/Human Growth Hormone

Steroid Use by Teens Soaring (CBS News, 2003)

Packaging Boyhood.com (upcoming book/survey here!)

Amy Jussel is the Founder & Executive Director of Shaping Youth, a nonprofit, nonpartisan consortium concerned with harmful media and marketing messages to children. Prior to founding Shaping Youth, Amy spent over 20 years as a writer/producer in print, broadcast and film in commercial advertising as well as journalism. Her media background makes her uniquely qualified to assess the impact of multi-channel marketing in children’s lives.

Thanks for your take on the situation, Amy! Now let’s hear what you have to say…comment below!

Copyright: Dr. Robyn J.A.Silverman; http://www.DrRobynsBlog.com

Scary Things Teens Do that Parents Don’t Know About: Steroids

Steroid Use in Preteens and Teens

Perhaps you’ve noticed a few of them walking in the halls of your children’s schools. Or perhaps you’ve noticed something strange among your own teens. Are their chiseled bodies really of this world? With their six pack abs, bulging biceps and firm quads, these teens make others wonder if they’re really working hard enough at the gym.

But they have a secret that they’re hiding from their parents. Steroids.

Given that many of our sports heroes, including baseball players, track stars , and cyclists, have been accused of (or have admitted to) using steroids to bulk up, slim down, and get that godly look and strength, is it really surprising that teens are interested in doing the same things? Our heroes help us all to see what’s possible and the tools they use to seize the day. It’s only natural for kids to have a desire to follow in their footsteps.

In addition, the cultural pressures to be “the best” can drive teens towards steroid use. How can they get better? Bigger? Faster? Steroids can look like an easy answer.

With the Olympics soon to be broadcast around the world, and many of our children and teens striving to be their best in school or at their local Powerful Words member school, it’s important that we keep our eyes open and stay informed.

What are steroids?

Steroids are very helpful in curing a lot of conditions. Anabolic steroids, in particular, help build muscle and bone mass. That’s where the danger starts.

  • Over 5% of boys and around 2.7% of girls in high school admit to taking some form of steroids without a prescription, according to the CDC in 2007.
  • Long term effects of unprescribed intake of anabolic steroids include urinary problems, abrupt and extreme mood swings, trembling, damage to the heart and blood vessels due to blood pressure and even death.
  • In men, steroids can cause symptoms such as breast development, testicular shrinkage and erectile dysfunction. Women taking steroids can experience facial hair growth, clitoris enlargement, menstrual cycle changes and even the development of many masculine characteristics. Most of these symptoms are due to hormonal imbalances caused by the steroid intake.

Some of the danger signs:

  • Mood swings (can be very extreme
  • Urinary problems
  • Severe acne
  • Abrupt increase in muscle mass
  • Yellowish skin
  • Needle marks in muscle groups
  • Syringes in child’s belongings
  • Sudden deepening of voice (females)
  • Facial hair growth (females)

There are 10 major classes of anabolic steroids . Each class is dependent upon the route of administration and the type of carrier solvent used to introduce the steroid into the body.

The ten classes are:
1. Oral
2. Injectable oil-based
3. Injectable water-based
4. Patch or gel
5. Aerosol, propellant based preparation
6. Sublingual
7. Homemade transdermal preparation
8. Androgen-estrogen combination
9. Counterfeit anabolic steroid
10 Over the counter (OTC)

Girls

Girls have recently been known to use steroids as a way to get an edge on the playing field, slim down and tone up. Some girls, as young as 9 years old, have found that steroids can help them to look more like the Hollywood stars and models they admire.

“There’s been a substantial increase for girls during the 1990s, and it’s at an all-time high right now,” said Charles Yesalis, professor of health and human development at Pennsylvania State University.

  • Overall, up to about 5 percent of high school girls and 7 percent of middle-school girls admit trying anabolic steroids at least once, with use of rising steadily since 1991, various government and university studies have shown.
  • “With young women, you see them using it more as a weight control and body fat reduction” method, said Jeff Hoerger, Rutgers University, New Jersey counseling program.
  • These girls are more likely to have eating disorders and use other risky methods to get thin.

Boys

As the men on Gladiators, Wrestlemania, and Ultimate Fighter get bigger, boys may also have a desire to bulk up. But you might be surprised to know that it’s not only about getting stronger. It’s also about body image—and looking more attractive—even in elementary and middle school!

Boys as young as 10, and high school students who do not play team sports, are also bulking up with steroids because they want to look good.

Some high schools are working to combat steroid use by banning the substance and offering a consequence: If a student is caught using performance-enhancing drugs, they can be banned from competing for a whole year. The problem is, no drug testing is required. Parents still need to keep their eyes open.

How should parents address the issue?

Direct Approach: Especially if the person you suspect is your son/daughter, this can be the most effective approach. You can always take the time to just sit down and talk about steroids. Many teens either simply don’t know about the real risks of steroids or are uncertain about their effects. Talk about all the general risks and the long term effects and how it simply isn’t worth it. Let them know that ultimately, they’ll just end up jeopardizing their own goals and maybe their entire lives.

If your child is thinking about taking steroids, your heart-to-heart talk could bring up facts and illuminate issues that s/he didn’t know about before.

Use the Media: When steroid use is brought up in the media, don’t stay silent! Let your children and teens know how you feel about steroid use, what it means for the sport, the athletes, personal health and the integrity of the sport. When children and teens are clear about how you feel about steroids and other illegal substances, they’re more likely to refrain from using.

Child Monitoring

  • Look for any obvious weight gains in your children, particularly, gains in muscle mass over a short period of time.
  • Is there any sign of depression? Hormonal imbalance can cause mood swings and erratic behavior.
  • Is there any apparent hair loss with your child? Premature balding and breast development in boys and facial hair development in females are possible side effects of steroid use.

Intervention: Let the experts work

If you’re sure that the problem exists, let your children know that you only want what’s best for them– and then, introduce an expert. Trained doctors are the best people to address the problem.

Steroids Hotline: 1-800-STEROIDS

This hotline provides information on drugs, how to know if someone you know is using steroids and where to get help.

Anything else but steroids?

In addition, believe it or not, Viagra is now becoming another drug used by athletes. It’s being used to help with athletic performance, increase blood flow, and increase the effectiveness of other drugs. Watch your medicine cabinets.

Looking forward to hearing your reactions- please comment below.

Copyright: Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman; 2008: Reprints only with permission.

20 Ways to Start Conversations with Teens and Tweens

Hello Families!

Hope you’ve had a terrific end to your week and your having a wonderful weekend! For the last few days, I’ve been presenting at the United States Gymnastics Congress and Olympic Trials in Philadelphia, with scores of athletes, coaches, gymnastics school owners, judges, and children everywhere I turn! As you can imagine, the energy here is very high…perhaps you’ve been watching it on TV?

During this brief absence, my young colleague, Vanessa Van Petten, is here to do a great guest post from her sharp youth perspective. Being so young herself, she wants to tell you what’s really going on and how you can really help your teens and tweens! See you Monday!

20 Ways to Start Conversations with Teens and Tweens

How was your day?

Fine.

How was school?

Good.

How was your test?

OK.

Anything you want to tell me?

Nope.

Now that its summer, a lot of parents and the families I work with are focusing on communication skills because we are finally done with school for a bit. The biggest problem is how to get us young people talking and engaged.

I find that some of the best ways to do this is to play games like Scrabble, Clue or Sorry that you can all engage over the common game. Or, as I recently discovered games that are all about talking. A friend recommended one called Kubit2Me, which, of course, anything that has to do with Teens I ordered immediately to play with my clients and my teen girl groups and it is fabulous! I got one for my sisters to play at their birthday party–a very good Truth or Dare section and have been using them with the families I coach. So, this post is inspired by the questions and responses I got from Kubit2Me group, thanks!

-Ask over dinner

-Ask over dessert

-Leave a few cards with questions in the car for long drives

-host a sleepover for your son/daughter and their friends and encourage them to play. (I think its great when teens can also play these kinds of games with each other because it deepens friendships and bonds–hard to come by in the social networking world!)

-Play at a family reunion

-Ask your adult friends (I do this with mine all the time–in between Wii games of course)

I came up with some and borrowed some from the cards–a few are a little mature, but I find those table topics get the best conversation going!

1. If you had to give every human being one quality, what would it be and why?

2. Do you have any recurring dreams? Describe them?

3. What is the meanest thing someone could say to you?

4. If you could be a famous athlete, actor, writer or musician which would you choose and why? (It is fun to guess what the other people in the group will say before divulging answers)!

5. If you were invisible where would you go and what would you do?

6. If your life was made into a movie, who would play you? why?

7. If you could invent one thing what would it be?

8. What is the greatest song ever written?

9. Do you believe in heaven? What does yours look like? Is it different for everyone?

10. What is the most important quality for a boss to have?

11. If you could know one thing about the future, what would it be?

12. DARE: Eat your favorite food, before you swallow spit it out and re-eat it (teens love playing the truth or Dare Kubit2Me and I don’t think I laughed so hard in a long time, this was my favorite one–and the grossest)

13. How do you choose your friends?

14. What is the first thing you notice about a person?

15. What do you think is the biggest problem in the United States and Why?

16. Describe the most beautiful thing you have ever seen.

17. What would the cover of your autobiography look like if it could not be a picture of you or your family?

18. If you could trade places with anyone in the world who would it be and why? How about someone in your family?

19. Do you ever talk to yourself? When and what do you say?

20. Tell the group (or other person) the most attractive thing about the person on your right.

I really love to engage youth in intelligent conversations about values, ideals and goals. A lot of these questions are a sneaky way to get these ideas out in the open and I often play these games with the kids I work with to really get to know them. I hope you take sometime to play them with your kids, who knows you might learn something new about them!?

Add your conversation starters in the comments!

Vanessa Van Petten is the teen author of the book “You’re Grounded!”—a parenting book from a young perspective. She keeps an active blog for parents who want to know what their kids are really doing online, at High School parties or when parents are looking the other way. Her candid and young perspective, as well her constant survey of resources and updates about this generation of young people are a treasure trove for parents.

6 Fun Ways to Use Pictures to Say Thank You to Teachers

The articles on how to write thank you cards to teachers , saying thank you in different languages , and 10 great ways to appreciate teachers beat out my Miley Cyrus article series (finally!) so I figured parents are really looking for more information on this topic. I’m so glad. Showing gratitude to teachers and thanking them for their hard work is so important. And, as you all know, gratitude is one of recent Powerful Words, and one that is typically a favorite among teachers and families.

Everyone loves pictures these days. They’re so easy to take, so inexpensive, and yet, so precious. Using pictures are a great way to thank teachers for all that they do.

Here are some ideas that you can do as a group:

  1. Pictures, admiration, and the spa: Take a picture that you have of the teacher and get ready to do a little photo shopping. Fold 2 pieces of card stock together so that it makes a “book.” Put the full picture on the front cover and write “why I love my teacher” on the front. Crop out her face/head and paste it on the first page. Say something like; “I love that you’re always smiling and make me feel special.” On the next page, cut out her hands and say something like; “I love that your hands help shape the future.” On the next page, crop out her feet and write something like; “I love that you choose to stand in front of the class and teach us everyday.” And on the last page say something like; “For your happy face, your important hands, and your tired feet, please have fun getting a facial, manicure and pedicure! (Insert gift certificate.
  2. Photos, the class, and a Scrapbook: This takes some planning but certainly is worth it. Write a letter and send it out to each class mate that says; “we would like to make a special scrapbook for the teacher.” Please write something special and either give it to _______, send it to _________, or email it to _________. You can provide some questions like “what do you like so much about the teacher?” “What is your favorite memory about the teacher?” Take all of the letters and put them in the book. When I’ve done something like this before (the best present ever!), I had everyone email the letters to me and then I was able to print them out on nice, fun scrapbook paper with beautiful fonts, and place them in the book. I added pictures of everyone and a beautiful picture of the honoree on the front.
  3. Spell it out: We talked about this one the other day. According to Scholastic, have your students work in teams of two or three to make letters with their bodies that spell “THANK YOU SO MUCH.” If you have fewer students, you can just make the words “THANK YOU” instead. To put the card together, I took pictures of the students forming each letter with a digital camera. I then inserted the pictures into a blank poster in Print Shop and used the freehand crop tool to cut around their bodies. (This makes them look more like the letters they are trying to form.) Once I have all of the letters cropped, I arrange them on the Print Shop poster and print copies for each parent volunteer. I paste the printed copies on a construction paper card and have the students sign their names inside the card.”
  4. Blow it up: Take a picture of the teacher and blow it up. Mount it on a big piece of card stock. Have each child write a message around the picture that talks about what they appreciate most about their teacher. It could be as simple as, “she reads good books to us,” or it could be a more detailed message.
  5. A Photo, a t-shirt, and class posterity: This idea comes from Family Fun. On the front of the t-shirt, put your child’s class picture and the school year, and on the back, write all of the student names. On the last day, have the students put their handprint above their names with the colored dye for clothes. Variation: Purchase a dark t-shirt and get the children to put their handprint on it in neon paint. (Parents can do this project on a day that we knew the teacher would not be there—after the handprints dry, add the children’s names).
  6. Moving pictures: Put together a video collage of pictures from the school year with a beautiful song in the background or even a song that the children can sing. Variation: Have each child say what they like best about the teacher, why that teacher is a favorite, what they’ll always remember, and “thank-you!” Put the video together showcases all the best answers to the questions, making sure each child is represented. At the end, flash one child after other saying “thank you.” Again, you can use music or the children singing thank you or good-bye songs in the background.

Send in your ideas about how you are thanking teachers, coaches, and instructors this year!

Teachers, Coaches, Instructors…we appreciate you! Have a Powerful Day!

How to Write a Thank-you Note to Teachers: 9 Things to Remember

When the truth feels so good: Writing a Thank-you Note to the Teacher

December 2009 update:

Would you please vote for me for best Parenting Blog?  It only takes a moment! Thank you!!!

It’s the end of the school year. Many of you are saying, “thank goodness.” But let’s not forget to say “thank-you” to the teachers.

We’ve talked about gratitude and 10 great ways to say thank-you to teachers in the past, but I bring it up again since we are in the home stretch– Spring Fever is just about to turn into Summer Fervor in many parts of the world. Our minds might be on getting out but there is something we must do first.

Teachers, coaches, instructors, tutors and mentors have worked hard this year. You might not have always loved them, you may not have always agreed with them, but all of us can come up with a list of ways that they’ve been helpful. Think for a moment about the times when they went out of their way for you or your children. Think of all lessons they’ve taught your children. How did they show their understanding? How did they share their knowledge? How did they make something a little easier for you—and yet made your children challenge themselves in ways that they couldn’t have done themselves?

What to write in a thank-you note to the teacher:

Be specific: When writing a thank-you letter to the teacher, don’t fall back on overused phrases and colloquialisms. It’s important to customize the thank-you letter, so that it can only be for that one person—that teacher—impossible to interchange with another. What is it about that teacher that you appreciate?

Refrain from saying things like “Thank you for teaching class to my child. He learned a lot.”

Instead, write something like “I want to express my sincerest gratitude for your hard work this year. You should be congratulated for the innovative lesson plans you created. Johnny particularly liked your science experiment with the potato and the match. He still talks about it today.”

Use Stationary or Cards that Allows you to Express Yourself: Pre-written thank-you cards with fancy writing and a make-shift poem doesn’t really say a lot about you or the teacher.

  • Choose a blank card where you can write your own thoughts.
  • Buy or make some stationary with your child.
  • Fold a piece of card stock in half and have your child draw a picture on the front especially for the teacher.
  • When a group is involved, you can get creative! Take some pictures and use that to decorate your note of thanks. For example, check out this cute idea

Use a Nice, Respectful Greeting: Don’t just write the message. Start with a formal greeting. People often forget to this in our “rush, rush” world. Or worse yet—they use something like “Hi” of “Hey.” As my mother used to say to me, “Hey is for horses, Robyn, start with a nice greeting.” And remember, people’s favorite word in the world? Their name. Something like :Dear Coach Suzie” will work fine.

Use your own handwriting: While you might not think it looks as nice as a type-written note, handwritten notes always beat out any font. It’s personal! Put pen to paper and take your time. The teacher will certainly appreciate it.

Be gracious: For those of you who have loved this year’s teacher or coach, the toughest part might be finding just a few lines to sum it up. For those of you who had a frustrating year with a teacher, the toughest part might be finding something nice to say. You may have had a tough time with this teacher and you may not have appreciated all of his or her choices, but there must be something you can be thankful for this year.

Again, refrain from, “I’m writing to say thank-you. You were helpful and fun. We appreciate it.”

Instead say, “We are so thrilled that you were Laura’s teacher this year. Thank-you for taking the time to help her with her math homework—she had been struggling until you taught her those little “tricks.” It really made a difference as you know!”

Talk about how the lessons will influence your child: The lessons your child learns don’t lose their impact when your child walks out the door. They stick with your child. The best teacher or coach will have taught lessons that last indefinitely. I still remember the teachers that taught me to believe in myself and cite them often in my presentations and trainings. Be sure to recognize these important feats.

Refrain from saying; “We’ll remember you fondly.”

And instead, say something like;

Peter will always remember when you said; “You have terrific, creative ideas—write them down because they’ll help a lot of people one day.” He now has a journal filled with ideas for inventions and experiments he wants to do. Because of you, he has taken such an interest in learning that will stick with him always.

Talk about the past and the future: The teacher has been helping your child for quite some time! Especially when dealing with a retiring teacher or a coach/instructor who has been part of your child’s life for a long time, it’s important to talk about the beginning. What did you think when you first met this person? What did your child think?

Refrain from saying; “Chris was glad he got you as his coach. He hopes to see you next year.”

Instead say: Chris liked you from the moment he met you. He said to me; “Mr. Don is so cool!” You certainly did not disappoint! He told me yesterday, “I want to make sure we see Mr. Don this summer and join his class when he starts in September again!” We’ll certainly be there when you start up classes again in the Fall—and we’ll be there this Summer for the school bash!

Even if your child is continuing classes throughout the summer, like many Powerful Words Member programs such as martial arts, gymnastics, swim, or dance, it’s important to take time to thank them for the work they’ve already done this year—just tell them that you’ll see them tomorrow or next week in class instead of next year!

Thank them again: After all, this is the point of the note!

Sign it: Believe it or not, people forget. Be sure to let them know who you are! Be gracious and sign it kindly.

Refrain from signing it:

–Joe Murphey

And instead sign it with one of these and your name:

  • Sincerely
  • With Kind regards
  • Warmest regards
  • Yours truly
  • Best regards
  • Our deepest thanks
  • Love (in certain cases)

And this should go without saying—I certainly hope it does—don’t email it! Send the letter through the snail mail or give it directly to the person. It’s personal and many teachers, coaches, and educators want to keep these things in files, up on their desk, or in a special place where they can look at it.

Here’s to gratitude—we love our educators!

Makeover Madness for Children’s Cartoons? Less belly fat, more muscles, and a cell phone

It appears that our yesterday’s favorite cartoon characters are getting extreme makeovers to cater to the modern tastes of today’s kids. According to the New York Times, these classic characters are being “freshened up” in order to add upward momentum to the rough sloping economy.

Apparently, the YouTube generation is interested in less belly fat and more muscles. Less “cutesy” and more streamline. Fewer calories and more cell phones. Seriously. What ever happened to nostalgia for days when we didn’t need to think about all that stuff?

Impossibly thin waists and the buff bods have been popular among fairy princesses and hulky princes, respectively, but how about the Care-bears and Little Miss Shortcake?

Strawberry Shortcake went under the figurative knife and was revealed this past Tuesday. Labeled a “fruit-forward” makeover, she was stripped of her bloomers, went on a diet (no more sweets, more fruit!), put down her cat, and picked up a cell phone. No more freckles and of course, more pink—now her signature color in place of her customary red. She looks a lot more “little mermaid” than “strawberry sweetie” from yesteryear.

Toys and toons aimed at boys are also getting a little nip-tuck. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are loosing a bit of their ‘tude and gaining more muscles. Think—turtles on steroids.

Other nostalgic characters getting a face—and body-lift? Bugs bunny, Scoobie Doo, and the Care bears, the latter getting a little lipo to loose the belly fat and eyelash extensions to enhance the eyes.

The companies are trying to appeal to the kids without going too far—attempting to stay away from the hypersexualized and increasingly violent media landscape ever-present today. Even Mickey Mouse will be getting into the action.

Companies like Disney are giving nostalgic characters an update in an attempt to appeal to both modern kids and today’s parents–parents who are trying to protect their youngsters from seeing too much, considering the recent Miley Cyrus exposure and other young stars who are becoming less predictable and more out of control. Not to mention other brands that have gone way to far towards sexualizing the most mundane toys to appeal to Paris-Hilton-like children such as the Disney HorsesStrutz (for girls who are on the cutting edge of what’s hot in fashion)

They’re also wary of changing their brand too much or sending out items that parents don’t like as Mattel did in 1993 when they spruced up the classic Ken doll with a poorly chosen purple mesh T-shirt, leather vest, earring, and high-lighted coif. Warner Brothers made a similar marketing mistake when they revamped Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in 2005, full with mohawks and crazy eyes in the series “Lunatics.”

Are cartoon portrayals such a big deal?

According to numerous studies, it may be.

“the depictions about gender roles seen by children could impact and interact with both the expectations they develop about relationships and appropriate behavior, and their future life decisions. It is important to keep in mind, too, that the concern about stereotyping is not less severe because these are cartoons and not “real life.” Although this issue has not been definitely settled by research, several studies have indicated that young children accept fantasy as reality and cannot always distinguish well between the two. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research by Thompson et al.

WEIGH IN

What do you think? Is it a good thing for these toy and cartoon companies to reflect a more streamline, beauty-oriented, techno-culture in our children’s cartoons or should they be leaving things the way they are? Are cartoons getting too sexed up for the kids or are people making too much of a big deal about the whole thing?

Please comment below!

Looking forward to hearing your opinions.

Photo credits: New York Times, Google, Strutz Site, TOFC, themanbehindtheearring.com, wikipedia

Tell Me Lies: Children Learn to Flatter at age 4

Like to hear how much your child adores you? Children learn to tell social lies around 4 years old—that’s right, they learn how to flatter others and tell you just what you want to hear!

In the spirit of the Powerful Word of the month—honesty–it’s humorous that we don’t always want our children to tell the truth all the time, do we? If they did, you might be startled by what you hear. See this 30 second clip from one mother whose child hasn’t censored his real thoughts about her as an example…

A Chinese-Canadian study out of the University of Toronto shows that even young children know the power of flattery. The researchers focused on 285 children ages 3-6 years old, and asked the youngsters to rate drawings by children and adults who they knew, as well as to rate the drawings of strangers.

The preschoolers were asked to judge these art pieces both when the artist responsible was present as well as when the artist was absent. While the 3 year olds were consistently honest no matter if they had a relationship with the artist or if the artist was there to hear their assessments, the 5 and 6 year olds gave more flattering ratings to those artists who were present to hear their remarks. Interestingly, they flattered both strangers and those people who they knew—however, those whom they had a relationship consistently received the highest praise.

Among the 4 year olds, half the group provided flattering remarks when the artist was present and half did not. This finding suggests that 4 years old marks a transition from honest critique to flattery as the child gains a better understanding of the culture’s social courtesies.

Kang Lee, director of the Institute of Child Study at OISE/U of T and co-author of the report (recently published in the journal Developmental Science) isn’t certain of why the children flatter at this age but he knows that something is definitely going on:

“I’m sure politeness and empathy play some role,” Lee tells a reporter “But the fact they gave higher ratings to some groups than others suggests there is some form of ulterior motive beyond just being polite. We socialize kids to show empathy and politeness to everybody, not more to some people than to others.”

We can look to adults to glean some possible answers. According to Lee, adults flatter because; (1) They are showing gratitude for some positive; or (2) They’re creating a bridge with someone whom they’re meeting for the first time in case that person could be important for their advancement later down the road—it’s viewed as an “investment” in their positive treatment from the other person in the future.

“We don’t know which the child is doing…They are thinking ahead, they are making these little social investments for future benefits.”

In my assessment, the children may also be reacting to other social beliefs that mean statements may “get them into trouble” and nice statements make others happy, which feels good to everyone. Lee previously studied the responses of children ages 3 to 11, who were given gifts they didn’t like. Findings suggest that even 3-year-olds tell white lies to avoid hurting the feelings of the gift-giver.

Regardless of the reason for the flattery, our society does indeed teach children that honesty isn’t always the best policy, even if we tell them that they should always tell the truth. Adults do it themselves. We spare the feelings of others by telling them we like the “great book” they gave us of the “beautiful scarf” they knitted for a friend. But Lee suggests the flattery is motivated by self-interest and can annoy those who watch it happening (i.e. when an employee is flattering the boss).

“Kids at 4 or 5 are able to make distinctions already – that this lie is bad but this one is not very bad.”

Note: Your children will be discussing the question; “is honesty always the best policy” in the 4th week of this month’s Powerful Words curriculum. Aside from flattery, and “good” secrets like surprise parties for family of friends, all Powerful Words Member Schools will be discussing honesty with regard to strangers. Questions like, “should we tell strangers our phone number and address?” (for young children) and “how honest should we be with strangers on line?” (for older students), among others, will be explored.

All Powerful Parents are encouraged to use the Powerful Words curriculum as a Springboard for discussion at home or in the car to discuss how honesty plays a role in your family’s life and what your policies on are with regard to lying and telling the truth in different situations (i.e. when they made a mistake, when grandma gives them a gift they don’t like, when a stranger approaches them and asks them personal information, etc.) Stay tuned to your Powerful Words member schools for additional information on this topic.

We’re looking forward to hearing your comments on this topic as well as any child development issue! Please put your questions and comments below so we can create a dialog on these topics!

Thanks!

*image from Jupiter images.

Disney Princesses Sexualizing Your Daughters? Dr. Robyn Responds

It can be difficult to cope when it seems that our children are growing up too soon. Parents often have a love-hate relationship with much of the media when it comes to their children. Especially their daughters. On the one hand you have the hypersexualization of women and girls in music videos, magazines, internet games and advertisements, and on the other hand you have the classics we all used to love—like Sesame Street and Disney. But as adults, even are old favorites sometimes get on our nerves. Yes, as parents, we have a new perspective.

The following article is a guest post from Vicki, a parent, just like you, who just wants what’s best for her child. As Powerful Parents who know the importance of character education and values discussions in families, we’d love to hear your perspective. You can read her article as well as my response to her regarding at least some ways that she can deal with her frustrations with the Disney Princesses and Barbie, who have clearly gotten on her last nerve.

The Princesses Are Sexualizing My Daughter

Reagan has been “into” the Disney Princesses for years now. INTO them. She’s got reading books, coloring books, sticker books, puzzles, dress-up clothes, regular clothes, CDs, movies, toys, dolls, you name it she’s had one with a princess somewhere on it. We even went to Disney World in conjunction with her sixth birthday so she could enjoy meeting the princesses while she was still in that phase.

There was a time when we tried to ban the princesses. It was a couple years ago and we were idealistic thinking that if we told everyone that we weren’t “doing” the princesses that they would stop giving her things with princesses on them. That did not work. And the ban seemed to deepen her interest. Funny how that works. We couldn’t really express why we were banning them. That would lead to more questions.

“Why can’t I have that Princess coloring book?”
“Because we don’t do Princesses?”
“Why don’t we do Princesses?”
“Because they promote the wrong image?”
“What’s an image?” “What’s promote?” “Why don’t we do Princesses?”
“Here’s the coloring book.”

That’s not how it would end. She wouldn’t get the coloring book. But eventually we gave in and she did start acquiring that stuff again. At some time we thought we could counteract the Princesses. We introduced her to Veggie Tales, Dora, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Hello Kitty (I will never understand why someone finds princesses better than Hello Kitty. She is the best. The. End.), and many other characters. Her desire was always for the Princesses.

Now she knows practically everything about them. What is starting to bother me is that she’s starting to emulate them. Wanting to be more like them. For a while when she would put on a nightgown with a stretchy neck, she’d pull it off one shoulder and walk around with her head tilted towards that shoulder. And look at us with batting eyes. I would promptly ask her to

“Cover your shoulder, girls don’t dress like that.”
“So and so Princess does.”
“You’re not So and so Princess.”

We could live with that because there ain’t no way she’s exiting the house while under my supervision with a shoulder bare like that (visualize me doing the three snap). Unless she’s got a part in some 80s theater production and has on a super baggy sweatshirt and some type of covering underneath.

BUT NOW!!! THE REASON I’M BABBLING ON!!! Just the other night, after her dance recital, she had a friend spend the night. They were getting ready for bed in the bathroom and this is what I heard:

Reagan: “Do you know who my boyfriend is?”
Friend: “Who?”
R: “E****. It used to be S****, and then P****, but now it’s E****.”
F: Crickets
R: “I’d so kiss him. I really would. I really would kiss him.”

WHAT!!??!!??!!?? Where is she getting this stuff from?!?!? It took a couple of days to process. It’s from the freaking Princess characters. And Barbie, she’s not off the hook either. They all are lost in some way. They all need to be saved. They all find their knight in shining armor (or however he may be dressed). And they all kiss in the end with that stupid look of love between them. And what I’m just beginning to realize is this:

You can’t really tell how old the princesses are can you!?!? Or Barbie…

NO, you can’t. The only one, I believe, who mentions her age is Ariel. Disobeying her father at a ripe old age of 16. All of these Princesses look young and girls can totally see themselves playing the part. In fact, mentally picturing all of them, I couldn’t place an age on any of them. Heck, I could see myself playing the part. Girls are learning, ever so subtly, that at their young age they should be finding their one true love and kissing them and getting married.

I don’t think Reagan knows what she means when she says that she really would kiss this boy. She sees Mommy and Daddy kiss and hug, mind you not enough, but I doubt she actually has the moxie to go up and kiss a boy that she doesn’t even have the guts to tell that he’s her boyfriend. How do I know that? Sunday School. You know, the place they’re supposed to go and learn about Jesus? Reagan told a friend that E**** was her boyfriend. So this girl marches right up to him and tells him. His reaction. Nothing. I’m so glad.

So, what’s a Mom and Dad to do? We’re so deep into Princesses and Barbie. Will nightly conversations about this remedy the situation? Will banning the stuff with zero tolerance starting now work? Where is Dr. Dobson when you want to have a heart to heart with him right on the living room sofa? Pray for us please. And seriously, give suggestions.

Dear Vicki,

It’s frustrating to raise girls when media keeps telling them that they need to look a certain way in order to get attention. The Disney princess enterprise keeps growing, it’s not going anywhere, and it’s certainly something that many parents must deal with everyday.

I’ve got several ideas but let’s start here.

  • Ask her about them: What does she loves about the princesses? You may be surprised. There are always things we like and dislike about friends and other people in our lives– but we don’t shut them out even if we don’t agree with them. Perhaps what she likes about them could be something that you like about them to…which leads me to my next tip…
  • Go Positive: Take the Powerful Words approach and build from the positive side. Find something that you like about those princesses– do they have determination and go after something they really want? Do they have goals and dreams? Do they have nice singing voices? Do they show that they’re good friends to their friends? Are they kind? Grateful? Giving? Start focusing on the positive. Praise what you like.
  • Cite the Negative: You can also be very straightforward about what you don’t like about them so that your daughter is clear about your values. In the spirit of “honesty” month, be clear yet age appropriate. Is it their style of dress? Their choices? Their “pinkness?” We want our daughters to get out of the habit of thinking that girls can only look, act, and be one way. Let them know what bothers you and keep it simple.
  • Model What You Want to See: As you know, since I write a character curriculum and advise parents on instilling values in their children, I often talk about modeling and discussing what you would like to see in your children. Your example is stronger than any 2-dimensional character could ever be.
  • Expose Her to Fabulous 3-D Role Models: Have some great friends or local heroes that really show your daughter what a girl can become? Allow your daughter to have “tea” or lunch with them. The more we can expose our girls to powerful, positive women and teens, the more they will see that reality is much better than fantasy.
  • Get Her Into A Positive Activity: Challenge the stereotypes and ensure that your daughter is involved in activities that isn’t all pink and frills. Choose sports that make her feel powerful. Perhaps a martial arts, power tumbling or modern dance class would bring out a different side of her. Any of the Powerful Words Member Schools will also ensure that she’s learning strong character development—not just the physical—which will get her to thrive from the inside out.

If she knows what you like and what you don’t like, is challenging the stereotypes, and is exposed to powerful, positive women, you might be surprised the next time you pass by the bathroom filled with girls– she may just say something like “I like that she’s good to her friends but she doesn’t always make the best choices.”

Let me know how it goes.

Other articles or cites that deal with similar media topics:

Girls Media Maven

Corporate Babysitter:

Final Call

Packaging Girlhood

Shaping Youth