The High Cost of Beauty: Giving Up Wealth, Health, and Happiness

The High Cost of Beauty: Giving up Wealth, Health, and Happiness

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Friday Musings…

In 7th grade, one of my best friends complained that she needed a nose job. “It’s too big!” I thought she was beautiful. But I’ll never forget what she told me; “Every time I look in the mirror, all I see is this nose. Beautiful people have little noses. Have you ever seen a model with a nose like mine?”

Seventh grade was my real induction into the world of “beauty.” Or shall I say, “manufacturing beauty” from natural beauty. Make-up, hair, tanning, shaving (thank goodness we didn’t know much about waxing during the preteen years), clothes and plastic surgery—it became apparent that scuffed up jeans, a t-shirt, and a little dirt on my face was no longer going to cut it. I had been a bit of a tomboy—having 2 older brothers who I wanted desperately to be like—and a tomboy wasn’t the best thing to be once you entered middle school.

We got a bit ridiculous. We’d put on our mother’s make-up and dress up like Madonna. We actually thought we looked good. We’d spend hours looking in the mirror brushing our teeth, pinching non-existent fat and searching for flaws to complain about. We bought trinkets and bobbles and fluorescent purses (mine was pink).

I remember saving up to buy at least 50 of those rubber bracelets—yes, I realize they were simply car parts and vacuum cleaner components now—but we all wanted them. I even remember my friends and myself slathering ourselves with tanning oil and literally lying down on tin foil to get that “natural glow.” Years later I realized that I could use the same procedure to cook shrimp.

As bad as we were, it’s worse these days. How much do girls and women spend on all those products that promises “more beauty than our creator could ever provide?”

It turns out, probably more than we care to know. The YMCA released a report on the Consequences of America’s Beauty Obsession on Women and Girls to illustrate that we’ve been buying into a “Beauty at Any Cost philosophy.

Economic Costs:

  1. 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedure in 2007
  2. A survey of young people showed that 69% of responders, 18 or older, are in favor of cosmetic surgery.
  3. ¼ of cosmetic surgery was performed on women of color, up 13% from the previous year.
  4. Workers with “below average looks tended to earn about 9% less money than those with “above average” looks

Beauty or brains?

One full year of college tuition and fees at a public instate college is $6,185. Five years of beauty products costs $6,423

Health Costs:

  1. 67% of women (excluding those with bulimia or anorexia) are trying to lose weight
  2. 53% of dieters are already at a healthy weight
  3. 37% of women are concerned about what they’re eating
  4. 13% of women actually smoke in order to lose weight!
  5. Smoking is responsible for 90% of lung cancer deaths in the US
  6. 40% of newly-diagnosed cases of eating disorders are in girls only 15-19 years old. Symptoms can start as early as kindergarten.
  7. Over ½ of teen girls engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors such as fasting, skipping meals, smoking, and taking laxative

What’s the real cost of all that make-up?

Several ingredients found in US cosmetics have been linked to damage to the liver and reproductive system in animals. Europe has banned these ingredients. The US has not. In fact, in Europe, substances that can be used currently in the US have been called “carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic for reproduction and should be prohibited from use in cosmetic products.” –European Union Cosmetics Directive, 2003

Happiness Cost

  1. Studies have found that girls who watch TV commercials with underweight models in them lost self confidence and were dissatisfied with their own bodies.
  2. Sexualization of girls have been linked with eating disorders, low self esteem, and depression.
  3. Aggressive bullying between girls has been on the rise since the 1990s.
  4. Relational aggression, a form of bullying, is related to their roles in culture. Women want to be attractive and men want to have attractive partners.

In a study of women, 80% of interviewed participants said that they competed with other women over physical appearance. These women are driven by an unhealthy belief that winning the looks competition will somehow gain them a husband, “the” career, or the self they desire.

So, should we dare to think about it? How much are we paying for beauty? How much are our children—many of whom are going back to school—going to spend on clothes, make-up, hair, weight loss and skin to ensure that they look “their best?” And how is it that we’ve all been fooled to believe that “our best” means slathering ourselves with manufactured, unnatural products that are made in a factory?

So much for telling children and teens to just be themselves.

Please comment below. We’re really interested in what you have to say.

The Complaint Department Called: They Want Their Grumpy Pants Back

Ear Pollution is Toxic!
Ear Pollution is Toxic!

Please stop complaining: You’re Polluting My Ears!

Dr. Robyn Silverman

I just got back from Martha’s Vineyard— one of my favorite places in the world. It’s so relaxing– we saw friends, read, and enjoyed the stunning weather characteristic of Massachusetts this time of year. It’s amazing how happy people seem over there. So many smiles! Such generosity of spirit! We ate at some great restaurants, got ice-cream from an amazing place in Oaks Bluff (who can keep their smile from showing up when eating ice-cream!) and drove by where my husband and I got engaged almost 9 years ago.We spent time with friends, had a picnic of great food including chicken cacciatore (with a secret ingredient the host gave me!) and took pictures of some beautiful cliffs at the end of the island.

It was a beautiful day!  Look at these amazing cliffs!

It was a beautiful day! Look at these amazing cliffs!

We even saw the most amazing summer fireworks I’ve ever seen with a few thousand other people. Wow! We sat out on the grass in the “camp-grounds” looking up at the night sky while we “oohed and ahhed” at the spectacular show.

And then, we got on the ferry– a beautiful 45 minute trip back to the mainland of Massachusetts– and BAM! Whining. Complaining. Hundreds of people changed into their Grumpy Pants. I’m not a fan of grumpy pants (not that I’m complaining).

On the Ferry! Can't complain!  Or...can you?

On the Ferry! Can't complain...or can you???

After spending the month thinking about generosity, I was struck by the sheer amount of complaints I heard on the trip home. Were these people in the same place I was? They complained about having to wait, complained about being rushed, complained about having to take a bus, complained about having to take a ferry, complained about being cold, hot, smooshed, or hungry. It was toxic– and I just wanted to get away from it. My goodness! Have you been around people like this? It can’t be good for mental health to be so negative.

My Mom taught me when I was young that nobody wants to hang around the “complaint department.” Moms have a way of saying things just so, right? But it’s true. I remember reading something– or maybe I saw it on the news– about this church that started a no complain rule with “no complaining” bracelets and everything! The aim was to stop “ear pollution.” Yes, I like that too.

Not only do we need to teach our children (and adults) that complaining all the time repels people from wanting to be around you, but that having a generous spirit in which you smile, say thank-you, and notice the good things in life attracts people to you– and inevitably, bring more good things.

A recent study found that teen girls who vented to each other about their problems, from boy problems to social slights, were more likely to develop anxiety and depression— and the same is likely true for adult women. (–Amanda Rose, author of complaint study)

What does constant complaining do?

  1. It annoys other people and can make them do unsavory things
  2. It makes people more negative
  3. It opens the flood gates to more complaining
  4. It repels happy people
  5. It allows negativity to become the focus of what you think about
  6. It makes even good things look bad
  7. It makes people less happy, healthy, and successful (see happiness research, Marty Seligman)
  8. It makes people less grateful
  9. It makes people tune you out
  10. It drowns out all the positive things you say

Think of the 3 closest people to you– think of yourself– do you show a generous spirit? Do you give of yourself with intention? Do you or those who are close to you smile a lot? Complain a lot?

There’s this fabulous woman, Debbie, who is a wonderful friend of mine and also an amazing coach. She’s like a warm blanket. People flock to her. Everyone just wants to hug her. Know anyone like that? She lives on Martha’s Vineyard and I just got to spend some time with her. You won’t catch her griping or “kvetching” as my grandmother (“Ma”) would say. But it’s more than that– she gives with intention– so much so– that it’s become natural, everyday, and well, unintentional. She smiles and embraces you– and you feel it, even over the phone.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Colleen O’Donnell, the author of “Generous Kids” and doing a half hour interview with her. She, too, talks about the importance of giving with intention– easy ways for the family to show generosity– that don’t take much time, talent, or money– but make a big difference. Here’s a quick clip

Being generous makes us feel good– and makes others feel good. So as we leave this month in which we have focused on generosity, I hope we can keep the generous spirit alive. Do we want giving to become a habit– or do we want complaining to become a habit? Both are possible.

I know lots of children are going back to school over in this part of the world and summer’s coming to a close. We might be putting our shorts and tanks away–but can we leave the grumpy pants in the closet? They’re really out of style.


Two Minutes to gripe: Every notice that there’s just too much complaining around you? Tell us about it.

Two minutes to praise: Have any people in your life that are like warm blankets? Sing their praises!



Have a Powerful Day!

Are School Bullying Programs Just Temporary Band-Aids?

Bullied: The Fallout of No Child Left Behind?

Dr. Robyn J.A. SIlverman

Dr. Robyn–One of my daughters (I have 9 yo twin girls) is being bullied terribly. I have spoken to the teacher, principle, adjustment counselor. I have even had Tim and Kim speak with her this week because she brings it home to hurt her sister and disrespect me. How do I get the school to adopt a No Bully policy? Next year will be their last year in elementary school but these children will be moving on to middle school with my girls. It started with just a few children and now the whole class is mean to her. She says she has “no friends” and she doesn’t anymore. She has gone from a confident child to a child that thinks she is ugly, fat and deserves to be treated badly.


I’m not a very politically-minded person. I don’t spend hours debating the current campaign or arguing about something George W. Bush, Barack Obama, or John McCain did or said. I do care about children though—and as you know, I’ve got a lot of opinions when it comes to kids and their education. Particularly, my focus is typically on ways to help children reach their potential and become generous, open-minded, respectful, confident, leaders—rather than on who’s getting the most electoral votes.

After reading a brief post in the Washington Post this morning on the importance of teaching the whole child in school, my feelings, as usual, became more acute. We talk about the need for character education and yet in many schools, kids aren’t receiving it.

It’s been difficult to see the emotional fallout regarding the intense focus on academics during the era of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). High expectations in reading and math have left children in an emotional and social funk. I’ve already started receiving requests for bullying and leadership seminars from schools who anticipate a continuation of the bullying trend that’s happened over the last 7 or 8 years. Children don’t know what to do and teachers don’t know what to do– and nothing much is being done in most places.

What’s going on now is similar to what happened decades ago– lack of knowledge, lack of no-how, lack of money, lack of listening, and lack of implementation in schools. These reasons, I believe, were the same reasons that I wound up getting horribly bullied in elementary school years ago. Are we still in the same place?

No promotion of positive values—no prevention of alienation, no expectation of character in action– even if today’s bully is tomorrow’s criminal. Perhaps it isn’t hard to believe that this is part of what fuels (and pushed me in the past) to become a child development expert in my adult life. I figured, “I guess I’ll have to figure out the answer myself.” The teachers at that time (and I don’t think it’s gotten better in most cases since), had absolutely NO CLUE what to do about bullying. There was no real protocol and a real feeling of dart throwing in the dark when it came to solving the obvious issue.

Time to let the cat out of the bag…

It was fifth grade when it first happened to me. Admittedly, I was a sensitive girl—very friendly, quite intuitive, and often, too eager to please. This social profile, along with the fact that I had become too close with a girl who was already considered “the best friend” of another bossy, albeit insecure, 5th grader, named Jenny, put me in a precarious situation. I was ready to begin some of the worst days of my life. As an adult, I can still say that with confidence. I was about to become a consistent victim of bullying during this unfortunate year. Boy, do I have some stories that would make your head spin.

While in Martha’s Vineyard this past weekend, I had a great conversation with some of my friends about the tragic sabbatical that children have taken from social and emotional education. On the one hand, the lack of character education in schools is absurd (and why we’re so grateful to Powerful Words Member Schools for supplying it in the after-school arenas).

On the other hand, the children have been robbed of natural social lessons due to the diminishing budget for gym (time when children need to work together outside of the academic world), art (a time when children can express themselves artistically and put their feelings about nonacademic things to paper), drama (an activity that allows children to act out, try out, and get out their feelings in a healthy way), music…and the list goes on and on. And let’s not get started on the fact that children have full access of the computer/internet and no education about the decorum, respect, and responsibility it takes to use it. We can say “it’s got to stop” but without the opportunities for children to learn positive interactions and the diminished focus on providing such opportunities in schools, we’ve got a major problem.

So now what?

I’m troubled and reassured by the schools that are asking to bring me in to talk to the children about bullying —in person, cyber, or otherwise. They may actually be noticing it may be a problem—or they’re simply trying to “shut up” a parent who’s complaining that their child is being bullied (something that is definitely happening in some of these schools). It’s clear that money is tight– since most of it is designated for more math or reading prep– not social education. This has to be a one-shot deal. But what can I possibly do or say in an hour that’s going to change the social climate of the school?

There have been plenty of parents who’ve reached out and written to tell me about their child who has been bullied, teased, terrorized, ostracized, and gossiped about.

I’ve already gone into school to role play strategies that are meant to help children cope when a bully “attacks.” But I’m not really sure that it’s where I should put my focus. Do you? I mean, why give the education to the “victims” when it’s really the leaders and bullies that need the social education —I guess I’d rather “promote” positive interaction rather than “prevent” (which implies the risk is still very much there), negative interaction.

So I’m at a stalemate. I admit it. Since the schools aren’t really asking for it– I’d like to ask you for your opinion. If you had someone go into your children’s school to talk about bullying—or someone who was actually going to make a difference—what would you want them to do or say? My inclination is to talk to the “leaders” in the school (the teachers would have to pick these out) and put them through leadership training.

What do you think? What would you want for your children? I’d like to help but I’m not really interested in putting a temperamental band-aid on a sore subject nor am I interested in being the walking check-mark next to the school administration’s program requirement list for the year.

As educators, our after-school program instructors that constantly keep their eyes on respect, discipline, confidence, responsibility, generosity, and more– we thank you– you are needed more than you can ever know. I wonder how many children you have saved from being the victim as well as the bully– through the consistent use of character education and Powerful Words. Now we need to know how to transfer some of our expertise and programming into the school systems that need it so badly.

Your comments and ideas are respected and very much wanted. Please comment below.

When Bronze Means Second Loser

The Agony of Bronze?

The Agony of Bronze?

Ahhh the Olympics. The thrill of victory! The agony of defeat! Well, actually, that second part isn’t so thrilling is it?

As I mentioned about a week and a half ago, watching the Olympics is no relaxing experience for me. It’s hard work! I’m standing up, clapping, trying to “will” the ball over the net, keep my feet planted firmly on the beam, and swimming (well, in my mind anyway) “with all my might” to the wall.

My husband laughs at my emotional involvement. I get so excited when someone on “our” team wins. Working in these industries as the Child Development coach makes me feel attached, somehow. But one thing I DON’T like is when the other team doesn’t do well. Does that sound strange? I want everyone to do well and then have someone from our team simply do the best. I don’t root for anyone to fall, mess up, or break a leg. That’s just not my style.

The Olympics is a strange nut to crack. I love the excellence of it all but I hate the perfection aspect. I mean, I had to wonder what kind of pressure Michael Phelps was under when he was going for yet another gold medal. Yes, of course I was proud, excited, and shouting “with all my might” with the best of ‘em as he was traveling at superhuman speeds towards the touch pad on the pool wall. But…the pressure! I wondered if the children were watching would think, “I need to be that perfect.” I also scoffed at the FACT that the media, if this swimming genius did not in fact make it to the wall 1/100th of a second before the next guy, would call it a major “upset,” and a “tragedy,” of Olympic proportions, pun intended.

And who could forget the tally that was being kept of Walsh and May’s winning run? Yes, incredibly exciting—but I just knew that a loss would be called “devastating”—as if the other 100+ wins that they already had didn’t even matter anymore. I mean, do you really go back to 0 when you lose? Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that they won—and was jumping around when they did—but if they lost, would it be so horrific? Would a silver—or a bronze—be an insult?

Imagine that—a medal—other than gold would be an insult. Second—or *gasp* third best at a monumental event like the Olympics would be…despicable? It’s not like we didn’t see it. People mentioned the travesty when Shawn Johnson “swallowed her disappointment” when she didn’t receive her “expected” gold medal for the all-around—and even Michael Phelps was infuriated that he didn’t break the world record on one of his 8 Olympic GOLD-winning swims. Are these unrealistic expectations?

We should always be striving to reach our best but when can we say that we are satisfied, honored, blessed, grateful, and inspired by our achievements?

Which brings me to one of the ugliest “bronze means second loser” attitudes that was reported on the Olympics just today. Kelly Sotherton, who clinched the first athletics medal of the games for the UK and achieved a personal best of 2 min 12.28 seconds in the 800m, should have been celebrating with friends, family, and her coach given her amazing accomplishment. Instead, here’s what happened:

Kelly Sotherton’s bronze medal celebrations proved short-lived when she was reduced to tears by her coach. Minutes after claiming Britain’s first athletics medal of the Games, Sotherton, 27, had to endure a dressing down from Charles van Commenee, UK Athletics’ technical director for the heptathlon.

He believed that Sotherton should have won the silver medal behind Carolina Kluft, the Swede who succeeded Britain’s Denise Lewis as the Olympic champion.

Instead of congratulating Sotherton on winning a medal at her first Olympics, Van Commenee accused her of “running like a wimp” in the 800 metres, the last of the seven events.

Sotherton burst into tears and had to be consoled by the team doctor. Moments later she had to compose herself for the official press conference, where her performance belied her inner turmoil.

Could we all be disgusted now? How about achieving a medal? How about achieving the first British medal of the games? How about earning a place on an Olympic team at all? How about achieving a personal best???

If we are truly to learn from our Olympians—and be inspired by them (and they ARE inspiring, aren’t they), we must remember that they are human. We must remember that a personal best should be celebrated. We must remember that their efforts and achievements, gold or not, should be respected. After all, isn’t this what we would want for ourselves and for our children?

Come on, coach. Crack a smile.

Parents—if your children are paired with a coach like this; head for the door. Surround your child with people who encourage, challenge, and recognize greatness even when it comes in another color besides gold.

22 Ways to Instill Generosity In Children: Part 2

Jupiter Images

Jupiter Images

At a time when the motto of many public figures seems to be about “me, me, me,” Powerful Words is combating selfishness through our top-notch member schools and with the help of our Powerful Parents. We all want children to be generous, giving people who think of others– not just themselves! But we need to teach children about being generous early in their lives,; so start today!

We started with Part 1 of our 22 Ways to Instill Generosity in Kids on Monday– here’s the second half– #12 through #22!

By: Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Generous Kids: Part 2

(12) Get some follow up. If you can, find out from the charity where the contributions go so that you can explain it to your children. When there is no connection to the charity, it’s hard for children to really feel the magic of giving. Similarly, follow up on the gifts or cards your children gives to the local hospital or seniors so that they know that the people were happy to be on the receiving end of his or her generosity. This is part of making the habit of giving more visceral.

(13) Show that you give too: Whenever you give your time, talent, thanks, or treasures to others, let your children know how good it makes you feel, how it helps others, and why you do it. When they see and hear about you doing it, it will be more natural for them to do it as well. It will simply be “something your family does.”

(14) Make generosity part of your family values: That means give within your family as well as outside of your family. When you ask your children “what kind of family are we?” they should be able to answer with the top 5 values that define your family. Make generosity one of them!

(15) Find out from a local foster care facility about a child who is celebrating a birthday soon. What does s/he want for his birthday? Go to the store with your children and allow them to get the present with you, help you wrap it, and make a special card. Then you and your children can drive it or send it to that child together.

(16) Refrain from giving material rewards for giving generously. It’s counter intuitive to reward a child for giving by giving him or her money or more toys. Generosity should be tied to internal gratification not external motivators.

(17) Talk about what other people need rather than just what the child wants: Notice the people around you and help your children to do the same. When you visit the local hospital, encourage your children to look around and ask them; if you were here, what do you wish you had? Let’s take a look at the books and games they have, what’s missing? When we encourage our children to focus on others, we help them remember that generosity is more important than more gifts for him or herself.

(18 ) Before your child’s birthday or birthday party, ask him or her which toys she can contribute to others. If s/he receives 10 new gifts, are their 10 toys or games from her current stash that she can donate to someone in need?

(19) Nip selfishness in the bud. Many parents reward tantrums by giving toys and treats to their children. This breeds more selfishness.

(20) Reward spontaneous generosity by praising it: Let your children know when you see a great example of generosity among them or their friends. Praise the person who showed the generosity in front of your children as well as privately. Don’t just say “good job.” Say something like; “I’m so proud of the way you shared your toys with Johnny. It made him so happy. What a great friend you are! One thing I know about you is that you are a generous, kind person who likes to share with others.”

(21) After your children have given something—talk about it. How do they feel? Who do they think their old favorite shirt will go to now? How will their old favorite toy feel to be loved by another little boy or girl who will be so happy to have a teddy bear to love? What do they think the lady at the nursing home will say when she opens the card your child made with all the stickers on it?

(22) Each day ask what the family is grateful for and how they showed generosity: This can become part of your routine at dinner time or before bed. Why should you wait for a special holiday to celebrate giving?

Of course, surrounding your children with people who give of themselves, refrain from showing stinginess, and teach children about values is a great way to teach generosity—so those of you who attend a Powerful Words Member school, you are way ahead of the game. Powerful Words Member Schools are concentrating on teaching generosity all month long—talk about inspiring children to give! We can’t wait to hear your stories about the way your children are giving this month and all year ‘round. Congratulations!

Do you have any great ways that you use to teach children generosity? Do you have any great stories about your children giving? Please comment below. We’d really love to hear them—please share!

Have a Powerful Day!

22 Ways to Teach Generosity to Children: Part 1

Do we have to wait for the holidays to teach values?

22 Ways to Teach generosity to children

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

This is part 1 of a 2 part article on teaching children to give outside of the “season of giving.”

As you know, I coach the top instructors, coaches, teachers, and leaders in the children’s after-school program industry. If you’re part of a Powerful Words member school lead by some of these industry leaders, you know that the powerful word of the month is generosity. Sometimes people are curious about why I don’t reserve such a concept for when we are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Isn’t that the “season of giving?”

While holiday time is a wonderful time to talk about generosity and gratitude, I think it’s important to spread the word about giving throughout the year. During the summer, contributions to charities are down. People are thinking about vacations—not donations. The structure of the school day is out and the lazy summer schedule rules. But giving and generosity is just as important in August as it is in December, right?

As we are getting ready to go back to school in this half of the world, it’s only natural that our attention turns back to manners, giving, generosity and respect. These values help children to make and keep friends, excel in school, and feel fulfilled.

As we’ve recently talked about helping children create a “bucket list” that stresses giving over receiving, let’s delve deeper into the topic of children and generosity. This 2-part article contains 22 ways to teach children the gift of giving all year ‘round.

Here are the first 11:

(1) “Can Can:” Ask your children to go through the pantry at home and find any canned goods that haven’t been used within the last 6 months. If they’re not being eaten, give them to a family who can use them!

(2)Grocery Grab:” Request that your children pick out one item each at the grocery store to contribute to the local food pantry.

(3) Planned Percentages: Direct your children to set aside a certain percentage of their allowance, job money, or money that came through gifts for the purpose of giving to charity. Then help them choose a charity that is meaningful to them, allow them to research it, and motivate them to write the letter telling the charity how much and why they want to donate to them.

(4) Entertain “the troops:” Visit an assisted living facility or a nursing home so that your children can sing songs, play games, and read with the seniors there.

(5) Out of the Closet: After every other season, have a “closet day” in which your children spend some time going through their closet and bagging up the things that are too small or unused. Then drive them to the drop off center or charity and allow them to contribute their donations.

(6) Out of season giving: Ask your children to help make cards or wrap presents for people outside of your family and circle of friends. Perhaps these contributions would be for the local children’s hospital or other charity. It doesn’t need to be holiday time to do this! Be different!

(7) Adopt a friend: Invite someone who doesn’t have family nearby to share a meal or come over for a movie. You wouldn’t believe how grateful they will be just to feel included.

(8) A Giving Living: Talk to your children often about generosity, giving, and how they can give of themselves each day. It’s amazing that the more we give, the more we get out of living.

(9) “I just called to say…:”Encourage your children to call elderly family members—even extended family members– just to say hello, tell them what’s new, and ask them what they’re up to these days. A simple call can make someone’s day.

(10) Cards Held in High Regard: Ensure that your children send out thank you cards. If they’re very young, have them sign them in their own way—either with their name, a drawing, or decorative stickers.

(11) Characters with Character: Read books that illustrate the power of giving. Talk about the characters with your children and ask them how each character showed generosity of spirit. What did they admire?

Stay tuned for 11 more ways to teach children generosity outside of the season of giving on Wednesday! In the mean time, what are your ideas? What ideas sound great to you? What ideas will you try this month? The more we share these ideas, the more we can inspire our children to become generous givers.

Have a Powerful Day!

Why Girls Are Confused about Body Size: Body Image Messages

Why Girls are Confused…again: Body Size Messages

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Friday Musings…

With so many pictures in the press indirectly suggesting to girls that “this very thin body is what is beautiful,” and messages telling them 101 ways to lose weight, tone up the flab, and be attractive to boys, it’s easy to figure out why so many girls (and boys) suffer from poor body image, eating disorders, scary eating practices, too much pressure, and low self confidence.

Positive role models might be available from time to time, and yet, they must be sought out since they are often sandwiched between the one celebrity who has lost another 14 pounds and another diet plan.

Just one more reason why our girls (and their Mothers) can get confused:

On the beach as compared to her Hanes Ad

On the beach as compared to her Hanes Ad

(1) Jennifer Love Hewitt made quite a statement on behalf of curvy women everywhere last December when she was criticized for “less than perfect body” while away with her fiancé in Hawaii. She was only a size 2.

“This is the last time I will address this subject. “I’ve sat by in silence for a long time now about the way women’s bodies are constantly scrutinized. “To set the record straight, I’m not upset for me, but for all of the girls out there that are struggling with their body image. “A size 2 is not fat! Nor will it ever be. And being a size 0 doesn’t make you beautiful. I know what I look like, and so do my friends and family. “And like all women out there should, I love my body.”To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini – put it on and stay strong

However, what was the headline on the latest Us Weekly?

Jennifer Love Hewitt Exclusive: Her Exact Diet and Workout Plan 18 Pounds in Ten Weeks!

Hmmmm. What are we telling our daughters?

Us Weekly "Weight Winner"

Us Weekly "Weight Winner" feels great now that she's lost 18 pounds off her 5'3" frame.

Message 1 says: People are critical of girls who are not a size 0, even if they’re just a size 2. If you put on any weight at all, people will take pictures of you, make fun of you, talk about you, and criticize your self control and appearance. But Jennifer Love Hewitt is lashing out and telling these nasty people what she thinks of them…so girls who deviate from the perceived “ideal” size 0 are OK but…

Message #2 says: Not so fast. Maybe a size 2 was too big? If a size 2 woman “needs to” lose 18 pounds…how much do other girls and women need to lose?

Parents, please use this story as a jumping off point to talk about body image and body confidence with your children and teens. In addition, in order to keep them from getting confused:

  1. Let them know that children come in all shapes and sizes: What’s important is that we make healthy choices, not that we’re a size 0.

  1. Don’t allow Hollywood to dictate what’s beautiful and acceptable: Help your children redefine attractiveness in your home. Expose them to role models of all shapes and sizes.

  2. Watch what media comes into your home: Turn on the TV, open a magazine, put connect to the internet , your family will be bombarded with images of impossible thin girls and women. Filter some of the negative stuff out as best you can and be sure to talk about what you see when it finds it’s way into your living room. It’s not about “blocking” everything out but rather, teaching your children how to process the information responsibly and with perspective.

  3. Rule out comparisons with celebrities and models: What you and your family sees on TV or in the magazines is not the “real world” and often is simply…”not real.” To compare your body type and size with Paris Hilton is about as scientific as comparing it with Strawberry Shortcake.

  4. Ground your children with values and activities: Be sure that your children know your that your values have more to do with respect, tolerance, gratitude, and citizenship than surface looks and liposuction. Surround your children with like-minded individuals and have them engage in activities that help them see the fun of moving a healthy body not obsessing with how it looks in a pair of jeans.

  5. Give them a healthy example of positive body image: As parents, we can’t just talk about the importance of a healthy body image, we must have on ourselves. Catch yourself when you start to berate your own body or make comments about your spouse or friends. Your children are listening and always affected by how you perceive yourself and your body.

Have a Powerful Weekend!


Is Drowning an Issue of Race Among Children? What Cullen Jones Can Teach us

Daniel Johnson/AP

Copyright: Daniel Johnson/AP

How can Olympian, Cullen Jones, inspire children to learn to swim?

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

What Powerful lessons can children learn from Olympian, Cullen Jones?

Watching Cullen Jones, along with his teammates, Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale and anchor Jason Lezak set a world record in the 400-meter freestyle relay on Monday at the Beijing Games, you might be surprised to know that Jones is just the third African-American swimmer to medal in the Olympic Games, and only the second to win gold.

And competition is the least of our problems when it comes to African-American swimmers.

The New York Times published a disturbing article this week that laid it all out. First, in general, swimming is a problem such that in 2005, there were 3,582 unintentional drownings in the United States, or 10 per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental death among children.

But even more tragic is that drowning and NOT swimming can actually be compounded by race such that:

the most worrisome statistics involve black children and teens ages 5 to 19, who are 2.3 times more likely to drown than whites in this age group. For children 10 to 14, the rate is five times higher.

In addition, nearly 6 out of 10 African-American and Hispanic children are unable to swim (almost twice as many as their Caucasian peers)!

What’s the problem here?

§ There once was a widely discredited theory about black people suffering from a “buoyancy problem” which made people think that black children couldn’t learn to swim.

§ Segregation kept black people out of pools and beaches and created generations of non-swimmers. This perpetuated the myth that African-Americans couldn’t swim.

§ While studies have shown that Africans were avid swimmers, slaves born into the United States were not allowed to swim because it could be seen as a means of escape.

What can an Olympian do?

The fate of the young African-American swimmer might be resting on the shoulders of Cullen Jones, who is dispelling the myths about black people and swimming as he enjoyed Olympic gold and showed himself as a great role model to all children.

I was told, ‘You could change the face of swimming by getting more African-Americans into swimming,’ ” Jones, 24, said. “At first I was like, ‘Really, me?’ I never got into it thinking I could do something like that, you never do. I just liked to swim.

Bank of America has stepped up to sponsor Jones as he teaches a series of clinics and meets in order to promote minorities to get back into the pool and learn to swim. Having nearly drowned himself as a child, he knows how important swimming lessons are and hopes to impart these all important lessons to the children he interacts with on his tour.

With the strength of the lessons children are learning through their Powerful Words Member Schools and the lessons they can learn in the swimming pool about staying safe and strong, who knows? Another Olympian might just be born!

Cullen Jones’ NPR interview

7 attributes children learn from Olympians

Sandi Stevens McGee and Dr. Robyn Silverman

copyright: Sandi Stevens McGee and Dr. Robyn Silverman

What does it take to become an Olympian in life?

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

New York Times

New York Times

Shawn Johnson sticks the perfect landing. Nastia Liukin falls flat on her back and gets back up. Michael Phelps wins another gold medal.

No matter what event you like, it’s difficult to watch the Olympics and not feel inspired. I can’t help myself—I have to stand up, my palms get sweaty, and I find myself shouting “go, go, go!” and “you can do it!” at the TV.

Children can learn a great deal from our Olympians. They’re not just role models; they are character in action. They take all of the Powerful Words that we learn and make use of them in their daily lives.

Here are just a few questions you can pose to your children:

  1. Perseverance: How do your child’s favorite athletes show perseverance in every part of competition and every practice? How can your children show the same kind of perseverance in their own lives?
  2. Discipline: What kind of discipline does it take to achieve a goal like being a member of the Olympic team? Where do you show discipline in your life?
  3. Responsibility: What do you think are the responsibilities of an Olympic hopeful? What kinds of responsibilities must you meet on your quest to be your best?
  4. Determination: Why do you think being determined is so important on our quest to reach our goals? When have you felt determined? What goals have you achieved by being determined?
  5. Indomitable Spirit: Which athletes kept going with all their effort even when they weren’t “the favorite” or even when they were behind? How did that indomitable spirit pay off? When have you showed indomitable spirit in the face of challenge?
  6. Respect: How do you see the Olympians showing respect for themselves and their fellow athletes? How do they show respect and sportsmanship for the judges and their fans? How do you show respect to others each day?
  7. Courage: How do you think these athletes developed the courage to compete on the highest level? How do you think they stayed courageous even when they failed or fell? When do you show that kind of courage and how can you show even more?

The Olympics can be a great stepping stone to talk about your family’s values and well as what it takes to be the best in any area of interest. This is a great time to talk about some amazing athletes and how your children can integrate what they see on their quest to become Olympians in life.

10 Ways to Take Control Over The Fast Food Kid’s Meal Problem

How to Take Control of the Kids’ Meal Problem

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

As you read in yesterday’s discussion of the new fast food nutritional study (or shall we call it, lack of nutrition study?), many fast food restaurant chains have crammed the kiddie meal full of too many calories. It’ s frustrating for parents and others who are taking care of children because they figure if it says “kids’ meal” it should, in fact, be constructed with kids’ best interests and health in mind. Alas, it’s not.

Since many of these restaurants are in no rush to reorganize their menu’s for children what should we do?

(1) Take initiative and use discretion when you enter these establishments in order to choose the best lunch or dinner options . You can buy ala carte, give your children choices between the best 2-3 options, go to a place that offers healthier options, or brown bag at least a portion of the meal.

(2) Drop the soda and highly sweetened juice and opt for water, low fat milk, or bring along something you trust and know is healthy.

(3) Do a little research: While I agree that it should already be done for us, in many cases, it’s not. Many of these foods might look harmless but are packed with calories, sugar, fat, and sodium.

(4) Ask for details: If they don’t have the nutritional information out, ask for it. You have a right to know what your child is putting in his or her mouth.

(5) Make your wishes known: Let your local restaurants know what you want. With enough people asking, they’ll be more likely to provide it.

(6) Ensure that the rest of your children’s meals are on target: You may not have full control of ingredients when you’re eating out, but you can certainly take control when your children are eating in your home. Pay attention to labels at the store and integrate more whole grains, veggies, and fruits into each meal.

(7) Talk to your children about healthy choices: When children know what foods make them grow strong, healthy and tall and what foods don’t have that same power– they’re much more likely to make healthy choices. Who doesn’t want to grow up strong and healthy?

(8 ) Expose them to healthy foods at home: They’re much more likely to gravitate to healthier options if they’re used to them. Have fun! Nutritious food doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless. You can make yummy, healthier versions of children’s favorites like pizza, tacos, chicken nuggets, and even shakes at home so that you know they’re getting the good stuff and they won’t crave the “bad stuff” nearly as much. (I started making my own dairy-free ice-creams so that I know exactly what’s in them, how much, and what’s going into my family. They’re delicious!)

(9) Ask to substitute: You’re the buyer– don’t like what you see? Ask for something else. For example, if you don’t “want fries with that,” ask for apple slices or veggies, if they have them.

(10) Split it: Just because they give you double the calories, fat, sugar, and sodium in the kids’ meals doesn’t mean that it all needs to be eaten in one sitting. Your children want fries? Split the order in half and share it between the two. You can do the same thing with the chicken, burgers, or pizza. Don’t have more than one child? Either split and give the other half to someone else who is unable to buy it themselves, put it away for later, or get rid of it. We want to teach children that just because it’s in front of them doesn’t mean it’s healthy to eat all at one time.

It’s vital that we don’t allow the restaurant chains to make nutritional decisions for our children. After all, they’re working for us! Get the information you need to make the best and most powerful decision possible for your children and your family. They’re depending on it.

Have a Powerful Day-