Shitarayn and Other Life Lessons

Where did you learn that?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

After writing my last article on 7 Ways to Raise a Prejudice Child, I started thinking about where I got my values from…

General Media? No.

Friends? Not really.

Janice Dickenson and Miley Cyrus? Certainly not.

According to the National Cultural Values Survey of 2000 American adults 18 or older, 74% say that they believe moral values in America are weaker than they were 20 years ago. It’s easy to blame the media and leave it at that. But as parents, we know there is more to it. Media might be global but parents are a direct hit.

When I think of the people who have really shaped my values, I don’t think of the Brady Bunch or Beverly Hills 90210, I think of the people who have taken the time to teach me right from wrong. I think of the people who model positive values in my life, even today.

Here are three of the gems I keep in my back pocket:

Keep your eyes on your own plate: My Dad always told me to “keep my eyes on my own plate.” Literally. I used to point to my sometimes devilish second oldest, brother, Scott, at the dinner table and appeal to my father, “Dad, Scott’s making faces at me.” To which my Dad would silently point to his plate with a big smile and raised eyebrows. We all knew what that meant. Where does this get me today? How often have you felt that people are trying to distract you? Frustrate you? Divert your attentions? We must teach our children that there is no need to bother with trivial things people are doing in our periphery. We must concentrate on our own paths if we are to get where we want to go. Focus.

Shitarayn: When in doubt, just shitarayn (pronounced shit-a-rine). I am not trying to be crass here, folks, it’s just Yiddish. Ma and Pa Silverman, married 69 years (“and not long enough” as Ma always adds), taught me this one. It literally means, “pour it in.” When cooking, if you know the basic ingredients, you don’t need to be so mindful of precise measuring—just throw it in. In other words, trust your gut. How often do we need to do that in life? The last time I visited Ma and Pa, Ma taught me how to make her famous cranberry Jello mold (how’s that for nostalgia?). “You have to do it by feel. It will be great. Go ahead. Shitarayn!” What an important lesson to pass on to our children; if you have the right ingredients–trust your gut, and just know it will come out great. Courage.

The Answer Can Be Yes or No: It was Fall of 1982 and I was trying on dresses. I fell in love with a peach-colored dress with a big bow in the back. I came waltzing into the hallway and asked Scott (yes the same brother who sometimes made faces at the dinner table), “do you like it?” To which he replied, “no.” I was heartbroken. Scott put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Robyn, when you ask a question, you must expect one of two answers, yes or no. It’s nothing to get upset about.” In other words, not everyone is going to agree with you, so what’s the big deal? We need to teach our children to be open-minded to different opinions while still making their own decisions based on what they know is best for them. Acceptance and Confidence.

Where do you learn your life lessons? Tell us your stories!

While teaching your children about strengthening their character through Powerful Words this month, you might just interject some of your own personal stories. No need for a specific formula or moment. Just shitarayn.

Please comment below. Where did you learn your life lessons?

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2 Responses

  1. I learned the majority of my values and core beliefs from my parents. That being said, I was definitely influenced by my peers and the media, especially in college.

    I’ve read something interesting recently while reading about homeschooling. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that your children are around you a lot more than they’re around their peers while being homeschooled. This is beneficial for them. Who would you rather your children be around for eight hours of the day: kids their own age with questionable home lives and a desire to rebel (natural as it may be), or you, an adult who’s made the mistakes, knows the ropes and can guide them in the way they should go. I choose the latter.

  2. Hi Vicki!

    I imagine your children have learned some wonderful lessons from you– well beyond the academic– from being around you so much! What lucky children!

    Dr. Robyn

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