Thanksgetting???

thanksgiving and grumpy ungrateful child

Thanksgetting?

By Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

What ever happened to the “Thanks” part of Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is definitely one of my favorite holidays. In fact, it is a family favorite—one that is filled with savory and sweet smells, warmth, and comfortable conversation with loved ones and friends. I just adore it.

On the flip side, Thanksgiving is also the beginning of the biggest commercial season of the year. Think of the sales! The holiday music! The must-have toys of the season! Corporations vie for your attention and of course, the attention of your children.

Believe it or not, it is estimated that advertisers spend more than $12 billon per year on advertising messages aimed at your children. More than half of the toy industry’s annual $30 billion in sales happen during the weeks leading up to the holiday season. Therefore it is not surprising that the average child watches more than 40,000 television commercials per year—and over 100 commercials per day. No doubt that some of the most influential commercials present themselves in November and December since American families are primed to react and spend.

How can we save Thanksgiving from simply being reduced to “the day before the best shopping day of the year?”

thanksgiving table and thanksgiving food

Seven years ago, in the wake of September 11th, we remembered what Thanksgiving was really about—giving thanks for our family, our friends, and our freedom. We can’t let a tragedy be the only stimulus that reminds us to cherish what we have, instead of what materials goods we want. So perhaps instead of letting this holiday just be about a big dinner, special desserts, and a few days off from the typical routine, let’s use it as a chance to let the kids know that there are reasons to celebrate and give thanks.

Here are some ways to get away from need and greed and to bring gratitude and graciousness to the forefront.

(1) Discuss the real meaning of Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season: Since Thanksgiving, in many American households, has been reduced simply to “Turkey day,” it is not surprising that the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving has been buried under the proverbial pile of mashed potatoes. Talk to your children about what these holidays really mean to you and ask your children what they mean to them. If they simply remark, “presents!” or “cupcakes!” you know that you have some work to do. It may take some patience, but this is the time to start a new tradition of gratitude. Break out the family bucket list! Talk about what your grateful for this year! In the war against the “gimme-gimme ghouls” of Thanksgiving past, present, and future, this is the time to change your family lexicon and behavior around the holidays.

(2) Help your child understand the power of the media: It is amazing. It doesn’t seem to matter whether we are 4 or 44 years old, commercials have a profound effect on our brains. Your child may want the latest “Laugh with Me Laura Doll” just as much as you want the newest digital camera or Plasma TV. While adults have more of an abstract understanding of how media influences our interests and wants, children are more concrete and lack the cognitive capabilities to understand the power of persuasion. They see it, they want it, they have to have it, and you have to give it to them. Talk to your children about how it is the job of the media to make toys look a certain way to con children into buying. Children don’t like to be conned. Let them know about the money, techniques, and “magic tricks” advertisers use to make us feel a certain way about a product.

(3) Seek out activities that build character: It is important in the face of commercialism, to take time to do activities that take no money at all. Discuss your family values and then brainstorm ways to foster them. Bring your Powerful Words into your Table Time Talk. Perhaps you can make it a tradition to do charity work, plant a tree, go hiking as a family, or rediscover old toys in the back of the closet that some other children could use in the coming year. If you do not have the time to do such activities with your children, do not fret. Seek out a family friend, relative or even an activity such as martial arts, gymnastics, or scouts that has a character education program in place to help bring out the personal best in your children. The aim is to help children realize that Thanksgiving, inherent in its name, is not about getting, but giving.

(4) Talk to your children about making gifts instead of buying them: I know it’s not gift-giving season yet. But if you do not want children to wait to the last minute to think about gift giving, talk to them about the power of the homemade gift early. Break out the crayons and crafts and encourage your children to be creative. In addition, now that we are in the tech-savvy world of computers and your children are likely to be pros at operating one, making cards, scrapbooks, audio recordings, or family videos could be priceless. I believe it was in the year 2000 that I video-taped my grandmother talking about our family history, what it was like to grow up in the 1920s, and how she felt about our family. She past away in 2004. The video recording is one of my family’s most precious possessions and it didn’t cost one red cent. Children can also make “Powerful Promissory notes” for gifts—promising to wash the car, clean the garage, baby sit, make breakfast, or do some other elected family chore that would help others.

(5) Remember to give thanks: Who would you like to thank? Teachers? Coaches? Family? Friends? Turn off the cell phone, unplug the TV, and get back to the basics. Discuss the things for which you are grateful—those irreplaceable, precious things that are near and dear to your heart. Model the ability to be thankful and call attention to how giving thanks makes people feel (both the giver and the receiver!). Instead of simply giving thanks before the sweet potato pie is being served, declare November and December “Thanksgiving months.” Why not? Once per day, each member of the family, whether you’re a single parent family or duel-parent family, can say why they are thankful. Sometimes it is helpful to do this at a specific time each day like before a meal is served or before bedtime. Some families find it helpful to use a reminder symbol to encourage giving thanks—like placing a “gratitude rock” in their pocket or placing a “gratitude bear” by the bedside. Any way you do it, you will be surprised about how it changes the climate of the family.

thanksgiving family and thanksgiving holiday

In the end, children take their cues from you. The media might be powerful but it can be dwarfed by the power of a parent who shows, tells, and exudes a thankful spirit for the precious gifts that could never be bought at any sale the day after Thanksgiving.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman Child Development Expert

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman’s programs and services are used worldwide to help children, teens, and adults reach their potential. She is also a success coach for parents, adolescents, and educators, who are looking to achieve their goals, improve their lives or improve the lives of others. She is currently getting ready to run 2 tele-coaching groups for adults who ready to set and achieve specific goals in 2009. Contact Dr. Robyn to reserve your spot.  Spaces are limited to 12-15 people per group for maximum productivity. Apply now. Serious inquiries only.

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Letters about My Helicopter Parents: Part 2

helicopter parentDr. Robyn Silverman

We’re continuing our discussion about helicopter parents, overprotective parents who won’t let go and hover over the heads of their children, heading off potential challenge/risk or taking over their responsibilities even as they enter their teens and adult years. This is part 2– part 1 is here.

The questions for today are, how can we help parents to take a step back and allow children in their 20s to grow up and be self-reliant?  Should we? Are adult children in their 20s too young to “go it alone” in today’s world? Do you think parents are having a problem “backing off” these days and allowing children to make mistakes and take risks?  As a parent, how have you approached the “letting go” process? Are you helpful or a helicopter?

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Letter from 20-something, T.O

Hello I know the feeling and everything you say about these helicopter parents. I have two. But why is my mom…an Extremely Over Protective Parent, does she have the right to control my life? I thought we are all consider adults at 18 years old? I am now in my late 20’s.! I don’t know what to do anymore!!! She treats me and my older sister (who is in her early 30’s) like we’re 10 years old…!!
PLEASE HELP Its DRIVING ME UP THE WALL!!!! (T.O.)

Dr. Robyn responds:

Hello T.O.

I can tell that you’re very frustrated with your parents right now. They clearly care about you. Have you talked to them, in a very adult manner, about your concerns, wants, and needs As an adult? Do you live very close by? Do you have healthy boundaries with you parents?

As an adult, it’s very important that you talk to your parents and tell them how you feel and what you’d think would be healthier in your parent-adult child relationship. Be specific. Sometimes, when people don’t move away from home (for college or otherwise), there is a lack of shift in the relationship from between childhood and adulthood.

It’s past time. It may be a difficult conversation, but after all, you’re an adult, and you can handle it!

Certainly, be kind to your parents. The more adult, grateful, and kind you can be, the more they will see you as the independent adult you long to be.

Best regards,
Dr. Robyn

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Please provide with your comments and feedback for T.O and whomever else might be wondering what to do in similar circumstances.  Do you have helicopter parents?  Have you been able to overcome their over-protectiveness?  How?

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Letters to their Helicopter Parents from their Kids: 1st of Series

child writing to his helicopter parents

Dear Dr. Robyn: Letters about My Helicopter Parents

Dr. Robyn Silverman

This week, we’re concentrating on Helicopter Parents because of the number of questions and letters I’ve received on the topic lately from our readers. The letters in this series are all taken from the comments section of one of my most popular articles; “Overprotective Parents: Helpful of Harmful?”

Again, Helicopter Parents are mothers and fathers who hover closely over their children and swoop down to do things for their children (whether their sons and daughters want the help or not) to make things easier for their children, take away pain, or alleviate stress (even when it’s part of normal development and the experience of growing up).

It’s clear that we only want the best for our daughters and sons—at any age. Of course we do! However, it’s vital that as parents we don’t alienate our children or frustrate them into a frenzy because we want to love and protect them. There is a letting go process that we must allow so that children can stand on their own two feet and grow up to be responsible adults.

In the letters this week, you will see that these young adults and teen don’t know what to do but they are certainly fed up with being treated like children. Are you feeling the same way? Or are you the parent of a teen or young adult who you are scared to let go? Either way, please read below and comment. We need to talk about this if we’re going to get anywhere.

Featured Letter #1

Dear Dr. Robyn,

Reading this article (and others like it) has led me to believe that I am actually a child of so-called “helicopter parents”.

Honestly, debilitating is a good word for it. Annoying too. I mean, I’ve actually BEGGED my parents to let me do my own laundry, but was denied because “you cant cuz everyone’s laundry is done at once” blah blah blah. I could just do the whole load was my answer and to that I get “e-eh–nawww, thats not a good Idea!” ….

As you’ll see from my site, I’m an artist, and I actually think the reason I AM is because I gained a sense of freedom from it. How I found this site was cuz I NOW feel like my parents have took THAT away from me cuz for some reason they have a giant wall devoted to my artwork now….so it feels like its something they ENCOURAGED me to do….GAHH! I wan out of this house!!!

so yeah, I agree, debilitating is a good word for it

Dr. Robyn’s answer to Rob:

Hello Rob-

First, I’ve checked out your site and can see you are a very talented person! Congrats on your great work and finding your passion.

It can be frustrating when parents want to do so much. I can hear from what you’re saying, that they clearly love you and care for you– but you are feeling smothered.

Sometimes, we just throw up our hands and say “forget it” and cave in. However, other times, we need to take more action. Remember- The only person’s behavior you are in control of is your own.

You may want to call a meeting with you and your parents and express your feelings there. NICELY. Talk about how appreciative you are of their interest and their love, but you would like to do some things that make you feel more like a responsible man rather than a child….and here are a few things you would like to do– and then discuss them. They may not fully understand why you feel you want to do the laundry– or why you want to do other things similar to that. If you clearly and nicely tell them how you’re feeling and what you would like to do, they may just open their minds.

Because we aren’t in control of other people’s behaviors, you could make some changes on your own– for example, if your parents won’t let you do your laundry in your house, take it to a laundry facility and do it there. However, I would take the “talking approach” first– sitting down with your parents and having a responsible, clear conversation– before doing this type of thing because it could come off as passive aggressive otherwise.

Hmmm. As far as the art goes– I don’t know that you’ll win that debate. The reason why? They’re proud of you. They may do it in an over-the-top way but many parents don’t acknowledge their children talents at all so at least in that sense, if you step back for a minute, you’ll see that you’re lucky. I hear you that it’s annoying– but I probably wouldn’t fight for less “pride” when it comes to your art work, and instead, focus on the other things that are bothering you when you speak to your parents. It seems that the “art wall” is really just adding fuel to the fire– but not what’s causing the fire itself. Make sense?

Let us know when you do it. Remember, these are people who love you– so be gentle but firm. Tell them what you would like to do to help you grow up into the responsible man you want to be– be clear about what you want– and appreciative and grateful for how they’ve helped you.

Good luck-
Dr. Robyn

Any other advice for Rob? Please comment below with your own questions, stories, or 2 cents.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

–clipart from Jupiter images

Beyond Mom and Dad: Who are you?

Dr. Robyn in Bye Bye BirdieWho are you behind your everyday label?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

As parents, we wear so many different hats. First and foremost, you may be Mom or Dad, but beyond that perhaps you are an “athlete,” “actress,” “entrepreneur,” “friend,” “scrap-booker,” or “sports enthusiast.”

SO what about those other hats? Are they stuffed into the back of your closet collecting dust? Crammed in the attic since you had children or you got married? How’s that working for your mental heath?

It’s important for your quality of life that you feed what makes you vibrant and vital. It’s also important that your children see that becoming an adult doesn’t mean squashing your interests and the hobbies and passions that make you…you!

In the spirit of walking the talk, I’m currently in a Musical Review taking place at a community theater near my town in Massachusetts. People ask me often enough, “how do you have the time for such things?” The answer is: I don’t. But that doesn’t matter. As you can imagine, I find it important enough as a mentor to children  to parents, and a well-balanced person and family member, to do it anyway. It makes me feel alive—it makes me laugh—or cry (in a good way)–it stretches me and gets me out from behind my desk. It’s so “outside the box” for me that it makes me less of a square! In many senses, in fact, it makes me better at everything else I do.

I get to be serious and sing my heart out:

And I even get to be silly in some numbers like this one. I mean, when in regular life do we really get to be this silly? Perhaps in this case, life can imitate art and I’ll take a piece of each number and take it with me into the everyday?

OK- so I’ve put myself out there to you– so how about you? Who are you beneath your parent or teacher label? Are you smothering your interests in order to be a “better parent?” Do you think feeding your own interests is important or selfish when you become a parent? If you’ve been holding off– why– and when will you feed that part of yourself again? Please share below. We’d love to know!

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Debate Over the Death of a Child: What’s Fair?

brody family photo

Debate Over the Death of Washington DC Orthodox Jewish Child: What’s Fair?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

A 12 year old boy is currently lying motionless in his hospital bed in Washington DC after sadly being pronounced “brain dead” (and therefore, medically dead) on Tuesday.

The hospital staff would like to turn off the machines that are keeping his heart pumping and his blood pressure under control so that they can be made available to others in need who have a chance of long term recovery. However, the boy’s parents, devout orthodox Jews, are fighting to keep the machines intact, citing that their religious beliefs dictate that death does not happen until the heart stops beating. This, of course, is a catch 22—they won’t shut off the machines until the heart stops beating—and the heart will not likely stop beating until the machines are shut off.

We must, of course, be tolerant of religious views and practices as we would want others to be tolerant of our personal views. The hospital is going to court over this because the staff feels that treating this child is “offensive to good medical ethics” because, unlike the highly publicized cases of Terri Schiavo and Karen Ann Quinlan, the boy has no brain activity.

There is currently a debate even within the orthodox Jewish faith about when death does indeed happen—is it when the brain no longer is active or when the heart stops beating? Aside from that, should religion or science define the death of this child?

The statement that if God is the decider of life and death, how do we play a role in this process … is an important theological concept and exactly on point. Medicine has a physiological definition as to when they believe death has occurred. Jewish law believes that the definition of death is not exclusively a medical one but is also a theological one and should be decided in the theological or religious arena. The two obviously work together to some extent but the final arbiter is the religious determination. (Rabbi, Dr. Edward Reichman)

What an emotional and sad case.

There is nothing more tragic than the death of a child. Anyone must feel for these parents. However, given that we are exploring fairness this month, let’s ask, is it fair to the boy—to others awaiting treatment—to the hospital staff—to keep sustaining the boy and using hospital resources? What would you do if you were in such a situation? Should the hospital respect and tolerate the views of the parents even though their views differ from the medical view? What makes sense?

For me, I wouldn’t personally want to stay hooked up to machines in a vegetative state with no brain activity and no hope for recovery. I wouldn’t want anyone in my family to have to suffer like that either. HOWEVER- would I want someone to tell me that my view was wrong? Should we all simply be able to say when enough is (or is not) enough? Who gets to decide? What’s too much?

Please comment below.

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Would you like to Give Away your Child?

stressed

Nebraska Safe Haven Law: Used Fairly or Not?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

We all get frustrated at times with our children.  It can be exhausting.  It can push mothers and fathers to their limits.  On the worst days, it can even make parents throw up their hands and teeter on giving up.  But they don’t.  Except when they do. Or perhaps– except when they can.

Given that November is Fairness month for Powerful Words, I’d like to propose a few thought-provoking fairness questions.  You opinions are certainly appreciated.

The question is: Fair or Unfair?

A woman in Nebraska dropped her 18 year old “child” off at a hospital, BryanLGH Medical Center West, citing Nebraska’s newly enacted Safe Haven Law (in July), which states that a “child” can be dropped off at any licensed hopital without question or penalty.  The law was enacted for the purposes of protecting newborn babies who were either unwanted or unable to be cared for by the birth parents.

The mother of the 18 year old relayed that she could no longer control the girl who is bipolar and has refused to take her medication.  The Safe Haven Law does not specify the age of the “child” in question therefore it is not illegal to take advantage of the law in this way.  However, is it fair?

This law has been used in creative ways since its enactment 4 months ago.  In September, 3 Dads abandoned their children at two Omaha Hospitals.  One father left 9 siblings between the ages of 1 and 17 years old.

“They were tired of their parenting role,” says Todd Landry of Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Most parents are citing behavioral problems rather than financial issues for the need to abandon.

“This was never the intent of the bill,” (Republican state Sen. Arnie Stuthman, cowriter of the bill).

In order to get support for the bill, the writers changed the wording to encapsulate all children.

“We really opened a can of worms,” he says. “We have a mess.” He says the law needs to be fixed.

A special meeting is planned on November 14th to assess the law again. Will their be an influx of abandoned defiant teens or challenging preteens in the mean time? There have already been 30 children and teens dropped off since the Safe Haven law was enacted in Nebraska. All 50 states have “safe haven” laws, but the others apply only to infants less than 1 year old.

So, what do you think– fair or unfair use of the law?  Fair or unfair to the parents? To the children? To the state? Or is it an issue of a different kind all together? Please comment below.

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10 Ways to Have Big Fun on a Small Family Budget: The Next 5 Ways

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Family Fun on a Small Budget

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Yesterday we began talking about the first 5 ways to have fun with our families while NOT spending a lot of dough.  Even though the economy may be down and dollars a bit short, parents and children can still enjoy themselves and make great memories!

  1. Plan a scavenger hunt: Invite the neighbors over to find the treasure in one of your backyards or at a neighborhood family-friendly store!  Separate children into teams (each with an adult supervisor) and have each team wear a certain color for easy identification. Write clues that lead the teams around the neighborhood looking for the “treasure.”  Each neighbor can contribute something to the “pot” (or you can all go into it together) such as baked goods, a cool t-shirt, beaded necklaces or art supplies, a gift card, or whatever other low cost fun item that comes to mind.  (Also see geocaching in yesterday’s comment section).
  2. Volunteer: What a wonderful way to contribute to your community and have fun as well!  Donate time to the local animal shelter. Teach the children to sing or dance for the women and men at the nursing home in town.  Allow the children to help out with after classes that cater to children with special needs.  Volunteering gets children out of the house, doing something helpful and generous, and having a great time.
  3. Create your own power outage: When the power is out, the family tends to come together.  Shut off the lights, the computer and the TV.  Spread out a blanket on the floor or huddle up in bed, tell stories, play flashlight or word games, and have a special “power outage picnic.”
  4. Decorate old clothes: Get out the old jeans and t-shirts and decorate!  Use acrylic paints, fabric remnants, stamps, dye, patches and rhinestones. These kinds of projects can breed new interest in forgotten clothes and can offer a different art medium besides paper.
  5. Get outside and enjoy! It might be starting to cool down but that doesn’t mean we have to stay inside.  Go sledding! Build a fort!  Create snow sculptures and snow angels.  And who can forget the hot cocoa that is a must after rolling around in the cold? When we let kids be kids— and allow ourselves to revisit the fun of childhood as well, we are creating powerful connections with our children, allowing their imagination to expand and showing them that we don’t have to always take life so seriously.
These ideas may not cost a lot of money but they are certainly big on fun.  Some might say that these low cost ideas can be even more enjoyable than the expensive trips, costly games, and nights eating out.  The important thing is that you are all together and creating memories.  Don’t forget the camera!  Participation in these budget-friendly activities are certain to bring on smiles that should be saved forever in your family scrapbook!
Please keep adding your ideas! Comment below!
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Dr. Robyn Silverman is a child development specialist, success coach, and parenting expert who has won several awards for her tips-based articles. She speaks at conferences and businesses worldwide discussing topics such as creating positive limits for children, raising kids with character, and bringing out your child’s inner leader. She also works with individuals and families on making their lives meaningful, successful, and powerful. For more information, please visit www.DrRobynSilverman.com , for coaching go to www.QuickSilverCoaching.com or to take part in her Powerful Parenting Blog, visit http://www.DrRobynsBlog.com. Dr. Robyn lives in Weymouth with her family.