Getting children to redefine what their best is…everyday

Dr. Robyn SIlverman as a young teenager

Do you see “vision” in the eyes of your child?

Dr. Robyn Silverman for Powerful Words

Some might say that the difference between a successful child and an unsuccessful child is brains.  Others might say talent. Still others, might realize that it may just be the vision and belief that one can set goals, go after those goals, and succeed in achieving those goals.

When I was about 8-12 years old, I was convinced that I was stupid.  My brothers had been in all the advanced classes- I hadn’t. My brothers got high marks on all their tests—I didn’t.  My brothers were among those kids invited to their teacher’s home for a special celebration of “smartness” and I…played with the Barbie dream home.

It wasn’t like I was failing anything—I was pretty much just average. But boy—it was convenient to believe otherwise. “I’m not as smart as my brothers” and “I’m stupid” became my mantra.  It was my answer to all things challenging at school—all bad grades, the reason I was more of a follower than a leader among my friends, my fallback mantra anytime I got stuck in a pickle–  it provided my perfect excuse for mediocrity.

What’s funny about the repetition of a mantra is that not only do you begin to believe what you are saying—but so do others around you. My family just knew that they needed to help me out quite a bit since I could hardly do things myself.  My mother barely would say anything about the Cs on my report card because they were clearly the best I could do. My father admitted later on in life that he began to thank God that I was cute since I didn’t get blessed with the brains in the family. It’s not their fault.  I was VERY convincing.

So, when I entered 8th grade, I didn’t expect anything different than my typical average performance. Nobody did. But in meeting Mr. Hendrickson, who asked us all to call him “Hendi” since he was only 24 years old at the time, I had met my match.  Still young enough to know what a cop out looked like and old enough to know the difference between poor self esteem and actual stupidity, he called me into his office.

“What do you need in order to ace this next math test?”

“I can’t ace any test.  I’m a horrible test taker and I stink at math.”

“But what if you could?”

“Could what?”

“Ace the test. What would you need to do it?”

“Someone else’s brain?”

(The parent/teacher look.  You know the one.  You probably give it to your children when they make such remarks.)

“OK. I guess I would need a lot of extra help (but I couldn’t resist)…but a brain transplant couldn’t hurt.”

“Fine. My door is open to you everyday during free periods and after school. As for the brain transplant, you don’t need it.  But you need a thought transplant. You need a new definition of what your best is.”

“I try my best.”

“No, you try what you once believed was your best. You need a new definition. Your current definition is yesterday’s news. What do you want now? What can you do now? I don’t think you know what you are capable of.”

“Not much.”

“You’re doing it again. I’m not buying it. I want you to wipe clean the slate and see what’s possible now.  You’re going to ace this test.”

“If you say so.”

No , I want you to say so.”

“I’m not there yet.”

“Get there.”

“I’ll try.”

You see, I was basing my performance level, my attitude, and my belief in myself on who I believed I was—the stupid one—not on who I could be. Once this belief was exposed, I needed to either prove him wrong or prove him right.

So for the next 2 weeks I came in every day for extra help.  An opportunity had opened up—not that it wasn’t always there but I hadn’t been willing to take it.  After all, why bother when the results were bound to be the same?  Perhaps even with extra help, I wasn’t going to be able to do it.  But in the back of my head, a tiny voice asked meekly, but what if you could?

The day of the test came. I took it and didn’t feel half bad about it. Not that that would make a difference—since the results were bound to be the same.  But what if they weren’t?

It was later on in the day that I bumped into Hendi.  He stopped me in the hallway and said; “You did it.”

Not believing my ears I asked, “I did what?”

“You aced the test.”

Doubting these different results I questioned, “are you sure?”

To which he joked, “I’m not checking it again.  See… you can do it.  And now we all know.  We all have a new definition of what your best is. So, now you’re really in for it!”

It’s a day that changed more than just my definition of my best. It told me what was possible. It changed my vision of the future and redefined what I was capable of NOW rather than going by what I thought I was capable of then.  It infused me with confidence and the ability to push myself and to redefine what my best is every day.

Children must have the ability to dream if you want to see them rise to their potential . They must believe in what’s possible even if it hasn’t been done before.  They must be willing to challenge themselves and others. And yes, they must redefine what is “their best” everyday and refuse to live by yesterday’s definition of one’s best.

As parents and teachers,we must give children the permission to succeed—dropping who they might have been and building on who they can be. Sometimes we all get stuck in believing their performance sabotaging mantras. It’s time to stop allowing it to happen.

So, how are you inspiring your children to redefine their definition of their best?  Looking forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

For My Birthday: The Gifts a Child Brings into Your Life

Dr. Robyn Silverman and daughter, Tallie

For My Birthday- The Many Gifts of Having a Child in Your Life

Dr. Robyn Silverman

On my birthday, I realized that my ears have become bionic. I didn’t realize how noisy everything is until my daughter came along—and sleep became so precious. Floor boards creak, dishes clank, and my dog actually yips in his sleep. To drown out the major offenders we use several things– classical music, a humidifier, and a white noise machine that my husband sometimes thinks is on too loudly. What can I say? I cringe at the thought that they might wake up my daughter, especially if it’s been a particularly hard day or challenging night time sleep routine.

It’s funny what you realize when you have a child. Perhaps every sense is just heightened. Parents know their children’s smells (good or bad!), their baby’s cries, and when a stranger puts their son or daughter at ease or on alert. But one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed in myself, and with other parents I know, is that our emotions become so much more exposed to us—some learn to control them quickly while others more easily fly off the handle. Some do both—depending on the circumstance.

Parents feel their children’s pain—this can push us. We just want to stop the pain and bark at anyone who might get in the way or may be taking just a little too long to figure out what to do. Their pain hurts us more than our own. A good friend, Joanie, used to tell her son, “I wish I could just crawl inside and feel the pain for you.” I think we all feel that way.

Talia Silverman at 4 months

But I think we also see what’s important. Events that might have sent us reeling in our younger years wash over us like water and we stay calm, cool, and collected. That amazes me. A child can cry in our ear for an hour and we can keep our wits about us—a gift that seems to come to most of us with the birth or adoption of our children. Of course, falling hopelessly in love can do that to a person.We look into their eyes and, we’re there, we’re theirs, heart and soul.

Yes, we fall in love. I guess we have to—this keeps parents from losing their minds or asking their children to simply get out of the car when they are driving us nuts! The love is so strong it almost makes us feel sick. And we thought we knew love when we were in high school? Ha!

At Tallie’s “Welcome to the World” party, a friend of the family said something to me that really struck me. “Now you know how much your mother loves you.” Ahhh–the gift of perspective–although I hadn’t thought about it that way until that moment. There is someone out there that could feel about you how you feel about your kids.

As we get older, we do more and more for ourselves.  There is much less cuddling, snuggling, and hugging between parent and child.  This is to be expected. The teen years bring more friction, frustration, and individuation.  We spend less time together. We have more to do. Again, normal.  So its easy to forget  along the way just how intense our parents’ love is for us. The concrete physical reminder is less obvious. Time is spent quickly. Priorities shift.

And then, we have our our children and they shift again.

So as I sat with my child in the wee hours of the night of my birthday, I think that this year, to quote a family friend, “I’ve gained 10 pounds of joy.”  It’s 4am and yet, I’m happy to be right where I am–snuggled up to my daughter while feeding her as if she is an extension of myself, thinking she is the perfect child for us, and how she is the most beautiful birthday gift to the world. And then I stopped to remember,  my mother was probably thinking the same thing all those years ago. And ya know what? She probably still is.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Breastfeeding Makes College-Bound Kids?


Talk about a touchy subject.

For those of you who have infants in the house, you might want to pay attention to this interesting bit of news.  According to a new study published in the Journal of Human Capital and featured in the NYT this morning, breastfeeding is associated with “substantial” increases in grade point average in high school and a higher likelihood of your child getting into college.

What did the researchers do? Reis and Sabia compared children who were breastfed with their own siblings who had not been breast fed.  My comparing children in this way, they did not have to adjust for mother’s education or possible interacting facotrs like socio economic differences between children.

Who did they studfy? They  studied data on 126 children from 59 families which had been collected as collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

What were the interesting findings?

  • For each additional month of breastfeeding, there was an average increase of  .019 points in a child’s high school grade point average and a .014 percent increase in probability that the child will attend college.

What is your opinion of breastfeeding?  What do you think of this studies results? Is it every parent’s responsibility to breastfeed in order to breed smarter children? Looking forward to hearing your opinions.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn On Radio June 15th: Discussing Body Image

smarttalk banner

Hi everyone!

Join me via the web or on the radio in Harrisburg, PA, for an hour long discussion on body image.  I’ll be on the radio show “Smart Talk” on the station WITF, an affiliate of NPR.

Host Craig Cohen will lead the discussion on Body Image. From the shows and ads on TV, to the models in newspapers and magazines, to storefront windows, to…well…anywhere you look – images bombard us that tell us what we’re supposed to look like. And many of those images are not only utterly unrealistic, they can do great harm – to adolescents especially – who grow concerned about their body image. Vanity also has led to a booming cosmetic surgery industry. But where’s the line between reasonable, appropriate efforts to look one’s best, and unreasonable, unrealistic efforts to reach some sort of ideal? And what does it say about us that we feel so compelled to always look “better?”

If you’d like to hear the full show at a later date/time, audio will be archived that afternoon at Click on the SmartTalk icon and look for Monday’s blog entry on Body Image.

Would love to hear from you!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Another episode of Ask Dr. Robyn: List of courtesies?

Dr. Robyn Silverman answers a reader’s question about teaching common courtesies to her children and encouraging the use of them for this month’s Powerful Courtesy Challenge for Powerful Words Member Schools.

What common courtesies should you put on your family list for this month’s courtesy challenge? Jess from Providence R.I. sends in her question.

Again, our Powerful Words Member Schools will be partnering with their families to teach children to be more courteous at home, at school, and out in the community.  Please send in your questions and they might be featured on another addition of Ask Dr. Robyn!

Ask Dr. Robyn Silverman: Teach My Kid Some Courtesy!

Video: Teaching Children Courtesy

Dr. Robyn Silverman answers a reader’s question about how to teach courtesy to her children who talk back and yell.

How can parents teach their children courtesy? All parents want their children to be polite, considerate, and respectful of others both in and out of the family.  This addition of Ask Dr. Robyn features a letter from Paula in Scituate, Massachusetts.

This month, our Powerful Words Member Schools will all be partnering with parents to teach children to be more courteous at home, at school, and out in the community. Many of the articles and videos on our blog will feature the character concept, courtesy– so please check back! contact us with any of your questions and let us know your ideas of how to help your children become more courteous and considerate!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn Silverman introduces the New Powerful Word of the Month: Courtesy

The Powerful Word of the Month is Courtesy!

Courtesy Quotes:

“Courtesies cannot be borrowed like snow shovels; you must have some of your own.” –John Wannamaker

“Clothes and manners do not make the man; but, when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance.” –Henry Ward Beecher

“Courteous acts take a minute of time and  make a lifetime of impact.” –Dr. R0byn Silverman

“Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” –Emily Post

“The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.” –Fred Astaire

“No one is too big to be courteous, but some are too little” –Unknown


Do you feel that courtesy is still valued in our society?

How is courtesy valued in your own family?

What are the most important aspects of courtesy that you would like your children to adopt?

We will be working on courtesy all month at your Powerful Words Member School.  Please keep us updated on how your children are showing courtesy at home, at school, and out in the community!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs