Daddy’s Little Girl and Mama’s Boy: Bonding with your Opposite Gendered Kid

father and daughter

Dr. Robyn Silverman

As I’m writing my body image book, due out in October of 2010, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between mothers and sons and fathers and daughters. Powerful Parenting certainly must deal with more than just same-sex relationships within the family structure.

We often hear about the special relationship between parents and their same sex child. Who hasn’t heard of a daughter trying on her Mommy’s high heels and a son mirroring his Dad while he shaves? Our sons and daughters are figuring out how they are supposed to act and who they are supposed to be like. While children are able to connect with emotionally available parents of either gender, it’s only natural for children to identify with their same sex parent whose “femaleness” or “maleness” is a commonality they both share.

mother and son

But while a child might identify with a same-sex parent, as Powerful Parents know, that doesn’t mean that the child is any less bonded with the opposite gendered parent. In fact, between ages 3 and 5 years old, the opposite sex parent often becomes a focus for a young boy or girl. It’s common for a daughter to become “Daddy’s Little Girl” and a son to become “Mama’s Boy.” This powerful attachment doesn’t replace the same sex relationship but rather helps the child to learn that s/he doesn’t have to reject anyone to love both parents. This healthy resolution helps to set the foundation for resolving feelings and establishing relationships as s/he grows.

The opposite sex parent-child relationship provides a template for opposite-sex relationships as adults. What can a mother teach a son? Aside from the unique qualities the mother might have personally, such as an artistic flair or an athletic predisposition, a mother shows her son how to treat a girl and the special qualities and nuances of the opposite sex. What does a father teach a daughter? Studies repeatedly show that girls who have a strong relationship with their Dads are more confident, self-reliant, and successful overall compared to those who have distant or absentee fathers.

So how can we foster these bonds within the family?

  1. Take the cultural labels with a grain of salt: While we might not like it much, society often shames a boy who has a strong attachment to his mom. Girls relationships with their Dads are typically viewed in a more positive light yet still branded with labels such as “tomboy.” Be aware of these cultural messages and don’t let anyone taint your special relationship with your opposite sex child. A strong mother-son and father-daughter relationship is not only acceptable but beneficial to your child and to the family.
  2. Open up communication: Just because you might not understand some of the things your opposite-sex child is interested in doesn’t mean you can’t. If you don’t know something, ask questions. Even if something might seem goofy, silly, or so “not you” it’s vital that you validate your child so that s/he knows what he says and does concerns you. Never trivialize or make your opposite sex children feel strange and be sure to answer their questions.
  3. Spend the time: It’s been shown that fathers tend to spend more time with their sons and mothers spend more time with their daughters. Take interest in your opposite-sex child and find something that both of you like to do together. For those of you who have sons and daughters in a Powerful Words Member School that teaches martial arts, gymnastics, dance, swimming, or another activity be certain that both parents are part of their opposite sex child’s experience. Maybe you can even take classes with them! Outside of these activities, find other ways to connect even if you find activities that are new to you and perhaps a little out of your comfort zone.
  4. Be fully present: Give your opposite-sex children your full attention when they’re talking to you. Look them in the eyes. Shut off the cell phone, the ipod, FaceBook, and your email. Your actions will always speak louder than words. Your children want to know that nothing is more important than the time you spend with them.
  5. Treat your child with kindness and expect the same back: Parents sometimes get caught up with messages like “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls” and use these stereotypes to explain away rude behavior. This is especially true when it comes to sons—warning mothers not to “sissy-up” their boys by putting a stop to aggressive conduct. As powerful parents, we know that character does not need to be sacrificed in lieu of self expression. Be kind to your sons and daughters and expect the same in return.
  6. Give them a great example: A mother can be a wonderful model to her son just as a father can be an important model to his daughter. How do you act towards others? Everything you do and say is absorbed by your children. In the same vein, what are you watching on TV or looking at on the internet? When a father is saying negative comments about women on the internet or a mother is watching aggressive men on TV, it sends messages to your opposite-sex child about how to view him or herself.
  7. Provide your perspective: As a woman, mothers can provide their sons with a glimpse into how women like to be treated as well as how women and girls think. Similarly, a father can help a girl understand the “male perspective.” These can be valuable insights as your children enter their preteen, teen, and adult years.

A mother is the first woman in her son’s life. A father is the first male in his daughter’s life. That means they set the precedent. How do you want your child to be treated by the opposite sex during their teen years? What do you want them to look for in a spouse? The mother-son attachment and the father-daughter bond may need to overcome some differences but in the end, coming to terms with these differences helps your child learn how to create healthy relationships with others. These healthy relationships are the foundation of happy, powerful families.

Here’s to your success!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

PARENTS! FREE Back to School Fears Teleseminar Wednesday Night 8/26

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Only a few spots left!

FREE “How to Help Your Children Deal with Their Back to School Fears” Teleseminar!

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Good morning powerful parents!

After I was interviewed as the parenting expert for Education.com on How to Deal with Back to School Fears in Children and related articles, I was contacted my several parents who wanted to know more.  They were having many issues and concerns with how their children handled “newness,” especially the transition to school.

So I’m offering a special FREE Parenting Tele-Seminar TOMORROW for all Powerful Parents on Back to School Fears and Dealing with New Situations.

The Teleseminar will take place on THIS COMING WEDNESDAY, August 26th at 8pm EASTERN, 7pm CENTRAL, 6pm MOUNTAIN, and 5pm PACIFIC.

There are a limited number of lines—and only a few left now that we are closer to the date.  Please sign up now to be part of this FREE event!

We will be going over several concerns and questions including:

  • What are some typical fears that children will be dealing with when going back to school?
  • How would parents know if their children are really having a problem?
  • What specific action steps can parents to take to help their children cope?
  • What would cause a child to exclaim “I’m never going back!”
  • What big mistakes can parents make in these situations?

And other questions too!

Looking forward to hearing you on the teleseminar! Sign up here!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

How Can I Get My Child to Get More Active?

family_bikeBy Dr. Robyn Silverman

Dear Dr. Robyn,

We have 3 children (ages 11, 7, and 4)– and only 1 of them is really into sports.  I worry that the others are going to become very unhealthy because the activities they choose to do typically don’t require them to do much physical activity.  I worry about their weight, their health…everything. I don’t want to harp on them because I don’t want to make them hate getting active or make them think that I think they’re fat or they’re going to get fat (1 of them is a girl). Please give me some suggestions on how I can help them to get more active!   —Lisa M., Durham, NC

Dear Lisa,

Thank you for your question–

There’s so much talk about body issues these days—on the one hand, we’re dealing with what is being labeled “an obesity epidemic”  and on the other hand, we’re dealing with more and more children with body image issues (both boys and girls ), eating disorders, and challenges with food.  On top of that, more children are becoming lethargic and leading sedentary lifestyles —perhaps a function of new and fun technologies as much as more homework, more parents at work during the after school hours, and less “active time” during school hours due to budget cuts.

Interestingly, as children get older, their activity level drops dramatically.  In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health:

  • Ages 9-11 years old: More than 90% of the children evaluated met the recommended level of 60 minutes of more of MVPA per day.
  • Age 15: Only 31% met the recommended level of MVPA per weekday and only 17% met the recommended activity level on weekends.

Many of you who are reading this blog, like Lisa, are parents who are interested in getting their children active from a very young age.  There are many studies that show us that children who are active have fewer problems with weight and body image. So how can we get our kids to love being active?

(1)    Play with them: Children learn by what they see.  If their parents are sitting on the sidelines, they are more likely to do so too.  Get involved—bike ride with your kids—play hopscotch, jump-rope, and play ball in the back yard.  Join activities with them.  There are plenty of fun things you can do together! Try martial arts where family programs are prominent—or swimming programs that allow you to get in the pool with your kids. Get in touch with a Powerful Words Member School– so many of them have family programs!   By getting involved in an “active way” you relay “this is important—not just for you to do, but for the family.”

(2) Get messy and dirty: If children are always afraid to get their clothes dirty, they are less likely to get active.  Make sure that their play clothes are exactly that—for play.  And don’t be afraid to get dirty with them!  Run around—roll around—splash in puddles and get sweaty!  It’s fun and your kids will enjoy, well, being kids!  And don’t make the mistake that only boys should get messy—girls should too.  We never want our girls to think that they can’t be as active, powerful, and strong as the boys.  These sentiments get transferred to girls easily—so be sure that you are saying something empowering rather than destructive.

family_walk

(3) Make the time: There are so many things to do in the day—school, homework, piano practice, family time—that it’s often difficult to make time to get active.  But getting active isn’t something that should be negotiable or expendable. We need to make the time for it.  Children should be active for at least an hour per day! If they don’t like competitive sports, there are plenty of other activities that will get them moving—martial arts, gymnastics, dancing and swimming are all great ways to get active without necessarily getting competitive.

(4) Let them know that you’re proud: Whether they win, lose, have a tough day, or a great day, let them know you’re proud of the way they get out there and take responsibility for keeping their bodies healthy.  If we are constantly being judged on how well we did when we were active, we may be less apt to get active!  Praise effort over outcome—and determination over trophies and you will be helping your child learn to love activity.

(5) Help them to set goals: It’s fun to achieve. We achieve by setting appropriate goals for ourselves and then going after them!  Be warned though—make sure these are YOUR CHILD’S GOALS—not yours.  And be sure that these goals are not “in comparison to” a sibling, friend, or other peers.  Make your child’s physical goals something that is right for him or her—and that is completely about him or her and nobody else.  This is not “the biggest loser” or “Survivor.” Your child should not get “kicked off the island” if s/he isn’t as strong, fast, or successful as anyone else.

(6) Get them active inside too: While so many technologies are linked to sitting on the couch, there are also technologies that can get kids moving.  The Wii Fit and Dance Revolution are great ways to get active while inside on a rainy day– or just a day that the kids want to play with some neat technology. In fact, these games that are now being used as a source of fitness in gym classes. Studies are beginning to show that they “make a very positive contribution to players’ stress management, weight management, fitness and health.”

family_naturewalk

(7) Be innovative: Don’t love sports but love science? Go on nature walks! Prefers to history over hopscotch? Go walk the museums.  Think outside the box.  Sports aren’t the only way to get physical.  Children can get active by gardening, dancing, jump-roping, building and painting outside.  Go on camping trips or boating excursions. Splash in the rain. And again– all sports aren’t competitive with big crowds.  Your child might be more interested in individual activities and sports where they can work at their own pace and make their own personal goals. Moving the body feels good– it’s just a matter of finding out what your child loves best.

(6) Don’t tie it to weight: It would be easy to do so—after all, weight is a huge issue these days.  But when we tie physical activity to “exercise” and “losing weight” we make it seem like work—or punishment.  That’s no fun!  Children can be physically active at any size—so praise them for getting out there no matter what the scale says. 

In the end, we all want our children to get active to be healthy.  Our bodies need physical activity for the health of our cardio-vascular system, our muscles, our brains, and our souls.  It feels good to get active.  Let’s teach our children young to love getting up off the couch and moving around.  It will serve them well…for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Congratulations Powerful Kids!

clap and congratulations

Powerful Words, in conjunction with Dr. Robyn Silverman and

the Powerful Parent Blog want to congratulate:

Aaron M. who is a 10 year old Black Belt in the Junior Star program at Yuen’s  in Canada.

According to his instructor, Mr. Perry Bateson,

“This month, since our POWerful word is CITIZENSHIP, we are encouraging our students to be good citizens in our community. As a school we fund raise every August for Schools supplies for students who are less fortunate than others. Arron decided to collect bottles to recycle. He took them in and raised $20.00, Aaron then went to Staples and spent all his earned money on school supplies. He brought it into the school and put it in the School supply box and was about to leave looking for no recognition of his efforts. Way to go Aaron.

And Kari J:

Mr. Bateson went on to inform us that:

“One hour later Kari J. a 9 year Black Belt in the Junior Star program did the exact same thing as Aaron. Kari came into the school with two full bags of school supplies and put them in the school supply box. Kari gathered up $50.00 worth of bottles put them in the back of her moms truck took them done the bottle depot cashed them in and went shopping. Keri is an awesome Citizen at 9. We are very proud of these two students and I know by the end of the month this list will be very long.”

WONDERFUL, Mr. Bateson, Kari and Aaron! You are Powerful Kids!

And another congratulations goes out to Zoe L from Alpha Martial Arts in Seattle Washington!

Her instructor, Mr. Herrman, tells us that he issued Zoe a challenge to clean her room as part of Citizenship month.  Of course, character begins at home!

Here’s Zoe cleaning her room as her challenge this month! Congratulations, Zoe and Mr. Herrman!

Zoe from Alpha Martial Arts doing her Citizenship Challenge for Powerful Words

Please send in your photos and stories about your students and children exhibiting the powerful word of the month!  Congrats again!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Vile-y Wiley Miley: Oops…Did Miley Cyrus Do it Again?

MileyCyrus_teenchoice

Vile-y Wiley Miley: Oops…Did Miley Cyrus Do It Again?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

On the quest for wholesome role models for your tween? Ahem. Miley Cyrus might not be it. After what has been described as a “stripper dance”  at the Teen Choice Awards Monday night, parents and the press are all a-twitter.

I don’t know though. I’m wondering if we’re getting a little crazy over well, a blip in time. Yes, she was wearing shorts that were a bit snug and a bit short, and yes there was the pole, and a few dance moves that weren’t all that innocent looking (see minute 1:07 to 1:45) and “Disney-like” but, a stripper dance? We might be going a bit too far on that one. You tell me.

Mostly, that pole was used for balance—which, on a moving ice-cream cart, is necessary. I know– there were a few hip thrusts that in isolation wouldn’t really have been too much of a problem. After all, we dance by moving our hips most of the time. I think the one move that she did (at 1:07), which ironically got people cheering (figure that one out), was the main problem move—yes, very stripper like. It was yucky and then it was over.

The problem here isn’t really Miley Cyrus. It’s that we hate to connect teens—or preteens- to anything sexual. It’s uncomfortable! It makes us shift in our seats.  We don’t even want to think about it. But there she was, doing this in front of our preteens and teens—we thought we were going to get one thing, and we got a little too much of another. We need to admit it– we don’t like to see Miley doing anything suggestive because we fear that it will rub off on our children or say it’s OK for them to do such things.

We want to like Miley—after all, our children do–but she is making it more difficult for us to like her as a role model for our daughters. The mistake we make is insisting on relying blindly on these celebrities for wholesome family fun. Disney might be wholesome—but Miley Cyrus is NOT “Disney incarnate.” And this wasn’t Disney—it was Fox. At the end of the day, Miley Cyrus is a 16 year old girl, looking to expand her fan-base, and make it even bigger than she already has. It may not be right for our teens. We might not like it. But she is following the path she wants to follow.

Now, I’m not saying that I would run right out and have my daughter watch or emulate Miley Cyrus. No. What I’m saying is, that we can’t rely on Miley to fit the role model status we want her to fit. When we do that, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.  She’s just a celebrity—an entertainer–not necessarily a role model. You want role models, see Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers, or someone else who doesn’t flaunt too much of the sex-vibe (although Taylor did do that whole getting wet in the rain thing in her performance of “Should’ve Said No”  which didn’t look totally wholesome either).

What I do what to make clear is the same thing I said when we dealt with the Miley Mess a year and a half ago when she posed for Vanity Fair draped in a sheet and showing her bare back and shoulders to the camera—sort of Lolita-like. If we are going to bring our children to see Miley Cyrus, or watch her on TV with the millions of other fans, we must talk to our teens about what they are seeing. Parents matter.  There are ways to deal with this Miley Mess.

Doesn’t go along with your values? Say that. Think it’s inappropriate? Say why it makes you uncomfortable. Don’t want your daughter emulating what they see? Tell them the problems you foresee. As parents, we need to take responsibility for what our teens are watching and listen to how they are interpreting what they are seeing. We certainly don’t want to make a bigger deal out of it than it is—because it takes one move (at 1:07) and makes it into a whole performance of Titanic proportions.

Don’t like it? Don’t want it? Can’t stand it? Don’t watch it. But then be prepared for your daughter to see these isolated images of Miley Cyrus straddling a pole and making up her own mind about what she is seeing. I vote to talk about it instead—listen more than you talk—and concentrate on raising the most healthy daughter you can. If you are doing it right, it really doesn’t matter what Miley Cyrus is doing anyway.

Ask Dr. Robyn Silverman: How can I teach my child citizenship?

Dr. Robyn Answers one Powerful Parent’s Question about Citizenship

Dear Dr. Robyn,

I’ve seen many of my friends’ children become very self centered as they get older.  I don’t want that to happen to my children who are still young at ages 4 and 6.  What are some ways to get my children thinking about others besides themselves? –Carolyn G, Danbury, CT

The Powerful Word of the Month is Citizenship— so this question about “thinking of others,” provided by one of our Powerful Parents,, Carolyn G, is coming at a great time! Have any of your own questions about citizenship, charity, empathy, or thinking of others? Send them in! Talk to your Powerful Words instructors too– I’m sure they’ll have lots of ideas that you can try as well.

Sexting: Think Your Teens are Innocently Texting a Friend?

internet_girls

Sex and Tech: The Surprising Results from a Survey of Teens and Young Adults

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Ugh. I love technology but sometimes…I hate it! We all know that teens like to be online—in fact, just about 90% of teens are! The question is…what are they DOING online? What are they doing on their phone? Some of course are using it for fun, research, or connection—but others might be taking it to another level—a disturbing one.

Do you know about it? Chuck Norris is talking about it. Our Shaping Youth friends are talking about it. And here’s my colleague, Rosalind Wiseman talking about it:

It’s sexting…and sending sexually explicit messages across the internet. bThink it’s not happening too often? Yikes. Here’s the real info:

Results from a survey commissioned by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com, found that just over 1/5 of girls (21%) and just under 1/5 of boys (18%) have sent or posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves. Around 40% of teens, both girls and boys, admit to sending sexually suggestive messages to others using technology. The trend increases to just under 2/3 when those teens become adults.

Who was surveyed? Participants were between the ages of 13 and 26 years of age. There were a total of 1280 respondents, 653 teens and 627 young adults, who answered the survey questions in the Fall of 2008.

How was it conducted? Online—of course!

Some disturbing findings:

  • Over 20% of girls and just under 40% of boys send these messages to people they WANT to hook up with or date.
  • About 15% of teens sent or posted pictures to someone they ONLY KNEW ONLINE

Don’t they know this is harmful?

  • While ¾ of teens say that sending sexually suggestive content using technology can hav e serious negative consequences, 39% of teens have sent such suggestive emails of text messages and 20% of teens have posted or sent nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves.
  • About 44% of both teens boys and teen girls say it’s common place to share sexually explicit messages with other people once they are received.  They get forwarded and reposted.
  • 36% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say it’s common place for nude photos to be reposted or shared with others once they are received.

Why do it???

  • To flirt, as a sexy gift to someone, to be funny or make a joke, or because they received them from someone else.
  • 51% of teen girls say they feel pressured by a guy and that’s why they send these messages and photos.
  • Almost a quarter of teen girls and teen boys say they are pressured by friends.

What does this mean for parents and teachers?

  • Be aware– know what your teens are up to on the internet
  • Talk about it– the consequences and the benefits of different actions on the internet.
  • Discuss the rules– the internet is a tool that has power. What rules are set in place to protect your children?
  • Underscore character: It takes responsibility, respect and trust to use the internet. Make sure your children and teens are using their Powerful Words both on and offline.
  • Know who your child is communicating with: Who are your child’s friends on and offline? Don’t know? Find out.
  • Listen: Your children and teens want to talk but they don’t want to be judged.  Listen to their words but also listen to the messages they are saying behind the words.  They may be asking for help or advice.
  • Set your expectations: What are your family values?  What do you expect of your children and teens? Make sure your teens know what you and your family believe is OK on the internet and what isn’t OK. The internet should not be a free for all.
  • Get your teens involved with the 3 dimensional world! Make sure your teens are still doing the things they love with people in the area– drama, martial arts, sports, gymnastics. When teens are busy they are less likely to get into trouble and when they are doing things that make them feel good and worthwhile they are less likely to seek out alternative ways to get attention.
  • Use limitations: If you need to, limit internet access or internet time if your children and teens are abusing their time on the internet. The internet is a privilege that needs to be respected.

Want more information on sexting? Please see my colleague, Vanessa Van Petten’s blog posts on the topic:

To Sext or Not to Sext

Sexting 101 for Parents

Yes, your kid does it too

Happy interneting!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs