Teaching Children the Courage to Go A Different Way

road_childrenSometimes it’s not about having the courage to try again.  Sometimes it’s about having the courage to try something different.

As my husband and I are working on “purging” our house of stacks of papers, old books, forgotten clothes, and random “what-nots,” I came across my diaries from middle school and high school.  There are some “deep” thoughts in there. Amazing what goes through the mind of a teenager.

Stuck in between the pages of my ninth grade diary was a page from one of my leadership camps was the famous “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson.

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

Why do I bring this up?  When talking to children, sometimes we need to teach them the courage to go another way.  This may be “the road less traveled” or it may simply be a road less traveled…by them. Perhaps they need to try a new activity like martial arts, gymnastics, swim or dance– perhaps they need courage to move to a new town or enroll in a new school. Or maybe, they need the courage to make new friends when the current ones are just not the right fit anymore.

It’s hard. it’s scary.  It takes courage. But it may just be the best thing they ever did.

I was speaking to one brave and beautiful 15 year old yesterday who told me that she had to do “spring cleaning” on her so-called friends because they were not supportive of her– in fact, they made her feel awful about herself. They would tease her and make her feel self-conscious about her weight and her appearance.  Asking a teenager to switch groups of friends can be like cutting off part of yourself.  And at first, it looks like it’s a really important part of yourself, but as it turns out, it’s more like a growth you are better living without!

I lost touch with those “friends” and met all sorts of people. They were all about my size and we all wore the same size clothes and shoes. Soon we started having sleepovers randomly on weekends and going shopping. And they also had similar stories from when they were little that they were picked on for stupid things like being “ugly”. So we formed our own group of friends and we would go ice skating and meet all new friends. Eventually our group got so big that those other people started becoming jealous of us because we had real friends that loved us for who we were.”

There have been many times throughout my life that I’ve walked down the same street over and over.  Making the same mistakes and looking for different results.  It wasn’t until I decided to go a different way that well, something different happened.  Often, something better.

It’s important to help our children see that change can be wonderful.  It can open up a whole new– and better– world for us…if we just have the courage to walk down another street.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs


Kanye West and Serena Williams Show Courage Through Apologies?

US OPEN CLIJSTERS V WILLIAMS

I know the talk around the cyber-water cooler lately as swarmed around the Kanye West and Serena Williams debacles that occurred recently. They’ve been grilled, smashed and spoofed over the last few days but I’ve hung back. I wanted let the situations percolate for a few days because, as frustrated as I was that they occurred at all, I think they are the perfect teaching tool to help children and teens learn about courage and taking responsibility for their mistakes.

I hate when publicist’s send in luke-warm responses on behalf of their celebrity clients when they make big blunders. Something along the lines of “So and so regrets the incident took place and is apologetic for the hurt she caused to so and so and her family.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. But where’s your FACE? I want to SEE you say it! Nobody wants to get a measly note.  Show me, don’t tell me, ya know? To me, letting your publicist go out and do your dirty work for you is NOT taking responsibility.

And these two, Kanye West and Serena Williams could have gone that route—but they didn’t.  They owned up, got out there on national television, and told the world that the messed up. They apologized.  Good for them. It wasn’t perfect but at least it was something– so it’s a lesson.

west_swift

OK. I’ll admit it. I’m a softie. Please don’t let on that you know.  But when Kanye West came out on Jay Leno on opening night and told the world how sorry he was for interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs—and specifically, when Jay Leno asked how Kanye thought his mother would have felt about the choice he made- I shifted in my seat.  I know, we all wanted to see him roasted on a spit for embarrassing “nice girl” Taylor Swift but, well, I felt bad for the guy.  He looked as if he was about to cry.  And I thought—more kids need to see this.  More kids need to see that Kanye West in all his cool glory did something that made him extremely uncomfortable because it was the right thing to do. Yup folks, that’s courage. Because he didn’t have to do it. But he did.

Now I recognize that Kanye tried to put off taking full responsibility by blaming some of his poor behavior on the loss of his Mom and not taking any time off. But still, I was happy he at least got out there.  He needed to do it—to mop up his own mess —despite he was being booed and berated for his behavior.

And Serena, well, you never want to hear that many *beeps* covering up what comes out of your own mouth.

Yes, it was deplorable. And she had trouble taking responsibility at first. That’s a lot like…many people in our lives, isn’t it?

“I just really wanted to apologize sincerely, because I’m a very prideful person and I’m a very intense person and a very emotional person. I wanted to offer my sincere apologies to anyone that I may have offended.” – Serena Williams said at a post-match conference.

I know a “real” direct apology came a little late—36 hours after the on-court confrontation. It would have been better if it came immediately. This is an important aspect to teach to our kids too– be direct, do it as soon as possible, and be sincere. And it would have been better had she not made the mistake at all. But she did. And she owned up to it…finally.

Her amended statement:

“I want to sincerely apologize FIRST to the lineswoman, Kim Clijsters, the USTA and mostly tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst,” the statement said. “I’m a woman of great pride, faith and integrity, and I admit when I’m wrong. I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it’s not the way to act — win or lose, good call or bad call in any sport, in any manner.” Serena Williams

So glad she said that last part.  Celebrities and sports icons have to acknowledge their power in shaping youth. They are allowed to be human but they also must show character.  If character is compromised, they must show character and deal with the issue with integrity and humility.

Everyone has lapses in their character– but it’s not all caught on camera for the world to dissect, rewatch, and analyze. Thank goodness. Could you imagine if the angry outbursts of your…Mom, Dad, or YOU were caught on tape? Oh my.  You might be issuing an apology through your publicist.

It’s hard not to wonder if the fuss was so major because Serena is a woman. We used to all stand by and wait to see how McEnroe was going to erupt this time.  It was going to happen. It was just a matter of time.  But erupting like a crazed volcanic mountain is not a very girly thing to do in our society.  So it was incredibly shocking.  Yes folks, girls get angry too.

Of course, that does not negate that it was wrong. Parents and teachers need to use these moments to teach their kids and teens about appropriate ways to let off steam when they are angry.What should she have done instead?  If you were her best friend, what would you have said to her after her outburst? By role playing and discussing the issue instead of simply pointing a judgmental finger, we all learn.

But again, the important part is that she owned up to it. Now, she must suffer the consequences that come when our actions are not thought through and our impulses lead us to betraying our character—respect, discipline, anger management, impulse control and other Powerful Words we must cover with children and teens.  This isn’t the first time this has happened with a celebrity– and it won’t be the last.

Ask your children and teens; “when was a time that you did something you regretted and wished you could erase or re-do? When did you need to apologize for losing your cool? What do you think it the difference between a tepid apology and one that is meaningful and sincere? Listen to what your children have to say. No doubt they will have some interesting responses and gain some perspective from talking about the incident. Apologizing is difficult– but all children and teens must learn how to do it.  They can’t have Mom and Dad do it for them– and they don’t have a publicist (most likely)– they must stand in front of the person– the teacher, the friend, the store manager, and show their face.  Speak up. Take responsibility and show some courage. Children and teens need exercise their character and learn to keep their powerful words in their character toolkit at all times- even when they get angry.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt to remind adults about using our powerful words too—clearly, as you can see, we sometimes need it.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Powerful Words Member School On Good Morning America

Andrew Lesmerisis of Communities that care and Powerful WordsBy: Dr. Robyn Silverman

Congratulations to Platinum Member Powerful Words Member School, Midcoast Martial Arts, for doing extraordinary work with young people in Camden, Maine. Featured on Good Morning America for helping Camden get their staggering suicide and drug numbers down, Midcoast is helping to do their part by teaching children that they are worthwhile, that they can achieve, and of course, that they can stay engaged with people who care like the teachers over at Midcoast Martial Arts.

Drug and alcohol abuse reached crisis levels in 2001, when Maine’s teen suicide rate was 50 percent higher than the national average.

Along with Powerful Words, Midcoast is part of a program called Communities That Care,  that surveys students starting in the fifth grade to determine their risk factors. The program helps to rally teachers, such as instructor Mr. Andrew Lesmerisis, owner and chief instructor at Midcoast, to take an active role in helping his students and the children of Camden, to thrive.

“We look to provide opportunities  for kids to learn skills (martial arts, character. leadership) and make sure to recognize their accomplishments (belts, POWerful Words Stripes, Patches, Cards, etc.) especially when they go out into the community.  This builds a level of trust for the kids/teens that there are caring adults that want to see them be successful.  This leads to the students becoming bonded to the school where we try to set clear standards of behavior (POWerful Words plays a huge role here!) which due to the bonding is more likely to take hold and lead them to be healthy and more active in the community in positive ways.” –Andrew Lesmerisis

The researchers at National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of National Institutes of Health (NIH) have followed  Camden along with 11 other towns who implememted the Communities that Care philosophy to get teachers, instructors, clergy, and other adults and mentors involved in their youth– and compared them to 12 communities that didn’t use this approach.

The results were dramatic: By the eighth grade, students in towns where the CTC was in place were more than 30 percent less like to take up alcohol and tobacco and 25 percent less likely to engage in delinquency than in those where it was not.

The program is really, simply, a philosophy.

The results of this trial confirm that tools do exist that give communities the power to reduce risk for multiple problem behaviors across a community. What makes Communities That Care unique is that it enables communities to identify their own special issues so they can hand pick the right prevention programs.  –Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA Director

Because it’s a philosophy rather than a set canned course of action, it allows Mr. Lesmerisis and other adults in town to customize how they convery that philosophy.  We are so proud to be part of Mr. Lesmerisis’ and MidCoast Martial Arts’ approach to helping Camden’s young people.

For Mr. Lesmerisis, Powerful Words fit in with the CTC philosophy.

POWerful Words fits in perfectly.  It helps us send a clear message about healthy beliefs and standards.  Not only do we talk about it in class, it’s posted all over the school (banners, challenge sheets) but it also becomes a method for them to use the skills in a positive (pro-social) way.  For example, last month with Citizenship we are putting the Words into Action by doing and Kick/Grapple Thon to raise money for Five Town Communities That Care.  They get to take all those Citizenship skills and knowledge and put it into practice in a way that benefits the community.  We (Mid-Coast Martial Arts & Five Town CTC) make sure that the students get recognized with thank you cards and press releases, not to mention claps and cheers at the ceremony itself.

The BEST part of both CTC and POWerful Words to me as an instructor and school owner is that I don’t have to guess or feel or assume or hope that we are helping kids to be healthy, we KNOW it!

They really are helping their students! The amazing results were published in the Sept. 7 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. They demonstrated that these types of community-based coalitions using customized evidence-based approaches can indeed help prevent the early initiation of substance abuse and delinquent behavior among young people.

*Binge Drinking by 10th grade students*(more than five drinks in a row in last two weeks):

2004 – 29%

2008 – 15%

*Marijuana Use* (Ever Used) by 8th grade students

2004 – 9%

2008 – 2%

*Cigarette Use* (Ever Used) by 8th grade students

2004 – 10%

2008 – 1%

*Drunk or High At School *8th grade

2004 – 11%

2008 – 5%

*Opportunities for Pro-Social Involvement in the Community* (Higher is Better)

2004 – 46%

2008 – 63%

*Recognition for Pro Social Involvement *(Higher is better)

2004 – 38%

2008 – 54%

We are so proud of the work you’ve done, MidCoast– not only for the town, but for our world.  Every child inspired and saved from drugs and suicide is another adult who thrives.  Congratulations on your amazing work.

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

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

Why I love “Old People”

Tallie's Great Grandparents and Great Aunt talking about all the amazing things this little baby can do.

Why I Love “Old People”

Dr. Robyn Silverman

We just went down to Florida to visit our 3 month old daughter, Tallie’s Great Grandparents (my husband’s grandparents– the ultimate team!). They’re 90 and 91 years old.  They’re married for 70 years.  They’re…amazing.

I always had a very close connection with my grandparents growing up. They lived in the next town over and we saw them often.  I have memories of my “Nanny” taking me to lunch, knitting me sweaters, and just spending time talking.  She said I was the sunshine of her life and I believed her.

When you get to be in your teens, you think the “old people” are so old that they’re out of touch.  As you get older, you find out that they’re more “in touch” with the ways of the world than you are.  They call it like they see it.  They say exactly what’s on their minds.  They don’t care about “standing on ceremony” (as our grandmother says) or worrying that someone won’t include them or will think badly of them.

I think it rubs off.  When I’m around our Florida Grandparents (and Great Aunts, cousins…etc!), I’m not nervous about hurting someone’s feelings.  I speak my mind and they appreciate it.  We have candid conversations and we don’t look for “hidden meanings” or wonder if we meant what we said.  We also have emotional conversations–conversations about gratitude and love and life.  We tell stories and share insights. We say the things most people wait to say until the person has left the earth. We tell each other why we are so appreciative. We laugh. We hug. It’s stripped down and open. It feels like it should be.

They marveled over every little thing Tallie did.  Every sound, every smile.  They remind us that the simple things should be coveted because time goes fast and, while life is amazing, if you don’t pay attention, you can miss out on the best moments.

But I think the most important thing about visiting grandparents is the relationships that can form between a child and these incredible seniors.  Nobody can teach a child about nurturing, longevity, patience, forgiveness, and lifetime love like Grandparents. In our fast paced world many of us can’t stand to be in a room with the same person for more than 20 minutes—yet they’re spending everyday of 70 years with one another (and “not long enough,” as “Ma” says).  Being with them reveals how it can work.

They’ve already gone “through it all” and they are not loving for what they get in return or trying to compete to get noticed.  They give and share and make us laugh out loud with stories we’ve heard a thousand times.  These are the stories I try to hold in my memory because one day they will be gone. For my daughter’s sake, I must remember.  Who am I kidding? For my sake, I must remember.

It’s amazing what can happen when you open your eyes and your heart to the possibility of a deep understanding between you and a grandparent.  They may not even be yours by blood—but they love you like you are…and you can’t help but love them like you’ve known them for a lifetime.

When we were leaving Florida yesterday, “Ma” and “Pa” told us how much we had done for them by coming down to see them and bringing our beautiful baby with us to steal their hearts.  I’m grateful.  Anything Tallie gets from them is a blessing.

Just a note- and of course this is a personal decision, but if you have been holding a grudge or have been disconnected with your child’s grandparents, perhaps it’s time to bury the hatchet or reconnect.  I wouldn’t say to do it if my family hadn’t experienced a reunification of some sort at one time or another.  It’s worth it.  When we let the past continue to govern the future, we miss out on what can be. And what can be…can be wonderful.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Too Shy? One Child’s Journey from Wallflower to Winner

Jessie when she was a shy child

Shy Children Breaking Out of Their Shells

Dr. Robyn Silverman

I’ve received an interesting question from a concerned father after I posted an article about 10 tips for working or parenting shy children. “Have you ever really seen a shy child who came out of her shell?” Yes I have.  It’s a true story that I tell when I present on working with all different kinds of students at national conferences. And today, I’d love to share it with you.

I know parents have been a little alarmed about what might happen to their shyer children as they grow up.  DO they grow “out of it?” This concern has grown since the news came out this July about babies who were born too prematurely are more likely to grow up to be timid and less likely to get married and have children.

Eight year old Jessie was the quintessential wallflower. Short with straight brown hair, she always stood in the back line, last person on the right. If she didn’t have a wall to stand behind, her body language seemed to create one.

Her teacher, Guro Jason, made sure to start noticing her. Slowly at first, he made eye contact. He provided an encouraging word. He nodded at her from across the room.

Overtime, Jesse showed that her focus was sharp and her skills were clean. Her instructor began to spotlight her during class. “Great execution, Jessie. Great finesse!” He turned the class’s attention towards her as an example, even where she stood, in the back line near the wall. She would tell us later, no teacher ever really noticed her before.

Jessie’s hard work earned her a spot in the Black Belt Club. Her new uniform seemed to make her stand taller than she did before.

One week, Guro Jason asked to talk to Jessie after class. “I’ve been impressed with your consistent good work in class. If I called on you, would you be open to being my demo partner for one of the skills we’re learning in class? Jessie looked nervous, but, as she would months later, “he made me believe in me.” So Jessie quietly said “yes, sir.

Jessie doing a demonstration of some stretching

Before class, Jason pre-framed Jessie. At first, he asked her to show an easy stretch that he knew she felt comfortable executing. But later, he would ask her to show some of her stick work, which, while new, she seemed to catch onto quickly.

After a few weeks of having Jessie demonstrate the same drills over and over, Guro Jason had a special request. “Would you be open to leading the entire intermediate level (across classes) in this stick drill during graduation? Graduation was performed in front of hundreds of people. She looked petrified. Still, she said a little more loudly that before, “yes sir.

Jessie practicing for graduation

Jessie practiced everyday.  She was focused.  She was ready.

At graduation, Jessie stood in front of 125 other students. Set” Guro Jason yelled. And something in this little girl clicked. She reached within herself and called out, loudly enough to fill the middle school gym, “Yes, Sir!” Her counts were loud, her eyes, focused, and her movements, flawless. People clapped and cheered. Her parents cried. OK, I cried.

After graduation, people remarked how martial arts transformed Jessie into a different kid. But I had to correct them. By allowing her to take on a leadership position that fit her skill set, in her own time, we were allowing her to transform herself from wallflower to winner.

Thanks for visiting! Please give us your tips for working and parenting children who seem shy, nervous, or timid.  And if you have a child who may seem a bit shy, please contact me and I would be happy to give you a list of Powerful Words member schools by you.  It’s a great opportunity for children to realize their own potential in their own time.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs