Salma Hayek Breastfeeds Dying Infant: Your Take?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

In partnership with Pampers, actress and humanitarian Salma Hayek has been spending time in Africa on a UNICEF mission to raise awareness for tetanus.  One child dies every three minutes from Tetanus, a preventable disease.

A recent ABC news report followed the actress and reported that Salma stood at a baby’s bedside as she took her last breath, as the 7 day old baby’s young mother, looked on. If the woman had simply been given a vaccine while pregnant, a medication that only costs 7 measly cents, the newborn would still be alive today.

At another clinic, Salma Hayek was so moved at seeing the suffering of a starving baby who was born on the same day as her little girl, Valentina, that she picked up the baby and nursed him.

salma hayek with daughter Valentina

Hayek appeared on last Thursday’s Today Show and talked about it. Kathie  Lee Gifford asked, “You found a child that was starving to death, the mother had no milk – and you nursed that baby?” Hayek nodded and then said, “It’s about women sticking together and we really need to help the children in any way we can.”

As a soon to be mother in 13 short days when we adopt our little girl, I had a visceral reaction to this story.  The idea of baby’s dying of preventable diseases and circumstances makes me feel both sad and frustrated.  We must continue to teach our children the Powerful Words of citizenship, generosity, kindness, empathy and compassion. Reading about some people’s comments about this “contraversial” story, especially those condemning Salma for nursing another woman’s baby, or calling it “disgusting”or “unnatural,”  leads me to wonder just how far away from “natural” we’ve all come.

What are your reactions to this story?If your child asked you about it, what would you say?

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Stop. Think. Show a Little Character

Are You Allowing Small Ways to Show Character to Ride By?  What are We Teaching Our Children?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Friday Musings…

Adults love talking about values with children.  Show respect! Be responsible! Demonstrate some kindness!

While we talk about character all year ’round, it seems that Fall gets everyone in learning mode again.

Since the Powerful Word for September’s Powerful Word was Respect, and October’s Powerful Word is Responsibility, I’ve been hyper-focused on those words.  It’s a good thing.  It challenges me to find ways to be more respectful and responsible. But it also makes me see the glaring ways we all fall down on the job– the job of actually showing children that we exhibit character ourselves NOT just tell them to do it.

A few weeks ago I was leaving for to see some of our favorite local teens from Randolph High in a summer production of the musical, Grease. It was 7pm. Rush hour. My husband and I sat in my car at the end of the street for about 7 minutes before some kind soul stopped and let me merge onto the main road. Thank goodness. Otherwise I might be still sitting there now.  I’d like to send out a public “thank-you” to the person who actually took the extra 3 seconds to let me in!  Thank-you, wherever you are!

There are daily opportunities to put our character into active motion. As parents, we must recognize them and make the choice to take them. These two steps are crucial to not only making the world a better place but also showing children that we actually do in fact “walk the talk.”

I say “recognize” because (and correct me if you disagree) some people just don’t see the opportunity to show character even if it hits them square between the eyes. Know anyone like this?

For example, my husband Jason and I were enjoying some quality time at the Dog Park with our fabulous furry friend, Casey.  We saw a mother walking with her son (maybe around 9 years old), when their dog squatted and did his “doggie business.”  Instead of bagging it up like everyone else, the mother and son just walked on by as if the rules of the dog park (and common decency) didn’t apply to them.

It makes me want to find more ways to show character– even in small ways.  I mean, look around!  You’ve got to stop and think! For example, it was about 9am on Monday morning. I had just finished at the gym and stopped at the local “Stop N’ Shop” to pick up my weekly groceries. I was rushing around…as we all tend to do. An elderly woman who had parked next to me was loading her groceries into her trunk when she stopped and asked me, “will you be needing a cart?” I said, “Sure. I’d be happy to take that for you.” She smiled gratefully and sighed, “that would be really helpful.” You know, it made me feel good.

I have to tell you that my initial thought when she asked me if I needed a cart was “yes, I’ll get one inside the store.” I mean, that’s what we’re programmed to do, isn’t it? We rush around and sometimes don’t even see the opportunities to put our character into active motion. We want our children to keep their eyes open for ways they can use their Powerful Character but sometimes forget that we have to slow down every once in a while to recognize the opportunities to use the lessons ourselves!

Funny, I walked away thinking; “That lady had a good idea. And it’s such an easy concept!” That small exchange would keep carts from hitting parked cars and store workers from having to chase carts in every conceivable place in the parking lot. We all know that most people do not return the carts to the assigned parking spot anyway.

So I figured, I’d try the same thing when I left the store. This must be “the lesson” I was supposed to get from this brief exchange! What goes around comes around right? Yes, I recognize that this is a very unscientific study– but it was worth a try.

There was a guy walking towards the store with his son (probably about 8 years old) when I had finished loading the groceries into my trunk. I turned to the father and asked, “Will you be needing a cart?” I had to smile to myself since I sounded just like the women who spoke to me a half hour before.

Well, guess what happened? The man looked at me with a quick side glance and said, “Nah, we’re only getting a few things,” and walked on by. I’m totally serious. He didn’t take the cart even though he was walking inside the store right past the cart retrieval area. His son just shrugged as he looked up at his Dad and they just kept walking.

I was a bit stunned. Should I have been? That wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen! What was this guy teaching his son? It made me wonder if I might have missed this opportunity before– how many of us do? I shook my head.

Stop. Think. Put character in active motion. So I figured that I could still do my part.  I mean, do we really need to leave our carts by the front of our cars and back out?  Why not show some responsibility? So I wheeled my cart across the parking lot to the cart return. It was a beautiful day. It wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t even very far.

I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But I think about these things because, as parents and as educators, we’re not just teaching character. That would be going only half way. We are teaching our children to act. If we don’t recognize the opportunities ourselves, are we just full of it? And if we don’t put our own character in active motion, even in these small ways, are we leading by example?

Would love to hear your take on the topic.  Please comment below.

Have a Powerful Weekend- I’m in Oklahoma City for a few days!

Warm regards,

The Complaint Department Called: They Want Their Grumpy Pants Back

Ear Pollution is Toxic!
Ear Pollution is Toxic!

Please stop complaining: You’re Polluting My Ears!

Dr. Robyn Silverman

I just got back from Martha’s Vineyard— one of my favorite places in the world. It’s so relaxing– we saw friends, read, and enjoyed the stunning weather characteristic of Massachusetts this time of year. It’s amazing how happy people seem over there. So many smiles! Such generosity of spirit! We ate at some great restaurants, got ice-cream from an amazing place in Oaks Bluff (who can keep their smile from showing up when eating ice-cream!) and drove by where my husband and I got engaged almost 9 years ago.We spent time with friends, had a picnic of great food including chicken cacciatore (with a secret ingredient the host gave me!) and took pictures of some beautiful cliffs at the end of the island.

It was a beautiful day!  Look at these amazing cliffs!

It was a beautiful day! Look at these amazing cliffs!

We even saw the most amazing summer fireworks I’ve ever seen with a few thousand other people. Wow! We sat out on the grass in the “camp-grounds” looking up at the night sky while we “oohed and ahhed” at the spectacular show.

And then, we got on the ferry– a beautiful 45 minute trip back to the mainland of Massachusetts– and BAM! Whining. Complaining. Hundreds of people changed into their Grumpy Pants. I’m not a fan of grumpy pants (not that I’m complaining).

On the Ferry! Can't complain!  Or...can you?

On the Ferry! Can't complain...or can you???

After spending the month thinking about generosity, I was struck by the sheer amount of complaints I heard on the trip home. Were these people in the same place I was? They complained about having to wait, complained about being rushed, complained about having to take a bus, complained about having to take a ferry, complained about being cold, hot, smooshed, or hungry. It was toxic– and I just wanted to get away from it. My goodness! Have you been around people like this? It can’t be good for mental health to be so negative.

My Mom taught me when I was young that nobody wants to hang around the “complaint department.” Moms have a way of saying things just so, right? But it’s true. I remember reading something– or maybe I saw it on the news– about this church that started a no complain rule with “no complaining” bracelets and everything! The aim was to stop “ear pollution.” Yes, I like that too.

Not only do we need to teach our children (and adults) that complaining all the time repels people from wanting to be around you, but that having a generous spirit in which you smile, say thank-you, and notice the good things in life attracts people to you– and inevitably, bring more good things.

A recent study found that teen girls who vented to each other about their problems, from boy problems to social slights, were more likely to develop anxiety and depression— and the same is likely true for adult women. (–Amanda Rose, author of complaint study)

What does constant complaining do?

  1. It annoys other people and can make them do unsavory things
  2. It makes people more negative
  3. It opens the flood gates to more complaining
  4. It repels happy people
  5. It allows negativity to become the focus of what you think about
  6. It makes even good things look bad
  7. It makes people less happy, healthy, and successful (see happiness research, Marty Seligman)
  8. It makes people less grateful
  9. It makes people tune you out
  10. It drowns out all the positive things you say

Think of the 3 closest people to you– think of yourself– do you show a generous spirit? Do you give of yourself with intention? Do you or those who are close to you smile a lot? Complain a lot?

There’s this fabulous woman, Debbie, who is a wonderful friend of mine and also an amazing coach. She’s like a warm blanket. People flock to her. Everyone just wants to hug her. Know anyone like that? She lives on Martha’s Vineyard and I just got to spend some time with her. You won’t catch her griping or “kvetching” as my grandmother (“Ma”) would say. But it’s more than that– she gives with intention– so much so– that it’s become natural, everyday, and well, unintentional. She smiles and embraces you– and you feel it, even over the phone.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Colleen O’Donnell, the author of “Generous Kids” and doing a half hour interview with her. She, too, talks about the importance of giving with intention– easy ways for the family to show generosity– that don’t take much time, talent, or money– but make a big difference. Here’s a quick clip

Being generous makes us feel good– and makes others feel good. So as we leave this month in which we have focused on generosity, I hope we can keep the generous spirit alive. Do we want giving to become a habit– or do we want complaining to become a habit? Both are possible.

I know lots of children are going back to school over in this part of the world and summer’s coming to a close. We might be putting our shorts and tanks away–but can we leave the grumpy pants in the closet? They’re really out of style.


Two Minutes to gripe: Every notice that there’s just too much complaining around you? Tell us about it.

Two minutes to praise: Have any people in your life that are like warm blankets? Sing their praises!



Have a Powerful Day!

22 Ways to Instill Generosity In Children: Part 2

Jupiter Images

Jupiter Images

At a time when the motto of many public figures seems to be about “me, me, me,” Powerful Words is combating selfishness through our top-notch member schools and with the help of our Powerful Parents. We all want children to be generous, giving people who think of others– not just themselves! But we need to teach children about being generous early in their lives,; so start today!

We started with Part 1 of our 22 Ways to Instill Generosity in Kids on Monday– here’s the second half– #12 through #22!

By: Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Generous Kids: Part 2

(12) Get some follow up. If you can, find out from the charity where the contributions go so that you can explain it to your children. When there is no connection to the charity, it’s hard for children to really feel the magic of giving. Similarly, follow up on the gifts or cards your children gives to the local hospital or seniors so that they know that the people were happy to be on the receiving end of his or her generosity. This is part of making the habit of giving more visceral.

(13) Show that you give too: Whenever you give your time, talent, thanks, or treasures to others, let your children know how good it makes you feel, how it helps others, and why you do it. When they see and hear about you doing it, it will be more natural for them to do it as well. It will simply be “something your family does.”

(14) Make generosity part of your family values: That means give within your family as well as outside of your family. When you ask your children “what kind of family are we?” they should be able to answer with the top 5 values that define your family. Make generosity one of them!

(15) Find out from a local foster care facility about a child who is celebrating a birthday soon. What does s/he want for his birthday? Go to the store with your children and allow them to get the present with you, help you wrap it, and make a special card. Then you and your children can drive it or send it to that child together.

(16) Refrain from giving material rewards for giving generously. It’s counter intuitive to reward a child for giving by giving him or her money or more toys. Generosity should be tied to internal gratification not external motivators.

(17) Talk about what other people need rather than just what the child wants: Notice the people around you and help your children to do the same. When you visit the local hospital, encourage your children to look around and ask them; if you were here, what do you wish you had? Let’s take a look at the books and games they have, what’s missing? When we encourage our children to focus on others, we help them remember that generosity is more important than more gifts for him or herself.

(18 ) Before your child’s birthday or birthday party, ask him or her which toys she can contribute to others. If s/he receives 10 new gifts, are their 10 toys or games from her current stash that she can donate to someone in need?

(19) Nip selfishness in the bud. Many parents reward tantrums by giving toys and treats to their children. This breeds more selfishness.

(20) Reward spontaneous generosity by praising it: Let your children know when you see a great example of generosity among them or their friends. Praise the person who showed the generosity in front of your children as well as privately. Don’t just say “good job.” Say something like; “I’m so proud of the way you shared your toys with Johnny. It made him so happy. What a great friend you are! One thing I know about you is that you are a generous, kind person who likes to share with others.”

(21) After your children have given something—talk about it. How do they feel? Who do they think their old favorite shirt will go to now? How will their old favorite toy feel to be loved by another little boy or girl who will be so happy to have a teddy bear to love? What do they think the lady at the nursing home will say when she opens the card your child made with all the stickers on it?

(22) Each day ask what the family is grateful for and how they showed generosity: This can become part of your routine at dinner time or before bed. Why should you wait for a special holiday to celebrate giving?

Of course, surrounding your children with people who give of themselves, refrain from showing stinginess, and teach children about values is a great way to teach generosity—so those of you who attend a Powerful Words Member school, you are way ahead of the game. Powerful Words Member Schools are concentrating on teaching generosity all month long—talk about inspiring children to give! We can’t wait to hear your stories about the way your children are giving this month and all year ‘round. Congratulations!

Do you have any great ways that you use to teach children generosity? Do you have any great stories about your children giving? Please comment below. We’d really love to hear them—please share!

Have a Powerful Day!

22 Ways to Teach Generosity to Children: Part 1

Do we have to wait for the holidays to teach values?

22 Ways to Teach generosity to children

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

This is part 1 of a 2 part article on teaching children to give outside of the “season of giving.”

As you know, I coach the top instructors, coaches, teachers, and leaders in the children’s after-school program industry. If you’re part of a Powerful Words member school lead by some of these industry leaders, you know that the powerful word of the month is generosity. Sometimes people are curious about why I don’t reserve such a concept for when we are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Isn’t that the “season of giving?”

While holiday time is a wonderful time to talk about generosity and gratitude, I think it’s important to spread the word about giving throughout the year. During the summer, contributions to charities are down. People are thinking about vacations—not donations. The structure of the school day is out and the lazy summer schedule rules. But giving and generosity is just as important in August as it is in December, right?

As we are getting ready to go back to school in this half of the world, it’s only natural that our attention turns back to manners, giving, generosity and respect. These values help children to make and keep friends, excel in school, and feel fulfilled.

As we’ve recently talked about helping children create a “bucket list” that stresses giving over receiving, let’s delve deeper into the topic of children and generosity. This 2-part article contains 22 ways to teach children the gift of giving all year ‘round.

Here are the first 11:

(1) “Can Can:” Ask your children to go through the pantry at home and find any canned goods that haven’t been used within the last 6 months. If they’re not being eaten, give them to a family who can use them!

(2)Grocery Grab:” Request that your children pick out one item each at the grocery store to contribute to the local food pantry.

(3) Planned Percentages: Direct your children to set aside a certain percentage of their allowance, job money, or money that came through gifts for the purpose of giving to charity. Then help them choose a charity that is meaningful to them, allow them to research it, and motivate them to write the letter telling the charity how much and why they want to donate to them.

(4) Entertain “the troops:” Visit an assisted living facility or a nursing home so that your children can sing songs, play games, and read with the seniors there.

(5) Out of the Closet: After every other season, have a “closet day” in which your children spend some time going through their closet and bagging up the things that are too small or unused. Then drive them to the drop off center or charity and allow them to contribute their donations.

(6) Out of season giving: Ask your children to help make cards or wrap presents for people outside of your family and circle of friends. Perhaps these contributions would be for the local children’s hospital or other charity. It doesn’t need to be holiday time to do this! Be different!

(7) Adopt a friend: Invite someone who doesn’t have family nearby to share a meal or come over for a movie. You wouldn’t believe how grateful they will be just to feel included.

(8) A Giving Living: Talk to your children often about generosity, giving, and how they can give of themselves each day. It’s amazing that the more we give, the more we get out of living.

(9) “I just called to say…:”Encourage your children to call elderly family members—even extended family members– just to say hello, tell them what’s new, and ask them what they’re up to these days. A simple call can make someone’s day.

(10) Cards Held in High Regard: Ensure that your children send out thank you cards. If they’re very young, have them sign them in their own way—either with their name, a drawing, or decorative stickers.

(11) Characters with Character: Read books that illustrate the power of giving. Talk about the characters with your children and ask them how each character showed generosity of spirit. What did they admire?

Stay tuned for 11 more ways to teach children generosity outside of the season of giving on Wednesday! In the mean time, what are your ideas? What ideas sound great to you? What ideas will you try this month? The more we share these ideas, the more we can inspire our children to become generous givers.

Have a Powerful Day!

Family Bucket List: 7 Ways to Pour Generosity and Value into Family Life

What are You Putting in Your Bucket? Building Family On Values Not On Time-Fillers

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Every once in a while something causes us to stop and re-evaluate what’s really important in our lives. Worldwide tragedies like September 11th , Katrina, the Tsunami, and the recent Earthquake in China; personal losses like the death of a loved one, a divorce, or new knowledge of illnesses in the family—can get us wondering about whether we’re spending our lives doing the “important things” or the things that just take up space. Even the loss of people we don’t know (but feel like we do) like all-too-early deaths of actor John Ritter or Heath Ledger and the very recent death of Randy Pausch get us to jump to attention and ask ourselves, “Is this what I should be doing? Could I spend my time doing something more significant? Am I teaching the children in my life to pay attention to the “right things?”

Movies, like the Bucket List and books like Tuesdays with Morrie can jump start our minds and push us back onto the path we are meant to follow. Our intentional path filled with taking the time, taking a break, taking a vacation, and taking a breath regains front burner position in our brains. Our hearts are filled with gratitude, determination, and generosity.

And then what happens? Life. Carpooling. Arguments. Dinner. School. Work. Stress….Reality.

How can we keep our Bucket List and a bucket list for our children (Do they even have one? Should we find out?) from being pushed into the back of the closet? How can we get ourselves and our children focused on giving over receiving, people over electronics, and facetime over Facebook? As it’s generosity month for all Powerful Words Member Schools and Families, why not take some time to dig into this idea—chew on it—and yes, act on it—even if it’s just for a little while. You may just make it a habit. Your family…might just love you for it.

So, what should we do?

  1. Prioritize what’s really important: Do this for yourself when you have a little down time or quiet time—before bed—before others rise—in the bathroom, whenever you can do it. Ask your family to do the same. What do they really love to do? What do they really want to do? Make a master list.
  2. Schedule a bucket day: At least every month, ensure that someone gets to tick something off their list. Make sure everyone gets a turn…even you! Get away from the TV, the computer, the ipod, the blackberry, the Gameboy and whatever else that can take away from the point of the day. When your children see and experience that the family makes time to do these meaningful goals, they will learn to prioritize and focus on the important things in life.
  3. Get in the habit of giving back: The most fulfilling feelings tend to grace us when we give rather than receive. Schedule in a “charity” day 2-4 times per year when the family either cleans out their closets to donate their unused items or the family gets involved with a charity event such as one at your Powerful Words Member School or one hosted around town like a Special Olympics or Walk for a Cause. You can even go to a soup kitchen, senior center, or hospital and offer your assistance there. When generosity is part of your lives, there will be less room for “gimme gimme.”
  4. Talk about family goals in the beginning of the day: Even if it’s in the car, during breakfast, or when tying shoes, help your family focus on what they want the day to bring. Nobody wants “just another day.” What can make this day special? What do you hope to accomplish today? What’s something you can do today that would really make a difference to you or someone else? Be sure to talk about your goals as well! When you start your family’s morning off thinking about the important things, they’ll be more likely to bring it into focus during the course of the day.
  5. Discuss what’s meaningful at the end of each day: What was the best part of everyone’s day? What were you touched by? What did you do to make someone else’s life at least a little bit better? What did someone else do to make your life at least a little bit better? For what are you grateful? What did you learn today? Let your family know the valuable moments of your days as well. When we end the day by examining the value in everyday, we are more likely to see value in every day.
  6. Show love, kindness, and gratitude: Whether it’s to your family, friends, or strangers, little things can make a big difference. A brief smile, writing a note of thanks, giving a gift for no reason at all, or pulling over a manager to tell her that an employee has done a magnificent job with helping you (something I love to do!), are all ways to bring generosity and caring into your daily life. You will be surprised by how good you feel by making others feel great, even for a moment.
  7. Renew your values: Each year, make it a point to re-envision, re-evaluate, and renew your values with yourself, your partner, and your family. Talk about what’s important. Talk about how you want to focus your time and your energy. Discuss the successes from the previous year and how you’d like to make this year different. I do this my family as well as with my own coaching clients on our “PowerDay Retreats” and they are always extremely poignant, moving, and vital to the wellbeing of the person, relationship, and family.

When reading this list, you may say, “who has the time?” But then I ask you, with what are you filling your time? We must step back and give a good hard look to our days, weeks, months, and years. They’re limited. What can you do today to make them meaningful? Go out—or stay in– and do it.

Make it a Powerful Month—really!