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

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

Helicopter Parents Following Children into Their 20s?

helicopter parents

My Parents are Still Hovering! When does this Helicopter Parenting stop?

Boy oh Boy. Anytime I post something on helicopter parenting, the comment box goes nuts. Usually those who are commenting are the children themselves—the ones trying to get out from under their parents’ thumbs when it comes to school, new situations, going out, dating, and more. But get this—these children are hardly children anymore—they’re in their late teens, their 20s, or their 30s! When does this helicopter parenting stop?

Young adults are being treated like they’re still children:

Like Dee:

I am 18 years old, and I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t have a license and I don’t have a job. I am totally dependent on my parents. My dad is extremely overprotective. Sometimes I feel that he is deliberately holding me back from getting my license, because he hates it when I go out of the house and he prefers driving me to places himself. He wouldn’t let me ride with my friend who already has hers. Lately I feel that I would rather not go out at all than have him drive me everywhere, because he still makes me feel guilty for going out, as if I am letting him down or betraying him. –Dee

Or Christina–

I think I’m also a child of a pathologically overprotective parent. I am, however, in my early 20s. I live with my mother as my parents are divorced and things have got really bad lately. My sister and I are treated like 13 year olds. When we go out our mother calls us every 30 minutes to check up on us. Recently I had 96 missed calls on my cell when I didn’t reply. She has also threatened to send the police to the club we go to and has slapped and shouted at a guy (friend) who brought my sister and I home. Could you please give some suggestions about what we should do? We have already tried talking but she doesn’t want to understand. She thinks that what she does is right. –Christina

Of course, if I called my daughter 96 times and she didn’t answer, I would probably be panicked too. But I think there are 2 main problems here: (1) Parents wanting to know their children are safe and (2) the need for adult children to individuate and separate from their parents. It’s a control issue—but probably enforced out of live (not that love makes it any better or easier to deal with). There is also likely a trust issue– either parents are not trusting their children or they are not trusting who their children are with at any given time. Some of this we can understand— we want our children to be safe, warm, dry, happy, and loved– but some of it seems excessive. Some of it can be helpful— and some, detrimental.

Where it gets complicated is the living situation and in Dee’s situation, the lack of good transportation. The young adults still live in their parents’ house so the parents have made the assumption that the rules and the level of protection stay the same. Of course, this is a ridiculous idea. Children grow and change into adults and therefore, rules must change as well. Rules still should apply—but they should be commensurate with the developmental age of the people who live there. We all have rules—even spouses have rules for one another—even if they are unspoken (i.e. call when you’ll be late, don’t track mud into the house, clean up your own mess). Clearly everyone in the household should be respectful of one another and that means both giving people space and freedom and being respectful of feelings and the need to know that everyone is safe.

There are consequences of helicopter parenting. As we know from previous articles, helicopter parenting can lead to:
(1) Undermining children’s confidence

(2) Instilling fear of failure

(3) Stunting growth and development

(4) Raising anxiety levels

(5) Anger and resentment

But even our commentors had some consequences to add. Be forewarned—it’s not pretty.

Complete breaking of the ties:

I am an adopted child, and my adoptive mother is.. er was… extremely over-protective. We even lived in a very small town simply so she knew where we were at all times. Thankfully, I like to say that I”m “Grown-up”. I may only be 21 years old, but I am married, have two children, and even own my own home! Sadly, I’ve had to cut most of my ties with my parents, simply so I could live my life, the way I wanted to. Although it hurts to know that I’ve hurt them, the feeling of being my own person, after the 13 years I lived with them, for the first time! –Mikki

Stunted Growth, rebellion, frustration:

Well as I read over on what you wrote and what the topic points out I have to agree fully that they do exist. I’d say I might be the youngest person whose commented on this site. Truth be told I’m only a 14year old girl. I don’t really like the fact that there are overprotective parents out there, but I do know that they could be doing this because they love us and want to see us grow up in a safe environment. Though of course nothing goes as exactly planned. I have over protective parents and they both can be pretty annoying at times. I also have an older sister who’s about 20 years old and they won’t even let her date guys! /=o They said to me that I can’t date until I’m 24 and that’s only on a double date. Though the thing that really backfires on parents who are overprotective is that the child might feel a lack of faith from the parents, or it might cause a spark of rebellion in the child causing the child or teen to commit crimes or go to drugs and friends for relief. For me, well I just look up sites on the internet to see what the professionals have to say about this topic. I mean I’m not really allowed to go outside my own house unless it something that’s related with school or church. So to put this in a simple sentence. I got to the internet or television to blow off steam, but right now I really want to at least go out and exercise. Well thats about it. Man I feel better after writing this!

Parents—we must move forward to meet our children where they are. As they grow, new rules must develop and change with them. We don’t want to push our children so far away that they find it unpleasant to spend time with us or talk to us! We also don’t want our adult children to believe they are incapable of taking care of themselves. You can still be a great parent without being a hyper-overprotective one.

I’d love to hear your comments on the topic. Let’s hammer this out. As previously discussed, I am planning to lead a teleconference on the topic as it’s become a very important and popular issue on our blog. Let me know of your interest through Facebook or here on our blog.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

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

When Divorce Threatens the Family Team

sad girl of divorceBy Dr. Robyn Silverman

Lately I’ve been hearing about a lot of marriages breaking down and leading to divorce. Several of you have written me privately wondering how you can keep divorce from wearing down your children. As a marriage is one of the ultimate “teams” in our lives that relies on incredible teamwork, it deserves to be discussed in these terms to help our children to the best of our ability.  It just so happens that the Powerful Word of the Month this Month is Teamwork and marriage is a great example of a team that often needs maintenance.

How can we teach teamwork when the most obvious team in a child’s life, the marriage of his or her parents, is breaking down?

Nobody’s perfect. No marriage is perfect. No couple is perfect. But when it comes to our children, we must show them that the marriage team can deal with problems, grow and change. Even if the parents feel that they can no longer be together as a couple, as a parental team, they can still be strong (barring issues of abuse, of course). It’s not the marital issues that become the biggest problem but rather how the parents handle the issues that threaten the marriage or the divorce itself.

How are you handling the stress? Are you bashing your “teammate” in front of your children? Are you refusing to take any responsibility for the problems or issues you are having? It’s time to stop. A team relies on the behavior of more than one person. Think of any sports team. If teammates are screaming at one another, playing the blame game, and ducking responsibility, they are not being a good teammate themselves. It’s time to take a different approach.Reach out for help.  Find a way to blow off steam.  Talk to a mentor or a friend.  Get involved with something constructive and find a way to face the issues without pointing a finger.

Are you listening to the other person? Are you talking but refusing to open your ears? The best conversations typically happen with more listening and less talking. As part of the marriage team, it’s important to take a step back, get some perspective, and allow the other person to have their say. If you need help listening to one another, a marriage counselor or success coach may be in order.Your children must see you talking and resolving issues if you expect them to be able to do the same in their lives.

Are you dragging in your children to be pick sides? Be careful. This typically backfires in more ways than one. Not only are you asking the child to take a swing against the other parent, you are sending confusing messages that can break trust and leave your child feeling vulnerable. I know of plenty of parents who’ve taken the approach of “turning their children against another parent” (called parental alienation) and wind up finding that their approach hurts everyone involved.

How do you deal with parental issues such that the team stays intact or gets stronger despite the issues? In the end, the parental team does not only affect 2 people but rather, the whole family including the children who rely on you for strength, love, support, and security.

Would love to hear your take on the topic.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Ask Dr. Robyn: How do I teach respect in my home?

Ask Dr. Robyn Silverman: Creating a Respectful Environment in My Home (Video)

Every parent has trouble with disrespect in the home from time to time.  Children are going to test boundaries, push your buttons, and learn about risk and consequences. It’s part of growing up! Of course, parents need to teach children respect, expect respect, and model respect if they’re going to get it! Dr. Robyn Silverman answers a reader’s question about how to create a respectful atmosphere in the home and provides 10 tips on the ABCs of respect.

Everyone has New Years Resolutions. The one thing I want to concentrate on this year is making sure my home is a place of respect. With 3 growing boys, it can get kind of rowdy in here. I don’t mind the noise but I do mind disrespect in the house. Even my husband and I have gotten caught up in it. It’s got to change. How can I set the tone for respect in my home for 2009?         –Lisa B, Tulsa, OK

Related articles:

Mommy, I hate you!

You’re Bothering Other People!

Dr. Robyn Introduces the Powerful Word: Respect

10 Tips on Teaching Respect

Send Dr. Robyn a question!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

10 Tips for Working with Children with Poor Self Confidence

shy child

10 Tips for Working with Shy Children, Nervous Children, or Children who Lack Self Confidence

Dr. Robyn Silverman

It can be frustrating to work, teach, or parent children who lack confidence who seem shy or nervous.  Especially when you are an outgoing, confident person, shy and nervous children can seem like a mystery. That acknowledgment aside, you need to be sensitive and tolerant of children who are shy or nervous, or who lack confidence.

When working with shy or nervous children, remember to…

(1) Tell them never to fear asking questions: Questions lead to knowledge and knowledge leads to confidence.Don’t toss off questions as trivial, silly, rude or annoying.  When children question, they learn.

(2) Share Your stories about trials to triumph: When they hear your struggles and how you overcame them, they will learn that they can overcome their struggles as well. You can be a role model in action as well as in discussion.

(3) Highlight that persistence leads to success: We’ve heard it before. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall but rather, how many times you get up. People value persistence! Let them know that perseverance is more important that getting it right the first few times.

(4) Encourage them in the areas in which they excel: Many teachers and parents make the mistake of paying attention only when a child is struggling. Instead, focus on the child when he’s doing something right and when he can be a positive example to others. Nothing breeds confidence like feeling successful.

(5) Let them know it’s safe to make mistakes: You do it, they do it, their heroes do it, and their teachers do it too! Everyone makes mistakes. Many children are afraid to try because they’re afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes often lead to judgment. Make sure that these children know that they will never be judged negatively when they do their best and try their hardest—even if it doesn’t lead to success right away. Encourage them to “try, try again!”

(6) Praise appropriately: If they failed, don’t tell them they did well. You belittle them by doing so. They know what empty praise is by now. Help them to figure out what they can do to fix the problem and praise them for their courage and perseverance. Relay that you believe in them and with persistence, they will be successful.

(7) Help them to balance their goals with realistic expectations: Goals may take a while to achieve. We can’t all be an elite gymnast, swimmer or martial artist the moment we step into training. Goals are great but take time. We need to help these children understand that they move forward in benchmarks not leaps and bounds. By assisting them in mapping out their benchmarks, they will see that they are making progress.

(8) Don’t compare them with your confident children: Each child is an individual. By saying things like, “why aren’t you out there with the other children?” or “Katelyn is showing courage by doing X, why can’t you do the same thing?” you are only making the child feel bad and not honoring her own individual needs.

(9) Celebrate successes before moving on: Often, when a goal is achieved, we’re already onto the next goal before celebrating the success of the current one. It’s important for children to celebrate their success each time it happens. Let him or her take credit for those successes and talk about the qualities in your child that lead to that success. “You were courageous and persistent—you did it! Congratulations for sticking it out!”

(10) Accept your child unconditionally: Some children are shy or nervous while others are outgoing. Your child needs to know that whatever way they are, you accept them and you’re not trying to change them.

While these tips are especially important for shy children or children who lack confidence, they work for all children!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

How can I explain racism to young children?

mother_daughter_race

Explaining Racism to Young Kids: Exploring The Powerful Word Tolerance

Hello Powerful Parents! Tolerance is the Powerful Word of the month. In honor of this important Powerful Word, we are exploring different parts of tolerance throughout the month. In this article, we’re talking about tolerance and racism and how one mother talks about this sensitive topic to her interested preschooler. Unfortunately, racism is still alive and kicking. We must educate our children about tolerance.

Explaining Racism to Young Children
Note: In this article*, a mother is talking to her preschooler about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. How do you explain tolerance and racism to a child?  What do you say?

The Powerful Parenting Blog welcomes guest writer, Zoe Burkholder**

Yesterday I told my 4-year-old son, Dexter, that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed. Dexter was dismayed, and his anguish and despair at this news lasted well into the night. He could not understand how Dr. King, a man whose heroic achievements Dexter has been studying in preschool for the past two weeks, could have been killed by a “bad guy.”

Who was this bad guy, why did he shoot Dr. King, what happened to Dr. King, did the bad guy go to jail? The questions went on through the night, surpassing my ability to answer them even though I am a professional historian and teach college courses on the Civil Rights Movement. The problem was not so much that Dexter’s questions were inappropriate or the answers hard to find. Rather I found the larger context of Dr. King’s death to be so incomprehensible to a 4-year-old, I could barely formulate a coherent response. I found myself stumbling over concepts like racial segregation, skin color and social and political inequality.

How do you explain racism to a child?

Parents of young children recognize this quandary. It requires a bizarre balancing act between offering truthful answers to honest inquiries about human difference and social inequality, and not scaring the child. Parents must also be careful of instilling a concern for difference that might manifest itself in inappropriate ways. For example, when Dexter was 3 years old he went through a period of pointing out the exact skin color of people he met or saw in pictures. At one point, he told me I purchased the wrong pack of Pampers for his sister, because the baby on the package was “brown” and his baby sister is “white.”

“No silly,” I replied, “it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, everybody is the same on the inside.”

Over a period of months I reiterated this point in a thousand different ways, trying to find the answer that would satisfy his insatiable quest for understanding.

“Every person has their own unique skin color, and hair color, and eye color,” I suggested. “See, your skin is a little lighter than mine, and mine is a little darker than my sister’s. No two people look exactly alike, that’s what makes everyone special.”

But these answers belied a truth that Dexter, even as a 3-year-old, was starting to absorb from the world around him.

Last year, whenever I read a children’s book on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Dexter, I would quietly edit out certain words. The book, written for very young children, explains that, as a boy, Martin could only drink from a water fountain marked “colored” and “white” students got to attend a better, newer school. I was scared to introduce these words to my 3-year-old son. These words seemed to box people into categories I didn’t want him to know, yet. But this year, I read the text just as it appeared in the book, taking the time to explain, in the past, some people in America did things that were not fair.

I told him that, in some towns, people who were African American were not always allowed to study, worship, eat or work alongside people who were “white.” Dr. King helped change these unfair things, make America more equal and make it a better place for us to live today.

I was just starting to feel cautiously optimistic about my explanation of racial segregation, when Dexter asked me if I ever saw Dr. King.

“No, he died before I was born,” I explained.

“How did he die?” asked Dexter.

I paused only a second, mostly because I wished the answer was different, I knew the truth would upset my sensitive son.

“A bad man shot him,” I said. “Martin died, and then the bad man was arrested and went to jail.”

Suddenly Dexter had a lot more questions.

That night, my son and I listened to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the Internet. Although I doubt Dexter understood very much of it, I think he enjoyed hearing Dr. King’s voice and looking at black and white photographs of the crowds on the Washington Mall. But even as we listened, Dexter had new questions. He caught the part where King explained, one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation, black Americans still are not free.

“What happened one hundred years ago?” Dexter wanted to know.

I looked at my son, and knew I was not yet ready to explain slavery. Thinking forward, my mind flashed through horrifying images of world wars, atomic weapons, the Holocaust; things for which my son and daughter will someday have to face and account.

“It’s time for bed,” I said instead.

“Let’s have some ice cream,” I added as an afterthought.

————————-

See article: 7 Ways to Raise a Prejudice Child

How do you think this mother did? What are your thoughts on explaining racism to a child?  How can you be an anti-racist parent? What has been your experience with this topic?  What are your concerns or questions?  Please discuss below!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

*This article was originally posted on the resource cite, Teaching Tolerance and is posted here with written permission.

**Dr. Robyn Silverman welcomes guest writer, Zoe Burkholder, Ph.D. candidate in the History of Education department of New York University and a Spencer Fellow for Research Related to Education. This article is based on her dissertation work entitled, “With Science as His Shield: Teaching Race and Culture in America, 1900-1954.”

7 Ways to Raise a Prejudiced Child

How to Raise a Racist, Sexist, Ageist, Sizeist, Prejudiced Child

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Racism. Sexism. Ageism. Sizeism. Prejudice is ugly and transferable.

After Grandmother, Gayle Quinnell declared that “Barack Obama is an Arab” during a John McCain rally (to his dismay), and justified that this, albeit false, information was good reason for her prejudice reaction to the next possible president of the United States, I cringed. No matter what your political affiliation, it’s these kinds of statements that go against positive forward movement in the United States and the rest of the world. What further disturbed me was, in an impromptu interview with Ms. Quinnell after the rally, she bragged that this is the kind of information she was freely feeding her children. Children are impressionable and prejudice is transferable.

Know anyone like this? Have you seen it before?

Here are just a few ways that people teach children how to be prejudice—whether we’re talking about racism, sexism, ageism or any other “ism” you can think of:

(1) It’s in your physical reactions: Even young children and babies can feel the difference when a parent holds them tighter in a neighborhood that makes them uncomfortable or around a person that makes them squeamish. Imagine that every time a parent opens the door to receive a package from a black UPS delivery person, s/he is terse, jittery, rude, or close-bodied but every time a parent opens the door for a white UPS delivery person, s/he is positive, kind, and relaxed. You might think that children won’t pick up on this—but next to you, your children probably can sense body changes in you fastest and easiest. The message becomes clear; “Black people make my parents feel uncomfortable, therefore they must be bad.”

(2) It’s in your choice of words: Everything that comes out of your mouth when your children are around is likely heard—even if you don’t think it is. That means that what you shout at the TV, how you explain who you’re voting for in the upcoming election and what you say about other drivers while in your car may just be imbedded in a young child’s lexicon forever. One of my coaching clients mentioned one day that they were in their traffic with their 3 year old when they stopped short. Wile the parent said nothing, the youngster exclaimed, “Old people shouldn’t drive!” Now, where do you think she heard that before?

(3) It’s in your reactions towards them: When your children say something rude or prejudice, the way you react is worth a thousand words. For example, when a male teacher came to me and said that one of his 5 year old male students, while watching a female classmate demonstrate a skill in class, said “blond girls are airheads,” he couldn’t help but laugh. He had heard the same statement from the boy’s father while he was—get this—cooing his 2 year old daughter. Our laughter only reinforces these statements and adds fuel to the fire.

(4) It’s in your choices: Here’s a very subtle one rooted in the past and caused many arguments in my house when I was young and wanted to do whatever my brothers did. If you choose to allow your boys to do things that you declare your girls shouldn’t do or can’t do, you are brewing up stereotyping and prejudice. So, for example, one of my girls from my preteen coaching group, Sassy Sisterhood, said in group, “Whenever we need to move the chairs and desks around in class, my teacher only picks the boys.” What does that say to the girls?

(5) It’s in the way you take responsibility : Upon hearing children say prejudice remarks, you can either choose to take responsibility or not. Denial is certainly a strong reaction. Many people believe that children can’t understand what is being said or done—but while they may not process it all in the same way as an adult, they do indeed process it. Shrugging off responsibility for racism, sexism, sizeism, or ageism, is not helpful. You are right—they may not have gotten it from you—but it still remains our responsibility to teach them the right way to react to others, isn’t it?

(6) It’s in the way you accept yourself: Do you look in the mirror and bash your “fat thighs” [fat=bad] or swear at your “old wrinkly skin” [old=bad]? Do you joke with your family over the holiday table about needing to fix your “huge Italian nose” or your “Asian eyelids” [Race=Different=Bad]? You are your children’s role models. Your children hear this—they see it—and they process it. When we don’t accept what makes us who we are, how can we expect our children to accept themselves? In this case, parents are teaching children to reject these features in themselves as well as in others.

(7) It’s in who surrounds them: You probably heard the statement “surround yourself with positive people.” When it comes to children they tend to become similar to the people with whom they spend time—it’s part of positive assimilation with a group. Therefore, when you surround your children with people who make statements laced with prejudice or act or react with prejudice motives, your children have a great chance of adopting similar prejudices. One boy, age 7, told me that his Uncle kept calling him a redneck since the family moved to Texas a year before. He didn’t really know what it meant, but from what his Uncle said, he gleaned that it wasn’t a good thing. The boy was actually having trouble making friends and was certain he wanted to move back to New York.

As parents, it’s vital that we first admit when there’s a problem and then work to take responsibility and correct it. Watch your actions, your reactions, and your words. Remember to stop generalizing about groups of people—it sells others short and robs your children of learning from others and enjoying the individual gifts they bring to the table. It also shoved your children in a corner and causes them to be narrow-minded.

Surround your children with people of unique backgrounds who celebrate themselves and where they have come from so that your children are more likely to adopt a more accepting, open-minded, and global worldview. We must find role models that don’t fail our children. And finally, talk to your children about prejudice—tell them how you feel about it—your family values and why prejudice is limiting both to others and to oneself.

When it comes down to it, parents and educators must be sensitive to the transference of prejudice is they are going to stop the cycle.

I’m very interested in your comments and your experiences with children and prejudice.  Please comment below.

“You’re Bothering Other People!” 10 Ways to Teach Children How to Act in Public

How Can Parents Control Their Children’s Inappropriate Public Behavior?

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Libraries. Restaurants. Grocery Stores. The Post Office. Some parents cringe when they have to take their children out in public.  Of course, it doesn’t tend to compare to the amount of cringing that happens among people who are frequenting these destinations sans kids and hoping for quiet sanity.

My husband, Jason, contacted me from the library yesterday, where he loves to do work for Powerful Words, as it’s typically a lovely place to work.

“Today must be Allow your Child or Teen to be Loud, Obnoxious and Unbearable Day (Note: How about we call that A.C.T.2.L.O.U.D ?) at the library.” He went on to say; “One parent walked up to her 4 children and said ‘I can hear you all the way across the library!’ and then walked away, only to have them continue shouting and banging on the tables. And it wasn’t just the kids! A librarian actually needed to discipline a father for speaking extremely loudly to his children about where they were going to go next and what they were going to do for the rest of the day (not that it helped)! I’m coming home.”

I know, many of the parents and educators are nodding their heads out there—knowing specific people who are guilty of celebrating their own ACT2LOUD in public spaces. Perhaps it’s your neighbor. Perhaps it’s someone you know from school. Hey—perhaps it’s you. Others of you might be thinking “get real!” and folding your arms in frustration at those adults who shoot them dirty looks when certain (*ahem*) children get out of hand  —or worse yet have a nasty meltdown. Where do you fall?

Jason and I recall when we were young and our Moms would “lose their lips” over such behavior (you know that look?). My Mom would say; “Robyn! You are bothering other people” and to “stop it immediately if you want to stay here” (where it was safe and we could still steer clear of “trouble”). Yes, that typically stopped us in our tracks. To borrow a phrase from recent years, “you had me at…Robyn!”).

So let’s discuss some tactics to nip this problem in the bud.

  1. Keep Reasonable Expectations: Young children can only tolerate so many errands and so much “being quiet.” We can’t expect toddlers to act like teens. Therefore, be sure that you’re not requiring young children to wait around for hours while you jump from place to place without a peep. They need a break and they need to space to act like…children. That being said, that space shouldn’t be the library or somebody’s store. Be certain to put a stop at the park or the playground in your day if you have a lot of errands to do or secure childcare for at least an hour or two where your children can play.
  2. Expect the best: Don’t tell them that you don’t trust that they’ll be able to be respectful out in public! Children can be well behaved and you should let them know that you know they can do it! As you know, we believe in teaching Powerful Words and helping children be their best. If you are encouraging your children to follow what your instructors and teachers are saying about respect, responsibility, self control, and other Powerful Words, your children will rise to the occasion. Give them the opportunity to show you what they can do.
  3. Practice at Home: I’ve gone over this is my presentations with parent groups—if you don’t practice what you want to see at home, they won’t show it to you in public. For example, when pressed, parents will tell me that they don’t ask their children to sit at the dinner table and eat dinner. Yet, they get angry when their children run around and yell at a restaurant (which is both dangerous and annoying). Whether you want your children to be respectful and responsible at a store, library, restaurant or friend’s home, you must have them practice what you want to see from them at home first.
  4. Practice when you don’t NEED to be there: Parents often go to these destinations only when they NEED to be there. However, that’s no place to teach positive behavior. Think about it—you wouldn’t expect your child to take a math test before learning how to do the math, right? Go to the library on an off day so that you can give your child full attention and show them what to expect. Perhaps s/he will only be ready to behave for 60 seconds at first—maybe s/he’ll be ready for 5 minutes the next time—or 15—or 30—but you need to start somewhere and it’s not always at the top!
  5. Start young: When children learn what is expected of them when they are young, it’s much easier for them to stay on the respectful path. When we make excuses for children because they are still in preschool, kindergarten, first grade, 4th grade, etc, never expecting them to rise to the occasion, it’s much easier for them to keep relying on those excuses rather than work on getting better. I hate to say it but this is a form of helicopter parenting . Nobody should expect perfection from children but starting young, bit by bit, can help them to strengthen their character and become their best.
  6. Discuss it before you go inside: Before you leave the house, while you’re in the car, and when you get to your destination are all times that you can talk about what kind of behavior is needed once you enter a public domain. Don’t simply preach—ask questions. How should we act when we go into the library? Why do you think that’s so important? What happens when we’re too loud? What kind of voice should we use? When you have these types of conversations, even the youngest children will know what you and others expect from them when they’re in public.
  7. Be prepared to Leave: If you’re children start yelling and acting up, you must be prepared to leave the premises. If you’re following this list of tips, you’ve already explained the expectations—so if they don’t follow through, there must be consequences. You want them to be on your terms—rather than being asked to leave, don’t you? Otherwise, rules are meaningless, aren’t they? It may be inconvenient, but it’s necessary. If you simply think your child needs a time out, you don’t have to leave completely. Instead, you can say, “You are being too loud and you need a break. Let’s go outside for a few minutes until you’re ready to come back in and follow the rules.” At that point, you can gage whether they need to run around a little or if they simply needed to know you were serious when you said that public rules need to be respected.
  8. Correct, Inspect, and Enforce: As we say in Powerful Words, “you must inspect what you expect” because children tend to “respect what you inspect.” What do I mean by that? If you ask someone to behave a certain way and then walk away, never inspecting if they are actually following the rules (as the parent did in the library), then children often won’t follow through. So, if you give a rule, peek in and make sure it’s being followed. If it’s not, correct it, and try again. If that doesn’t work—go back to rule number 7 (leave) and rules numbers 3 and 4 (Practice, Practice!)
  9. Praise the positive: If your children do a good job, even if it’s not for as long as you would have liked, be sure to tell them you noticed! Children like to be noticed when they’re doing something right. Let them know that you’re proud of them and that they acted respectfully and responsibly. Of course, that means that they will be given more privileges like going to other “grown up” public places in the future like a nice restaurant, a show, or *gasp* an airplane where they can put their positive behavior into overdrive.
  10. Be a positive role model: Always remember that your children are watching you to see how to act. Actions always speak louder than words. If you tell them they must keep their voices down in the library but then yell across the building to them, you are being a poor example! If you tell them that it’s rude to talk in the movie theater, don’t do it yourself! And if you think it’s uncouth to air dirty laundry and fight in public, refrain from engaging in this type of exchange yourself! Children aren’t the only ones that need to act respectfully and responsibly when out in public—we all do—and what we do translates seamlessly when little eyes are watching and little ears are listening to everything you do and say!

In the end, it’s our responsibility to teach our children how to behave out in public. Be consistent and stick to what you say.

Please provide your stories, comments, and tips for all of us below!

Like this article? Subscribe to the feed now! It’s free!