Kanye West and Serena Williams Show Courage Through Apologies?


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.


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

Stuck, Stagnant and Stymied: Defining your Who, What, Where, When, and Why for 2009

calendar for goal setting

Stuck, Stagnant and Stymied:

Redefining your Who, What, Where, When, and Why for 2009

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Where did the time go? Didn’t we have definite plans for 2008? Goals? We were going to get to it. But alas, we didn’t. And now it’s January…2009.

My gosh, we waste a lot of time. Procrastination comes in all forms. Email. We searches. Blackberries. Yes, and we know who you are.

Alright; I’ll confess. I’ve just entered the world of FaceBook. Go ahead, “friend” me! It’s a really cool tool that’s reconnected me with friends and colleagues of the past and present. This is both positive and negative. More connections can lead to heightened opportunity, greater feelings of unity, and growth. More connections can also lead to more senseless yapping on the internet, addictive checking of messages, re-exposed high school wounds we would have liked to have left untouched, and yes, lots and lots of wasted time. I sometimes find myself searching around for blasts from the past without any good reason for doing so. And no, curiosity isn’t really that good of an excuse.

We’re quick to blame other people and our “situations” for our lack of concentration and progress. But at the beginning of the New Year, perhaps it’s time to reclaim our control and ask ourselves what’s really happening and how WE can take action to fix it. Let’s make 2009 the year we get “it” done! After all, aren’t we all sick of mediocrity?

(1) Who? It’s time to get honest. Who can you be around and still get the work done that needs to get done? Spouse? Friends? Pets? Who hurts your progress? Who distracts you? Who makes you feel incapable, incompetent, or anxious?

(2) What? Break it down: What do I really have to do? What are the bite-sized pieces that I can put on my to-do list? What’s the plan for today, this week, this month—and what’s my overarching timeline? What can keep me on track?

(3) Where? We often forget to think about our location and how it serves (or doesn’t serve) us and our specific purpose. Where do I flourish, feel productive and make progress? When I look at where I work, what should the space look like for maximum productivity? Where do I lose my focus? Where am I more apt to succumb to distractions? Get honest with yourself. Perhaps a location-change or a space-overhaul is just what you need.

(4) When? Many of you, just like my coaching clients, are not just parents, teachers or business owners. We wear a lot of hats. Still, we do need to take control as best as we can. Ask yourself; When it my best time of day for innovation, business maintenance, or strategic planning? When is my worst time? When do I get tired? When we determine our optimal “when,” our plans become real and certain.

(5) Why? The “why” of our business determines motivation, inspiration, and enthusiasm for every project. Ask yourself; Why am I doing this? Why do I care? Without a “why,” your life will feel empty, dull, and pointless. Whether you do what you do for the good of yourself, the good of your family, or the good of mankind, make sure the reason is compelling so that it consistently inspires you to move forward every day.

First, breathe.  Stand back and really think. You may need a great success coach to work through it all with you. These simple yet powerful overarching questions will inspire you to determine the answers that are vital to your success. Get honest with yourself, answer the questions, and allow your responses to shape the circumstances of your success.

COACHING CLASS! As a success coach, I’m setting up another parenting coaching group for motivated adults who want to make 2009 their year for goal success. Interested? SPACE IS EXTREMELY LIMITED. This group is starting very soon- please let us know that you plan on participating. Fill out the form on my website and I’ll send you more information! PowerDay retreats also available.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

“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!

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7 attributes children learn from Olympians

Sandi Stevens McGee and Dr. Robyn Silverman

copyright: Sandi Stevens McGee and Dr. Robyn Silverman

What does it take to become an Olympian in life?

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

New York Times

New York Times

Shawn Johnson sticks the perfect landing. Nastia Liukin falls flat on her back and gets back up. Michael Phelps wins another gold medal.

No matter what event you like, it’s difficult to watch the Olympics and not feel inspired. I can’t help myself—I have to stand up, my palms get sweaty, and I find myself shouting “go, go, go!” and “you can do it!” at the TV.

Children can learn a great deal from our Olympians. They’re not just role models; they are character in action. They take all of the Powerful Words that we learn and make use of them in their daily lives.

Here are just a few questions you can pose to your children:

  1. Perseverance: How do your child’s favorite athletes show perseverance in every part of competition and every practice? How can your children show the same kind of perseverance in their own lives?
  2. Discipline: What kind of discipline does it take to achieve a goal like being a member of the Olympic team? Where do you show discipline in your life?
  3. Responsibility: What do you think are the responsibilities of an Olympic hopeful? What kinds of responsibilities must you meet on your quest to be your best?
  4. Determination: Why do you think being determined is so important on our quest to reach our goals? When have you felt determined? What goals have you achieved by being determined?
  5. Indomitable Spirit: Which athletes kept going with all their effort even when they weren’t “the favorite” or even when they were behind? How did that indomitable spirit pay off? When have you showed indomitable spirit in the face of challenge?
  6. Respect: How do you see the Olympians showing respect for themselves and their fellow athletes? How do they show respect and sportsmanship for the judges and their fans? How do you show respect to others each day?
  7. Courage: How do you think these athletes developed the courage to compete on the highest level? How do you think they stayed courageous even when they failed or fell? When do you show that kind of courage and how can you show even more?

The Olympics can be a great stepping stone to talk about your family’s values and well as what it takes to be the best in any area of interest. This is a great time to talk about some amazing athletes and how your children can integrate what they see on their quest to become Olympians in life.

7 Ways to Help Your Child with ADHD

Helping Your Child Cope with ADHD

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

The other day I wrote about ADHD and it’s recent link to obesity and overweight. It brought up a few questions about how to address some of the typical issues that plague children with ADHD and how to best support children who are coping with the effects of ADHD.

I’m currently getting ready to present to a large group of after-school educators in Orlando, Florida on teaching children commitment, determination and stick-to-itiveness, but I wanted to take a moment to give you at least a few tips on how you can help your child with ADHD:

(1) Advocate for them to get services in school: Your child has a special condition that makes them eligible for special accommodations such as: Sitting closer to the front of the room and the teacher, shortened homework assignments and longer testing times.

(2) Get everyone organized: Many children with ADHD (as well as many people in general!) have trouble when things are not organized and also may have trouble organizing him or herself. Teach your children how to stay organized by providing specific places for the children to put things when not in use and sticking to a schedule as best as you can.

(3) Set and keep home rules: Be sure to set easy-to-follow rules that have clear and consistent consequences. If rules are broken, be sure that the consequence is enforced and appropriate.

(4) Reward positive behavior: It’s easy to focus on the “bad” when children are impulsive and unfocused. This is no time to “let sleeping dogs lie.” Be sure to reward your children for positive behavior with praise and attention. Let them know you appreciate them and their effort.

(5) Don’t “go it” alone: There are many people available to help. Your physician, your school officials, and your after-school activity teachers are on your side. If your child attends a Powerful Words Member School, this can be a very positive and fun way to help your child feel that they are making physical strides while at the same time learning values such as focus, determination, respect, and impulse control in their Powerful Words character lessons. As this month is “determination month” you can help your child set a goal and go after it—a great skill-building and self-esteem building month for children with ADHD as well as ALL children!

(6) Be a Positive Role Model: Show your child with ADHD as well as all your children how to stay organized, stay determined, and try again when things don’t go as planned. They are looking to you to see how you react! If you stay calm and handle things with grace, they are much more apt to follow your lead in time, than if you tend to fly off the handle when plans get changed or fall short.

(7) Don’t Compare: Allow everyone to strive to their personal best. Comparing your child with ADHD to other children, especially those within the family or close friends of the child, will only serve to embarrass and denigrate your child. It will NOT motivate them! Reward the effort your child puts in as well as the small successes he or she achieves. If s/he stays determined and reaches his or her goal, this is cause for celebration NOT time for comparison with others who may have done it better, quicker, or more neatly.

And of course, remember to breathe. Your ability to take each day as it comes and celebrate the good in your life and in your child’s life will go a long, long, way.

Have a Powerful Weekend!

10 Ways to Help Your Child Tackle Any Problem

Dr. Robyn’s Powerful Parenting Blog will be featuring some articles from guest bloggers, including some young bloggers who are still in their teens or early 20s. These bloggers are particularly helpful because they provide us with an “inside look” when it comes to the world of young people.

Today, we’d like to thank young and candid guest blogger, Vanessa Van Petten, for providing the Powerful Words Family with some helpful advice on how parents can help their children and teens tackle any problem. I was honored to write a guest blog for Vanessa, in the past.

10 Ways to Help Your Child Tackle Any Problem

Learning how to approach a problem or a big project is a life skill that I think many adults do not ever learn how to do (I am still learning).

Recently, I have been working with a lot of teens on how to approach and get through their big school projects. I realized there was a system to approaching all of their issues, whether it was a science fair project, a history report, and, in one case, planning the school prom.

Here are 10 ideas you can use, and what you can teach your child as they start to deal with bigger issues in their lives.

1) Find a Starting Point: Half of the battle is finding a starting point, so before they worry about the whole project, have them focus on the first step. Ask them what they are most worried about and if they can get that done first, then explain to them that as long as they get started on something it will be very easy to get the ball rolling. If they are doing some sort of writing assignment, try a ‘mental vomit’ where you ask your child to just start writing everything they can think of about their topic on the page—this seemingly informal and fun exercise actually really helps get the juices flowing.

2) Break It Into Pieces: Teens and kids especially get overwhelmed–usually to tears, when there is a looming project that feels like mountains of work. I always make the first step to actually break the project into pieces of steps. Make sure they understand that they should only think about one step at a time, if they concentrate fully on what they are doing and not worry about getting all done, they will do much better work.

3) Write Out a Plan: Writing out each of the parts of the project, as well as how much you plan on doing each day, is very calming and a good way to organize your thoughts. This will also help them not worry about each step so much, you can say to them: “We have it all planned out already, so do not worry about not having enough time, just focus on what you are doing right now.”

4) Learn Your Limits: When I teach time management, one of the biggest issues I face is teaching kids how to know their limits. Maybe they want to study and memorize all of chapter one on Saturday…but can they? I ask them to think about waking up on Saturday with that huge slate of work, will they really be able to do it, or is it too intimidating? Sometimes it goes the other way–too little work for a certain day so the last day before the test/project/event they have to pull an all-nighter.

5) Schedule in Breaks: How can anyone get anything done without taking a few breathers. I always make a schedule and plan in a lunch out, time to workout etc. Tell them that scheduling in and taking breaks is just as important as getting the project done…if you take breaks you will get it done better! Make sure to take breaks with them so they really feel like they are getting out of the school work. Help them take fun breaks by taking them out for ice cream, playing outside or even taking the dog for a walk.

6) Teach How to Take Breaks: Ok, maybe this is just me. But, when I was approaching finals, or when I have a lot of work to do on my blog. I plan in breaks like “wash dishes, vacuum apartment, call mom” etc. These breaks are not real breaks. Make sure you have them take breaks that are really fun and give their mind a rest. When I say ‘give their mind a rest’ I really mean have them do something that is totally different from what they are working on, if they are doing an art project let them play video games, if they are writing a paper, let them help you make dinner.

7) Getting Over A Block: If you get writers block or cannot get inspired, teach your kids to take a walk outside, leave the house, play a game or do something totally different to get inspired. Sometimes taking a step back is the best way to see the whole picture and get inspired. Another way to get over a block is to talk it out. Let them talk to you or a sibling to figure out why they are stumped, you would be surprised how inspiring younger siblings can be in their simplistic approaches!

8) Sleep Is the Best: To do good work and to concentrate, you must schedule in sleep time when dealing with a big issue. It can also be a great time to get over writers block or a fear of failure. On days when they have a lot of work or finals coming up, make the whole house go to sleep early so your working child does not feel left out. If you can move any dinners earlier maybe this is a good option for getting them to sleep earlier. Never, ever sacrifice sleep for work, your child is better off learning to make things shorter and take care of their health than pulling an all-nighter.

9) Context and Priority: It is always important to take a step back and realize before you stress, how important this project is in the scheme of your life. I also try to emphasize the idea of priorities. Especially when I am focusing on the details (like font or color). Is the font what is important here, or is getting it done on-time more crucial at this point? Kids especially focus a lot on little details of an art project or will spend two hours on the cover of a book report when that is not even graded—be sure to talk to them about this habit.

10) Take a Deep Breath: I often am called in when it is already too late to plan or take breaks. In that case, it is important to take a deep breath and approach the problem calmly and with a level head. Oxygen to the brain and a few deep breathing exercises can calm anyone down to do their best work.

You can do anything and being there for your kids and showing them that you love them and will help them through whatever they are dealing with will help you bond and improve your relationship for later.

Dream big, work hard and you will get there,


Vanessa Van Petten is the teen author of the book “You’re Grounded!”—a parenting book from a young perspective. She keeps an active blog for parents who want to know what their kids are really doing online, at High School parties or when parents are looking the other way. Her candid and young perspective, as well her constant survey of resources and updates about this generation of young people are a treasure trove for parents.

Please check out the rest of Vanessa’s articles for parents!

“Mommy, I hate you and Daddy You’re Mean!” Six Tips to Help You Cope with Your Child’s Angry Words


Dear Dr. Robyn,

I feel like the worst Mom. My son is 4 years old and he has always been a very sweet and loving boy. But the other day when we were playing with his toy trucks on the floor he got really mad, threw the truck down, and told me that he hated me! I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to say. I want to be prepared for the next time it happens (if it happens). What should I do?

                                                                                   —Susanne R., San Diego, CA

“Mommy, I hate you and Daddy You’re Mean!”

Six Tips to Help You Cope with Your Child’s Angry Words

By Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

“Mommy, I Hate You!”

“Daddy, You’re Mean!”

Being a parent is tough sometimes, isn’t it? Yes, you know in your head that your child doesn’t really hate you. But when he utters those words it’s as if he is nailing a scarlet letter to your head with a tinker toy. The words are “child’s play” but the effect sure does feel real.

Young children do not have to subtle language to beat around the bush. When they’re angry, they show it. If you don’t give them their way, they are going to let you know about their frustration. It’s normal. It just doesn’t feel like it when it happens to you. What should you do?

(1) Look for the issue behind the words: Your child does not always have the language to explain his frustration. When your child says “I hate you,” he might be having difficultly with a task, attaining something he wants, or expressing an emotion like fear. As parents, we must become a detective and figure out what our children are really trying to relay.

(2) Help your child recognize anger: If your child can recognize when he is feeling angry, he will have an easier time expressing and coping with the feeling rather than lashing out. Ask your child, “what does your body feel like when you’re angry?” Help him to name it while it’s happening, “I can tell by your face and body that you are angry. You’re having trouble putting the wheel back on your truck. That is very frustrating!” This will help to validate what your child is feeling and help him put a name to the emotion he is feeling.

(3) Give your child the right words: When your child is calm, talk about what happened. Remind him of when he was feeling angry earlier in the day and what he said. Let him know that when he says “I hate you,” it hurts your feelings. Then ask him, “What can you say instead?” If he is unsure, give him the right words. “When you feel this way, instead of saying ‘I hate you,’ say, ‘I feel angry and I need help, please.” Help him to practice expressing his feelings so that when he is angry again, he can call on these skills.

(4) Provide calming techniques: We all get angry. Helping your child deal with anger in a constructive way will be a gift that he can use for the rest of his life. Introduce and practice some techniques when your child is open to listening (not when in the heat of battle!). Counting to 10, singing a song, and talking to oneself, are some simple ways to calm down when angry. One of my favorite techniques is to “smell the roses and blow away the clouds.” This is a powerful way to teach children to take a few deep breaths.

(5) Provide problem solving techniques: Let your child know that there are lots of ways to solve problems. If something isn’t working, try something else! You might say, “Could you help me put the wheel back on my truck?” or “maybe I should play with something else.” Help your child think about solutions that are safe, fair, and likely to be successful.

(6) Watch your own language: Regrettably, in this case, “monkey see, monkey do.” If you use harsh language in anger or you typically say “I hate” towards objects (i.e. I hate doing laundry; I hate when the phone rings during your nap time), your child will pick up on it and use it himself. Unfortunately, such language might be directed at you!

Perhaps the most important thing for you to keep in mind while all this is happening is that your child doesn’t really hate you. So take a deep breath. Sometimes parents, too, need to remember to smell the flowers and blow away the clouds. After all, it’s likely that clear skies are on the horizon.

With great respect,


Webmaster’s Note: This article was originally published in Bay State Parent Magazine, where Dr. Robyn is a columnist. Dr. Robyn recently earned the Silver Award for her series, Fitting in and Standing Out, on Body Image in America from Parenting Publications of America.

Top Students: Does Self Discipline Trump IQ in Children and Teens?


Today I received the following question about children’s self discipline vs smarts from Mary in Charlotte, North Carolina:

“I have a quick question–since the Powerful Word this month is Self Discipline, my husband got into this discussion about our son (age 14) and daughter (age 11) who have very different study habits. We were just wondering, can kids with great self discipline do better in school than kids who are the smartest?”

Hi Mary-

Here’s a quick answer to your quick question!

People often point the finger at unprepared teachers, boring lesson plans, inadequate books, and overpopulated classes when it comes to student underachievement.

Interestingly, research has actually shown that:

  • Self discipline predicts academic performance more robustly than did IQ.
  • Self discipline has also predicted which students would improve their grades over the school year.
  • American children, in particular, have trouble making choices that require them to sacrifice short term gratification for long-term gain, such as academic success.
  • Compared with more impulsive peers, highly self disciplined 8th graders earned higher GPAs and achievement test scores, were more likely to gain admission to selective high schools, had fewer school absences, spent more time on homework, watched less TV, and started their homework earlier in the day.
  • Highly self disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic performance variable in one study, including report-card grades, standardized achievement test schools, admission to a competitive high school, and attendance.

As you can see, the Powerful Word, self discipline, has long lasting and important effects! So encourage your children to attend those character-based Power Chats with open ears and continue your family meetings!

Just a quick note: I’m so glad that your family is benefiting so much from the curriculum. We’re all very impressed that you and your spouse are engaging in discussions about the powerful word of the month. Congratulations on making character development a family affair!

Keep your questions and comments coming! Thanks, Mary!


Reference: Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents (Duckworth & Seligman)

I did it! Teaching Children the Rewards of Self Discipline

You know several tips on helping children learn self discipline since you read it in the Dear Dr. Robyn column in your Powerful Words package this month. But I thought I would expand on one of the tips (number 4) in the following article on children and self discipline, in particular: “Help your children recognize the rewards of self discipline.”
I did it! Teaching Children the Rewards of Self Discipline

By Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

The rewards for self discipline go well beyond gold stars. We need to teach our children about both kinds of rewards; external and internal.

An external self discipline reward is one that is provided by someone else. For example, when a child uses self discipline to study for a test, the external reward might be a high grade. If a child disciplines herself to practice gymnastics, swimming, or martial arts, the reward might be a trophy, ribbon, or new belt rank. These rewards signify that other people noticed her gains.

An internal reward is one that manifests from inside. Only the child can muster up this reward. For example, when a child disciplines herself to work complete an art project, her internal reward might be a feeling of accomplishment, pride, or relief. When a child uses self discipline to prepare for auditions at her all-star cheerleading academy or for a belt test at her martial arts academy and she does well, her internal reward might be a feeling of value, achievement, or self worth.

We want to help children understand both types of rewards. Both can be motivating and they are often intertwined. A trophy or medal can be interlinked with feelings of pride and a high grade can be linked to feelings of accomplishment. But this is not always the case.

As the number of external rewards increases, the feelings of pride and accomplishment do not always increase. Be careful! Parents who give too many outside rewards such as toys, treats, or money, may find that their value decreases over time. Nothing can buy a feeling of pride.

Since your children look to you for a reaction—show them that you’re proud of their commitment, effort, perseverance, and determination rather than just the trophy, grade, or medal. Your recognition of the internal reward as well as the external reward will help your child to understand your values.

I remember talking to someone about this once and our discussion had to do with the following:

“Let’s say that a child usually runs a mile in say, 10 minutes. He enters a race. He’s determined. He practices. He runs the mile in his fastest time, 9 minutes and 30 seconds. And he comes in flat last and receives a certificate of participation. Are you proud? Disappointed? Now, the same child enters another race. He doesn’t practice and he’s not that determined. He doesn’t put in much effort. He runs the race in 11 minutes and 50 seconds. He comes in first place and wins the blue ribbon. Are you proud? Disappointed? Let’s put in a third scenario now—the same child enters a last race. He has his eye on the trophy. He trains and he’s determined. He believes that winning is the most important thing. He runs the race in 9 minutes flat. He wins the whole thing. What we come to find out is that he has switched his competitor’s running shoes with ones that are a size too big and he is taking performance enhancing drugs. Are you proud? Disappointed?


Are we teaching the child to simply be “the best” in comparison to others or to do “his best” no matter what the circumstances? Do we teach the child to continually improve his personal best through self discipline and perseverance, gage effort by looking to his neighbor, or go “for the gold” at all costs just because it’s shiny?

Don’t get me wrong–there is absolutely nothing wrong with earning an external reward through effort, perseverance, and self discipline. I kept many of my own gymnastics, swimming, diving, horseback-riding, dramatic, and academic awards until my mother told me to clear them out of her basement a year ago. Just make sure to highlight that the external is a symbol of your child’s positive character. Otherwise, the external reward often gets far too much attention.

That being said; help your child to recognize the internal reward that comes with achievement.

For example, instead of saying “good job on getting a high grade on that test,” (external reward) say, “You must be very proud of the effort you put in to prepare for your test. (Internal reward) Congratulations—it certainly paid off! How do you feel?” or “Congratulations on running your fastest mile! You really showed great perseverance when you kept going even though the other runners were in front of you. How does it feel to accomplish such a tough goal? What do you think that says about your character?”

Entering in on a dialogue that brings the internal reward to the forefront will help the child connect the good feelings to the effort—rather than to the external rewards– which will come and go and lose importance as time marches onward. We certainly don’t want children going after goals just so that they can collect trophies (in what ever form they might be) that will simply collect dust. Trophies are meaningless without the strength of character, pain of sacrifice, and pride of achievement that it took to accomplish the goal.

Ultimately, highlighting what it took to achieve the goal rather than the external reward will help your children recognize what it takes to be successful and they’ll want to do it again and again.

Have a Wonderful Finish to your February!


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The POWer of Self Discipline: Three Reasons Goals Fail to Reach the Finish Line


“Use Self Discipline to execute your plan or find that the lack of it will execute your dreams.” –Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman–February Self Discipline Quote of the Month

As it’s now February and we are taking inventory on how well we’ve done so far on our New Year’s Resolutions, the February POWerful quote of the month struck a cord with some parents at top Personal Development Centers using Powerful Words.

One parent, whose family is currently doing a “POWerful Challenge” (her personal challenge is to lose 50 pounds) wrote, “I jotted down your quote this month and it’s on the refrigerator. I want to remember it when I am thinking about breaking my diet plan. My son, Nathan, is working on improving his grades in school and getting an A on his next math test. We all want it to work but I’m already seeing the excuses dropping from our lips when it’s time to get to work…What are some of the things we should look out for that can prevent our kids or ourselves from reaching the goals we set out to reach this year? And how can I explain these pitfalls to my child?” (Carole- Austin, TX)

Dr. Robyn’s 3 POWerful Ps of Failure

Self Discipline helps us greatly in goal-setting and goal-getting. It puts us in control. But once we allow self discipline to slip, there are 3 POWerful Ps of Failure ready to take the reins.

Procrastination: Put off for tomorrow what could be done today!

We are all guilty of falling into the trap of procrastination. When explaining procrastination to very young children, I use a concrete term since again, they are concrete thinkers. I say it is a monster called “Mr. Delay” who tells you to wait another day…and another day..and another day before getting to work. Helping children to prioritize and set a plan so that goal-getting takes place at a certain time each day or each week can help to squash procrastination.

Pushback: Resist change—Also known as, “I don’t wanna!”

When we charge towards our goals, things change. It’s human nature to want to stay at our comfort level in our Archie Bunker chair with our feet up. We want to achieve our goal, but we want everything to stay the same. When working with children who are dealing with push-back, you can help them to understand that it’s OK to feel uncomfortable when we are going after something we really want—in the end, it will be worth it—and you can bring them back to why they wanted to achieve the goal in the first place.

Projection: Blame it on the Dog!

As an educator, this is one of my favorites. Projection means placing the onus and the blame on someone else when a goal is not achieved. You may have heard, “Dad forgot to put my homework in my bag,” or “the teacher only explained it once that is why I didn’t get an A.” When explaining this concept to children, you can use concrete terms by asking them to picture a slide projector from school or showing them the film projector at a movie theater. The projector doesn’t put the picture on itself; it puts it on a screen. When we blame someone else when we do not achieve a goal, we are being like the projector. The person or thing we blame is the “screen.” The people who achieve their goals are people who take responsibility to get things done on their own and take the responsibility when they forget to do so as well. When we project blame onto someone else, we give them the power to decide the outcome of our goals and dreams.

Self Discipline is a powerful force in goal-setting and goal-getting. On your quest to achieve your New Year’s Resolution this year or your POWerful Challenge this month, I wish you and your family the self discipline to stay in the driver’s seat.

You have the power! Take the reins!