Getting children to redefine what their best is…everyday

Dr. Robyn SIlverman as a young teenager

Do you see “vision” in the eyes of your child?

Dr. Robyn Silverman for Powerful Words

Some might say that the difference between a successful child and an unsuccessful child is brains.  Others might say talent. Still others, might realize that it may just be the vision and belief that one can set goals, go after those goals, and succeed in achieving those goals.

When I was about 8-12 years old, I was convinced that I was stupid.  My brothers had been in all the advanced classes- I hadn’t. My brothers got high marks on all their tests—I didn’t.  My brothers were among those kids invited to their teacher’s home for a special celebration of “smartness” and I…played with the Barbie dream home.

It wasn’t like I was failing anything—I was pretty much just average. But boy—it was convenient to believe otherwise. “I’m not as smart as my brothers” and “I’m stupid” became my mantra.  It was my answer to all things challenging at school—all bad grades, the reason I was more of a follower than a leader among my friends, my fallback mantra anytime I got stuck in a pickle–  it provided my perfect excuse for mediocrity.

What’s funny about the repetition of a mantra is that not only do you begin to believe what you are saying—but so do others around you. My family just knew that they needed to help me out quite a bit since I could hardly do things myself.  My mother barely would say anything about the Cs on my report card because they were clearly the best I could do. My father admitted later on in life that he began to thank God that I was cute since I didn’t get blessed with the brains in the family. It’s not their fault.  I was VERY convincing.

So, when I entered 8th grade, I didn’t expect anything different than my typical average performance. Nobody did. But in meeting Mr. Hendrickson, who asked us all to call him “Hendi” since he was only 24 years old at the time, I had met my match.  Still young enough to know what a cop out looked like and old enough to know the difference between poor self esteem and actual stupidity, he called me into his office.

“What do you need in order to ace this next math test?”

“I can’t ace any test.  I’m a horrible test taker and I stink at math.”

“But what if you could?”

“Could what?”

“Ace the test. What would you need to do it?”

“Someone else’s brain?”

(The parent/teacher look.  You know the one.  You probably give it to your children when they make such remarks.)

“OK. I guess I would need a lot of extra help (but I couldn’t resist)…but a brain transplant couldn’t hurt.”

“Fine. My door is open to you everyday during free periods and after school. As for the brain transplant, you don’t need it.  But you need a thought transplant. You need a new definition of what your best is.”

“I try my best.”

“No, you try what you once believed was your best. You need a new definition. Your current definition is yesterday’s news. What do you want now? What can you do now? I don’t think you know what you are capable of.”

“Not much.”

“You’re doing it again. I’m not buying it. I want you to wipe clean the slate and see what’s possible now.  You’re going to ace this test.”

“If you say so.”

No , I want you to say so.”

“I’m not there yet.”

“Get there.”

“I’ll try.”

You see, I was basing my performance level, my attitude, and my belief in myself on who I believed I was—the stupid one—not on who I could be. Once this belief was exposed, I needed to either prove him wrong or prove him right.

So for the next 2 weeks I came in every day for extra help.  An opportunity had opened up—not that it wasn’t always there but I hadn’t been willing to take it.  After all, why bother when the results were bound to be the same?  Perhaps even with extra help, I wasn’t going to be able to do it.  But in the back of my head, a tiny voice asked meekly, but what if you could?

The day of the test came. I took it and didn’t feel half bad about it. Not that that would make a difference—since the results were bound to be the same.  But what if they weren’t?

It was later on in the day that I bumped into Hendi.  He stopped me in the hallway and said; “You did it.”

Not believing my ears I asked, “I did what?”

“You aced the test.”

Doubting these different results I questioned, “are you sure?”

To which he joked, “I’m not checking it again.  See… you can do it.  And now we all know.  We all have a new definition of what your best is. So, now you’re really in for it!”

It’s a day that changed more than just my definition of my best. It told me what was possible. It changed my vision of the future and redefined what I was capable of NOW rather than going by what I thought I was capable of then.  It infused me with confidence and the ability to push myself and to redefine what my best is every day.

Children must have the ability to dream if you want to see them rise to their potential . They must believe in what’s possible even if it hasn’t been done before.  They must be willing to challenge themselves and others. And yes, they must redefine what is “their best” everyday and refuse to live by yesterday’s definition of one’s best.

As parents and teachers,we must give children the permission to succeed—dropping who they might have been and building on who they can be. Sometimes we all get stuck in believing their performance sabotaging mantras. It’s time to stop allowing it to happen.

So, how are you inspiring your children to redefine their definition of their best?  Looking forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn Silverman Introduces The February Word of the Month: Trustworthiness

Trustworthiness Quotes

“A man who doesn’t trust himself can never really trust anyone else.” –Cardinal  De Retz

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” —  Friedrich Nietzsche

“Trust must be proven and maintained; for as strong as it is under pressure, it cracks like and egg when betrayed.”  –Dr. Robyn Silverman

“It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.” –Samuel Jackson

“People ask me why it’s so hard to trust people, and I ask them why is it so hard to keep a promise.” –Anonymous

“I trust those who follow rules they don’t entirely believe more than I trust those who believe in rules they don’t entirely follow.” — Cat and Girl by Dorothy Gambrell

Make your judgment trustworthy by trusting it” — Grantland Rice

A true friend never breaches the trust of his companion or stabs in his back. He is trustworthy and reliable. One should therefore always try to be a true and reliable friend. ” –Sam Veda

Thanksgetting???

thanksgiving and grumpy ungrateful child

Thanksgetting?

By Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

What ever happened to the “Thanks” part of Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is definitely one of my favorite holidays. In fact, it is a family favorite—one that is filled with savory and sweet smells, warmth, and comfortable conversation with loved ones and friends. I just adore it.

On the flip side, Thanksgiving is also the beginning of the biggest commercial season of the year. Think of the sales! The holiday music! The must-have toys of the season! Corporations vie for your attention and of course, the attention of your children.

Believe it or not, it is estimated that advertisers spend more than $12 billon per year on advertising messages aimed at your children. More than half of the toy industry’s annual $30 billion in sales happen during the weeks leading up to the holiday season. Therefore it is not surprising that the average child watches more than 40,000 television commercials per year—and over 100 commercials per day. No doubt that some of the most influential commercials present themselves in November and December since American families are primed to react and spend.

How can we save Thanksgiving from simply being reduced to “the day before the best shopping day of the year?”

thanksgiving table and thanksgiving food

Seven years ago, in the wake of September 11th, we remembered what Thanksgiving was really about—giving thanks for our family, our friends, and our freedom. We can’t let a tragedy be the only stimulus that reminds us to cherish what we have, instead of what materials goods we want. So perhaps instead of letting this holiday just be about a big dinner, special desserts, and a few days off from the typical routine, let’s use it as a chance to let the kids know that there are reasons to celebrate and give thanks.

Here are some ways to get away from need and greed and to bring gratitude and graciousness to the forefront.

(1) Discuss the real meaning of Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season: Since Thanksgiving, in many American households, has been reduced simply to “Turkey day,” it is not surprising that the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving has been buried under the proverbial pile of mashed potatoes. Talk to your children about what these holidays really mean to you and ask your children what they mean to them. If they simply remark, “presents!” or “cupcakes!” you know that you have some work to do. It may take some patience, but this is the time to start a new tradition of gratitude. Break out the family bucket list! Talk about what your grateful for this year! In the war against the “gimme-gimme ghouls” of Thanksgiving past, present, and future, this is the time to change your family lexicon and behavior around the holidays.

(2) Help your child understand the power of the media: It is amazing. It doesn’t seem to matter whether we are 4 or 44 years old, commercials have a profound effect on our brains. Your child may want the latest “Laugh with Me Laura Doll” just as much as you want the newest digital camera or Plasma TV. While adults have more of an abstract understanding of how media influences our interests and wants, children are more concrete and lack the cognitive capabilities to understand the power of persuasion. They see it, they want it, they have to have it, and you have to give it to them. Talk to your children about how it is the job of the media to make toys look a certain way to con children into buying. Children don’t like to be conned. Let them know about the money, techniques, and “magic tricks” advertisers use to make us feel a certain way about a product.

(3) Seek out activities that build character: It is important in the face of commercialism, to take time to do activities that take no money at all. Discuss your family values and then brainstorm ways to foster them. Bring your Powerful Words into your Table Time Talk. Perhaps you can make it a tradition to do charity work, plant a tree, go hiking as a family, or rediscover old toys in the back of the closet that some other children could use in the coming year. If you do not have the time to do such activities with your children, do not fret. Seek out a family friend, relative or even an activity such as martial arts, gymnastics, or scouts that has a character education program in place to help bring out the personal best in your children. The aim is to help children realize that Thanksgiving, inherent in its name, is not about getting, but giving.

(4) Talk to your children about making gifts instead of buying them: I know it’s not gift-giving season yet. But if you do not want children to wait to the last minute to think about gift giving, talk to them about the power of the homemade gift early. Break out the crayons and crafts and encourage your children to be creative. In addition, now that we are in the tech-savvy world of computers and your children are likely to be pros at operating one, making cards, scrapbooks, audio recordings, or family videos could be priceless. I believe it was in the year 2000 that I video-taped my grandmother talking about our family history, what it was like to grow up in the 1920s, and how she felt about our family. She past away in 2004. The video recording is one of my family’s most precious possessions and it didn’t cost one red cent. Children can also make “Powerful Promissory notes” for gifts—promising to wash the car, clean the garage, baby sit, make breakfast, or do some other elected family chore that would help others.

(5) Remember to give thanks: Who would you like to thank? Teachers? Coaches? Family? Friends? Turn off the cell phone, unplug the TV, and get back to the basics. Discuss the things for which you are grateful—those irreplaceable, precious things that are near and dear to your heart. Model the ability to be thankful and call attention to how giving thanks makes people feel (both the giver and the receiver!). Instead of simply giving thanks before the sweet potato pie is being served, declare November and December “Thanksgiving months.” Why not? Once per day, each member of the family, whether you’re a single parent family or duel-parent family, can say why they are thankful. Sometimes it is helpful to do this at a specific time each day like before a meal is served or before bedtime. Some families find it helpful to use a reminder symbol to encourage giving thanks—like placing a “gratitude rock” in their pocket or placing a “gratitude bear” by the bedside. Any way you do it, you will be surprised about how it changes the climate of the family.

thanksgiving family and thanksgiving holiday

In the end, children take their cues from you. The media might be powerful but it can be dwarfed by the power of a parent who shows, tells, and exudes a thankful spirit for the precious gifts that could never be bought at any sale the day after Thanksgiving.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman Child Development Expert

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman’s programs and services are used worldwide to help children, teens, and adults reach their potential. She is also a success coach for parents, adolescents, and educators, who are looking to achieve their goals, improve their lives or improve the lives of others. She is currently getting ready to run 2 tele-coaching groups for adults who ready to set and achieve specific goals in 2009. Contact Dr. Robyn to reserve your spot.  Spaces are limited to 12-15 people per group for maximum productivity. Apply now. Serious inquiries only.

Stop. Think. Show a Little Character

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

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Friday Musings…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warm regards,

October’s Powerful Word of the Month – Responsibility

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.

10 Tips on Teaching Respect to Children: You can’t get it if you don’t give it!

Quick Tips on Teaching respect to children

By: Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

I remember reading an issue of Family Fun Magazine in which behavior specialist Jan Faull asks, “How will the child learn respect if you don’t teach it, expect it and model it yourself?”

Good point. I recently was coaching a parent who told me in exasperation, “I am teaching respect but I can’t get any respect!” She was desperately seeking parenting advice. Upon digging deeper, she told me that she found herself screaming at her children when they did not do as she asked. After much discussion and parenting coaching technique, the mother came to realize that by screaming, she was teaching the very thing she hated; disrespect.

Children will take their cues from you. Simply put, if children are around respectful adults, they’re more likely to show respect, however, when they’re around disrespectful adults, they’re more likely to show disrespectful behavior. Yelling, cursing, grabbing, shouting over, and sarcasm are transferable! “Young ones will eventually express themselves as you do, but realize it takes years of effective teaching to refine those skills” Family Fun Magazine writer, Faull, wrote. This is accurate when on both the positive side and the negative side. When you speak with respect to your children, they learn respect. When you speak with disrespect, they learn that just as well.

10 Parenting Tips for Teaching Respect and Curbing Disrespect:

(1) Model it: If you want them to do it, you have to do it too.

(2) Expect it: When your expectations are reasonably high, children rise to the occasion.

(3) Teach it: Give children the tools they need to show you respect. Your Powerful Words Family School, can assist you with the lessons.

(4) Praise it: When you see or hear your children using respectful language and making respectful choices, recognize it and praise them for making positive, respectful decisions.

(5) Discuss it: Pick out times when you see other children using respectful or disrespectful language or behavior and discuss with it your children.

(6) Correct it: Be strong, firm and direct when teaching respect. At the same time, be sure you are being respectful yourself while correcting the behavior.

(7) Acknowledge it: Don’t just let things slide! Be sure to notice when respectful behavior is being exhibited and make sure to call them on disrespectful behavior!

(8) Understand it: Your children are growing and learning. Sometimes word choice and behavioral decisions are made because they do not have the correct words or behavior to relay “I’m tired,” “I’m frustrated,” or “I’m angry.”

(9) Reinforce it: Remind children of their good decisions so that they remember how it felt, the praise they received, and the overall experience of being respectful.

(10) Reward it: Respectful behavior should be something that children want to do without overindulgent rewards. However, it is good to associate respectful behavior with intangible rewards such as praise, recognition, extra responsibility, and privileges.

Teaching respect takes patience, time, and a willingness to do as you preach. Time isn’t everything though, is it? It takes years to rear a respectful child and only moments to fill one with anger and disrespect. Which one do you choose?

Have a wonderful weekend filled with respect-

Child and teen development expert, Dr. Robyn Silverman, provides candid, easy-to-follow tips that make her a favorite among parents and educators. Known as “The Character Queen,” she’s the creator of the Powerful Words Character Toolkit, a character education system that’s being used by over 500 of the top after school activity programs worldwide. She’s been the featured expert in articles for Parents and Prevention Magazines, the Washington Post, and other regional and national publications. Dr. Robyn, as she is affectionately called by those with whom she works, was also recently a featured parenting expert on the nation radio show with Dr. Drew Pinsky. For more information or to contact Dr. Robyn, visit her Powerful Parenting Blog or her website .