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

Confidence and Change: The Ultimate Frenemies?

stressed woman

Confidence and Change: The Ultimate Frenemies?

By Dr. Robyn Silverman

Confidence and change are often like oil and water. We are creatures of habit and we hate to upset the apple cart if we can help it. But given that change happens all the time and the powerful word of the month this month is confidence, I figured it was time to lay it on the table even if we all would rather ignore it all together.

As a new Mommy of our daughter, Tallie, I have had as much change as anyone can have at any one time. My previous “normality” at is related to sleeping, eating, and getting out the door has all gone out the window. And yet, I must maintain a sense of confidence in myself and my ability to get through it. For my sake. For my husband’s sake. For my daughter’s sake. It just has to happen.

It’s funny. A recent study came out that actually said young mothers (58%) are twice as confident in their own innate abilities to parent as older moms (27%) and fathers said they were even more confident than mothers.  Perhaps it’s a generational thing.  Perhaps it’s a gender thing.  Perhaps younger moms and fathers are just slightly delusional.  Regardless, at least half of moms and dads admit to feeling under-confident at times. No doubt change contributes to the doubt that enters are minds.

We all have changes throughout our lives. Our children go through it anytime we move, they change schools, or move up a grade. They deal with it when they move up a level in their activities. And don’t forget, they must cope with one of their biggest changes as they go through puberty. That last one often leaves us googling for the proverbial instruction book on kids…or wishing, at least, that it existed somewhere in cyberspace.

Change leads to questions. Questions rock our confidence boat. So what are we supposed to do to get over the hump?

(1) This too shall pass: My Mom would always say this to me when I was going through the “storm and stress” of childhood and adolescence. Perhaps she was saying it to reassure me. Perhaps she was saying it to reassure herself. Nonetheless it was and still is true. People do dumb things. People say dumb things. We might even make a mistake or two along the way. Change might make us feel like we’re walking on rocks but eventually the change becomes the norm and the norm becomes…comfortable.

(2) Enjoy it while it’s here: Yup. I’m not sleeping much. My daughter likes to lay all over me and wants to be picked up while I’m making dinner or just when I’m about to take a shower. I sometimes feel like I need a day off and I just started. But I know I’ll look back on these days and wish I didn’t shrug them off so quickly. So, I choose to enjoy this time. It might be hard but there is always a silver lining. Find it. Be grateful for it. Laugh. Believe me, it takes the sting out of getting up at 2am or feeling like you’re getting pulled in 20 different parental directions.

(3) Take a brain vacation: For you, that might mean getting a babysitter every once in a while to get a hold of your stress level. For your children it might mean going to a movie with her Dad to get her mind off her best friend being “mad at her” for the 20th time this week. Change happens but that doesn’t always mean we have to be in the thick of it. As they used to say, “take a chill pill” and everything will look better in the morning…or at least after watching “Dancing with the Stars.”

(4) Talk about it: Sharing experiences with like minded people can certainly help. Talk to other parents who are dealing with similar issues. Have your children talk to their older cousins or big brother or sister about their frustrations– or even their cool Auntie who always seems to have something brilliant to say. When we clam up, we feel alone. We feel as though nobody understands us. It’s simply not true. As tough as your situation might seem, someone else has gotten through it and knows the grass really is greener on the other side.

(5) What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger: Remember it. You might be tired. You might be frustrated. You might even be mad or depressed. But on the other side of all this change is a more knowledgeable, more experienced person who is stronger and better than before. Remember that last change you went through? You came out OK. Better, even. And don’t forget– without these changes and these experiences we would be born out of our skull. Nobody wants that.

So, are change and confidence really frenemies? Perhaps at times. Otherwise, they work symbiotically so that we become the evolved, exciting, energized and yes, sometimes exhausted people we are today and will be in the future. So here’s to change!

Please share your stories of confidence and change here in the comment section.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Ask Dr. Robyn: How to instill confidence in children, Part 2

Dr. Robyn Silverman answers a parent’s question about confidence and children

How can parents help children to become more confident?  All parents want their children to feel confident, even when they’re not around.  This video blog is part 2 of Ask Dr. Robyn; featuring a letter from Karen in Grand Rapids Michigan. Part 1 of Ask Dr. Robyn about instilling confidence is here.

As the Powerful Word of the Month is confidence this month at all Powerful Words Member Schools, many of the articles and video blogs will feature the character concept, confidence.  Please contact us with any of your questions and let us know your ideas of how to instill confidence in children!

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Ask Dr. Robyn: How do I build confidence in my child? Part 1

The Powerful Word of the month is confidence!

Dr. Robyn Silverman. child development expert, answers one powerful parent’s question about instilling confidence in children in the following video blog:

Part 2 of this addition of Ask Dr. Robyn will be provided in the next blog entry.  Check back!

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How to Build a Powerful Confident Child: Confidence Quotes

boy_graduateDr. Robyn J.A Silverman

The powerful word of the month this month is confidence! Confidence is one of my favorite words because I feel that it’s the foundation for positive learning and living. With confidence, our children have the courage to try new things, meet new people, and be the person they were meant to be.

We never want children to pretend to be something they’re not because they believe that people will like them better if they are some imitation of someone else more popular. As Judy Garland once said, “Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else”. With confidence, children can be innovative, creative, bold and assertive.

Nothing dampens a child’s ability to grow like a lack of confidence in oneself. We must encourage without over-praising, challenge without criticizing or hurrying, and love without comparing. As powerful parents, we are the first and last stop in our children’s day. As such, we must help to inspire one’s morning confidence so that they can be bold while learning and socializing at school and in their after-school activities.

On the flip side, we also must help them to wind down at night. That means asking about their day and telling them about ours. It means allowing them to review their choices and interactions, helping them problem solve and think of better ways of doing things, and, of course helping to ease them into a comfortable sleep knowing that they are loved just the way they are, no matter what decisions they made or fumbles that occurred. This is the amazing, challenging, and awesome job of a powerful parent.

CONFIDENCE QUOTES

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance.” ~Bruce Barton

“Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.” – Alan Alda

Two people, equally matched, equally prepared, equally determined to win. Who will be the winner? It’s certain to be the one with the confidence to say, “It’s me.” –Dr. Robyn Silverman

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” –Sven Goran Eriksson

“The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.” – Andrew Carnegie

“I quit being afraid when my first venture failed and the sky didn’t fall down.” – Allen H. Neuharth

“Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway.” ~Mary Kay Ash

God wisely designed the human body so that we can neither pat our own backs nor kick ourselves too easily. ~Author Unknown

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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

Dr. Robyn is Guest Editor for Dove Self Esteem Fund!

dove self esteem fund

Dr. Robyn Silverman

How do you explain real beauty to a girl?

Joining Dove Self Esteem Embassador, Jessica Weiner and psychologist and author, Ann Kearney Cooke, I am honored to have been asked to be the guest editor for the Dove Self Esteem Fund. Do you know about the great efforts of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty that teaches girls not to get sucked into the media hype about thinness as well as the importance of loving “the skin you’re in?” They do films, workshops, and education for girls, moms and anyone who loves or works with girls.

The question I was asked to answer for preteen and teen girls was: How do you explain real beauty to a girl?

Here’s the full article and bio.

Highlights from the article include:

If you asked me about real beauty, you might be surprised by what I say…when I was 14 years old, there was an enormous billboard in our town center of a woman in an expensive dress looking down on the street through heavily made up eyes.  I thought she was perfect; unblemished, flawless, and yes, a real beauty. As I look back, I realize how wrong I was to think that way…she was digitally modified, primped, preened, puffed up and paired down…what’s really beautiful about someone who doesn’t really exist?

We want girls to realize that real beauty is in their best friend– their mom– and in themselves.  So I included passages such as this one:

Real beauty doesn’t need to be all made up or dressed in fancy clothes. It’s imperfectly perfect. It’s your best friend’s contagious zest for life that you see every time she pretends to pose for glamour shots while wearing a fuzzy bathroom and hippo-patterned pajamas. It’s the two of you singing into a hairbrush and dancing to some ridiculous song on the radio– just because it’s fun. Just because you can. Yes, real beauty is in your best friend…

Read the rest of the article!

What do you think real beauty is all about?  How would you explain it to your daughter, your niece, your student, or other girls you love?

Please comment below– we’d love to hear what you have to say!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs