Teaching Children the Courage to Go A Different Way

road_childrenSometimes it’s not about having the courage to try again.  Sometimes it’s about having the courage to try something different.

As my husband and I are working on “purging” our house of stacks of papers, old books, forgotten clothes, and random “what-nots,” I came across my diaries from middle school and high school.  There are some “deep” thoughts in there. Amazing what goes through the mind of a teenager.

Stuck in between the pages of my ninth grade diary was a page from one of my leadership camps was the famous “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson.

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

Why do I bring this up?  When talking to children, sometimes we need to teach them the courage to go another way.  This may be “the road less traveled” or it may simply be a road less traveled…by them. Perhaps they need to try a new activity like martial arts, gymnastics, swim or dance– perhaps they need courage to move to a new town or enroll in a new school. Or maybe, they need the courage to make new friends when the current ones are just not the right fit anymore.

It’s hard. it’s scary.  It takes courage. But it may just be the best thing they ever did.

I was speaking to one brave and beautiful 15 year old yesterday who told me that she had to do “spring cleaning” on her so-called friends because they were not supportive of her– in fact, they made her feel awful about herself. They would tease her and make her feel self-conscious about her weight and her appearance.  Asking a teenager to switch groups of friends can be like cutting off part of yourself.  And at first, it looks like it’s a really important part of yourself, but as it turns out, it’s more like a growth you are better living without!

I lost touch with those “friends” and met all sorts of people. They were all about my size and we all wore the same size clothes and shoes. Soon we started having sleepovers randomly on weekends and going shopping. And they also had similar stories from when they were little that they were picked on for stupid things like being “ugly”. So we formed our own group of friends and we would go ice skating and meet all new friends. Eventually our group got so big that those other people started becoming jealous of us because we had real friends that loved us for who we were.”

There have been many times throughout my life that I’ve walked down the same street over and over.  Making the same mistakes and looking for different results.  It wasn’t until I decided to go a different way that well, something different happened.  Often, something better.

It’s important to help our children see that change can be wonderful.  It can open up a whole new– and better– world for us…if we just have the courage to walk down another street.

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Ask Dr. Robyn Silverman: How do I teach courage in new situations?

Many parents children get nervous during the first month of school. Everything is so new!  So it didn’t surprise me when this note about back to school fears and dealing with new situations came to my blog box recently.

Dear Dr. Robyn,

My child seems really anxious in new situations.  Now I think I might be more anxious than my child!  We recently moved and started a new school. I wonder if there is some way that I could help my child feel more secure about these different environments.  –Patti

Who Cares about Kanye West When We Have Dalton Sherman?

Ugh.  I got caught up in that Kanye West/Serena Williams garbage like the rest of you.  Double Ugh.  Sometimes I forget what I’m doing over here.  Where are the people to inspire our kids?  Let Dalton Sherman, 5th grader, and keynote speaker for the Dallas Independent School Districts (who gave this back-to-school POWERspeech in front of 17,000 educators and school district workers), tell you the deal. It was in 2008– but the speech is just as powerful today as it was back then.  Perhaps more so.  Boy do we need a shake-up.

Dalton Sherman wants to know; “do you believe in me?” He has to ask.  After all, where has our attention been lately? Kanye West? Serena Williams? Government arguments over who said what to whom and which trusted officials are now being caught cheating on their wives. What’s happening to us, folks?

If we want a great example of courage— you’ve got to see this inspiring and powerful kid.  He wants us to step up- and I think it’s time- don’t you? All adults- parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, policy makers, government officials! It’s time to get out of our own way and do what we were put on this earth to do; realize our goals and inspire our children to do the same. It’s Friday- so let’s put away the pop culture mumbo jumbo for a little while and concentrate on what’s important.  We’ve got to answer Dalton’s pressing question.

Yes, Dalton Sherman, we believe in you. And yes, we believe in all our children. Sorry if we lost our focus for a little while there.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs


Kanye West and Serena Williams Show Courage Through Apologies?

US OPEN CLIJSTERS V WILLIAMS

I know the talk around the cyber-water cooler lately as swarmed around the Kanye West and Serena Williams debacles that occurred recently. They’ve been grilled, smashed and spoofed over the last few days but I’ve hung back. I wanted let the situations percolate for a few days because, as frustrated as I was that they occurred at all, I think they are the perfect teaching tool to help children and teens learn about courage and taking responsibility for their mistakes.

I hate when publicist’s send in luke-warm responses on behalf of their celebrity clients when they make big blunders. Something along the lines of “So and so regrets the incident took place and is apologetic for the hurt she caused to so and so and her family.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. But where’s your FACE? I want to SEE you say it! Nobody wants to get a measly note.  Show me, don’t tell me, ya know? To me, letting your publicist go out and do your dirty work for you is NOT taking responsibility.

And these two, Kanye West and Serena Williams could have gone that route—but they didn’t.  They owned up, got out there on national television, and told the world that the messed up. They apologized.  Good for them. It wasn’t perfect but at least it was something– so it’s a lesson.

west_swift

OK. I’ll admit it. I’m a softie. Please don’t let on that you know.  But when Kanye West came out on Jay Leno on opening night and told the world how sorry he was for interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs—and specifically, when Jay Leno asked how Kanye thought his mother would have felt about the choice he made- I shifted in my seat.  I know, we all wanted to see him roasted on a spit for embarrassing “nice girl” Taylor Swift but, well, I felt bad for the guy.  He looked as if he was about to cry.  And I thought—more kids need to see this.  More kids need to see that Kanye West in all his cool glory did something that made him extremely uncomfortable because it was the right thing to do. Yup folks, that’s courage. Because he didn’t have to do it. But he did.

Now I recognize that Kanye tried to put off taking full responsibility by blaming some of his poor behavior on the loss of his Mom and not taking any time off. But still, I was happy he at least got out there.  He needed to do it—to mop up his own mess —despite he was being booed and berated for his behavior.

And Serena, well, you never want to hear that many *beeps* covering up what comes out of your own mouth.

Yes, it was deplorable. And she had trouble taking responsibility at first. That’s a lot like…many people in our lives, isn’t it?

“I just really wanted to apologize sincerely, because I’m a very prideful person and I’m a very intense person and a very emotional person. I wanted to offer my sincere apologies to anyone that I may have offended.” – Serena Williams said at a post-match conference.

I know a “real” direct apology came a little late—36 hours after the on-court confrontation. It would have been better if it came immediately. This is an important aspect to teach to our kids too– be direct, do it as soon as possible, and be sincere. And it would have been better had she not made the mistake at all. But she did. And she owned up to it…finally.

Her amended statement:

“I want to sincerely apologize FIRST to the lineswoman, Kim Clijsters, the USTA and mostly tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst,” the statement said. “I’m a woman of great pride, faith and integrity, and I admit when I’m wrong. I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it’s not the way to act — win or lose, good call or bad call in any sport, in any manner.” Serena Williams

So glad she said that last part.  Celebrities and sports icons have to acknowledge their power in shaping youth. They are allowed to be human but they also must show character.  If character is compromised, they must show character and deal with the issue with integrity and humility.

Everyone has lapses in their character– but it’s not all caught on camera for the world to dissect, rewatch, and analyze. Thank goodness. Could you imagine if the angry outbursts of your…Mom, Dad, or YOU were caught on tape? Oh my.  You might be issuing an apology through your publicist.

It’s hard not to wonder if the fuss was so major because Serena is a woman. We used to all stand by and wait to see how McEnroe was going to erupt this time.  It was going to happen. It was just a matter of time.  But erupting like a crazed volcanic mountain is not a very girly thing to do in our society.  So it was incredibly shocking.  Yes folks, girls get angry too.

Of course, that does not negate that it was wrong. Parents and teachers need to use these moments to teach their kids and teens about appropriate ways to let off steam when they are angry.What should she have done instead?  If you were her best friend, what would you have said to her after her outburst? By role playing and discussing the issue instead of simply pointing a judgmental finger, we all learn.

But again, the important part is that she owned up to it. Now, she must suffer the consequences that come when our actions are not thought through and our impulses lead us to betraying our character—respect, discipline, anger management, impulse control and other Powerful Words we must cover with children and teens.  This isn’t the first time this has happened with a celebrity– and it won’t be the last.

Ask your children and teens; “when was a time that you did something you regretted and wished you could erase or re-do? When did you need to apologize for losing your cool? What do you think it the difference between a tepid apology and one that is meaningful and sincere? Listen to what your children have to say. No doubt they will have some interesting responses and gain some perspective from talking about the incident. Apologizing is difficult– but all children and teens must learn how to do it.  They can’t have Mom and Dad do it for them– and they don’t have a publicist (most likely)– they must stand in front of the person– the teacher, the friend, the store manager, and show their face.  Speak up. Take responsibility and show some courage. Children and teens need exercise their character and learn to keep their powerful words in their character toolkit at all times- even when they get angry.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt to remind adults about using our powerful words too—clearly, as you can see, we sometimes need it.

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Dr. Robyn Silverman Introduces the September Powerful Word: Courage

Courage Quotes

“The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” –Charles Dubois

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” –Soren Kierkegaard

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” –Elenor Roosevelt

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” –Maya Angelou

Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts. –Aristotle

“The courage to commit, even when our footing is unsure, is a crucial part of powerful character. By refusing to give in to fear, we show we refuse to give up on ourselves.” –Dr. Robyn Silverman

“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.” –Ralph W. Sockman

“Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount.” –Clare Booth Luce

“Yesterday I dared to struggle. Today I dare to win.” –Bernadette Devlin

“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.’  –Keshavan Nair

“The best way out is always through.” –Robert Frost

“Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” –Winston Churchill

Please tell us your Powerful Courage stories this month!

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PARENTS! FREE Back to School Fears Teleseminar Wednesday Night 8/26

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Only a few spots left!

FREE “How to Help Your Children Deal with Their Back to School Fears” Teleseminar!

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Good morning powerful parents!

After I was interviewed as the parenting expert for Education.com on How to Deal with Back to School Fears in Children and related articles, I was contacted my several parents who wanted to know more.  They were having many issues and concerns with how their children handled “newness,” especially the transition to school.

So I’m offering a special FREE Parenting Tele-Seminar TOMORROW for all Powerful Parents on Back to School Fears and Dealing with New Situations.

The Teleseminar will take place on THIS COMING WEDNESDAY, August 26th at 8pm EASTERN, 7pm CENTRAL, 6pm MOUNTAIN, and 5pm PACIFIC.

There are a limited number of lines—and only a few left now that we are closer to the date.  Please sign up now to be part of this FREE event!

We will be going over several concerns and questions including:

  • What are some typical fears that children will be dealing with when going back to school?
  • How would parents know if their children are really having a problem?
  • What specific action steps can parents to take to help their children cope?
  • What would cause a child to exclaim “I’m never going back!”
  • What big mistakes can parents make in these situations?

And other questions too!

Looking forward to hearing you on the teleseminar! Sign up here!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Back-To-School Tears, Fears and Cheers

Dr. Robyn with her best friend, Randi (still!) and a neighborhood boy, Todd, on the first day of school.

Dr. Robyn with her best friend, Randi (still!) and a neighborhood boy, Todd, on the first day of school.

BACK-TO-SCHOOL TEARS, FEARS and CHEERS
The Crucial Dos and Don’ts of Helping Your Child Cope with New Situations Like School
Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

My nieces and nephews all went back to school today. So it got me thinking. Do you remember your first day of school?

I do…

It was the first September after I turned 5 years old. Every child’s right of passage. New school. New teacher. New everything.

I was holding my Mom’s hand tightly. With 2 hands. You know the feeling; my brain wanted to leap forward but my body wanted to hide behind my Mommy at the same time.

We strolled together across the parking lot towards Mt. Pleasant Elementary School in West Orange, NJ with my brother, Scott, who was returning for his third grade year and Marc, who was going to be a big-league 6th grader. As Mrs. Wong’s Kindergarten classroom loomed ahead, I recall asking Scott a string of questions; “What’s going to happen in there? Will I know anybody? If I don’t like it, can I come to your class instead?” Mom squeezed my hand. I saw it as a sign of reassurance but found out not too long ago that it was coupled with her own disbelief that I was really old enough to enter kindergarten. I was her youngest and her little girl. Perhaps you can relate.

New situations, like going to school, are typically anxiety provoking. It’s normal. After all, they’re filled with unfamiliar people, unfamiliar things, and unfamiliar activities. Such changes can bring on both tears and fears … not just for the child but for parents too!

So before I leap into tips that can help your child feel more comfortable in new situations, it’s necessary to subside our own fears first. Take a breath. Talk to a more experienced friend, partner, or parent. Remain calm and avoid falling into the role of overprotective “Helicopter Parent.”

Here’s the bottom line: If you feel worried about leaving your child in a new situation, your child will likely sense these fears and become even more upset.

Once you feel confident and ready, your child will be more likely to follow suit. So here are some tips to help ease your child’s transition into new environments:

DOS

1. Let your children know that it’s normal to be nervous when going somewhere new and that many of the other children are likely feeling the same way. You can even share your own experiences of when you were scared and how once you met people; you had a good time and weren’t scared anymore.

2. Integrate “courageous” language into your family: Talk about ways that people in your family, including your children, are brave each day.

3. Keep your children informed about the schedule for the week. You can remind them about what will be happening the next day so that they can prepare themselves mentally and physically. Make sure that your children have everything they will need for the following day, so that they are ready and calm when the next day rolls around.

4. Ask your children about how they feel: Be open to talking about both the excitement and the concerns they are feeling in light of these new environments. Sometimes just listening can help these fears subside.

5. Point out the positive aspects of trying new things and being in new places. Remind your children of how wonderful it is to meet new friends, participate in new activities, and make new memories. Bring up old friends and activities that they enjoy now but that were once new and scary to them.

6. Let your children know that you are thinking of them when they are in their new environments. Leave a note in their notebooks, book-bags, or lunchboxes, that will remind them that you’re proud of them and know that they’ll do great.

7. Try to arrange for your children to meet a classmate or two before school starts so that they know someone when starting something new. To help foster friendships, don’t rush in and out. It’s a good idea to allow children some time before and after class to talk with other classmates so that they can make friends.

8. Talk to your children’s teachers when your children feel especially nervous. A good teacher can help fearful children by linking them with friendly, outgoing buddies or simply by supporting and encouraging them.

DON’TS

9. Don’t be late! One sure fire way to raise the anxiety levels of children when starting something new is to run late. Children should feel relaxed and unrushed so that they can get their bearings and prepare for class. Being a little bit early will allow your children some time to talk to new friends and to the teacher.

10. Don’t compare: It is best to avoid comparing your child to more outgoing siblings or friends in an effort to encourage him or her to be more like them. This is not only unhelpful but it can make a child feel like s/he can’t measure up.

11. Don’t dismiss your children’s fears: Using statements like “Don’t be silly; there’s nothing to be afraid of” only frustrates children because their fears are not being validated. Rather, offer support by statements such as “I know you’re feeling nervous but you’re the kind of person that everyone likes once they get to know you. I know you can do it!”

12. Don’t tease them: Telling children that they are “acting like babies” or that “big kids aren’t scared” doesn’t help to address fears. It just makes them feel bad.

13. Don’t avoid it: This will only prolong the inevitable. It is best to help children to deal with their fears head on so that their fears subside. What will help them to feel more at ease?

Finally, don’t quit. Take it one step at a time. Congratulate your child (and yourself!) for each small step taken. Even though it may take some time, encourage your children to persevere! Let them know that they have your support no matter how long it takes. With your help, fears and tears will become cheers. Their anxieties will subside, and in time, so will yours!

How are you feeling about the start of school? What was your child’s first day or school like? What great tips do you have for parents shuttling their children to school for the first time?

Your comments are appreciated and valued! Please comment below now!

Have a Powerful Weekend!