Powerful Words Member School On Good Morning America

Andrew Lesmerisis of Communities that care and Powerful WordsBy: Dr. Robyn Silverman

Congratulations to Platinum Member Powerful Words Member School, Midcoast Martial Arts, for doing extraordinary work with young people in Camden, Maine. Featured on Good Morning America for helping Camden get their staggering suicide and drug numbers down, Midcoast is helping to do their part by teaching children that they are worthwhile, that they can achieve, and of course, that they can stay engaged with people who care like the teachers over at Midcoast Martial Arts.

Drug and alcohol abuse reached crisis levels in 2001, when Maine’s teen suicide rate was 50 percent higher than the national average.

Along with Powerful Words, Midcoast is part of a program called Communities That Care,  that surveys students starting in the fifth grade to determine their risk factors. The program helps to rally teachers, such as instructor Mr. Andrew Lesmerisis, owner and chief instructor at Midcoast, to take an active role in helping his students and the children of Camden, to thrive.

“We look to provide opportunities  for kids to learn skills (martial arts, character. leadership) and make sure to recognize their accomplishments (belts, POWerful Words Stripes, Patches, Cards, etc.) especially when they go out into the community.  This builds a level of trust for the kids/teens that there are caring adults that want to see them be successful.  This leads to the students becoming bonded to the school where we try to set clear standards of behavior (POWerful Words plays a huge role here!) which due to the bonding is more likely to take hold and lead them to be healthy and more active in the community in positive ways.” –Andrew Lesmerisis

The researchers at National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of National Institutes of Health (NIH) have followed  Camden along with 11 other towns who implememted the Communities that Care philosophy to get teachers, instructors, clergy, and other adults and mentors involved in their youth– and compared them to 12 communities that didn’t use this approach.

The results were dramatic: By the eighth grade, students in towns where the CTC was in place were more than 30 percent less like to take up alcohol and tobacco and 25 percent less likely to engage in delinquency than in those where it was not.

The program is really, simply, a philosophy.

The results of this trial confirm that tools do exist that give communities the power to reduce risk for multiple problem behaviors across a community. What makes Communities That Care unique is that it enables communities to identify their own special issues so they can hand pick the right prevention programs.  –Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA Director

Because it’s a philosophy rather than a set canned course of action, it allows Mr. Lesmerisis and other adults in town to customize how they convery that philosophy.  We are so proud to be part of Mr. Lesmerisis’ and MidCoast Martial Arts’ approach to helping Camden’s young people.

For Mr. Lesmerisis, Powerful Words fit in with the CTC philosophy.

POWerful Words fits in perfectly.  It helps us send a clear message about healthy beliefs and standards.  Not only do we talk about it in class, it’s posted all over the school (banners, challenge sheets) but it also becomes a method for them to use the skills in a positive (pro-social) way.  For example, last month with Citizenship we are putting the Words into Action by doing and Kick/Grapple Thon to raise money for Five Town Communities That Care.  They get to take all those Citizenship skills and knowledge and put it into practice in a way that benefits the community.  We (Mid-Coast Martial Arts & Five Town CTC) make sure that the students get recognized with thank you cards and press releases, not to mention claps and cheers at the ceremony itself.

The BEST part of both CTC and POWerful Words to me as an instructor and school owner is that I don’t have to guess or feel or assume or hope that we are helping kids to be healthy, we KNOW it!

They really are helping their students! The amazing results were published in the Sept. 7 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. They demonstrated that these types of community-based coalitions using customized evidence-based approaches can indeed help prevent the early initiation of substance abuse and delinquent behavior among young people.

*Binge Drinking by 10th grade students*(more than five drinks in a row in last two weeks):

2004 – 29%

2008 – 15%

*Marijuana Use* (Ever Used) by 8th grade students

2004 – 9%

2008 – 2%

*Cigarette Use* (Ever Used) by 8th grade students

2004 – 10%

2008 – 1%

*Drunk or High At School *8th grade

2004 – 11%

2008 – 5%

*Opportunities for Pro-Social Involvement in the Community* (Higher is Better)

2004 – 46%

2008 – 63%

*Recognition for Pro Social Involvement *(Higher is better)

2004 – 38%

2008 – 54%

We are so proud of the work you’ve done, MidCoast– not only for the town, but for our world.  Every child inspired and saved from drugs and suicide is another adult who thrives.  Congratulations on your amazing work.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Diet Doping: The Scary Link Between Body Image and Drugs

scaleDiet Doping: Getting Thin at any Cost

Dr. Robyn Silverman

For many girls and women, “feeling fat” has become a common part of everyday life.  Dieting has become normal.  Complaining about weight is a social expectation.  And doing anything you can to achieve the perfect thin body, acceptable.

A recent online poll of 993 teens and women has suggested that a whopping 1 in 10 girls and women are using drugs to lose weight even though 67% were in the healthy weight range. What does that tell us?  The healthy weight range is not perceived as thin enough.  Hollywood hard bodies and Vogue model legs and abs are what we’re striving for.  No, it’s not often linked to health, it’s linked to looks.

Often, when attempting to lose weight, young girls subscribe to unhealthy practices such as quick fad diets or acts of purging including vomiting and laxative abuse instead of using a healthy regiment of exercise and maintenance of a balances diet.  Girls and women are looking for the quick fix– what’s going to make them thin NOW- not what’s going to make them healthiest in the long run.  In doing so, they turn to what IS NOT healthy.  In fact, in the poll, 10% of respondents to the poll owned up to taking stimulants like cocaine and speed, 26% said they were abusing diet pills or laxatives and one in 5 admitted to suffering form eating disorders. What’s healthy about that? It’s a practice I like to call “diet doping” and I’ll be talking about it in my upcoming book coming out in 2010.

Think it’s only the caucasian girls?  Nope.  The intense pressure to diet has amazing cross over affects.  Studies over the last 25 years have shown that rate of these subclinical eating practices, dieting and purging, and diet doping are increasing among all social and ethnic classes.

It’s very important that we begin conversations with our girls early about what it truly means to be healthy.  In doing so, we must also commit to being healthy ourselves and refrain from criticizing ourselves, using destructive methods to lose weight, or applauding others who lose weight at all costs as being “disciplined” and “healthy.”  Let’s get back to basics. I mean, remember when healthy meant having good balanced nutrition, energy, good support and well managed stress?  Let’s go back to that. Who’s with me?

Be healthy together– I know many of you already are. All you Powerful Parents out there whose families are engaging in being healthy by attending your Powerful Words Member School are showing your kids YOUR definition of healthy. Doing fun extracurriculars, being around positive people, talking about the link between your character and your physical health– you should all be applauded for taking these positive steps. Keep it going!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Just say no…later…to Drugs: Have Teens Gone Mad or Are Adults Sending Mixed Messages?

Friday Musings: An Opinion Piece by Dr. Robyn Silverman

Hold onto your tempers and excuse my temporary sarcasm. The last few weeks offer a bumpy, pot-hole infested ride.

Recently, it seems that free speech has been taken to the limit but at the same time, convoluted messages are being sent and practiced all over the US. My mind is swimming with a number of stories in the last few weeks that have made me say “What? Have we all gone mad?” as others are questioning if it’s MADD that has gone loco.

New meaning to the term “high schoolers”

So, first there was the story of the 15 year old girl, Heather McCurry, who thought it would be a great fundraising project (the young entrepreneur wanted to buy a laptop) to sell pot brownies to students at her school.

Another student had helped to expose the misguided McCurry, when she went to the nurse complaining of a racing heart.

“We get that type of idea that maybe someone is under the influence we act immediately. We know that students do not learn well under the influence. We will take every step we can to make sure that doesn’t happen in our schools,” said Barbara Gideon, Pflugerville ISD.

The law may teach the lesson: McCurry faces felony charges of selling drugs to a child—a crime that carries a punishment of two to 20 years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.

Where could she get such an idea? Oh, yes of course, the recipe is on the web for any child to see.

And yes, it happened in Ohio as well!

A high school class trip was cut short when a boy got sick. The student had eaten a brownie laced with pot.

“We’re saddened that some students acted inappropriately, and we’ll deal with it according to our school policy,” Spano said.

School administrators were interviewing students and conducting an investigation, she said, adding the police liaison officer probably would be involved.

Juxtaposition: No wonder why children are getting mixed messages

A self-published children’s book about parents smoking pot has been all over the airwaves and press. The book, filled with colorful child-friendly pictures and text talks about how smoking marijuana is a harmless activity adults do. Hey—as it says in the book, “even presidents do it,” an obvious reference to Bill Clinton’s admission—although, of course, he didn’t inhale.

The story is about a child named Jackie. Jackie catches her parents smoking a joint (“just a plant,” mind you) in their bedroom after detecting a skunky smell when trying to nod off to sleep one night. Jackie’s mother then takes her on an adventure where she can talk to other people who also grow, endorse, or smoke pot for grown-ups.

In a similar spirit of the self-published plastic surgery book, “My Beautiful Mommy,” the website for “It’s Just a Plant” claims that this book on smoking pot is “for all parents” to read to their children. Right. Just like Everybody Poops.

Here’s an excerpt;

“What do you do with the flowers?” asked Jackie.

“My friends eat them,” said Bob, “and smoke ‘em.”

“They smoke flowers?!”

“Yep. Doctors, teachers, artists, actors, even mayors and presidents. Marijuana makes some people feel happy. Other people say it’s ‘dreamy…’”

The author believes that educating children in this way is our best defense against children smoking pot when young—he shows parents smoking pot in the house and telling children that they can choose whether to smoke pot when they’re older is their prerogative. So just for good measure let me add…

Studies on the effects of cigarette smoking have shown that:

parental actions, attitudes, and opinions about smoking have a great deal of influence on whether or not kids smoke. A recent study found that parental anti-smoking actions such as having restrictions about smoking in the home in place or sitting in non-smoking sections of restaurants are associated with reductions in children’s smoking.

Just poking a few holes in the crock pot.

Mixed Bag O’ Messages from our recent pot stories:

(1) First odd message: With regard to the pot book- Pot is good and good for many people—many powerful and interesting people do it– but can’t have it. Ha, ha! Yes, that message works well with children, don’t you think?

(2) Second odd message: Pot brownies in Texas carry a much more strict punishment protocol than in Ohio. What’s the protocol elsewhere?

(3) Third odd message: From our first pot brownie story in Texas; pot brownies are bad because they’re not conducive to good learning. Yes, that’s the real problem here.

(4) Fourth odd message: While smoking in the house is linked with children smoking at a young age, smoking a joint in the house can’t possibly do the same thing. Where would we get such strange idea? Oh yes, research. Years and years of smoking research.

Now, as far as the little pot book that can is concerned, you may just chalk it up to freedom of speech. But can you? Let’s throw another story at you that might say that freedom of speech may not be tolerated…

High Schoolers Booted from Prom and Graduation due to Prank T-Shirt

Fifty students from a high school in Michigan were suspended for wearing t-shirts that commemorate drinking and Michigan’s legal alcohol limit. The shirts read, “Puschin’ It To The Limit. Class Of .08 Seniors.”

The “School Spirit Week” prank, albeit incredibly foolish, went array when school officials suspended the students and took away prom and graduation privileges.

“We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to alcohol.”

Wearing shirts that shock during senior week is apparently a tradition at the school. Such decisive action was never taken in the past. Students were wondering why the new standard were enforced now.

Well, actually, it’s not. Whoops!

Students were kept from attending an honors ceremony on Thursday but their rights to attend prom and graduation may be reversed if they maintain “good behavior” and complete an essay on underage drinking.

One parent was quoted as saying:

Dawn Lewis, 47, said she discussed Archibald’s e-mail with her 11th-grade daughter. Lewis said it would have been more reasonable to punish the person who was behind the shirts, rather than penalize nearly 10 percent of the senior class. “They’re kids. What are you going to do?” Lewis said.

Mixed bag O’ Messages?

(1) First odd message: Empty threats (withholding prom and graduation privileges and then not following through) work well with teens. Very well done, Principal Archibald.

(2) Second odd message: If your child does something stupid, blame the person who came up with the idea, not anyone else. Perhaps an interesting proposition for those who are dealing with the girls who were beating up their victim on YouTube?

(3) Third odd message: Someone can write a children’s book touting the many benefits of smoking pot (an illegal activity) and call it “free speech” but teens wearing t-shirts that celebrate drinking (an illegal activity for teens) get expelled. Mind you, I’m not advocating for those ridiculous t-shirts, am against teen drinking and I don’t drink myself, but you have to admit the message is warped if you think about it from the teen perspective.

Perhaps you can imagine why my mind is swimming. It’s hard for children and teens to understand that drugs are bad and good at the same time and punishable harshly in some places but not in others—and illegal but parents and presidents are doing them. It’s confusing to tell children and teens that they have free speech depending on what it is they want to say, punish them, and then not follow through.

The next time we have children and teens doing dumb things, let’s take a look at the odd messages were sending. What part do adults have in creating this picture? And who should take responsibility?

Love to hear your thoughts.

YouTube Reaction: 10 Ways to Help Teens Deal with Peer Pressure

After an extremely disturbing YouTube video surfaced showing 8 teens from Florida beating of another teen, parents are confused and horrified. The victim was treated for a concussion and numerous bruises and the attackers were arrested.

Eight teens all working together to beat up another teen? Was this a result of negative peer pressure gone to the extreme?

As we know, many teens and preteens tend to find themselves in a peer-pressured situation. Sometimes peer pressure can be positive—getting teens to raise their grades in school, take positive risks like trying out for a sport or play, and introduce themselves to new people.

Other times, peer pressure can have horrible effects on teens. Because teenagers want to be accepted and “get along” with others their own age, they tend to “go along” with the crowd even when it challenges their core values.

How can Powerful Parents help their teens make good decisions even in the face of peer pressure?

(1) Start early: Begin a conversation about making good choices with young children and talk about them often. Be sure that your children know your views about “acceptable” and “unacceptable” behavior. Are those behaviors always unacceptable or are their circumstances when they are OK? Are these behaviors OK for some people and not for others? Rules should be clear from the very beginning so that everyone is on the same page.

(2) Ask Questions: Sometimes the best thing you can do is ask questions. Again, start this early so that your children are used to it. “What would you do if…” “If your best friend was smoking, would you try it too?” “Do you know anyone who makes you feel…” When you ask questions and stay quiet, you often get more answers and make more progress than just telling your teens how you feel about certain behaviors.

(3) Role Play: It can be difficult to find the right words when you are actually in the peer pressured situation. Practicing with a trusted person before it actually happens can make it easier. Play the part of your teenager’s friend and help your teen work through what he would do or say. Do they want to make a joke? Just say no? Leave? Go get help? Role play different scenarios often until your teenager or your preteen feels comfortable and at ease with their choices and their strategies.

(4) Talk about How to Buddy Up: There is strength in numbers. Encourage your teens to talk to a trusted friend about “buddying up” when peer pressure gets overwhelming. When teens know that their friends will be there to back them up and agree with their decisions, it can be a lot easier to make positive choices.

(5) Lay the Foundation of Character: Since you are using Powerful Words at home and through your schools, you are already way ahead of the game. “Drive the points home” when you leave your Powerful Words member school and ask your children how the word of the month applies to their lives. What decisions are they making each day that shows they are living according to the powerful word of the month? How does the family show it? How do friends show it? Words like compassion, acceptance, self discipline, confidence, respect, courage and trustworthiness, can certainly become a great springboard for a discussion of peer pressure, how to stay true to yourself, and how to treat others.

(6) Discuss “Spring Cleaning” in the Friend Closet: Teens grow and change. Sometimes that means that they no longer have the same interests and they are no longer heading in the same direction of some of their current friends. While it’s not OK to pick your teen’s friends for her, sometimes friendships at this time of life can be confusing. When you see her struggling with peer pressure, let her know that it’s OK to drift apart and make other friends who make her feel more comfortable.

(7) Model saying no: Show your children and teens that it’s OK to speak your mind in an assertive and respectful way. Children need to see that their parents are not “doormats.” When you show them that you can be assertive (yet not abusive or aggressive) and the result is positive, they will emulate you. If you show that you’re wishy-washy in pressured situation, they are more likely to imitate more passive “follower” behavior.

(8 ) Help your Children Avoid Potentially Dangerous Situations: When young people are not in situations where bad choices are being made, they are much less likely to make them. Choosing friends who share similar values, who don’t take part in controlled substances or inappropriate behavior and engage in positive after-school programs, will be one of your teen’s best defenses. In addition, the more time that children and teens spend in a positive environment like your Powerful Words member school and after-school programs, the less time they will spend in negative environments that can lead to trouble.

(9) Foster Strong Self Worth and Confidence: Children and teens need to know that what they do “counts” for something. Praise your children for positive choices they make and recognize them for their efforts and their strength of character. Get them into positive activities that allow them to give back to others (such as through community or charity work) so they build their sense of pride, gratitude, and citizenship. Help them to process critique so that it makes them stronger and assist them in peeling away useless criticism that stems from jealousy, closed-mindedness, or anger.

(10) Tell them that they can always count on you: No matter what time of night or day, your child should know that they can call on you when they are in a bad situation, no acceptation. Sometimes teens find themselves at a friends house, surrounded by people or circumstances that make them feel unnerved or distressed, and they are unsure if they should call you because they wonder if they’ll get into trouble. Preteens and teens need to know that they always have you and that they should not think twice about calling—because you will always come—even if it’s 2am.

Parents might feel that once their children round the corner to teenagerhood, they no longer have any impact. But you do. Teens carry your words, your actions, and your promises in their heads everywhere they go—even if they don’t admit it.

It’s not too late to start a discussion today. You might just be opening up one of the most meaningful and important conversations you and your teen have ever had. Of course, you might meet some resistance—you might even see a few rolled eyes—but what Powerful Parent backs down to a little challenge?

Here’s to you-