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

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17 Days ‘Til Mommyhood: What to Bring for Baby?

Dr. Robyn's Dog Casey and the crib

OK- Let’s begin the official countdown to Mommyhood.  The induction has been set and us, the adoptive parents, and our fabulous birthparents are all gearing up for the big day: February 23rd.  The induction is scheduled for 6pm– so we anticipate a long night! We couldn’t be more excited. Jason, my husband, will be cutting the cord and we’ll all be in the delivery room together. Yay!

Great friend, Dena, has talked us through what she believes we’ll need for our trip to Oklahoma.  We’ll be there for at least 10 days after the baby is born.  Here’s her list.  Please be sure to add on what you think we’ll need or suggest that we take off something that you don’t think we’ll need.

Here we go:

Feeding Needs

  • 8- 4 ounce Bottles with nippl4es
  • Breast Milk: 28 ounces X 14 days (392)
  • Formula on hand: Ask Pediatrician (Nutramigan Lipil)
  • Sanitizer or sterilizer for bottles (is there a dishwasher?)

Diaper Needs

  • 1 diaper every 2 hours (12 diapers per day X 14 days- newborn size= 168 ) MY GOODNESS!!!
  • wipes—unscented 2 packages
  • Balmex- 1 tube

General Needs

  • Binkies, just in case (both latex (Nuk) and silicone (Avent)
  • Blankets (cuddly—3—laundry?)
  • 1 receiving blanket to send to our dog, Casey, staying with friends
  • Travel grooming kit
  • Kit- medical
  • Gas drops (CVS brand is fine)
  • Colic stuff/stomach
  • Saline Nasal Spray
  • Infant Tylenol
  • Baby Washcloths
  • Travel baby wash

Clothes

  • 2 outfits per day (is there laundry? Yes!)
  • Onesies (under clothes)
  • Socks?
  • Baby hats
  • Bunting
  • Gowns

Toys

  • Musical toy (soothing)

Travel

  • Car seat
  • Base
  • Travel Bassinette
  • Camera
  • Phone
  • Wrap/sling

Katie suggests:

  • Premee hats (the other ones seem to big!)
  • Isomil adv
  • Carter’s socks with rubber
  • Wrap onesies

How about some Powerful Parent advice from all you Powerful Parents out there? What would you add to the list?  What do you wish you had but didn’t? What couldn’t you have done without? Comment below or on FaceBook. (By the way, if you friend me on facebook, please let me know that you are “friending me” through the blog and who you are so I know where you’re coming from!

17 days and counting!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Grow up, Government! Part 1

How the Government is failing to be role models for our youth; Part 1

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

I was just talking to my husband, Jason, last night about how when I was little, I thought the president and everyone “in charge” knew everything.  I also thought that when people became adults, they acted like adults. Oh well.

We are repeatedly telling our children to show respect and be responsible but what happens when our efforts get sabotaged by the government that is leading the way?

Like many of you, I’ve been disgusted by what’s gone on Wall Street lately. But what disgusts me more is adults acting like tantruming, irresponsible, untrustworthy toddlers.

“This bill failed because Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country,” – McCain’s senior policy advisor Doug Holtz-Eakin

[Those statements were] “angry and hyper-partisan [and] exactly why the American people are disgusted with Washington.” –Bill Burton, Obama spokesman

In other words…

“It’s all your fault!”

“No it’s not! You take that back!”

Sound familiar? What’s next?

“Mommmm! John is pointing fingers!”

“Daaaaaaaaaaad! Barack is making a mean face!

What do we really have here? Grown men and women– stealing what’s not theirs, arguing incessantly, and refusing to come to an agreement because they didn’t like what someone did or said. And what’s worse, we have 2 presidential candidates—one of whom will be our next president—pointing fingers at each other saying “it’s your fault, you didn’t do as much as I did.” Come on folks. Get a grip. Take a time out if you need to and let’s get back to work.

Have your say– do these folks need a time out, a gold star reward system, or a stern talking to? Comment below. Tomorrow we’ll talk about questions to ask your children regarding these issues.

Same as it never was

There’s something about coming home. I’m currently in NJ where I grew up and yet, I’m not really where I once was. Since my Dad passed away way too early and entirely too suddenly in 2006 from liver cancer, my Mom has since moved out of the house where I spent my entire childhood and moved into what I think can only be described as a college dorm of 55 and olders. Yes, the sticky floors and keg parties have been replaced with lovely apartments and games of cards, but still, my Mom lives steps from many of her best friends who get together nearly everyday.

These friends, all who seem familiar and yet many whom I had never met– appear to thankfully absorb some of the pain of loss and help to create new, fun memories for this now much more independent woman. I admit, I miss my old house– the memories– the way things were– but even if we were there, things wouldn’t be the same, would they? And my Mom wouldn’t be finding this new “life” in her life.

When I was a teenager, whenever I returned home from camp, or later, from college, I marveled about what was different. The bathroom countertop always seemed shorter, somehow, my reflection just a little bit older, and my room just a little bit smaller.

Now I look for what’s the same. It’s comforting to see the same restaurants, the same people, and the same stores. It’s challenging to rely on “sameness” though, isn’t it? It’s almost unfair. We change and yet, expect things to stay the same. Sameness gives us a marker of progress, a feeling of comfort, and something to depend on.

As the children go back to school in many areas of the world, and many tears are shed (mostly by the parents who are stunned that time has flown by) how can we welcome change when we rely on sameness?

  1. Talk about the good times but don’t dwell on the past: It’s often fun to meet up with old friends, talk about old times, and relive the memories. However, living in the past is both dangerous and impractical.
  2. Look for the good in change: While change can be unsettling for anyone– whether we’re talking about a child or a parent–it’s vital that we identify what benefits have made themselves known due to this change. There’s a reason cliches like “every cloud has a silver lining” exist.
  3. Don’t make “better/worse” comparisons: When we talk about what was better in the past, especially when it comes to things we can not change, we are setting ourselves up to feeling bad. Yes, things may be different, and yes, you might want to improve your current circumstances, but that should urge you to look forward rather than back!
  4. Tame your fears about change: Change doesn’t need to be negative. Change can be quite wonderful. We all have fears that tell us to hold onto the status quo. But often, the most wonderful things happen when we’re willing to take a risk and embrace the future.

Remember– the way you look at change is going to influence the way your children approach it.

Here’s to growing up and smiling at what’s to come-

Family Bucket List: 7 Ways to Pour Generosity and Value into Family Life

What are You Putting in Your Bucket? Building Family On Values Not On Time-Fillers

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Every once in a while something causes us to stop and re-evaluate what’s really important in our lives. Worldwide tragedies like September 11th , Katrina, the Tsunami, and the recent Earthquake in China; personal losses like the death of a loved one, a divorce, or new knowledge of illnesses in the family—can get us wondering about whether we’re spending our lives doing the “important things” or the things that just take up space. Even the loss of people we don’t know (but feel like we do) like all-too-early deaths of actor John Ritter or Heath Ledger and the very recent death of Randy Pausch get us to jump to attention and ask ourselves, “Is this what I should be doing? Could I spend my time doing something more significant? Am I teaching the children in my life to pay attention to the “right things?”

Movies, like the Bucket List and books like Tuesdays with Morrie can jump start our minds and push us back onto the path we are meant to follow. Our intentional path filled with taking the time, taking a break, taking a vacation, and taking a breath regains front burner position in our brains. Our hearts are filled with gratitude, determination, and generosity.

And then what happens? Life. Carpooling. Arguments. Dinner. School. Work. Stress….Reality.

How can we keep our Bucket List and a bucket list for our children (Do they even have one? Should we find out?) from being pushed into the back of the closet? How can we get ourselves and our children focused on giving over receiving, people over electronics, and facetime over Facebook? As it’s generosity month for all Powerful Words Member Schools and Families, why not take some time to dig into this idea—chew on it—and yes, act on it—even if it’s just for a little while. You may just make it a habit. Your family…might just love you for it.

So, what should we do?

  1. Prioritize what’s really important: Do this for yourself when you have a little down time or quiet time—before bed—before others rise—in the bathroom, whenever you can do it. Ask your family to do the same. What do they really love to do? What do they really want to do? Make a master list.
  2. Schedule a bucket day: At least every month, ensure that someone gets to tick something off their list. Make sure everyone gets a turn…even you! Get away from the TV, the computer, the ipod, the blackberry, the Gameboy and whatever else that can take away from the point of the day. When your children see and experience that the family makes time to do these meaningful goals, they will learn to prioritize and focus on the important things in life.
  3. Get in the habit of giving back: The most fulfilling feelings tend to grace us when we give rather than receive. Schedule in a “charity” day 2-4 times per year when the family either cleans out their closets to donate their unused items or the family gets involved with a charity event such as one at your Powerful Words Member School or one hosted around town like a Special Olympics or Walk for a Cause. You can even go to a soup kitchen, senior center, or hospital and offer your assistance there. When generosity is part of your lives, there will be less room for “gimme gimme.”
  4. Talk about family goals in the beginning of the day: Even if it’s in the car, during breakfast, or when tying shoes, help your family focus on what they want the day to bring. Nobody wants “just another day.” What can make this day special? What do you hope to accomplish today? What’s something you can do today that would really make a difference to you or someone else? Be sure to talk about your goals as well! When you start your family’s morning off thinking about the important things, they’ll be more likely to bring it into focus during the course of the day.
  5. Discuss what’s meaningful at the end of each day: What was the best part of everyone’s day? What were you touched by? What did you do to make someone else’s life at least a little bit better? What did someone else do to make your life at least a little bit better? For what are you grateful? What did you learn today? Let your family know the valuable moments of your days as well. When we end the day by examining the value in everyday, we are more likely to see value in every day.
  6. Show love, kindness, and gratitude: Whether it’s to your family, friends, or strangers, little things can make a big difference. A brief smile, writing a note of thanks, giving a gift for no reason at all, or pulling over a manager to tell her that an employee has done a magnificent job with helping you (something I love to do!), are all ways to bring generosity and caring into your daily life. You will be surprised by how good you feel by making others feel great, even for a moment.
  7. Renew your values: Each year, make it a point to re-envision, re-evaluate, and renew your values with yourself, your partner, and your family. Talk about what’s important. Talk about how you want to focus your time and your energy. Discuss the successes from the previous year and how you’d like to make this year different. I do this my family as well as with my own coaching clients on our “PowerDay Retreats” and they are always extremely poignant, moving, and vital to the wellbeing of the person, relationship, and family.

When reading this list, you may say, “who has the time?” But then I ask you, with what are you filling your time? We must step back and give a good hard look to our days, weeks, months, and years. They’re limited. What can you do today to make them meaningful? Go out—or stay in– and do it.

Make it a Powerful Month—really!

No Time? 5 Tips to Spend Time with Children When You Have No Time to Spare

Strapped for Time? 5 Tips to Spend Time with Children when Parents Have No Time

By Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

The Powerful Parent Blog

Between work and martial arts and gymnastics and shopping and piano and swim lessons and school and dance class and babies and laundry and chores…we often find we’re strapped for quality time when it comes to spending time with our kids.

When Susan, one of my newest coaching clients, came to me a few months ago, she was nearing her whit’s end. Cody, her 7 year old son, was talking back to the teacher at school and getting into arguments with friends. “It’s been getting worse over the last year or so since my daughter, Kayla, was born. I love both of my kids but the baby takes up so much of my time and I know that Cody needs me too. I don’t know what to do.”

It was Dr. Anthony P. Witham who once said “children spell love…T-I-M-E.” He was definitely onto something. Unfortunately, if you are like most parents, time is a precious commodity that often eludes us. Whether we have a new job, a new baby, or we just need to make the coffee or strip the beds, we always seem to be wishing for a little bobble from Father Time’s Treasure Chest. We need more. We want more. But we just don’t have it. Does that mean we don’t love them? Of course not.

Spending quality time with our children is extremely important for their development. Note that I said “quality” not quantity. We must find ways to slow down and slip in some memorable time that will let our children know that we love and care for them.

Many children will let you know in their own “subtle” ways if they feel that you are not giving them the attention that they need. Some will withdraw while others will “act out.” You might see it when a child gives “lip” to a teacher, fights with another classmate or resorts back to behaviors that once got your attention like increased crying, throwing tantrums or even bed-wetting. This is a way to capture your attention, albeit often negative, so that they can enjoy “focused” time with you. Essentially the thought process is, “if I can’t get her attention by doing something good, I’ll get her attention by doing something bad.” Nobody wants that!

So how can you find time when you don’t have any to spend? Here are some of the ideas that I am working on with Susan:

(1) MAC time: In Susan’s case, this stands for “Mom and Cody time” but you get the drift. MAC time is special alone time with your child doing something you both enjoy. With Susan and her family, this is the time when Dad takes the baby (another benefit for the baby-quality time with Dad) and Mom spends time with Cody. This could mean going to a movie, going to the local theater to see “Cinderella,” or just sitting at the park on a bench and talking. The frequency of MAC time is up to you. With one of my clients, a single mother of 3, we devised a plan so that each Saturday she spends quality time with one of her children and the last Saturday of the month they spent quality time as a family. Make it work for you.

(2) Integrate Together Time into Daily Schedule: Children love to help. Do you have a mailing to do? Have them put the stamps on the envelopes. Need to go shopping? Make grocery shopping “fun time” with you. Need to make dinner? Let them help you by contributing to the preparation process. While it might be messier and it may time more time in the beginning, you will see that the children will become your greatest helpers and they will look back and remember that “before dinner” was always special time with you.

(3) Family Meetings: Once per month I have any “Powerful Families” working with me, run a family meeting in which they discuss how they can integrate better character into their home. For example, for “respect month” exercises like “brainstorm what your ideal family would look like if everyone was using respect” and questions like “what are some specific ways that we can show respect at home” are included. This process allows for children to contribute to the family atmosphere, show the children that their opinions are valued, and allow for the family to spend quality time together doing something meaningful. You can also take some of the discussions that are ensuing at your Powerful Words Member School and use them as a springboard to talk about important, meaningful things in a short amount of time.

(4) Phantom Time: Don’t have a moment to spare until about 3am? You can still let your children know that you care. Write notes and drop them into their lunch boxes. You can also make a recording that they can play in the morning if you can’t be there. Recording devises are inexpensive and easy to operate. While it isn’t ideal to rely solely on “phantom time,” it provides something so your children know you are thinking of them.

(5) Break time: Everyone is busy. Some are busier than others. Slide in a “break time” so that you and your children can spend 15 minutes or a half hour together. Set a timer if you need to so that everyone knows when “break time” starts and finishes. Give warnings to your children when 2 minutes are left so that it doesn’t come as a surprise. Don’t even have break time available? Wake your child up 15 minutes early so that you can spend a little extra time doing something fun in the morning. You might not think that 15 minutes is any significant time at all, but to a child, it is 15 extra minutes with you.

Spending time with your children provides them with opportunities to learn and to be heard. Most of all, it provides you and your children with time to connect. It’s these connections that make time precious. So leave the beds unstripped for another few minutes and put the coffee on an automatic timer. Take those extra moments to spend with your children. When you look back, you will be thankful for the memories.

Here’s to a Powerful Week!

Photo credit: Jupiter Images

*Article originally written for Bay State Parent Magazine, award winning magazine Parent Magazine in Massachusetts

Tell Me Lies: Children Learn to Flatter at age 4

Like to hear how much your child adores you? Children learn to tell social lies around 4 years old—that’s right, they learn how to flatter others and tell you just what you want to hear!

In the spirit of the Powerful Word of the month—honesty–it’s humorous that we don’t always want our children to tell the truth all the time, do we? If they did, you might be startled by what you hear. See this 30 second clip from one mother whose child hasn’t censored his real thoughts about her as an example…

A Chinese-Canadian study out of the University of Toronto shows that even young children know the power of flattery. The researchers focused on 285 children ages 3-6 years old, and asked the youngsters to rate drawings by children and adults who they knew, as well as to rate the drawings of strangers.

The preschoolers were asked to judge these art pieces both when the artist responsible was present as well as when the artist was absent. While the 3 year olds were consistently honest no matter if they had a relationship with the artist or if the artist was there to hear their assessments, the 5 and 6 year olds gave more flattering ratings to those artists who were present to hear their remarks. Interestingly, they flattered both strangers and those people who they knew—however, those whom they had a relationship consistently received the highest praise.

Among the 4 year olds, half the group provided flattering remarks when the artist was present and half did not. This finding suggests that 4 years old marks a transition from honest critique to flattery as the child gains a better understanding of the culture’s social courtesies.

Kang Lee, director of the Institute of Child Study at OISE/U of T and co-author of the report (recently published in the journal Developmental Science) isn’t certain of why the children flatter at this age but he knows that something is definitely going on:

“I’m sure politeness and empathy play some role,” Lee tells a reporter “But the fact they gave higher ratings to some groups than others suggests there is some form of ulterior motive beyond just being polite. We socialize kids to show empathy and politeness to everybody, not more to some people than to others.”

We can look to adults to glean some possible answers. According to Lee, adults flatter because; (1) They are showing gratitude for some positive; or (2) They’re creating a bridge with someone whom they’re meeting for the first time in case that person could be important for their advancement later down the road—it’s viewed as an “investment” in their positive treatment from the other person in the future.

“We don’t know which the child is doing…They are thinking ahead, they are making these little social investments for future benefits.”

In my assessment, the children may also be reacting to other social beliefs that mean statements may “get them into trouble” and nice statements make others happy, which feels good to everyone. Lee previously studied the responses of children ages 3 to 11, who were given gifts they didn’t like. Findings suggest that even 3-year-olds tell white lies to avoid hurting the feelings of the gift-giver.

Regardless of the reason for the flattery, our society does indeed teach children that honesty isn’t always the best policy, even if we tell them that they should always tell the truth. Adults do it themselves. We spare the feelings of others by telling them we like the “great book” they gave us of the “beautiful scarf” they knitted for a friend. But Lee suggests the flattery is motivated by self-interest and can annoy those who watch it happening (i.e. when an employee is flattering the boss).

“Kids at 4 or 5 are able to make distinctions already – that this lie is bad but this one is not very bad.”

Note: Your children will be discussing the question; “is honesty always the best policy” in the 4th week of this month’s Powerful Words curriculum. Aside from flattery, and “good” secrets like surprise parties for family of friends, all Powerful Words Member Schools will be discussing honesty with regard to strangers. Questions like, “should we tell strangers our phone number and address?” (for young children) and “how honest should we be with strangers on line?” (for older students), among others, will be explored.

All Powerful Parents are encouraged to use the Powerful Words curriculum as a Springboard for discussion at home or in the car to discuss how honesty plays a role in your family’s life and what your policies on are with regard to lying and telling the truth in different situations (i.e. when they made a mistake, when grandma gives them a gift they don’t like, when a stranger approaches them and asks them personal information, etc.) Stay tuned to your Powerful Words member schools for additional information on this topic.

We’re looking forward to hearing your comments on this topic as well as any child development issue! Please put your questions and comments below so we can create a dialog on these topics!

Thanks!

*image from Jupiter images.