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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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!

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Ask Dr. Robyn: Tips on Teaching Tolerance to Children

How can parents teach tolerance to children?

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman Child Development Expert

Dr. Robyn Silverman answers a reader’s question about teaching tolerance to her children who DON’T live in a diverse neighborhood. These are easy parenting tips that any parent can follow to inspire children to keep an open-mind, be more accepting of others, and show more tolerance for differences.

Tolerance is the Powerful Word of the Month!

Do you have a question for Dr. Robyn? Enter it here.

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7 Ways to NOT be a Helicopter Parent When Approaching Teachers

Bringing a concern to a teacher or coach respectfully and responsibly

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Dear Dr. Robyn,

I’ve been told by my daughter that I used to be a “helicopter parent” but that now I’m much better. I’m happy about that! I was wondering though, if I do have a question of concern for my child’s instructor and my daughter wants me to talk to him, what’s the “right way” to do it so that I’m not coming off like one of those crazed “Mama Bears” who’s just trying to cause trouble?                                                                          –Karin T, Austin, TX

Hi Karin,

Thanks for writing in. This is a great question and I imagine we can all benefit from starting this conversation. I’d like to offer some possible solutions, but I’d also like for other parents and educators to chime in and offer how they like these situations to be handled as well. So please comment below if you have an idea or question about approaching teachers, coaches, or instructors with problems or concerns.

(1) Ask yourself; can my child cope with this on his or her own? We all want our children to become more self reliant and feel confident dealing with a wide array of problems and questions as they develop. Talking with teachers and expressing concerns is something that builds courage and character. Often, the best way that you can help your child is by role-playing with them and helping them come up with how to best approach the teacher or coach about something which upsets them, scares them or confuses them. There are countless rewards for children who learn that they can do it by themselves! Let them use those Powerful Words!

(2) Talk to a trusted adult who has perspective: If you’re unsure if your concern warrants a meeting with the teacher or coach, run it past someone you trust who is uninvolved emotionally, can think clearly, and can offer you some perspective. A success coach or more experienced friend, who does not know the teacher, would be a good choice. Whomever you speak to, ask for an honest, non-emotionally charged opinion and be sure to ask for complete confidentiality. You want to be able to approach a teacher or coach if and when you’re ready not when s/he hears it from someone else.

(3) Discuss conflict out of earshot of children and other families: If you are certain that this concern should be brought to the teacher’s attention, and that it should be done by you rather than your child, it’s vital that you discuss the concern with the teacher in private. While it might be quicker to discuss your child whenever and wherever you can find the time, it’s inappropriate to talk to teachers about your concerns when in public. You must agree on confidentiality for the good of the child and the fairness of everyone. Just as parents need to know that teachers won’t embarrass them or their children in front of other people, you, in turn, need to be respectful by refraining from broaching concerns in public places as well.

(4) Know the facts: Step back. Take a breath. Don’t accuse a teacher or coach of lack of judgment or poor choices when you don’t know all the facts. While it might seem apparent that something questionable has happened, there are always several sides to one story. Especially when events are emotionally charged and your child isn’t happy with a teacher’s choice, you might be only getting half the facts.

(5) Speak directly to the teacher: While it might seem easier to simply “send someone” to talk to the teacher—whether it’s the Nanny, the grandparents, or other guardians, it’s important to speak directly with the teacher. Otherwise, you might be unaware of any difficulties that are occurring with your children—and you may just get the “cliff notes.” Sometimes there is a misunderstanding that must be cleared—and sometimes, frankly, it’s nobody’s business but that of the parent and teacher. It’s important to request direct contact with the teacher so that you can define the problem and solution together as a team.

(6) Avoid criticizing teachers in front of their children: Criticizing the teachers in front of the children is not helpful and is often confusing to the child. Children are very perceptive and pick up on anger and frustration. Since the teacher and the parent are very important people in the lives of the child, they do not know where to assign their loyalties and may even cause them to question authority. Therefore, it’s vital that you refrain from talking negatively about a teacher to another person in public (even if you think nobody’s listening) or showing anger towards a teacher in front of your children. Adult matters should stay adult matters.

(7) Choose a mutually agreed-upon time and place to discuss the conflict: Speaking when tempers are hot or time is limited is not likely the best time to discuss a disagreement. Is the best time in the morning? Afternoon? After a certain class? Remember—you’re thinking about the welfare of your specific child—the teachers, instructors, and coaches must think of the whole class (or multiple classes) and what is fair and safe for all of them. That means that what’s convenient for you might not be the best time for the teacher and the rest of the class. Just as important, if you know the time, you can ensure that you can secure child care for your child so that you can speak freely with the teacher or coach without distraction.

Always remember that you are guiding and modeling the ways to resolve conflict respectfully and responsibly when dealing with concerns or problems. Ask non-accusatory questions. Be gracious.  Listen.  Offer some possible solutions. Aim to work together. Children will look to you and their instructors to understand how to express frustration and work through disagreements. Even when you’re angry or concerned, you can still be an excellent role model. It’s largely your responsibility to lay the groundwork for constructive communication and conflict resolution.

All you teachers, coaches, instructors and parents out there– let’s hear your tips and comments about ways to approach a teacher with a concern! Comment below!

10 Ways to Take Control Over The Fast Food Kid’s Meal Problem

How to Take Control of the Kids’ Meal Problem

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

As you read in yesterday’s discussion of the new fast food nutritional study (or shall we call it, lack of nutrition study?), many fast food restaurant chains have crammed the kiddie meal full of too many calories. It’ s frustrating for parents and others who are taking care of children because they figure if it says “kids’ meal” it should, in fact, be constructed with kids’ best interests and health in mind. Alas, it’s not.

Since many of these restaurants are in no rush to reorganize their menu’s for children what should we do?

(1) Take initiative and use discretion when you enter these establishments in order to choose the best lunch or dinner options . You can buy ala carte, give your children choices between the best 2-3 options, go to a place that offers healthier options, or brown bag at least a portion of the meal.

(2) Drop the soda and highly sweetened juice and opt for water, low fat milk, or bring along something you trust and know is healthy.

(3) Do a little research: While I agree that it should already be done for us, in many cases, it’s not. Many of these foods might look harmless but are packed with calories, sugar, fat, and sodium.

(4) Ask for details: If they don’t have the nutritional information out, ask for it. You have a right to know what your child is putting in his or her mouth.

(5) Make your wishes known: Let your local restaurants know what you want. With enough people asking, they’ll be more likely to provide it.

(6) Ensure that the rest of your children’s meals are on target: You may not have full control of ingredients when you’re eating out, but you can certainly take control when your children are eating in your home. Pay attention to labels at the store and integrate more whole grains, veggies, and fruits into each meal.

(7) Talk to your children about healthy choices: When children know what foods make them grow strong, healthy and tall and what foods don’t have that same power– they’re much more likely to make healthy choices. Who doesn’t want to grow up strong and healthy?

(8 ) Expose them to healthy foods at home: They’re much more likely to gravitate to healthier options if they’re used to them. Have fun! Nutritious food doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless. You can make yummy, healthier versions of children’s favorites like pizza, tacos, chicken nuggets, and even shakes at home so that you know they’re getting the good stuff and they won’t crave the “bad stuff” nearly as much. (I started making my own dairy-free ice-creams so that I know exactly what’s in them, how much, and what’s going into my family. They’re delicious!)

(9) Ask to substitute: You’re the buyer– don’t like what you see? Ask for something else. For example, if you don’t “want fries with that,” ask for apple slices or veggies, if they have them.

(10) Split it: Just because they give you double the calories, fat, sugar, and sodium in the kids’ meals doesn’t mean that it all needs to be eaten in one sitting. Your children want fries? Split the order in half and share it between the two. You can do the same thing with the chicken, burgers, or pizza. Don’t have more than one child? Either split and give the other half to someone else who is unable to buy it themselves, put it away for later, or get rid of it. We want to teach children that just because it’s in front of them doesn’t mean it’s healthy to eat all at one time.

It’s vital that we don’t allow the restaurant chains to make nutritional decisions for our children. After all, they’re working for us! Get the information you need to make the best and most powerful decision possible for your children and your family. They’re depending on it.

Have a Powerful Day-

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!

Family Vacation: 7 Things You Must Pack in Your Bag O’ Sanity

Traveling with Young Children?

What parents should pack in their carry on bag on the next vacation trip

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. Whether it was our own child or someone else’s, we’ve all been confined in a plane, train, or automobile with a child who just never settled down or with parents who were dangling on their last shred of sanity and the prognosis didn’t look good.

Today, the New York Times was talking about being prepared when you visit someone else’s house with children– which reminded me of an incident that my husband and I will never forget when we were traveling. Not too long ago, after a conference where we presented in front of a large group of educators, my husband and I got onto a plane and realized that we were sat across the aisle from one another —me, next to a set of grandparents and a young baby, and my husband, next to an already wound-up mother and her very energetic 2 year old daughter.

During the flight, the frazzled mother tried to keep her child from launching herself over the plane seats as she jumped up and down, threw off her socks and shoes, and yelled “I want that!” with a voice that carried clearly throughout the plane. The father, who was at best, useless, was sitting with his two sons behind my husband, the mother, and the hyper child. Hearing the ruckus but not wanting to take any responsibility for it, he rustled his newspaper and passed his wife a family-size box of Oreos saying “here, maybe these will keep her quiet.”

I know. Those parents who prepare meticulously for long trips are likely cringing right now. Oreos? Don’t give that girl any more sugar! Perhaps needless to say but for pure entertainment, the toddler ate half the box and then proceeded to lick the remaining Oreos and stick them on her mother’s face. All the while, she was yelling—loudly—to anyone who would listen.

What was wrong with that child? Many of you are probably shouting “too much sugar!” while others are shouting “not enough discipline!” But what was perfectly clear was that the child was bored and the parents were dreadfully unprepared. Long trips necessitate planning. Why? Because the longer the trip, the more likely you will face messy delays, confined spaces, and hungry faces. We remember to pack our scuba gear and our underwear but we may overlook some of the most important items that can make things much easier…for everyone involved.

So, what should you pack in your bag-o-sanity? After some research, I’ve found that the items fall into 7 categories: Digestibles, Toys, Clothes, Necessities, Books, Cleaning agents, and other things that could only fit into a category unto itself “Genius Miscellaneous.”

  1. Digestibles: Leave the sugar at home. Granola bars, clementines, bananas, cheerios, animal crackers, juice and water are great choices. To keep the sugar factor down further, mix the water and the juice together to dilute the potency. These foods are all easy to handle and drinks can be easy too if you remember to bring your child’s sippy cup.
  2. Toys/Entertainment: Think compact. Toys should not take up that much room in your “bag o’ sanity.” Nesting cups, legos that snap together, children’s playing cards, small dolls with layers of clothes can occupy a child’s imagination for a significant portion of your trip. Even paper and crayons can go a very long way. Packing some toys or games that the child has never seen before or hasn’t seen in a while can keep a child’s attention for even longer. Of course, if you have a portable DVD player, you can ask your child which movie s/he would like to pack, and view it when all else has failed.
  3. Clothes: Comfort is dependant upon being warm, clean and dry. Putting your child in his “feety” pajamas (if they don’t mind their feet being covered) before the trip can ensure a comfortable trip and may even encourage sleep along the way. An extra change of clothes is invaluable because it can be used for additional layers as well as your first course of action if a spill occurs. Of course, you want these clothes to be easily accessible so that you don’t need to go into the overhead bin or the trunk of the car to retrieve them. This goes double for extra diapers. Time is of the essence when trying to keep a child from crying, screaming or yelling during a vacation trip!
  4. Necessities: All the comfort of home. Don’t forget to pack small packets of tissues, antiseptic hand gel, hand cream, band-aids, and Tylenol (for you and for your child). In addition, if you are used to using pacifiers with your child, make sure that you bring at least 2 or 3 on your trip in case one gets lost. Beside soothing a child, a pacifier or other toys to suck on can be helpful when ears get clogged during the altitude changes. For older child, gum can work just as well. Bring Zip-lock baggies or small trash bags for dirty clothes, dirty diapers or left over food. Your child’s favorite lightweight blanket may seem like an extravagance but to a tired or sick child who regards his blanket as his buddy, it is a necessity.
  5. Books: If your child is old enough, have him choose which book(s) he wants to bring. Books are a great way to keep a child calm and focused because it is an intimate and often “snuggly” activity. Books on tape can also work if you are juggling more than one child at a time. The great thing about books is that they can be read more than once—and you are almost guaranteed that you will know the text word for word by the end of the trip. It ain’t Shakespeare but it can be a far more productive skill to be able to quote “Elmo goes to the Circus,” at a moment’s notice, don’t you think?
  6. Cleaning agents: Oh, the magic of wet wipes. No parent should be without them—especially on a trip when you are confined with your child for hours at a time. There are bound to be spills, dirty faces, stained clothes, and filthy surfaces to wipe down. Of course, if you have a baby, I am sure you can think of some other uses.
  7. Genius Miscellaneous: This is really the magic of being a prepared parent. Feel like we have already covered the basics? Just wait. For parents who have a baby and need to heat up milk on a plane, just ask for a cup of hot water and place it in the thermos you remembered to bring. The bottle can easily be placed in the thermos and heat to the temperature that you desire. It is also advisable to pack bottles with disposable bags so that you do not need to worry about washing the bottle out during the trip. If your baby or toddler is in a carry car seat, you know that you must keep the handle down during travel. Pack some Velcro and hang a bunch of toys on the seat in front of the child and behind the child. You can even connect the toys from one seat to the next and make a make-shift mobile. Plastic cups can also be useful for small finger foods like cheerios so that you don’t have the urge to vacuum the floor once you have arrived at your destination.

One last thing that can make all the difference; an extra set of hands. Grandparents can be an exceptional distraction for children and a godsend for parents who need a break. If you are a single parent or do not have the kind of parents you would like to include on your vacation, bring a friend. While this may mean “extra baggage” on your trip, when one child needs to go to the bathroom and the other one is in a deep sleep, an extra set of hands can be worth its weight in gold. After all, you deserve a vacation too!

Have a wonderful weekend!