Shitarayn and Other Life Lessons

Where did you learn that?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

After writing my last article on 7 Ways to Raise a Prejudice Child, I started thinking about where I got my values from…

General Media? No.

Friends? Not really.

Janice Dickenson and Miley Cyrus? Certainly not.

According to the National Cultural Values Survey of 2000 American adults 18 or older, 74% say that they believe moral values in America are weaker than they were 20 years ago. It’s easy to blame the media and leave it at that. But as parents, we know there is more to it. Media might be global but parents are a direct hit.

When I think of the people who have really shaped my values, I don’t think of the Brady Bunch or Beverly Hills 90210, I think of the people who have taken the time to teach me right from wrong. I think of the people who model positive values in my life, even today.

Here are three of the gems I keep in my back pocket:

Keep your eyes on your own plate: My Dad always told me to “keep my eyes on my own plate.” Literally. I used to point to my sometimes devilish second oldest, brother, Scott, at the dinner table and appeal to my father, “Dad, Scott’s making faces at me.” To which my Dad would silently point to his plate with a big smile and raised eyebrows. We all knew what that meant. Where does this get me today? How often have you felt that people are trying to distract you? Frustrate you? Divert your attentions? We must teach our children that there is no need to bother with trivial things people are doing in our periphery. We must concentrate on our own paths if we are to get where we want to go. Focus.

Shitarayn: When in doubt, just shitarayn (pronounced shit-a-rine). I am not trying to be crass here, folks, it’s just Yiddish. Ma and Pa Silverman, married 69 years (“and not long enough” as Ma always adds), taught me this one. It literally means, “pour it in.” When cooking, if you know the basic ingredients, you don’t need to be so mindful of precise measuring—just throw it in. In other words, trust your gut. How often do we need to do that in life? The last time I visited Ma and Pa, Ma taught me how to make her famous cranberry Jello mold (how’s that for nostalgia?). “You have to do it by feel. It will be great. Go ahead. Shitarayn!” What an important lesson to pass on to our children; if you have the right ingredients–trust your gut, and just know it will come out great. Courage.

The Answer Can Be Yes or No: It was Fall of 1982 and I was trying on dresses. I fell in love with a peach-colored dress with a big bow in the back. I came waltzing into the hallway and asked Scott (yes the same brother who sometimes made faces at the dinner table), “do you like it?” To which he replied, “no.” I was heartbroken. Scott put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Robyn, when you ask a question, you must expect one of two answers, yes or no. It’s nothing to get upset about.” In other words, not everyone is going to agree with you, so what’s the big deal? We need to teach our children to be open-minded to different opinions while still making their own decisions based on what they know is best for them. Acceptance and Confidence.

Where do you learn your life lessons? Tell us your stories!

While teaching your children about strengthening their character through Powerful Words this month, you might just interject some of your own personal stories. No need for a specific formula or moment. Just shitarayn.

Please comment below. Where did you learn your life lessons?

Stop. Think. Show a Little Character

Are You Allowing Small Ways to Show Character to Ride By?  What are We Teaching Our Children?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Friday Musings…

Adults love talking about values with children.  Show respect! Be responsible! Demonstrate some kindness!

While we talk about character all year ’round, it seems that Fall gets everyone in learning mode again.

Since the Powerful Word for September’s Powerful Word was Respect, and October’s Powerful Word is Responsibility, I’ve been hyper-focused on those words.  It’s a good thing.  It challenges me to find ways to be more respectful and responsible. But it also makes me see the glaring ways we all fall down on the job– the job of actually showing children that we exhibit character ourselves NOT just tell them to do it.

A few weeks ago I was leaving for to see some of our favorite local teens from Randolph High in a summer production of the musical, Grease. It was 7pm. Rush hour. My husband and I sat in my car at the end of the street for about 7 minutes before some kind soul stopped and let me merge onto the main road. Thank goodness. Otherwise I might be still sitting there now.  I’d like to send out a public “thank-you” to the person who actually took the extra 3 seconds to let me in!  Thank-you, wherever you are!

There are daily opportunities to put our character into active motion. As parents, we must recognize them and make the choice to take them. These two steps are crucial to not only making the world a better place but also showing children that we actually do in fact “walk the talk.”

I say “recognize” because (and correct me if you disagree) some people just don’t see the opportunity to show character even if it hits them square between the eyes. Know anyone like this?

For example, my husband Jason and I were enjoying some quality time at the Dog Park with our fabulous furry friend, Casey.  We saw a mother walking with her son (maybe around 9 years old), when their dog squatted and did his “doggie business.”  Instead of bagging it up like everyone else, the mother and son just walked on by as if the rules of the dog park (and common decency) didn’t apply to them.

It makes me want to find more ways to show character– even in small ways.  I mean, look around!  You’ve got to stop and think! For example, it was about 9am on Monday morning. I had just finished at the gym and stopped at the local “Stop N’ Shop” to pick up my weekly groceries. I was rushing around…as we all tend to do. An elderly woman who had parked next to me was loading her groceries into her trunk when she stopped and asked me, “will you be needing a cart?” I said, “Sure. I’d be happy to take that for you.” She smiled gratefully and sighed, “that would be really helpful.” You know, it made me feel good.

I have to tell you that my initial thought when she asked me if I needed a cart was “yes, I’ll get one inside the store.” I mean, that’s what we’re programmed to do, isn’t it? We rush around and sometimes don’t even see the opportunities to put our character into active motion. We want our children to keep their eyes open for ways they can use their Powerful Character but sometimes forget that we have to slow down every once in a while to recognize the opportunities to use the lessons ourselves!

Funny, I walked away thinking; “That lady had a good idea. And it’s such an easy concept!” That small exchange would keep carts from hitting parked cars and store workers from having to chase carts in every conceivable place in the parking lot. We all know that most people do not return the carts to the assigned parking spot anyway.

So I figured, I’d try the same thing when I left the store. This must be “the lesson” I was supposed to get from this brief exchange! What goes around comes around right? Yes, I recognize that this is a very unscientific study– but it was worth a try.

There was a guy walking towards the store with his son (probably about 8 years old) when I had finished loading the groceries into my trunk. I turned to the father and asked, “Will you be needing a cart?” I had to smile to myself since I sounded just like the women who spoke to me a half hour before.

Well, guess what happened? The man looked at me with a quick side glance and said, “Nah, we’re only getting a few things,” and walked on by. I’m totally serious. He didn’t take the cart even though he was walking inside the store right past the cart retrieval area. His son just shrugged as he looked up at his Dad and they just kept walking.

I was a bit stunned. Should I have been? That wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen! What was this guy teaching his son? It made me wonder if I might have missed this opportunity before– how many of us do? I shook my head.

Stop. Think. Put character in active motion. So I figured that I could still do my part.  I mean, do we really need to leave our carts by the front of our cars and back out?  Why not show some responsibility? So I wheeled my cart across the parking lot to the cart return. It was a beautiful day. It wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t even very far.

I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But I think about these things because, as parents and as educators, we’re not just teaching character. That would be going only half way. We are teaching our children to act. If we don’t recognize the opportunities ourselves, are we just full of it? And if we don’t put our own character in active motion, even in these small ways, are we leading by example?

Would love to hear your take on the topic.  Please comment below.

Have a Powerful Weekend- I’m in Oklahoma City for a few days!

Warm regards,

22 Ways to Teach Generosity to Children: Part 1

Do we have to wait for the holidays to teach values?

22 Ways to Teach generosity to children

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

This is part 1 of a 2 part article on teaching children to give outside of the “season of giving.”

As you know, I coach the top instructors, coaches, teachers, and leaders in the children’s after-school program industry. If you’re part of a Powerful Words member school lead by some of these industry leaders, you know that the powerful word of the month is generosity. Sometimes people are curious about why I don’t reserve such a concept for when we are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Isn’t that the “season of giving?”

While holiday time is a wonderful time to talk about generosity and gratitude, I think it’s important to spread the word about giving throughout the year. During the summer, contributions to charities are down. People are thinking about vacations—not donations. The structure of the school day is out and the lazy summer schedule rules. But giving and generosity is just as important in August as it is in December, right?

As we are getting ready to go back to school in this half of the world, it’s only natural that our attention turns back to manners, giving, generosity and respect. These values help children to make and keep friends, excel in school, and feel fulfilled.

As we’ve recently talked about helping children create a “bucket list” that stresses giving over receiving, let’s delve deeper into the topic of children and generosity. This 2-part article contains 22 ways to teach children the gift of giving all year ‘round.

Here are the first 11:

(1) “Can Can:” Ask your children to go through the pantry at home and find any canned goods that haven’t been used within the last 6 months. If they’re not being eaten, give them to a family who can use them!

(2)Grocery Grab:” Request that your children pick out one item each at the grocery store to contribute to the local food pantry.

(3) Planned Percentages: Direct your children to set aside a certain percentage of their allowance, job money, or money that came through gifts for the purpose of giving to charity. Then help them choose a charity that is meaningful to them, allow them to research it, and motivate them to write the letter telling the charity how much and why they want to donate to them.

(4) Entertain “the troops:” Visit an assisted living facility or a nursing home so that your children can sing songs, play games, and read with the seniors there.

(5) Out of the Closet: After every other season, have a “closet day” in which your children spend some time going through their closet and bagging up the things that are too small or unused. Then drive them to the drop off center or charity and allow them to contribute their donations.

(6) Out of season giving: Ask your children to help make cards or wrap presents for people outside of your family and circle of friends. Perhaps these contributions would be for the local children’s hospital or other charity. It doesn’t need to be holiday time to do this! Be different!

(7) Adopt a friend: Invite someone who doesn’t have family nearby to share a meal or come over for a movie. You wouldn’t believe how grateful they will be just to feel included.

(8) A Giving Living: Talk to your children often about generosity, giving, and how they can give of themselves each day. It’s amazing that the more we give, the more we get out of living.

(9) “I just called to say…:”Encourage your children to call elderly family members—even extended family members– just to say hello, tell them what’s new, and ask them what they’re up to these days. A simple call can make someone’s day.

(10) Cards Held in High Regard: Ensure that your children send out thank you cards. If they’re very young, have them sign them in their own way—either with their name, a drawing, or decorative stickers.

(11) Characters with Character: Read books that illustrate the power of giving. Talk about the characters with your children and ask them how each character showed generosity of spirit. What did they admire?

Stay tuned for 11 more ways to teach children generosity outside of the season of giving on Wednesday! In the mean time, what are your ideas? What ideas sound great to you? What ideas will you try this month? The more we share these ideas, the more we can inspire our children to become generous givers.

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!

Children with Determination: Dr. Robyn Silverman Announces the Powerful Word of the Month

Dr. Robyn Announces July’s Powerful Word to Powerful Parents and Families

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmpk69CFSGY]

Have a Powerful Month!