tallie_sleepoverquestions1-1030x773

The Courage to Try: 7 Vital Tips to Help Your Kids Try New Things Even if They Are Scared

It was my 7-year-old daughter’s very first camp overnight. She was nervous, scared, excited and anxious.

Each night, before bed, she would start a looping monologue.

“I’m really scared about the sleepover…I’m going to miss you…what if I want to go home…what if I have to go to the bathroom…what if I’m scared?”

“Do you want to go on this sleepover?”

“Yes. But I’m really scared about the sleepover…”

This was getting us nowhere. Have you ever felt like that?

The truth was, we hadn’t had a great track record. Her first sleepover at Grammie’s last year ended abruptly with an ear infection and a fever. The second one took two takes—she came home before sleeping and after a pep talk about fear, she went back but I was there to tuck her in and sing her goodnight. And last weekend, her sweet friend from camp came over to our house to do a practice sleepover and wound up going home at 12:45am because she missed her mom and had a tummy ache. Sleepovers had not been the picture of success.

It’s hard when we want our child to try new things but fear has taken hold and won’t let go. So how can we help our children help themselves when trying constructive, new things that excite but scare them?

  • Note the time: If your child is extremely tired, this might not be the best time to have a serious conversation about fear. Brains are exhausted from a full day of work, play, school, camp, friends and activities by the time nighttime rolls around. You can say; “I know you are nervous about X and I’m happy to talk about it with you. Right now it’s very late. How about we talk about it in the morning when your brain is fresh and you’ve had a good night’s sleep?” Of course, if your child is staying up nights thinking about what it making him or her nervous, you may need to talk about it a bit. Often though, simply saying; “Your feelings are important. We will figure this out together. Let’s talk about it tomorrow when exhaustion is not in the driver’s seat of your brain” can be enough.
  • Help your child realize that s/he is in the driver’s seat: I love what Elizabeth Gilbert said in her “Letter to Fear.” “Dearest Fear: I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still – your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.” It’s vital that our children feel a sense of ownership when it comes to their feelings and their choices. I told my own daughter a rendition of this letter, changing it to fit a child’s language and development. It gave her the words as well as a specific mantra. Now she echoes back to me; “Mommy! I didn’t allow fear to drive my bus!”
  • Ask; what will make you feel more calm and less scared? When you ask this question, it allows your child to be talliesleepovernote-450x338proactive about what will help them rather than focus on the problems. This was the key to the overnight experience for us. Tallie decided that sleeping next to one of her counselors would help. I wrote a note to one of the staff members that said; “Tallie has a question for Amanda” but did not provide the question itself. I had told my daughter; “I will send the reminder but you need to ask the question. I won’t do it for you. I believe that you can do it yourself.” It’s important for children to learn to speak up for themselves even if they need a reminder or encouragement to do so. There is something empowering about saying the words yourself and hearing the answer with your own ears. When Tallie came home, she was happy to announce that she would be sleeping next to Amanda.
  • Have your child write down his/her questions—and ask them:Still, Tallie was nervous. She was filled with Tallie_sleepoverquestions1questions. What if she needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night? Would there be a nightlight? And the most looming concern– What if sleeping next to her counselor didn’t help? I had her take out a piece of paper and write down her questions. She penned them out herself right at our kitchen table, we put them in an envelope and she brought them in on the day of the big overnight meeting with her group and counselors. That afternoon, I got this email from her division head: “Tallie was so articulate at our meeting about the overnight tomorrow. She asked all of her questions clearly and followed the directions of waiting until the end of the meeting for the Q & A part before raising her hand. I was so very impressed and told her so!” Tallie came home feeling knowledgeable and certain about what to expect on her overnight. She was learning a valuable lesson—she could ask questions, get answers and ease her fears with the knowledge she gained.
  • Calm your own nerves: It’s normal to feel nervous about your child’s firsts—especially when your child is nervous too! I couldn’t help but wonder what I was going to do if the camp called at night telling me I needed to pick up my petrified child given that my husband was on a business trip and my son would be sleeping. So, I called in the reinforcements: my neighbor and two friends. If I needed to pick up my daughter, one of them would come over and sit in the house until I came back. Aside from that, I spoke to my friends about my concerns. It’s important to talk it out with those you trust so that you feel comforted and your fears don’t come out while encouraging your child. Talk, exercise, have lunch with a friend, do yoga. Calming your own nerves is vital if you are to calm someone else’s at the same time!
  • Realize the preparation and the problem-solving is part of the win: While we all want our children to have the win of actually facing their fear and seeing the end of their journey, there are plenty of wins to celebrate before the end. The process of facing your fear instead of simply turning your back and saying “I won’t do it” is a great exercise—and it’s progress! My daughter went from declaring “I won’t go on the overnight” to “I want to go but I’m scared.” That’s a win! She went from “I’m scared” to “I’ll ask my questions and ask for what I need to feel more calm and less scared.” That’s a win! Even if she didn’t sleep over in the end, she had made progress.
  • Celebrate the wins and connect it to your child’s character: Who had your child needed to “be” in order to face his or her fears and come out on top? Whether they took a few steps forward or they went all the way through the fear and came out the other side, this took courage. You can say, for example; “One thing I know about you now is that you have the courage to look fear in the face, ask the questions you needed to, make sound decisions based on what you heard and get out of your comfort zone. I am proud of you—but I hope that you are proud of yourself. I believe in you but more importantly, I hope you now see that you can believe in yourself. You are courageous and strong and you showed incredible gumption. Way to go!”
  • As it turns out, my daughter made it! I received an email from the person in charge who said;

    “You can be very proud of your daughter. She was a total super star on the overnight. She was an excellent listener and was very respectful when we said it was time to turn out the lights and get into sleeping bags. She has a blast swimming in the lake and jumping on the water tramp and was very excited about the ice cream bar! She did it!!”

tallie_sleepoverYes she did. She worked the plan and she did it. And this experience will become evidence that she can do many other nerve-wracking but exciting firsts in her life. Of course, it wasn’t perfect. I mean, this proud, grimy, totally exhausted girl came off the bus wearing an enormous t-shirt saying “I survived the sleepover” as she alternated between smiles and tears. But fighting fears is messy. It’s not perfect. It can take everything out of you just as it builds you up. And all of it sure is tiring.

When we give children the tools to empower themselves, they can do much more than they ever thought they could—and perhaps more than you thought they could too.

Here’s to many more courageous acts and exciting firsts!

Dr. Robyn Signature

 

 

 

Upset Teenage Girl With Friends Gossiping In Background

When A Group of Great Girls Goes Bad: Basic Drama or Cultural Breakdown?

Girls rock.  Put a bunch together and it can be a great deal of fun, laughs and heart to heart conversations. Except when it isn’t.

Sometimes groups of girls have problems getting along.  They fight, gossip and hurt each other’s feelings.  At times it feels like a uphill battle while at the same time a downhill freight train with no intention of stopping.

I’ve been working personally with specific staff members and girls this year from a variety of schools and camps.  And even though I’ve been doing group coaching for a long time, I always find it an eye-opening study of girls culture, friendship and positive mentorship. Most recently, the leaders of an organization had asked me about one group of girls, in particular, who seemed to be in an endless fight. This daily argument not only was causing internal havoc in the group but was also exhausting the staff and leaving them with questions, concerns and a whole lot of frustration.

After a meeting with the girls personally, I realized that the problem was not, in fact, day to day fighting.  Rather, it was a much larger cultural problem that had festered like a toxic wound at the heart of the group.

Does this sound familiar to you?  It can be exhausting to deal with the day to day issues that emerge in such a group because there never seems to be an end.  That’s because the daily problems are a symptom—not the cause.  The question becomes; are you dealing with the root of cultural turmoil or are you trying to band-aid the daily indicators of that turmoil?

Here is a way to determine if you have a deeper problem than the standard daily grind:

  1. Same thing, different day: The girls always seem to be fighting about something. Complaining, arguing and gossiping are typical.  Someone always feels left out, picked on, stepped over or disregarded.
  2. Similar themes keep emerging: Not only are the girls fighting all the time but they are fighting about the same things.  What kinds of themes emerge?  Being left out.  Cliquiness. Looks.  Attention.  Boys.  Material goods. Meanness. In the case with this one set of girls, they were arguing about  2 things– “bragging and ‘top this’ behavior” as well as the flippant way the girls dealt with each other’s feelings.  Upon sitting down for our meeting, girls talked about feeling frustrated, awkward and depressed when others talked about money, clothes and trips they got to go on each year.  They also divulged that they felt horrible when other girls said something “mean” and then called them “sensitive” when feelings got hurt.
  3. The problem never feels solved: Staff are arduously attending to day to day spats and fall out but feel like they are on a proverbial hamster wheel.  You hear from staff that “this is a particularly tough group,” they “can’t get through to them,” and they’ve “tried everything” but aren’t getting anywhere. As you can imagine, it there is a larger, cultural issue, dealing with individual daily fights doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.
  4. The staff, teachers or counselors are fed up, deflated & defeated:  Not only are the staff articulating frustration, they are starting to check out.  When arguing ensues, they step out, turn away, or try to check it off as quickly as possible so they can move on.  Follow up feels fruitless or “inviting more of the same” so it doesn’t happen. This is not out of laziness but rather lack of knowing what to do differently to get a better result.  You hear from them that the girls “don’t respect them,” “don’t listen,” and “apologize but don’t mean it.”
  5. Every girl feels hurt: Even though some girls are more popular than others, in a group where cultural breakdown has taken place, there are a great deal of hurt feelings.  Most girls, at some point, feel left out, gossiped about or disregarded.  In a young teen group I recently had the pleasure to work with, a group dynamics exercise was the perfect catalyst for an honest discussion about how they felt when a part of the group and when ostracized or alone. And when they really got honest, they were able to admit that they both felt this way and were the cause of others feeling this way. These were awesome girls but their best was being squelched by negative, recurring behavior that became an part of the group culture.

When working with groups in which cultural breakdown has clearly occurred, honest discussion is necessary.  Only then can we identify the hidden problems, isolate the instigators, set ground rules for respectful behavior and allow the girls an opportunity to authentically apologize and be accountable for their actions going forward.  Such honest discussion can’t be a one-time thing but rather done periodically with frequent follow up with a trusted, well-regarded mentor.

And one final thought—when you manage negative behavior, it’s also helpful to encourage positive behavior to take its place.  Instead of focusing on faults and failures, what strengths does this group have?  What individual assets can the girls highlight in one another?  How can they have a hand in developing a positive and powerful group of girls in which everyone feels respected?

While problems are still going to occur—as this is not a utopia—we must provide the girls with the skills to deal with them.  How can we encourage them to be inclusive rather than exclusive?  How can we support them in speaking up while still being kind and open-minded?  It takes more time and more effort but in the long run, teaching these life skills and following up on their effectiveness can transform the culture of the group and in turn, the girls themselves.  And when the girls are transformed—the culture of the groups they are part of in the future will be better for it.

 

 

 

Should I lie? 10 Gut-Checking Questions Parents Must Teach Their Children

lying2-276x300The first time your child lies to you can be a shock to any parent.  And while lying is part of growing up, we don’t want to encourage the behavior.  Our children need to learn right from wrong, reality from fantasy and truth from untruth.

The Powerful Word of the Month this month is Self Control– and part of self control is taking a moment to think to oneself; Is this safe? Is this fair? Will it work?  When it comes to lying, taking the time to think through both good and bad solutions can make the difference between right and wrong.

As parents, we always want our children to choose the safest, most fair and best decisions. When we are with them, we can ensure that it usually happens that way. When we aren’t, we leave it in their hands. This is why so many parents can’t sleep at nights even though we’re all so tired, right?

We must arm our children with some Powerful Questions that can help them to choose right over wrong.

(1) Is it safe? Or, perhaps for some we can teach, “If I lie, is someone likely to get hurt?” Some children will lie to protect someone– whether it’s a sibling or themselves. Sometimes when they are “sworn to secrecy” it’s not a big deal– someone is planning a special birthday party or a big surprise and they need to pretend they know nothing about it.  But other times lying about something can be unsafe. Think of the child who was told “not to tell” that a friend was planning to run away, an older sibling was throwing up after each meal or a younger sibling was climbing over a fence near a lake.  That’s when this question becomes crucial.

(2) Is it fair? This question certainly requires perspective-taking.  Clearly they are going to be more inclined to say something if it’s not fair to them.  But what about others?  Think of the child who knows that a friend is cheating off another student’s paper in class and both children involved get in trouble.  What’s fair?  Think of the child who knows that her sports team is doing something underhanded in order to get into the finals.  Is this fair?  The perspective-taking question that pairs well with this one is; if the tables were turned, would it seem fair to you?

(3) What is my gut telling me to do? When we teach our children to listen to their gut, we are providing them with a very important skill. Our bodies often tell us what our minds our try to disguise. If your child chooses right or wrong, ask them, what made you make that choice? What was your gut telling you to do? What will you do next time?

(4) Will I be able to look my parents/friend/teacher in the eye after I do it? We often know when our children are lying because they can not look us in the eye. Helping your children to understand that answering “no” to this question is a sign that they may be on the verge of making a poor choice.

(5) Could I look at myself in the mirror after I do it? This is really the crux of it, isn’t it? In fact, this is the way my own mother explained the meaning of integrity to me. If our children feel that they could not look at their own selves in the mirror after making this choice (and be proud of what they did), they should take it as a warning. Their conscience is telling them that the impending choice could bring them a feeling of regret or shame.

(6) Would I do this behavior whether someone was watching me or not? I often explain to children that the definition of good character is choosing to do the right thing whether all eyes are on you or all eyes are looking away. If your child can not answer “yes” to both scenarios, then she should probably not be doing it.

(7) Does the end justify the means? This can be a tough concept for children. After all, if they want an A on their book report and get an A on their book report that should be a good thing, right? Yes, accept when that A is achieved through dishonest means such as cheating. Sometimes, children have trouble remembering that parents actually care more about effort and character than about their children being the very best regardless of the cost or means. We must be patient and clear up this confusion so that children will choose “right” over “best” when faced with a question of integrity.

(8) Am I doing this because it is right or because it is popular? We have all heard of peer pressure. This phenomenon can happen on a variety of levels. Think of the child who argues that his friend, who clearly lost the race, crossed the finish line first. In this case, the child succumbs to the rules of friendship over the rules of fairness and integrity. We also see it when the child pretends not to like someone because his friends don’t think the person is cool. Either way, he is letting the popular thing get in the way of doing the right thing. We must teach our children not to allow popularity to cloud their judgment because in the end, the truth usually comes out.

(9) Am I being who I am or am I being who others want me to be? This question coincides with number 6. We want our children to be themselves. When they alter their thoughts, actions, appearance, or choices because others want it that way, they are doing a major disservice to themselves and others. On the one hand, they are not allowing others to get to know the real individual behind the farce. On the other hand, they are building their friendships on a lie. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, wrote, “If you live your life trying to please others, half the people will like you and half won’t. And if you live your life according to your own truth, half the people will like you and half won’t.” The underlying question it brings up is; “which half do you want as friends?”

(10) If I get caught lying, will I get in trouble? So, the lie unravels.  Everyone knows the truth.  Are their any negative consequences?  Obviously for the child who kept the “surprise party” a secret or even told her mother; “I’m going with Dad to lunch” when she really was going to set up for that party, there is no getting into trouble.  But what about the child who lies about a grade she got on a today’s quiz? Tells you she already studied for tomorrow’s test when she didn’t?  Says “I don’t know” when you ask where her big brother is when she knows he’s doing something you’ve told him not to do?  Your child likely knows that consequences would be imminent.

As we know, mistakes will happen. If we use those mistakes to help our children make better choices next time, we will be strengthening their integrity.

In the end, we are cultivating future leaders. And I imagine, as Powerful Parents, you would agree, that we want our future leaders to base their decisions on well-instilled values and principles rather than what is fast, popular, and self-serving.  These questions are part of critical thinking skills that they can apply today and for the rest of their lives.

 

 

 

Walking Your Talk: Showing Your Values Even When Your Kids Aren’t Looking

egg_hands-300x199

“Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold — but so does a hard-boiled egg.” ~Author Unknown

As parents and teachers we often zone out when we get a moment alone.  It’s normal– I do it too.  I am far from perfect, lose my temper sometimes, say the wrong thing, and sometimes hover outside of myself with folded arms and ask myself, “is that REALLY the best you can do?”  That ever happen to you?  I’m working on it– just like everyone else.

The other day I was sitting in a café working during lunch time.  A few tables away, a black woman in her 40s, sat with 7 elderly men and woman which she was clearly taking on a much anticipated outing.  She was taking care of them.  She wiped their mouths, wheeled them in their wheelchairs, asked them questions about their lives and facilitated conversation between the group.

It struck me.  We often talk about those in care-taking positions (that may not appeal to a wide audience) as being underpaid and under-appreciated.  That always bothered me.  Teachers, nurses, aides—they work very hard and do such an important job.  I know we’ve all said this before– but it’s still true as true can be.

I watched her now and again show such patience, concern and, perhaps most importantly, curiosity to these people in her care.  And I was moved to do something.  Does that sound ridiculous?  That’s OK with me.

Someone once urged me, “imagine your child by your side, holding your hand andlooking up at you even when s/he is not with you.  What lessons would you want to teach through your actions?”  That visualization really stuck with me and I call upon it often.  It’s a good one, don’t you think?

I stood up and went to the cashier at the café and asked her if I could buy a gift card.  The caretaker’s name was on a “reserved” marker on the table—“Michelene”– so I simply copied it down and signed it “From an admirer.  You are doing great work and we appreciate it!”

When she was getting everyone ready to meet their van outside, I walked over to her and said; “This is for you.  Thank you.”  I don’t think she had a clue what it was or why I was giving it to her—I had sealed it so she wasn’t put in any awkward position as she received it.  Then I sat down and resumed working.

While a $20 gift card is not much—certainly not life-changing—I figured that if my daughter or son were standing their with me, they would have learned something about my values.  When we appreciate someone, we show it.  When someone deserves some praise, we give it.  When people give of themselves, we acknowledge that we’ve noticed.   As parents and teachers, we need to live our values whether the children in our lives are watching us or not. In my opinion, and I would imagine you’d agree, that’s living an authentic life.

No fanfare needed, no thank you was necessary– she was being the everyday hero, not me.  We make these gestures not because we feel sorry for someone or want someone to tell us how “good” we are, but rather, because that person deserves it and the gesture is part of who we are and who we hope our children become.

Have you ever done something like that on a whim? I imagine you have.  It’s not about money– it can be giving time, energy, attention, praise, love, donations or thanks in any form. We’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

I messed up, Mom & Dad! 10 Ways to Teach Children to Embrace Their Mistakes

mistakes_photo-225x300It may seem counter-intuitive, but kids need to fall on their face a lot during childhood. It’s part of learning.

A parent got in touch with me recently and told me with some pride that she is the infamous “helicopter parent” that she’s heard me talk about on my blog and in the media. “I like being ‘there’ for my child 100% of the time. To me, that’s part of being a good parent…what kind of parent would I be if I knew they were heading for a mess up and just let it happen anyway?”

Interesting. You see, “messing up” is part of “growing up.” And an important one at that. Unless you are sensing inherent danger (when of course you would intervene), life needs to happen to a child so s/he can learn how to make good choices for his or herself—and that, when problems happen, it’s not the end of the world.

Towers made of blocks tumble. You don’t always get the straw you want. Your favorite shirt gets dirty. You say the wrong thing to your best friend. Homework and art projects may get ripped when you leave them out where your baby brother can get to them.

Life happens. You rebuild. You accept what you can not change or choose to go a different way. You apologize, take responsibility and ask for forgiveness. You clean up your mess. You take care of your stuff.

These lessons are not taught through osmosis. Reading about them in books may give you the knowledge but not the cognitive- kinesthetic- emotional connection. We learn about life through experience. The parenting aspect doesn’t come from the “saving” but rather, what happens before, during and after the mistakes happen.

When teaching your children about mistakes:

  1. Encourage healthy risk-taking: A sad sight is a child who stands on the sidelines of life because they are so afraid to try and fail. Talk to your children about taking healthy risks that push them out of their comfort zone and provide learning, fun and growth. Support them by saying things like; “The most important thing is that you try!” “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” “You’ll never know unless you try!” and “Everything you love to do began when you took a risk and tried!”
  2. Applaud the chutzpah, effort and character rather than just the result: If it’s all about the win, the A, the goal scored or the lead in the play, fear of trying certainly can follow. Instead, celebrate the courage it took to try. Applaud the effort it took to achieve. Highlight the character it took to persevere and stay focused. Say; “one thing I know about you is that when you decide on a goal, you go all the way. You stay on track and keep going until you get there—and I, for one, think that is AMAZING!”
  3. Let them know mistakes are normal and an important part of learning! Assure your children that making mistakes is OK. Most things are not done perfectly the first time—even when you’re an adult. It doesn’t mean “the end of the world” and there is no reason to be embarrassed. Ask them; what does this mistake teach you? What will you know for next time? What will you know next time that you didn’t know before? Mistakes make you wiser not lesser!
  4. Share your mistakes with them: I’m not talking about full disclosure of every bad thing you’ve done. However, you can share mistakes you made when you were young, how you handled them and what you learned from them. You can also share how these mistakes prepared you for the next time you were faced with a similar challenge or choice. Children often think their parents are perfect—we must show that we are not infallible…and that we can still be successful anyway!
  5. Apologize & show accountability in action: One of the most powerful things we can do when we make a mistake is to show our children how to be accountable for it, apologize, and do what we can to fix the problem we created. By doing so, we show our children that everyone is in charge of “cleaning up their own messes;” even adults. We demonstrate that making things better is within our power and making mistakes is not the end of the world.
  6. Teach them to look back: Young children aren’t really skilled in answering “why” questions so inquiring “why” they did something often results in the fruitless answer; “I don’t know.” Instead, ask these two “what” questions when they make a mistake: “What did you do?” (so they can claim ownership and responsibility) and “What happened when you did that?” (so they can understand cause and effect). When they can tell you what happened and how it affected them and others, they are taking the first step towards being accountable: admitting their contribution to the problem.
  7. Teach them to look forward: Children need to learn to take action when they make a mistake or contribute to a problem. The mistake isn’t the end, but rather, the beginning of the learning.  You get a bad grade on a test—>study longer, get extra help, study differently.  You break something—>apologize, ask for forgiveness, ask how you can make it better. I tell my children; “the most important part of making a mistake is cleaning up your mess once you make it…that’s what it means to have character.” Ask these two questions: “What are you going to do?” and “By when are you going to do it?” When they come up with a plan and have a date or deadline, they are more likely to stay accountable.
  8. Ensure that they have an accountability partner: Whether we are speaking about a child, a teen or an adult, people work best when they are accountable to others. You can be your children’s accountability partner or someone else they know such as an older sibling, grandparent, coach, or mentor can assume that position. Ask them; “How will your accountability partner know that you did what you said you were going to do?” They can tell, text, write, call or check something off a list when the task has been completed.
  9. Create the teachable moment if you have to do it: Many children strive to be perfect. They avoid mistakes at all costs. The older children get without making mistakes, the bigger an impact it can make when they finally do. Sometimes it’s necessary to put your children in a position of making a likely mistake so that they can experience it, rectify it and learn for themselves that mistakes are OK. We want them to make mistakes when stakes are low so they know what to do when they are older and the stakes are higher. Encourage them to try the sport they’ve never tried. Have them take a test that they are likely to fail. Once they don’t succeed, teach them to try again and point out that perfection is not the goal.
  10. Thank them for admitting their mistake and coming to you: It can be tough to admit wrongdoing—so when your children come to you with the truth, commend them for it. You are setting up an expectation on both sides that you want them to come to you when they need help or when things aren’t going right and that you will be there when they are truly in need. Sometimes you will simply need to be a coach—reflecting what they are saying, asking powerful questions and brainstorming possible solutions. Other times you will be a source of advice. Still other times, you may simply be a shoulder to cry on or a wall to bounce ideas off of—our role may not be “savior” but that doesn’t mean we don’t play a role in our children’s learning and growth. We most certainly do.

It’s vital that we don’t take over for our children—we must allow them to make their mistakes and encourage them and ensure that they clean up their messes once they make them. Even at age 2 and 3 I have taught my children how to apologize, how to make things better and how to cope when they’ve said or done something that they know is wrong. When I look at them I see two children who are learning self-reliance, integrity, accountability and courage. They are capable. They are risk-takers.  And that makes me proud.

Mistakes can be great gifts of learning so robbing our children of their ability to make them is, well, a mistake within itself. What are you teaching your children about making mistakes?

 

 

 

Our Thoughts Are With You: Victims of Hurricane Sandy

As I live in NJ, we have seen and heard much of the devastation due to the most recent storm.  Hurricane Sandy lived up to the predictions.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you, our neighbors, and all those who suffered loss due to flood, falling trees and power outages.

hurricane-sandy-300x200My hope is that we all open our hearts and our homes to those who are still in need.  Do what you can even if it’s small– donate, lend out generators or extension cords, invite people over for dinner and to stay the night.  That’s been our plan of action as our power has been restored (thankfully) and we only had 2 fallen trees and some fence damage.  We consider ourselves very lucky– and hope for the safety and quick recovery of those still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Amanda Todd: Teen Ends Her Life After Relentless Battle with Bullying

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOHXGNx-E7E

I’m stuck. What’s left of me now…nothing stops.  I have nobody. I need someone. ?

amanda-todd-300x225Amanda Todd, a once, promising happy young Canadian girl committed bullycide on Wednesday after relentless, senseless attacks– physical, emotional and psychological– over several years followed her from town to town.

Her horrible story is hauntingly told in a youtube video with cue cards and shaking hands. What began in seventh grade when, she wrote, “I would go with friends on webcam [to] meet and talk to new people.” A stranger made her feel attractive and convinced her to flash the camera.  A mistake that would unravel into years of stalking, black-mailing and bullying, this girl was shamed and made to feel worthless.

Even when moving to place to place to get away from the abuse, the tormenters would find her and continue to cyberbully and physically bully this young woman who was trying her best to find someone who would love her as she is.  She spiraled into depression, complicated by intense and crippling anxiety, self hatred, self harm, and private self-bullying (see the connection between bullying, mental health and suicidehere and how to report responsibly on suicide here).

At one point, 50 kids bullied her at one time.  A boy had lead Amanda on, told her he liked her, and slept with her only to gang up on her later with his then girlfriend and friends.  “Just punch her!” they yelled.  The kids filmed it. Her father found her in a ditch later that day.  Even then, she didn’t want to press charges and get anyone else into trouble.  Her self worth was obliterated.  She went home and drank bleach– which landed her in the hospital– and urged on her tormenters to make fun of her that much more– and even urge her to kill herself.

Sadly, that’s exactly what she did.  At the end of this video, uploaded just last month, she writes “I have nobody.  I need someone.”

amandatodd_cheer-200x300I think this is the legacy she leaves– a message to all of us to be the someone these kids need.  Studies tell us that a majority of young people don’t feel that they have at least three people to turn to in a time of need or challenge (see more on this in the new Bully book I am proud to have been part of along with Rosalind Wiseman and Michele Borba).  As I tell my audiences when I present on bullying;

Please, be one of the three. Because you may actually be the only one. I know it’s hard. I know we’re all busy. I know we have no time. But cries for help don’t wait for a hole in our schedules.

It’s National Anti-bullying month and it’s way past time to make a change and commit to making this situation better for those who are suffering.

Peace be with you, Amanda Todd. I am so infuriated…So saddened by this tragic story and the many others that tell a tale of struggle and loss. How could this continue to go on like this? We must do better for you so it can get better for all.

 

 

 

Ask Dr. Robyn: Teaching Children Accountability and Responsibility

Dr. Robyn Silverman answers one parent’s question about how to teach her children to be responsible and accountable for their own messes and mistakes.

Question answered: Dear Dr. Robyn. My sister’s kids are always leaving a mess for her to clean up.  My kids are young and I just don’t want them to do the same thing.  How can I teach them to be responsible for their own messes and mistakes? Pam, New York, NY

Dr. Robyn Silverman introduces the Powerful Word Accountability

The powerful word of the month is accountability! Accountability is all about keeping our promises and commitments while also taking care of our mistakes.  It’s important to allow our children and teens to be accountable for themselves (while still being age appropriate) so that they learn (1) Making mistakes is not the end of the world; (2) When you make a “mess,” clean it up; (3) Ask for help when you need it; (4) healthy promises and commitments are something that should be kept; (5) Accountability is a crucial part of goal setting and goal getting as well as a vital part of being a good friend, student, employee, and family member.

While it may be tempting to jump in and “do it for them” when we see a child/teen challenged by a mistake s/he made (i.e. forgot his homework, lost a book) or a promise he no longer wants to keep (i.e. wants to quit a sport, doesn’t want to go to the birthday party she said she would attend), learning accountability at a young age is a great life lesson.

Children may need support or assistance at times but at others, we need to step back and allow them to take the lead.  Encourage them to tell the librarian that they lost a book and want to pay for it with their allowance.  Teach your children that once they make a commitment to a friend, it’s important that they keep that promise.  Show them that when they make a mistake, they need to admit it, apologize for it and help make it right. If they can learn this when stakes are low during childhood, they will be able to apply these life lessons to their life when stakes are higher during adulthood.

Enjoy this month’s Powerful Word! How are YOU teaching accountability in your home?

drrobynsig170

 

The SNAKE that Poisons Everyone

gossip-300x229

The original article hung on the kitchen cabinet of my childhood home for over 20 years– an important reminder to every member of our family of the power of gossip.

As bullying continues to make headlines, we know that gossip is a major component of bullying.  It ads fuel to the fire.  It is a vehicle to punish.  It excludes many while including a few– who is on either side can change on a dime.

My husband and I have often told the young people we mentor, if people will do it for you, they’ll do it to you.  In this case, if they are gossiping with you, they will likely gossip about you. While gossip can seem fun and frivolous to those who are doing it, it can feel quite painful to those who are discussed. Be careful of those who engage in this behavior as you might just be the one bitten next!

I think I learned that lesson the hard way as an elementary school student who used to tell secrets in order to try to connect and make friends.  Of course, this would backfire.  As you can imagine, I was glad I learned that lesson early!

Has the gossip snake bitten anyone in your home or your school? If you could hang this anywhere to remind someone to watch what they say, where would you hang it?

Feel free to print it out and share. I can still practically recite it verbatim as I read it more often throughout my childhood than I’ll ever know. Not a bad thing. I think my Mom was onto something…

drrobynsig170 The SNAKE that Poisons Everyone

 

The SNAKE that Poisons Everyone is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman – Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System