Girls groups

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 Read more

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

The 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 Read more

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

“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 Read more

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

It 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. Read more

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.

My 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


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

Amanda 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 suicide here 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 Read more

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?

The SNAKE that Poisons Everyone

Gossip 300x229 The SNAKE that Poisons Everyone

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

Bully: The Seven Problems Revealed Through This Groundbreaking Documentary

By: Dr. Robyn Silverman

When watching Bully, the issues these young people must deal with each day come flying in our faces all at once.  We are left feeling overwhelmed but unsure how to tackle such a large-scale problem.  Bullying…what to do? Breaking down the concerns one by one becomes a necessary part of addressing them.

(1)  Adults can’t stop what they don’t see: On the bus, in the hallways, or just outside the school doors lies opportunity after opportunity for children to bully and to be victimized.  Why? Because they are left on their own to police themselves.  Some may argue that children must be able to, on the one hand, behave with character and on the other hand, defend themselves if that is not the case even when adults are not present.  However, this simply isn’t happening for some students. To simply talk about what is supposed to happen as a solution to a problem that is happening is idiotic. Adults must be present in areas where children convene in and around the schools.

bully1 300x200 Bully: The Seven Problems Revealed Through This Groundbreaking Documentary(2)  Adults can’t fix what they don’t know how to fix: Clearly solutions are complex and can’t be generalized from one student to the next. Eliminating or reducing bullying is not a one size fits all exercise.  Still, we can hear the frustration of the administrator at the Sioux City, Iowa where Alex Libby attends. She whispers to herself in the hallway; “How do I fix this? How do I fix this?” as loudly as her non-committal promise to Alex’s exasperated parents; “We will take care of this.”  How can she take care of what she doesn’t know how to fix?  Continued education on the part of educators and administrators is necessary in areas where they quite obviously are deficient in knowledge and skill.

(3)  Rules can’t just be articulated without enforcement: I was brought in as an expert on Fox News when the stringent, controversial bullying laws were put into effect in NJ on September 1, 2011.  During the segment, a veteran teacher expressed that teachers already announce the rules of conduct in the beginning of the year as if to say, “that should be enough.”  Perhaps in a perfect world it would be enough.  However, this is not reality.  Asserting the rules isn’t the same as enforcing the rules.  Consequences must be immediate and commensurate with the offense. That’s the only way children take what adults say seriously. Otherwise, it’s just bureaucratic chatter.

(4)  Stating what is doesn’t make it right: We heard iterations of this throughout the documentary.

  • “Buses are notoriously bad places for lots of kids.”
  • “Kids will be kids, boys will be boys…they’re just cruel at that age.”
  • “Every school has some problems with bullying.”

Yeah, and? Stating the obvious doesn’t give us permission to turn a blind eye and throw up our hands.  It may be complicated.  It may be happening all over.  It may be challenging to address. But children have a legal rite to learn in an environment in which they feel safe. If we know the issues, it’s time to address them rather than ignore them.

bully movie 202x300 Bully: The Seven Problems Revealed Through This Groundbreaking Documentary(5)  Effectiveness can’t be assumed: When Alex was asked if he trusts the school officials to take care of the problems, he very clearly says that he had reported that a child “had sat on my head” and nothing was done.  The school official balks at his accusation and tells him that she did indeed talk to the boy and “he didn’t do that again, did he?”  Of course the boy terrorized Alex in different ways.  You definitely got the feeling that school officials wanted so badly to hear that things were fine that they didn’t investigate whether or not they were indeed resolved.  Ignorance might be bliss but it’s not effective in counteracting bullying. The school official never followed up with Alex to see how effective her discussion was or to ensure Alex that his words did not fall on deaf ears.

(6)  Teachers can be part of the problem: I talk about this in my own body image book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat. We are very fortunate to have many capable, caring teachers in the lives of our children.  However, that doesn’t mean they are all competent and kind.  Sometimes there is an issue with lack of skill to cope with the bullying problem while other times the problem is completely denied.  As the school official from Alex’s school tells his mother who is desperate to keep her son safe on the bus where his tormentors hurt his everyday; “I’ve been on that bus. They are just as good as gold!”  Other times the teachers perpetrate similar aggression that is typically pegged to the kids themselves. We learn about the problem from Kelby Johnson, a 16-year-old who came out as gay while living in the heart of “Bible Belt Oklahoma.” She reports that; “One teacher was calling roll…and she was like, ‘Boys,’ and then said ‘Girls,’ and then she stopped and said ‘Kelby.’ There were a lot of snide remarks from teachers. None of them had my back. They joined in with the kids, a really unsupportive school system.”

(7) Adults who are trying to help can inadvertently make things worse: Many young people don’t feel that they have at least 3 adults in their lives who they can turn to in a time of need or challenge.  They often feel that adults make things worse for them by trying to quickly Band-Aid the problem or by giving them unproductive advice.    You can’t help but wonder how Alex will fare on the bus after several of his fellow riders are questioned and warned about their behavior towards him. Given past ineffectual warnings to his bullies, will going “half in” really help Alex in the long run?  You can’t help but cringe when Alex’s father tells him that he has to fight back and not to be a doormat. As Alex so desperately wants to fit in and believe that his bullies are just “messing around,” how can such advice help? It may very well be the action his father would have taken. It is obvious that it is the advice his father would like his son to employ. But these points are mute because it’s Alex not his father who must get on that bus. It’s vital that we ask ourselves what the answer is for this child—an answer that will keep him or her safe while being practical and successful.

At the end of the day it comes down to accountability.  It’s apparent that some school officials want to pass the buck to parents while many parents are looking to the schools, their towns or cities, and other parents to help solve the problem.  The truth is that community movement doesn’t happen without the cooperation of all its members.  And cooperation means that everyone admits there is a problem and then takes on a little accountability to ensure that a safe and fair learning environment is an expected, respected and enforced right for every child.

drrobynsig170 Bully: The Seven Problems Revealed Through This Groundbreaking Documentary

Bully: The Seven Problems Revealed Through This Groundbreaking Documentary is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman – Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System