Am I Like-able? Teens, Self Esteem and the Number of Likes They Get on Social Media

How much do YOU “unlike” like?

I was recently on Good Morning America talking to Robin Roberts about how social media has become a constant part of the teen world. Teens are learning that the number of likes they receive is equivalent to how likable, popular and worthy that they are. While it shouldn’t be about quantity, but rather quality, given that many of these likes come from people these kids barely even know, when it comes to social media, it’s a numbers game—the more likes you receive, the better these teens feel.


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Welcome to the 100 club— the exclusive club invented for those teens who’ve received 100 or more likes on a social media photo or post. Getting the most likes is the new extreme sport. The need for likes and getting an “in” to the 100 club makes a competitive sport out of social media- where the trophy is the privilege of saying you are in an exclusive club—which is not attainable for all.

Teens are at a time in life when they want to fit in and feel the approval of peers, getting likes is an immediate, albeit flawed way, of finding out “am I worthy, am I popular and am I likeable?” Getting likes fits our immediate push-button culture and the need for immediate feedback and gratification even if it’s from people that our kids don’t know well. Not getting the likes, the positive feedback, can feel like a slap in the face and a blow to the self esteem—not good enough. You see the number of likes, but so does everyone else. It’s easy for them to wonder; am I like-able enough?

Now what?

When presenting to teens and parents on this topic, here are two of the takeaways I provide:

First, break the like habit. Ask your teen, what are you hoping for when you post that photo? If the sole reason to post is to garner likes, you may have a slippery slope as it’s a self esteem trap. Make sure your teen is getting out and about, face to face with 3D people- through sports, drama club, martial arts, dance, cheer so they can get away from the likes, set meaningful goals and feel significant achievement.

Second, send a clear message to your teens that it’s who you are– not your number of likes that make you worthy. Social media can be a self esteem trap.  Teens may believe it all comes down to numbers when it’s really about quality of connections with your true supporters, how you feel about yourself and the gifts you contribute to the world.

A final word:

Don’t forget– the example we set is also vital to our children.  Many adults will go through their days, heads down and eyes buried into their phones, looking at how their posts fair on their social media pages.  It’s easy to get caught into the same trap at their children.  We must keep it all in perspective while acknowledging that everyone likes to get a pat on the back or a high five– even if it’s virtual.

Just for fun:

taylorswiftandme-1After my segment on Good Morning America, I ran into Taylor Swift in the elevator!  What a fun, happy treat.  I posted the selfie of us and you know what?  I received the most likes I ever got.  Ironic given the segment topic!

Here’s to you!

Dr. Robyn Signature

 

 

 

 

 

Talking to Kids When Bad Things Happen: MH17 Plane Downed

When flight MH17 was downed between Amsterdam and Malaysia, Good Morning America asked me to come in and discuss it.  In particular, how do you talk to children and teens when bad things, like this plane crash, happen?

1. We live in social media world. There are going to be all kinds of graphic and upsetting images on Twitter and Facebook. What should you do about teens who may be exposed to disturbing visuals?

While it’s easy to turn off with younger kids, with teens, you can’t just turn off the TV and hope they don’t see anything.  There are images and access to news stories everywhere. So tell your teen, “you may be curious and you may seek out or receive images or information that make you feel concern or bring up questions in your mind.  I would like you to come to me about any questions you have and then we can go to the credible news stations and get the most accurate story.”  You may not be able to control the media but you may be able to control how your teens absorb the information. Helping teens to become more media literate will help them to better deal with our world today.

2. What about younger kids? What should you say to a child who may have heard something upsetting?

With younger children, think through 3 things.

  • First, your words. They should underscore safety and let them know the adults in charge are doing everything they can to find out what happened and take care of everyone. Make sure your words are concise, easy-to-understand, age-appropriate and of course, answer the question.
  • Second, pay attention to your voice.  Ensure that it’s calm (as your children will reflect your reaction).  While you can talk about your feelings and say that you feel sad about what happened, be careful not to match the intensity of the emotion you might feel.  You are talking to a child– not a friend.
  • Third, be there.  Children don’t often talk about important topics in one conversation.  So make sure that when one discussion closes, you leave the door open to future conversations.

(3) How do you know if your child may be having a problem dealing with what happened?

You know your child.  When behavior seems abnormal, you may have a problem.  Are they eating more or less, sleeping more or less, acting out, withdrawing or seem highly anxious.  All of these abnormalities may show you that your child is having trouble dealing with something.

It’s normal to feel anxious when something tragic like this happens.  However, if you feel that your child’s behavior needs additional attention, seek out help from your child’s pediatrician.

4. What do you say to reassure kids who are afraid to fly after this?

  • Make sure your child knows that a plane crash or a plane downed is extremely rare.  Air travel is one of the safest ways to travel!
  • Validate your child’s feelings.  Let him know it’s normal to feel anxious about flying after something like this occurs.  Then reiterate that you are there for him and you will get through this together.
  • If possible, speak to a pilot, look at planes and do research on how planes work.  Sometimes knowledge can be the best answer.

 

Verizon Viral Ad for Girls: What are We Telling Our Daughters about Math and Science?

It was a great Good Morning America segment this morning!  We focused on a new viral Verizon campaign and ad that questions whether it’s time to move from telling our girls that she’s simply “pretty” to telling them that they are “pretty brilliant” too. What are we telling our girls about their abilities in math and science?  Can we attract more girls into STEM?  We explored this topic.

Why are we seeing greater numbers of ads reaching out to young girls and women giving them the message they can be more?

First, let’s not forget that these companies want to sell products and in these ads they are appealing to big markets, women and girls. But aside from that, I think these companies are seeing that by moving away from looks and celebrating the strong minds of girls, they can inspire a larger pool of future game-changers.  These are the people who can invent something important and become the next generation of leaders in their companies. We are looking for leaders, not hood ornaments.

The ad quotes a statistic- 66% of 4th grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18% of all college engineering majors are female. So where does the disconnect happen? Is it the fault, as the ad suggests, of parents?

Parents get such a bad rap—but it’s not just parents, it’s society as a whole.  If a girl is interested in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math, many of the toys that support those interests are in the “boy” section, the protagonists of the majority of books & movies in this genre are boys—and while there are companies and wonderful grass roots efforts to change that, there is still a message we are working against that says STEM is not for girls and if you go in that direction you’re different, nerdy or boyish.

How does this play out with my own daughter?

My daughter is full of life and curiosity—and, as I tell her and my audiences when I present on this topic, you can’t fuel curiosity if you’re worried about getting your hands dirty. My daughter wanted to be a veterinarian now she wants to be a pediatrician.  She’s interested in science. So when she’s outside digging in the dirt, mud under her fingernails, a worm in her hand and not a care in the world, I say “go get ‘em girl.” That’s curiosity and learning at work.

What can parents do to help daughters reach their potential?

(1) Develop your child’s gifts.  Interests do not come with gender label on them.

(2) Compliment her on more than just her looks because she is so much more creative and nuanced than that.

(3) Develop her character.  Show her and tell her that powerful words like persistence, focus, goal-setting and commitment are vehicles to realizing her dreams if she simply chooses to employ them.

(4) Expose her to people and companies (large and grass roots) that believe that girls can be and do anything!

What are your thoughts about this topic?

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Mom Leaves Child in Car for Five Minutes and is Charged with Misdemeanor


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Kim Brooks left her child in the car for 5 minutes to run into a store and get her child a pair of ear phones.  Her four year old son stayed in the locked car, the windows cracked on a mild day because he didn’t want to go in with her.  It seemed harmless enough but someone was watching– and taping– the incident.  The video footage was turned into the police and Kim’s world was turned upside down for a while.  She was charged with a misdemeanor.

We see this happen all the time — parents leaving children in cars. Thank God it wasn’t a bad outcome for the child. What’s your take on this?

First of all, I feel for this woman. As parents, we juggle so much and we all have lapses in judgment but they are not all caught on tape. So we can debate whether we are too overprotective and how we were all left in the car when we were little and came out just fine but the truth is, we are under surveillance by everyone with a camera on their phone- welcome big brother, 1984. Since we have laws in many states that say it’s not ok to leave a child under 6 in a car alone, that means no matter what your personal view, even if you know in your heart it will be just fine, we have to follow it. It may just be caught on tape.

We also have to realize that while it may seem silly to have to take your child into a store for a 2 minute errand even if the car is only 10 yards away, we need a definitive line.  As Dan Abrams says in the piece, and I agree, how can we be arbitrary?  We can’t say it’s OK to go into a store for 5 minutes but not twelve or to be 10 yards away from the car but not 17.

I think this strikes a cord because so many of us have been in this situation– some may have even left their children in a car when they’ve run in to get their dry cleaning.  This could have happened to a lot of people– this woman is not unusual.

What do you suggest the mother should have done?

I’m a busy mom of a 4 and a 5 year old and believe me, it’s not always fun to bring them into stores. So there is no judgment from me. But here’s the thing: (1) we have to be able to tell our children, “I know you don’t like this, but it’s not a choice. You have to come with me.” And (2) as I’ve done before with a sick child, I left the doctor’s office and went to my local Pink’s pharmacy and had a sick, sleeping child in my back seat- I called them up from right in front of their door and said; can I give you my credit card over the phone and is it possible for you to meet me by my car, my child is sick.

As much as we live in these crazy times, we also live in times when people will help us out. I encourage parents to seek out their help.

*Remember; this is not a bad parent, this was just a lapse in judgment.  And really?  We’ve all had those.  Let’s wish her the best.

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Parents: Boys Are Sexting More Now Than Ever– What You Need to Know

Today_aug2013I was on the Today Show this morning talking about teens and sexting.  A new study suggests that boys are sexting more than ever–  aiming to get the attention of girls in profoundly inappropriate ways.  Here are some questions parents have asked me– and some answers that I hope will be helpful to you as you navigate today’s high tech culture with your children.

(1) Is this the new normal?

This kind of behavior has become a lot more common likely because there is so many messages out there that are telling young people this is the norm. Pornography is just a few key strokes away.  Objectication and sexualization is part of the natural landscape of advertising and marketing to teens today.  (3) Hook up culture is celebrated in many TV shows and reality shows for teens. And don’t forget (4) Real life politicians, sports heroes and entertainers are made into household names for doing it, make excuses for it and are excused for doing it.  These messages happen 24/7 so their frame of reference is, this is the norm.

(2) What should parents do?

When I’m presenting to parents or educators I tell them that they must look & listen, Engage & explain and Be a powerful example.

  • Look/Listen:  What is my child doing?  What is he watching?  What kinds of texts is he sending? What is he saying about girls?  To his friends?  To girls?
  • Engage & Explain: Ask directly. For example; Dr. Robyn was saying on The Today Show that boys are sending texts to girls about hooking up and having sex—is this happening in your world?  What do you think about it? Be very clear that what he is seeing and hearing on the internet and on TV is not the norm.
  • Provide a powerful example: There are too many messages out there that are telling your children that hook up culture is to be expected—so show them what it means to have a meaningful relationship based on respect, kindness and character.

(3) When should parents talk to their children about it?

Parents need to start talking to their children about the power of the media, their bodies and treating people with respect and kindness from a very early age.  This is not one conversation but a series of conversations we have over a childhood so that when we move into sexting, dating, hook up culture and sex, it’s not strained or strange—it is a natural continuation of countless conversations you have had with your child.  We can’t just have “the sex talk” we need to have the relationship talk, the character talk, the technology talk and many others to raise a healthy, respectful child. Conversation not only with boys—but absolutely with girls too who may have more power than they think to change the way boys talk to them and relate to them.

(4) Boys are acting with clueless aggression that is fueled by anonymity so I tell them that a good litmus test is– Would you be embarrassed if this text was seen by your mother or your sister?  If yes, it’s probably not something you should send.

What do you think?  Is this a concern of yours?  How do you deal with it?

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The Problem with Labels: Confining, Constricting and Compressing Our Children’s Potential

labelWe don’t mean to do it.  But so many of us do it anyway.

“This is my shy one.”

“She’s my tom boy.”

“He’s my clown.”

“She’s my reader.”

“He’s my little athlete.”

“She’s great in spelling.”

“He’s great in math.”

“She doesn’t like sports.”

“He can’t sit still for a minute.”

When we label our children, we unwittingly define them.  We provide definite limits that tell our children what we think of them, what we expect of them and who they are to be.

Most of us have heard of the movie, Field of Dreams.  The message repeatedly relayed is “If you build it, he will come.”  I think of labels similarly; “If you label it, they will BEcome.”

Sometimes, this seems like a win.  We label our child a “great student” when we value academics or an “amazing athlete” when we value sports.  What could be wrong with that?  The problem is detected when we realize that the labels deter the child from taking healthy risks and trying something new.  “I am a great student” and therefore “I’m not an athlete.” Or “I’m a great athlete” so “I won’t try out for the school play.”

Labels are accentuated when a comparison is put into the mix.  Brothers and sisters are often unintentionally pitted against each other by parents who categorize them.  The intention is not to harm, but rather describe.  But if we label one child “studious,” another “athletic” and still another “artistic” these areas become that child’s jurisdiction.  This can be detrimental to both the labeled and the other sibling.  The former can feel trapped and the latter can feel timid about trying that activity.

When it comes to gender, labels can feel like a safety net to ensure gender alignment (i.e. He’s all boy, She’s a girly girl), an affront (he’s effeminate, she’s quote boyish) or a self-fulfilling prophesy (she’s bad in math, he’s a class clown).

As we all want our children, both boys and girls, to have every opportunity to flourish into the person they are meant to become, it’s vital that we stop labeling and acknowledge room for growth, change and reinvention.  As a child is “becoming,” there is ebb and flow.  Labels can disrupt and “dam” progress and process.  To maximize potential, let’s leave development as fluid.

bravegirlsA new alliance I am part of called “Brave Girls Want“, is a force of leadership asking everyone from parents, educators, loved ones, legislators and businesses to support, empower, and encourage brave, adventurous, strong, smart, and spirited girls. We are looking to rid the world of labels that confine, constrict or compress the growth of our girls so they can be their most authentic and awesome versions of themselves.

As part of Brave Girls Want, we are planning to invade Time Square on October 11th, coinciding with the International Day of the Girl. For 7 days we will rent a billboard in Time Square and talk about what we want for our girls and what they are telling us they want for themselves. Fewer limits, more choices. Less photo-shopping, more real images.  Less sexualization, more time to enjoy childhood.

Please read about the initiative and help us in any way you can. Check out the IndieGoGo campaign—there are lots of ways to help make this action happen!

After all, these are our girls. All of our girls.  And we can make a difference.

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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.

 

 

 

Bad Parenting Day: 10 Tips for Making Tomorrow Better

blog_stressYesterday was one of my worst parenting days.  You ever have one of those?

Coming off a night of tossing and turning I just shouldn’t have gotten out of bed.  But with a 3 and a 4 year old, you really don’t have that option.  So groggy with a bit of cotton-head I got up at 6:45 when my daughter called for me.  Both of my kids always love to get up deliciously early.

My daughter got up on the wrong side of the bed.  Everything from her dreams to her outfit were wrong.  She didn’t even want to wear the underwear I had put out for her.  Really?  “It’s freakin’ underwear,” I could hear myself repeating in my head.

My son had just gotten up with my husband and was playing one of his new birthday games, Hungry Hungry Hippos.  As my kids are allowed to open 2 gifts per day in the days following their special day to control the indulgence avalanche, he was ready to open his second gift.

It was a remote control car.  Harmless enough—but a source of great argument when you have two children who are raised in a home where there is no such thing as a “girl toy” or a “boy toy.”  They both wanted to play with it.

Two extremely “Type A” children, one car, one remote. You see where this is going?  If they weren’t arguing with each other about whose turn it was, they were frustrated with the car for not doing what they wanted it to do. Boy throws remote on the ground.  Remote breaks. Time out in the corner issued.  Fixed remote. Girl gets impatient- tries to take remote.  Boy swats girl. Remote gets thrown again.  Breaks again. Another time out.   More frustration. Pushing. Shoving.  “It’s mine!” “I want it!” “You can’t have it!” Grabbing. Tackling. Remote gets thrown…Repeat.

I usually keep my emotions in check when it comes to parenting but spoiled, rotten behavior infuriates me.  Entitlement gets under my skin.  Lack of gratitude simply pisses me off.  So I lost it.  Getting two garbage bags, I walked into the den and took the car, the remote…and every other toy they had in there.

“No toys for the day!” I shouted out of sheer aggravation.  “If you don’t treat your toys kindly and you can’t treat each other with respect, forget it.  No toys.  No TV.  No Ipad.  Nothing.  Nothing at all that costs money,” I barked out while feeling the heat of my anger in my furled forehead.  “You may have a piece of paper and crayons.  You may read.  You may go outside but go nowhere special.  I refuse to have ungrateful children who don’t know the value of what they have. You clearly have too much that you think you can treat each other and your stuff like that. So there are no toys for the entire day!  And we’ll see if you earn one or two back for tomorrow.”  Then I just got quiet.  I could hear my breath.

It doesn’t make me proud when I lose my temper.  I think it’s kind of ugly even though it’s human.  As a Child Development Specialist who speaks around the nation on parenting and working with kids I often expect myself to be text-book perfect—even though that’s completely unreasonable.  But I said what I did, so no toys no matter how much they apologized or whined for them.  Especially if they whined.  That really drives me nuts.

My head swam for the rest of the day.  I felt deflated.  I felt like a failure.  Why were my kids acting like this? Questioning why I couldn’t have just kept my cool and talked it out with the simultaneous compulsion to make kindness, gratitude and respect a big deal issue, I wondered if I did the right thing taking away everything while also contemplating if I should ever give the stuff back.

By the time one of my closest friends came by to drop by a CD of photos from my son’s birthday party, a very happy day indeed, I had moved from anger to sadness.  We talked it out and the cloud was lifting.  I read 2 articles that were circulating about having bad parenting days— and reminded myself that I’m not alone in grappling with all this stuff. My friend told me to take it as a sign that I was a good Mom, that these feelings were normal and it was time to let it go. I made a conscious decision to take a breath and shrug off the morning.  It was the middle of the afternoon, after all.

By the time dinner time rolled around, I was fine.  The nighttime ritual went well and everyone went to sleep on time.  I was in bed by 10:30.  I wanted to keep this day as short as possible.

Upon waking up when my son called for me at 6:45, I made a decision that today was going to be better.  And it was.  I even gave a few of the kids’ toys back because they were behaving quite well.  Not perfect—but that’s never required.

So when they started arguing about the “Build a car” toy that came with its very own drill, screws and bolts, I was ready.  We had a plan for positive turn-taking and sharing.  And when my daughter took one of the screws my son had just reverse drilled and he swatted her again, I took a breath and remained calm.  The car was removed temporarily and my son had a time out. He walked back in the room and I helped him say what he needed to say to be both assertive and respectful.

“When it’s my turn…” I prompted.

“When it’s my tuwn, pease don’t touch it, Tawwie,” he said assertively.

“And when it’s your turn…”

“And when it’s your tuwn, I won’t touch.”

“And I’m sorry…”

“And I’m sowwy for hitting you.”

After my daughter apologized for taking the screw in the first place and all was well again, they worked together quite nicely, taking turns and sharing. I told them how proud I was of them. Three screws drilled in, three screws drilled out.  Switch. So the morning had started off on the right foot despite the minor sibling rivalry and the day before was becoming a distant memory.

I later took my son to his 3 year old doctor’s appointment and then over to meet his counselor at the little camp he’ll be going to over the summer.  We met my husband for lunch at a little place in the next town.

While at the restaurant, we played “I spy” and drew in a coloring book.  But my son started to get impatient and yelled. I immediately took him outside and explained; “Going to a restaurant is a privilege.  We must be kind and thoughtful of other people.  We can not yell—we must speak in a soft, inside voice.  Do you understand?”  We went back inside and all was well until a second yell.  The kindness message was repeated with the added remark that if he couldn’t keep himself from yelling, we weren’t going to be able to stay.  If he wanted to stay, he needed to follow the rules and speak in an inside voice. He agreed.  No further incident happened.

Just before leaving, a lady of about 75 came to the table and leaned over to me.

“I’m really impressed by how you handled the situation with your son today.  You are a wonderful parent.  I can tell you that I’m proud of my 3 children and I have 8 grandchildren.  Many parents don’t do what you do.  You’re doing an excellent job.”

I nearly cried.  Tears did in fact come to my eyes.  “I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear that today.  I truly appreciate your kind words.”

 “We all need encouragement” she continued.  And you can be proud of the job you are doing.”

Wow.  So let me leave you with what I learned from this whole situation—which really is the most important part of all this, isn’t it?

  1. We are all going to have bad parenting days.  But there is always tomorrow.
  2. Clear the “cache” at night.  Don’t take the rain from yesterday into the possibility of a sunny day today.
  3. Make a conscious decision to have a good day, even when you are tired and don’t think you have it in you.
  4. Talk to a good friend.  Good friends totally rock in these circumstances— they can help you put things into perspective and move forward.
  5. Remember it’s a bad parenting day.  You are not a bad parent.
  6. Don’t expect perfection.  You are human, after all.
  7. Go to bed early.  Sleep helps.
  8. When your kids do something wrong, take a breath. Then speak.
  9. Praise your children when they get it right.  They need to hear that.
  10. Tell parents when they are doing a great job.  They probably need to hear that too.  I know I did.

So let me say it now. You, too, are doing a great job.  You may not always get it right.  You may lose your sauce some days and think you are the worst parent ever.  You’re not.  And even if things aren’t going well right now, remember, there is always another moment…another day…another chance to make it better.  What I’m saying is; even a great parent can have a bad parenting day.  Onward, fine parents!

 

 

 

Boy Toys, Girl Toys and What Kids Learn When We Allow Them To Choose

vet_hospitalsmAs a parent, I often wonder about how the toys and role models in my children’s lives translate to behavior.  I tend to be the kind of mother who encourages a wide range of toys, games and books.  I am less about banning (unless it is truly counter to our family’s core character-based values) and more about providing a continuum of options so that my children gain experience, choice and understanding.

That means that we have everything from princess dress up and dolls to blocks, science kits, dump trucks and dinosaurs.  And both of my children play with whatever they choose to that day.  Yes, my son has put on a tutu while bouncing and laughing in our basement bounce house and my daughter has crashed Batman and Wonder Woman action figures into a tower of blocks, saving the “little people” trapped inside from disaster.  I’ve played race cars with my son while crawling around on the kitchen floor and my husband has played dolls with my daughter while cuddling in the den. To me, it’s all good.

But I sometimes see that a range is not provided or accepted in households around America and elsewhere.  Boys play with “boy things” and girls play with “girl things” exclusively.  What do our children miss out on when toys, books and games are selected for them rather than allowing them to gravitate naturally to what interests and intrigues them?  What do they gain when they are the masters of the toys, games and books they see?

While it may not be obvious, my feeling is, quite a bit.  When our children are masters of their own toy rooms, they learn what they love.  They gain a more complex understanding about history, empathy, technology, language, engineering, art and science.  They learn that their personal passions are valid and imagination or play of many kinds are fun.

I asked my 2 ½ year old son what he liked about wearing a tutu in the bounce house a few weeks back and he told me; “It’s funnyyyy! And I yike how it goes up and down when I jump!” Yes, yes, that makes sense.  He likes the science of it—a piece of clothing that catches air when you jump is cool! Isn’t that…awesome?!  And here some might be stressing out about what wearing a tutu in a bounce house can do to a boy’s “future masculinity” but truthfully, he couldn’t care less.  He’s having a blast! Can’t we just let children play?

Skip to the cars as I asked the same question; “What do you like about racing cars in the kitchen?” My son answered; “they go weally, weally fast and woooooh they cwash!” Yup. Physics. Mechanics. Cause and effect.  Good for every gender!

spidermansm-200x300My daughter has been known to “acquire” my son’s Batman figure as well as his Spiderman book.  She asked for a Superhero book of her own for her most recent birthday that features Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman all together.  She’s even going as Wonder Woman to a Superhero/Princess birthday party this weekend.  When I asked Tallie what she likes about Wonder Woman, she told me; “She’s cool! She fights cwime!” Justice. Power. Self reliance.  Good for every gender!

And the lessons generalize to other areas of life. I saw something pretty remarkable the other day at the playground.  As Tallie was climbing up a steep slide, she struggled to reach the top.  Her brother, already at the top put out his hand and exclaimed; “Tawwie! I’wl save you!”  I saw her stop for a moment and look at her brother. Then she just kept climbing as she called back; “I don’t need saving! I can do it myself!”  These words are rooted in countless conversations we’ve had while playing both princesses and Superheroes.  Don’t wait to be saved; save yourself.

superheroessmThis morning, Wonder Woman single-handedly stopped an oncoming train from crashing into the building of blocks that we all built together– and Batman rescued the people off the train. Unfortunately, there was a casualty.  The Wonder Woman action figure was decapitated.  Who makes a Superhero with such a flimsy neck? She’s an Amazon Princess Warrior for cripes sake– not a runway model! Ah, well, off to the store to invest in a Wonder Woman toy that can hold her ground…and keep up with my kids!

 

 

 

Heavy choices: Would you put your 7 year old on a diet?

dara-lynnweiss-300x168This morning I was on the set up for a segmenton Dara-Lynn Weiss- the mother who was made famous for publicly putting her daughter, age 7, on a diet. Her daughter’s doctor had told Dara-Lynn that her daughter was obese and was immediately put on a strict diet of limited foods and counting calories.

What would you do in the same situation? It’s a difficult choice. Clearly the doctor was concerned about the child’s health and we are all too familiar with the psychological repercussions of children, dieting and weight stereotyping.

Every parent wants their children to grow up healthy and happy. So it’s not surprising that when a parent hears their children’s weight is compromising their health, that they jump into action . But parents need to tread lightly here. Whatever you say to your children about weight and diet will provide the template for how those children will regard weight and diet for the rest of their lives. Will they see food as a delicious way to gain energy and health or will they view food as the enemy?

There are so many messages that tell children that they are not good enough the way that they are— we don’t want to convey a value judgment when it comes to food and weight, but rather, teach our children that when we eat in healthy ways, we gain the energy we need to live our best life. I believe we can change a child’s relationship with food without putting a child on a “diet” – do you?

Take a look at the segment. What do YOU think? If you were this mother, would you choose the same path or would you do something different?