Dr. Robyn on GMA: Are Participation Trophies a Celebration of Mediocrity?


Good Morning America came to my house last night to ask me about a hot button topic discussed this morning on the show.

James Harrison, football star on the Pittsburgh Steelers, is one tough linebacker.GMA_participationtrophies  He also has drawn a hard line when it comes to parenting.  On Instagram this past weekend, he reported that his 2 sons received “participation trophies” and that he was returning them.

“While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy” (photo). “I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best. Cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy.”

Harrison used the hashtag #harrisonfamilyvalues to punctuate his point.

While many agreed with Harrison’s views, some also disagreed. Here’s what I think:

For some children who may have participation challenges due to social skills or shyness issues, a participation trophy can be a tangible way to encourage those children to participate more and celebrate their participation. For most other children, they don’t need participation trophies and can, in fact, learn important social skills and sportsmanship from winning and losing.

As parents and teachers, here are some important tips:

(1) Disconnect the term lose from loser: As parents, we need to help children learn how to be a gracious winner and, just as important, that even when you lose, it doesn’t make you a loser. When a Read more


THAT moment in the bathroom with your daughter

Dr. Robyn with her baby girlWe all get that feeling that we are messing up our children sometimes. I do too. Often…if I’m being honest.

I look back to when we first took our daughter home from the hospital and remember my husband and I looking at each other and wondering how in the world they let us take her.  We had no idea what we were doing!

And there are days, with both our children, that we still feel the same way. Do you feel that way too sometimes?

But as much as we think we are messing up at times, it’s also very likely, we are doing something VERY right.  Never forget how powerful you are.  Our children are taking in our words.  They are watching our actions.  They are adopting our values. And it does make a difference.

Everyday, there are opportunities to shape our children.  Of course, it’s what we do overtime that makes a lasting impact.  And sometimes, we DO get it right. And sometimes, we even get a chance to realize it.

Last night– I had THAT MOMENT in the bathroom while brushing teeth with my daughter:

T, age 6: “Mommy; am I beautiful?” Read more


Mind Your Manners! 5 Ways to Tame Rude & Crude Behavior in Your Children

Dr. Robyn Silverman answers one parent’s question about how to instill manners in her children– especially when they haven’t been overtly enforced in the past.

When children are very young, making people laugh or getting a look of shock is easy encouragement for someone looking for a little extra attention.  While it may not be so funny anymore, your children may still be looking for a positive reaction. They may also form some negative habits– resulting in poor manners. Creating new, positive habits around manners may take some time but will certainly be worth it as he shows others consideration, respect, and kindness.

We also can’t deny that boys, especially, get attention for lack of manners.  Peers might laugh or think such boys are courageous or “cool.”  Media underscores rudeness and lack of manners– so it makes it harder to raise boys without these negative influences.


In her video above, Dr. Robyn suggests and explains the following tips to help instill manners in children (watch the video for more information!):

(1) Nix the negative labels

(2) Dine away from home sometimes to provide opportunities to rise to the occasion.

(3) Explain, expect but don’t lecture

(4) Compliment, praise and be grateful when you see manners

(5) Don’t laugh at poor manners

And remember to be consistent!

Explore the answers to your parenting questions here and on our Facebook site or even on twitter! Join us!  We’re always talking about something interesting…



Ask Dr. Robyn: Teaching Children to Keep a Positive Attitude In New Situations


Dear Dr. Robyn,

My daughter will be going to a new school next school year. She didn’t have a positive experience this year since her friends got into a fight, asked her to choose sides, and she refused to do so.  They wound up both turning on her.  She now wonders if it’s her and thinks that the new school will just be more of the same. What should I do?  — Rachel:  Tallahassee, FL

In the above video, I talk in depth about 6 tips to helping children keep a positive attitude including:

(1) Realizing the prior situation was specific

(2) Watching the language you use

(3) Governing your thoughts, feelings and actions

(4) Presenting the evidence to the contrary

(5) Visualizing positive results

(6) Helping her to connect with others

Let me know YOUR thoughts– how have you helped your children to adopt a positive attitude in new situations?  Leave your thoughts here or come join us on Facebook!

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

“I hate you!” Six Tips to Help Parents Deal with Their Child’s Angry Words

“I hate you!”

No…your child’s body has not been taken over by aliens.  You do not need to clean out your ears. That’s right.  You heard it correctly.

Any person who has ever said that “words will never hurt you” never had their child say “I hate you” to his face. You know.  It has probably happened to you.

Being a parent is tough sometimes, isn’t it?  You know in your head that your child does not really hate you.  But when he utters those words…it’s hard not to feel a surge of sadness, frustration, hurt or anger.

We often don’t know what to do when our kids come out with these verbal lashings.  It’s unexpected.  Shocking. Isn’t this the little cherub that hugs you 20 times a day and can’t go to bed unless you’re there to kiss him goodnight?

When children are young, they don’t have the subtle language to beat around the bush.  When they are angry, they say it.  It’s normal.  It just doesn’t feel like it when it happens to you.

So…what should you do?

(1)  Look for the issue behind the words:  Your child doesn’t always have the language to explain his frustration.  When your child says “I hate you,” he might be having difficultly completing a task, attaining something he wants, or expressing a complex emotion like fear.  As parents, we must become a detective and figure out what our children are really trying to relay. Read more

Ask Dr. Robyn: 5 Tips to Encourage Generosity in Children


Here we are! Holiday season! At a time of year that shouts “buy, buy, buy!” how do we encourage giving and generosity in our children? Dr. Robyn Silverman answers a question about generosity and children from reader, Linda:

Dear Dr. Robyn: We want our daughter, Krysta, to be the kind of person who gives of her time and energy to others.  Kids are often all about what they get these days. Her cousins are so selfish– they get everything they want and don’t like to share.  Krysta gets jealous sometimes. We want her to be happy but we don’t want Krysta to pick up the same habits as her cousins have adopted.  How do we help her to become a generous, giving person?

How do YOU encourage generosity in YOUR children?

Playing Favorites: Do you show favoritism towards one of your children?

There has been a lot of talk lately about parents and favoritism among their children lately. It is a reality that happens in many families that brings feelings of guilt, shame and frustration. Did it happen to you while growing up? Is it happening in your current family unit?

Typically, sibling favoritism is not a calculated, desired outcome for any parent. Parents want to feel connected with all of their children. However, due to personality differences, temperament differences, and interest differences, certain parents will mesh better with certain children. It may not be fair and it may feel wrong, but nevertheless, it happens.

What can you do about it?

  1. Recognize each child’s gifts: Each child has something special to offer. They may be different from their sibling and they may be different from you but that doesn’t mean their gifts are not as valuable. What is each child good at? What is something beautiful and amazing about each child? Show your appreciation for what makes each child a valuable person and member of your family.
  2. Don’t compare: This is the downfall of so many families. One child is compared to another and someone always comes out short. It builds Read more

Helping Children Deal with Bullying: Creating Social Goals as a Solution

Bullying. There is no magic bullet to deal with it or prevent it.

As you may recall, NJ has implemented more stringent laws to deal with those who bully and to rally those in the schools to be more vigilant and proactive (I spoke about this on Fox news here). As you can imagine, that doesn’t mean that when I speak about bullying to the parents of Morris County, NJ in November, I will say that dealing with bullying is in the hands of the educators.  It can’t be.  When our children are part of the bullying triangle (bully, victim, bystanders), we need a home-school-community partnership just as we need a parent-educator-student partnership.  In other words, it’s everyone’s issue. It has to be.

There are some things we can do. Today let’s discuss one.  Social goals.  Social goals are what we hope to achieve when we are among others, in this case, peers.  In a recent study, researchers found that of the 370+ children they surveyed, social goals fell into three categories; (1) Acquiring social skills to nurture high quality friendships; (2) Acquiring a positive reputation to achieve prestige and “cool” friends; and (3) Avoiding negative reputation and negative judgments to circumvent being named a “loser.”

Now here’s the significant part:

  • Those in the first category (positive friendships), were more likely to more successfully manage their emotions, provide thoughtful and constructive Read more

Kiss My Assets: Lighting the S.P.A.R.K. in the Young People We Love

We know it when we see it. Strength. Power. Self-assuredness. Guts. The wonder of assets in motion. Brought to life in a child not only in the way s/he acts, but in the way s/he thinks and feels about him/herself and the world in which s/he lives. Studies of more than 2.2 million children and teens from the Search Institute, an organization that promotes healthy children, youth and communities, consistently show that the more assets young people have, the more successful they are, and the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors.

But it’s more than just a list of competencies. Our children must have what researchers at Search Institute call “spark” – an interest, talent, skill, asset or dream (academic, relational, athletic, artistic or intellectual) that excites them and enables them to discover their true passions, along with encouragement from trusted adults to nurture it. In my experience with young people, I have also seen spark further fueled when they have the “know how,” committed behaviors or “actions” behind those aspirations and defined reasons for pursuing their passion. Therefore, I’ve expanded the Search Institute term into the broader acronym, S.P.A.R.K.:

  • Support: Important mentors, most typically trusted adults, in different positions and places where girls work and socialize, who can guide, affirm, celebrate, and encourage a child or teen to keep going.
  • Passion: The animated need, self-identified, and the interest to pursue this goal at this time.
  • Action: The actual work that the child or teen commits to doing and actually does consistently without need of prodding or provoking.
  • Reason: The “why” that intrinsically motivates the child or teen to move forward and puts them in a state of flow.
  • Knowledge: The skills and capacity to actually tackle the goal.

How are you helping to provide S.P.A.R.K. in your children?  What do your Read more