Before the Tragedy: The Work We Must Do with Children Right Now

Dear Sweet friend,

How do you make sense of a senseless act?

When 17 people, students and staff, are killed in and around their school, a place typically regarded as a safe haven for those who attend, how can we explain it to children? How do we explain it to ourselves?

I’ve written several articles on how to talk to kids when bad things happen (like here and here). But we’ve gotten to a point when there is much more to the discussion that dealing with the aftermath, don’t you think? I would imagine you would agree, we need to turn our attention to what’s going on with our children these days that is laying the groundwork for such tragedies to occur.

We need to turn our attention to what’s going on with our #children these days that is laying the groundwork for such tragedies to occur. #ParklandSchoolShooting Click To Tweet
  • Mental Instability and the need for help: It’s easy for people to point to a killer and simply say, “he is mentally disturbed.” And yes, there are clearly mental issues happening here–chemical imbalances that need to be addressed. But what does this really tell us? What we need to take in is the fact that many people who have mental issues were once children or teens who needed help. Perhaps they needed counseling, medication or more. This is not something people can wish away- mental illness must be considered and treated appropriately when we see it.
  • Lack of empathy: I interviewed internationally adored, educational psychologist, Dr. Michele Borba, for my most recent podcast and she talks a great deal about the lack of empathy as a precursor for future violence. When we can’t put ourselves in someone else’s position and feel how they feel in that moment, our behavior can become cruel and unfeeling. What does this tell us? It says that we must make working on empathy and other key powerful words with children a priority. Helping children identify their own feelings, read the faces and body language of others, predict future actions based on their behaviors and repair damage done is vital. We can’t only attend to academics. Character and whole-heartedness must be on our daily agenda too.
  • Isolation and a need for a mentor: When I present to parents, educators or other adults who work with children, I often talk about the youth development research. One sobering statistic from a study done with Search Institute said that the majority of young people feel that they don’t have at least 3 adults to turn to in a time of need or challenge. What’s more is that many young people don’t feel that adults understand them or that adults can give them bad advice or leave them scrambling on their own when the advice doesn’t work. We need to help make things better, not worse. What does this tell us? It means that young people need us. They need us to take an interest, to listen, if asked for- they might need advice, but ultimately, they need someone to care for the long haul. Let’s be one of the three.
  • Seen for their faults: In today’s society, people often feel scrutinized for how they don’t measure up. They “compare and despair” as my podcast guest, Debbie Reber said, which can only serve to make them feel like they can never be enough. One of the issues I often discuss in my presentation Be a Strength Finder, Not a Fault Finder is that often our labels (whether self-imposed or given by others) can define us and lock us into a negative state of being. “I am ugly…I am lazy…I am stupid…I am a bad kid…I will never amount to anything” – these become repeated mantras that don’t only play with our minds but guide our actions. They become self-fulfilling prophecies. So what does this tell us? It says that while we need to provide guidance and corrections for our children, we also must illuminate their strengths. We need to tell them of the gifts we see in them and in others—and hold a mirror up to them so that they can see themselves for what they bring to the table. When we lead with strengths, they guide us forward. When we lead with faults, they hold us back.
When we lead with strengths, they guide us forward. When we lead with faults, they hold us back. Click To Tweet

We are shocked, or tragically, perhaps not as shocked now, when school shootings occur. In the moment, it is so jarring and we feel like there is nothing we can do. Thoughts and prayers are lovely but they don’t address the issues. The actions we must take are ones that happen in the years before the shooting. And that means, let’s start on it now.

  • Get children mental help when they need it.
  • Do social skills training with kids who are lacking in empathy.
  • Be a mentor or help find a mentor for children who can use some guidance.
  • See children for their strengths, not simply for what they lack.

These are small things that make a big difference. And lord knows, we need a difference right now.


Self Esteem & Success: How to Develop the C.O.R.E.™ of Your Children and Students

robyn_purple42-200x300Self Esteem & Success: Have your Children and Students Developed their C.O.R.E.™?  

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Self-esteem is a powerful thing. From the outside, some kids may seem to have it all, but at their core, they may feel as if they can’t do anything right. You know what I mean? I know you do- you’ve experienced it yourself and seen it with your own eyes.

On the other hand, some may seem to have been dealt a poor hand in life and yet, as their core, they behave as if they can do, be, or have anything. When mindset, heart, and opinion of self are crucial predictors of success, self-esteem can certainly make the difference.

In order to help our students thrive as powerful character-based leaders, they must see themselves and their contributions as worthwhile. When I speak to audiences around the world about construction of self-esteem, I detail my C.O.R.E. concept: Comparison, Observation, Recognition, and Experience. See how it applies to the children and students in your life!

What’s at their C.O.R.E.bigstock-girl-with-thumbs-up-10873130-450x450

Comparison: How do I stack up vs What strengths do I bring to the table? Those with low self-esteem often short change themselves while either elevating others or cutting them off at the knees in order to elevate themselves. Powerful role models don’t need to make comparisons to demean. Rather, they focus on what each person can bring to the table to form a cohesive group. 

Observation: Do the messages I glean demean me or support me?Messages come from many sources— such as the media, peers and parents. What messages are being sent to different students at your school? When we feel we are unacceptable to those we admire and trust, lower self-esteem is likely. Strong role models seek out people who make them feel that they are okay just the way they are as well as who help them to deflect, reframe, or challenge the accepted belief. Strong role models also do this for themselves.

Recognition: Are my qualities and assets overlooked or celebrated?Those with low self-esteem are more likely to receive low praise. On the other side of the spectrum they may receive too much “empty praise.” The phrase “good job” is uttered no matter what they do so it doesn’t hold meaning anymore. Strong role models are built with real praise. When we celebrate meaningful assets in our children/students and connect them with character, process and outcome, words can be harnessed and used whenever that person is placed in a leadership position.

Expertise/Efficacy: Am I honing or phoning in my skills? True internal drive, determination and stick-to-itiveness allow us to reach mastery. The development of expertise also depends on the character to do each challenge to the best of our ability—to knowingly do it right even if we have the chance to “phone it in.” In our society, this takes more ethics than we might give credit for. “Quick fix” appearance-over-substance culture has taught young people to develop their personas instead of the person—to develop persona in lieu of their character. When expertise is acquired in an area of real interest, whether it’s in skills, teaching, or coaching, young people can hone and even personalize their skills. Let’s face it; it’s gratifying to make progress and achieve in areas that are meaningful to us.

Sample questions to assess esteem:

  • What three things do you like about yourself?
  • What three things could you teach someone how to do?
  • What three people make you feel good about who you are?
  • What experiences make you feel powerful and confident?
  • How can our opinion of ourselves affect how we work with or lead others?

What is at the C.O.R.E of your children and students?

Dr. Robyn Signature