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How I Talked to my Children about the Black Lives Matter Protests and How You Should Too

robyn_purple42-200x300The other day, my children, ages 6 and 7, asked me why people were protesting at the Town Hall building we passed after leaving the animal shelter we visited. People were holding up signs saying; “Black Lives Matter” while police patrolled the area from the perimeter. Even though I knew it might be a tough conversation to have, it felt necessary. It felt on purpose. You know what I mean?

I explained, as many times as necessary, how there are some police officers who made horrible mistakes and who were very wrong and that people are rightfully angry–and there are many police officers who are kind and helpful and who keep us safe but are often mistrusted because of some officers’ actions. We talked about people dying due to the color of their skin (Tallie, my 7-year-old, exclaimed, “again!” And I corrected; “no, baby…still.”) I answered many questions as honestly and humbly as I could. I hate having to have this conversation. But I will have it as many times as is necessary.

A woman overheard me talking about it at a local restaurant to Noah (he was confused why police officers were there at town hall protecting the people who were protesting and wondered if they might get shot and wondered if those police officers would shoot people). This was not a time to clam up even though it took some persistence and deep breaths. She came over to me after the conversation and said; “I heard you talking about the protests. You did such a great job. I’m just the Aunt and the kids asked me about it but I didn’t know what to say. I’m not good at this.”

I will say here what I said to her. “How wonderful that they turned to you when they needed clarification. They trust you. None of us have all the answers. You don’t need to have all the answers. Just answer them as honestly as you can in words they can understand. Be present. Sometimes that’s the best we can do. And just being there and being as honest as we can– it’s enough.”

It’s time to have these tough conversations. It has to start now if we are going to make change happen. And believe me, this conversation is not over. The best conversations are never given only once but over and over in more nuanced ways. Let’s simply begin and get the ball rolling. There’s no time like the present! ‪#‎Peace‬ ‪#‎StPaul‬ ‪#‎BatonRouge‬‪#‎DallasStrong‬

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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?

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Tips that Work! How do I get my kids to do their chores?

Chores. So many children dread them. Why would anyone want to work when they would rather play? Cue the frustration, fighting and fury!

choresIt doesn’t have to be this way. And tasks at home must get done! So how can we get our children to do their family “chores?” Here are my “4 Cs” that can get everyone to pitch in and help out!

 

 

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Conversations that Matter: Leadership and Making Mistakes

When do you talk about the importance of making mistakes? When can you convey, at home or at work, the growth opportunities that happen because you go out on a limb and make mistakes? I say; whenever the opportunity presents itself.

In the 2-minute video above, I talk about seizing the opportunity and conveying to ourselves and to those we teach, inspire, train, guide or lead that when trying newer skills:

(1) Mistakes are normal.

(2) Mistakes often show that you had the courage to try.

(3) Mistakes allow you to learn and grow.

(4) Aim for doing your best NOT being perfect.

(5) Our flaws are what make us human, lovable and interesting.

bigstock-mistake-concepts-with-oops-me-94865918-450x300If you think about it, if we aren’t making mistakes, it may be because we aren’t trying something new or we aren’t truly engaging in the learning process. Without mistakes, how would we know that we do our best when we have more time to study (and worse when we leave it until the last minute)? Without mistakes, how would we learn when we get our best work done, where and when we are the most productive (and when we are not), who are the right people to surround ourselves with and who drag us down? We must love ourselves as the learners we are and realize that without learning, there would be no growth. As leaders, growth is what makes us better, stronger and more skilled.

In other words; don’t fear mistakes, embrace them. They are the ticket to your next learning opportunity.

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Can Adults Benefit from the Concept of Not Yet too? Yes they can!

growth-mindset-brain-scan-square-450x449Do you or those with whom you work or live often give up or shut down when a skill or concept is a bit out of reach? Are you or those you work with using language like; “it can’t be done,” “I can’t do it,” “I don’t know how,” or “It can’t happen?” You might be dealing with a fixed mindset that needs to be shifted so you (or the person in question) can grow.

This past year, I’ve talked a lot about the concept of “Not Yet” when presenting to business leaders and adults who work with children, teens and young adults. The idea of “not yet” here comes from Carol Dweck who discusses the “Not Yet” concept when presenting about shifting the mindset of young people. When we use the concept of “not yet,” she explains, we set children up with a growth mindset—one that allows them to see that while they have “not yet” mastered a new concept, they are on their way. They are making progress.

Those who had a fixed mindset only focused on the fact that they hadn’t mastered a skill “now” and therefore were more likely to cheat and assume they were unlikely to improve. “Not Yet” can make a big difference. Interestingly, they use the concept of “not yet” in my children’s school. And yes- I think we are missing something if we only apply it to kids.

So what about the concept of “Not Yet” for adults?

Whether you are an entrepreneur, parent, coach, teacher, CEO or business employee, you, too, have to shift your mindset to one that embraces “not yet.” Do you believe you can improve? Do you have room to try out new skills so you can get better? As adults, it’s so easy to get stuck in a rut perpetuating the myth of “this is how it’s always been done” or “old dogs can’t learn new tricks.”

Frankly, I think that is a bunch of garbage.

Do you want to employ the concept of “not yet” and change your results? Then, let’s go for it.

Here are some quick tips to keep in mind:

  • Try new skills with the knowledge that you WILL improve. You may not have the concept “yet” but it’s simply a matter of time and practice. Believe that you will improve and master the concept.
  • Stop the negative self talk. Having a negative nag in your ear is never a helpful strategy for success. Answer negative self talk with the concept of “not yet” and then keep practicing and working towards your goals.
  • Show yourself the evidence: As you work to improve, chart or write down your progress. Learning to become a “runner” for the first time? Write down how long you were able to run for today. Trying to stay calm in the morning rush without yelling? Chart how long you were able to make it this week and what strategies worked for you. Trying to get better at presenting at work in front of others? Write down what you did better today (clear voice, clear concept, succinct points, etc). When you look at the evidence, you will see how you are improving over time.
  • Keep going: If Rome wasn’t built in a day, 1000 practices before you become an expert and it takes at least 30 days to create a habit, how long will it take you to see improvements? That might seem like one of those convoluted word problems from middle school but the point is—improvements take time. Don’t stop. Persevere. Engage that indomitable spirit and you will leave your fixed mindset in the dust.

Remember to embrace yourself as a learner who can improve. You are “in process.” You may not have the skill, the concept, or the knowledge today—but that doesn’t mean you won’t in time. You just don’t have it yet.

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Carol Dweck: “The Power of Believing That You Can Improve”.

Dweck, C. (2012) Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potential, New York: Random House.

Evolution of Another Body Image Conversation with my Daughter

monsterhighMy daughter is rounding the corner to age seven in February and if there is one thing I’ve discovered in the time that I’ve been her mother, it’s that all “big talks” are really just a series of small conversations about big issues. Body image is no exception.

Since I talk about body image in many of my presentations and keynote addresses, it’s no surprise that this is a hot button issue for me. I want my daughter to feel confident AND also know how to discern negative messages that come to us in the smallest, most benign-seeming packages. Studies tell us that consistent exposure to images, videos and other media that show extremely thin, unrealistic depictions of girls and women, can have an adverse effect on the body image, self image, attitudes and feelings of girls (and boys as well!).

Many parents and caring adults (mentors, teachers, family members) who have contact with girls (and boys!) often ask me for examples of specific conversations I’ve had with my own children so they can see how to have one of these small conversations that can make a big difference. Of course, your own presence, interest and love will come out in your own words. As I often say, “be ready!” These conversations can sneak up on you. AND if you aren’t quite ready– just tell your child; “I want to think about my answer for a little bit because it’s important– and I will get back to  you later on today. OK?” Then, make sure to follow up! And, if you missed an opportunity or you wish you said something else– no worries! There is no expiration date on do-overs! We all need them. ?

Here’s how my conversation went with my own daughter yesterday and today:

T, age 6 3/4, looking at a toy catalog: Mommy? Why don’t you like Monster High Dolls?
Me: Well, I don’t like that all of the dolls have the same, very unrealistically thin body that nobody would ever have in real life. Also, they are extremely made-up and the outfits aren’t appropriate as they are very short and tight. I wish they looked and acted more like real girls who all look different–girls who have healthy bodies of all different shapes and sizes– with kind faces rather than all those mean scowls all the time.
Later that day…
T: I did realize one positive about Monster High Dolls, Mommy. They come in different colors.
Me: Yes, I like that too. Because we are all different colors, aren’t we?
This morning…
T: You know Mommy, you’re right. These Monster High Dolls have the skinniest legs that nobody could ever really have. They look weird and then they have these big feet in very high heels that you can’t do anything in ever. They should make them look more like real girls. ‘Cause that would make sense!

Bingo.

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Parents and Teachers: How to Talk to Children about the Paris Attacks

paris-attacks-2How to Talk to Kids about the Paris Attacks and Other Tragic Events

By: Dr. Robyn Silverman

Many of us stayed up late watching everything we could about the tragic Paris Attacks on Friday night. We waited to find out more on Saturday about how many lives were lost, if the perpetrators were all captured and how France and other nations were going to respond.

As a mother of a 5 and 6 year old, I kept the news off while they were in the room and remember running up to the TV to turn it off when a Sunday morning story about the death toll suddenly came on—that’s not the way I want them to find out. Still, I don’t have my head in the sand. it’s important to be prepared to discuss these tragic situations as children hear a great deal in school and from their friends. And with older children in late elementary school, middle school or high school, they likely have head about it already.

How should parents handle it when a large-scale tragedy occurs in the world such as the Paris Attacks?

  • You are the trusted source: If you have a feeling that your children will hear about the tragedy in school, talk to them about it as soon as possible. You can give them the information that is true, appropriate and helpful. Older children might want to learn more about who was involved in the attacks- and there are some websites that provide easy-to-understand information that you can read together or you can read and then discuss the points that you feel are necessary. For example there is this and this for explanations of more complicated facts.
  • Use age-appropriate language and information: Children don’t need to hear the gory details. Give them the information that they need to know in words that they would understand. You can be factual without being gruesome. It is important to set the tone and provide the facts instead of allowing someone else, who may not be correct or appropriate, to do it for you.
  • Allow emotions and fears to surface: Don’t dismiss your children’s fears or emotions. Rather, allow them to have a safe place to express them. If you are upset (as humans, of course we are!), you can talk about being sad or frustrated without going into full detail or matching their intensity. For example, you can say; “I am sad this happened to these people” or “I am frustrated that I can’t help.” In fact, it’s best for adults to talk to other adults about their own feelings rather than delving in deep with children who may not be fully equipped yet to understand.
  • Let them know they are safe: Children are often concerned with their own safety and the safety of their friends and family surrounding them. Make sure they know that events such as these are rare. Talk to them about the adults in this world who are doing what they can to keep the people safe. Discuss the helpers, the heroes and those who are taking action to create peace in this world.
  • Keep an open door: Many children will need more than one conversation to put their questions, fears and concerns to rest. Let your children know that you are available to talk to them if they have questions. You may not know all the answers, but you will do your best to find them out or explore them with your child. For older children, don’t assume that they fully know what’s going on or that you know what they are thinking or feeling. Ask them what they know and how they feel about it. If you feel that there is a better person for your children to talk to about this tragedy, be the bridge or the passageway to the right person so your children feel that their questions have been answered.
  • Honor the loss of life: Whether the tragedy was Sandy Hook, The Boston Marathon bombing or the Paris Attacks, find ways to honor those who were lost. This may be orchestrated through a moment of silence, a family donation or finding ways to help personally.
  • Understand that children all react differently: Some children will want to talk about what’s happening while others might clam up. Some will have lots of questions, while others might seem disinterested. All children react differently. Be aware of hidden signs that a child is upset. For example, sleeping more or having trouble sleeping, withdrawing from friends or wanting to spend more time with family, acting out with poor behavior or wanting to stay home from school. Be open if and when your children become open to talking about the Paris Attacks or tragic events like them.

The best thing we can do for our children is to give them the time, space and arena to discuss their feelings and questions. Just being there can be a comfort when tragedies like the Paris Attacks, the Boston bombing, Sandy Hook occur. And of course, as always, hug them tight and tell them that they are loved. Feeling safe and secure can go a long, long way.

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THAT moment in the bathroom with your daughter

wey_77b_mommykiss-225x300We 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?”
Me: “Yes. When people are kind and full of character, it comes out their eyes and in what they do and it makes them beautiful. And people who are nasty all the time, even if they are pretty on the outside, are not beautiful.”
T: It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside. It’s the inside that counts.”
Me: “That’s right, Baby. People focus too much on what they look like on the outside and not enough on who they are on the inside.”
T: “Yeah. Because it’s what’s in your heart that makes you beautiful.”
Me: “Yes, my Sweet. That’s exactly right. Are you learning about being beautiful on the inside at school?”
T: “No, Mommy. I learned it from you.”

They are listening. You are enough. And maybe, just maybe, we’re not messing up this parenting thing as much as we thought.

Carry on!
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Tips on Helping Teen Fans Deal with saying Goodbye to Zayn Malik from One Direction

zayn-450x327As you can imagine, I have been receiving calls and emails this morning from the press asking me to provide tips on “the loss of Zayn Malik” from One Direction.  At first glance, I thought he might have died and quickly looked up the story so I could comment effectively.  But he didn’t die– he is simply leaving the group to move in a different direction– one away from his One Direction life.  In fact, he declared that he wanted to live as a “normal 22 year old.”

Fans have reacted with everything from well wishes to anger to depression to extreme frustration and sadness.  Why?

Social media and reality shows allow fans to have an all-access pass to watching and experiencing the growth, hopes and successes of their favorite stars over time. These young celebrities start out just like their fans in many ways– unknown and hopeful.  Involved fans root for their favorite unknowns, cheer for them and even vote for them as they become a recognized entity and eventually, a star.  But rather than these stars feeling untouchable to fans, they feel more like friends and family members.

xfactorzayn-450x300Adding to what I view as the “reality effect,” music has an added benefit of creating and putting an indelible mark on our memories– providing a time stamp on important moments in our lives. It’s as if these stars are present in our lives, offering a comfort on bad days and a celebratory song on good ones.

zayn_malik-450x229So it’s not surprising that when Zayn Malik said his farewells to One Direction, many fans started grieving his loss as if he was walking out of their lives. It’s a break up for them, too. Fan watched him move from young hopeful to star from X-Factor to international recognition. And now he’s leaving.

While it may seem silly to many, parents and mentors can provide an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on as their devoted teens watch Zayn Malik move forward with his life.  Shrugging off your child’s feelings will not win you any awards– so be empathetic without matching their intensity. You may even remember and share how you felt about a musician when you were younger but know that without the internet, you didn’t get as close and share in the life of that band member like your child feels s/he did.

As we know, time heals all wounds and of course, devoted fans can remember the good times simply by turning on One Direction and dancing to their hearts content. That’s the great thing about music– you can listen to it just as you remember it, over and over.

And of course, devoted fans can still watch their favorite group move One Direction forward without Zayn Malik– a change, yes, but as many of us can attest, change can be good even if it’s different.

Fans can also cheer for Zayn as he continues to post about his life independent of One Direction.  They may even feel happy for him once the sting subsides– and as all pain does, this one will too.

So– bottom line. You may think it’s ridiculous but your devoted teen is really feeling pain and experiencing what they see as a real loss. Be gentle with them.  They’ll thank you for it.

Pros and Cons of Children in Sports: Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Today Show

The Today Show brought me on today to kick off a series on children and sports along side football player, Greg Jennings!

What are some of the benefits that children gain from playing sports?

There are so many reasons why sports are great for kids, from the obvious physical reasons to learning social skills to lowering the probability of engaging in risky behavior like drug abuse. But one of my favorite benefits of sports and one I love to present about to children and adults—is that sports can help develop character and grit in children—teaching them to set goals, go after them, overcome barriers and showing them that if these kids dig deep, they have what it takes to achieve those goals.

There are so many pressures placed on the parents and the kids. If you want your child to be the best, you need to get the private coaches or you need to have them practice five days per week. At what point is enough, enough?

First, I think one of the key phrases we need to illuminate here is “if YOU want your child to be the best.” Children have to be as invested (or more) in their particular sport as their parents are or “enough is enough” is going to come way too quickly. Sports are about the children and the team, rather than the parents’ goals.

That aside, a good parent often knows when their child has had too much. When your child’s grades are plummeting, they always seem exhausted, overwhelmed, agitated and physically unwell, they have no time for friends, family or the other things they love, it is likely time to help them re-evaluate their priorities and what they truly want to do. We want our children to learn grit, character and the keys to success, but we don’t want to compromise their long-term mental or physical health.

What are some of the sacrifices families may need to discuss when children are involved with sports?

Sports can provide so many wonderful learning and health opportunities from physical strength, flexibility and endurance to mental strength, powerful character and lowered risky behavior.  Sports can be wonderful for children!

However, especially as the child grows and becomes more competitive in sports or involved in certain sports, time, money and energy will be allocated to this particular sport for this particular child.  That means the time, money and energy will not be allocated elsewhere.  Some sacrifices may be unstructured playtime, down time, extra homework time, sleep and other activities that your child also wishes s/he’d be allowed to do.  Lay them out on the table with all those who will be impacted in the family (the driver, the parent who has to wake up or travel with the child, the parent paying, the child) and decide if the sacrifices are worth it before you move forward.

How can children balance their schedule?

Competitive sports can get intense.  And while our children are todayshow_march2014b-300x225involved in sports, we also want them to stay on top of their academics, spend time with friends and family, relax and engage in other activities that they love.  But our children can’t do everything.  Some options to think about are (1) Limit the number of competitive sports to one (or maybe two if they are seasonal) per year, (2) Consider recreational sports instead of competitive ones or do a combination of each, (3) Schedule in breaks during the week or during the year when the pressure is off and the children can just be children.

How do we know if children are in sports for the right reasons?

Why are your children in sports?  There are clearly many benefits, however, we want to make sure our children are involved in sports in which they love and they want to participate.

As parents it’s vital that we don’t;

(1) Live vicariously through our children.  The question is, are they doing it for themselves or are they doing it for you?

(2) Merge with our children. Meaning, don’t allow the sport to become more important to you than to the child.  When we take over their responsibilities, attend every practice and game, talk about the sport all the time, coach them and say things like “we had a great practice today” and “we have a game on Saturday.”

(3) Wig out. If your moods depend on your children winning or losing or you find yourself screaming at the children or the coaches during the games, you may need to take a step back.

For all the parents out there, what is the most important thing to keep in perspective?

Our children aren’t all going to be Olympians and world class athletes.  And that’s OK! Remember that sports are supposed to be fun and teach kids about life and themselves—they’re not all about fame, fortune and winning.