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

Preschool Children & the Effects of Fast-Paced TV? Dr. Robyn Silverman talks about a new study


Isn’t it true? Most of us these days probably have the TV on at some point during the day—but we probably haven’t given too much thought about it’s effect on executive function. My preschooler, Tallie, loves her daily dose of Sesame Street in the morning. Most of the parents I know allow there children to watch a few educational shows during the day.  Do you?

This morning I was on The Today Show talking about a new study that came out today on screen time and preschoolers. The study, in the journal Pediatrics, provides additional evidence on something we already likely knew: Too much TV is not a good thing.  But it also provides more nuanced information that the type of TV your preschoolers are watching can also make a difference—especially with regard to executive function.

Method: Sixty 4-year-olds were randomly assigned to watch a fastpaced television cartoon or an educational cartoon or draw for 9 minutes. They were then given 4 tasks tapping executive function…Parents completed surveys regarding television viewing and child’s attention. (Lillard & Peterson, 2011)

What is Executive Function?

Executive function is the collective term for the process of being able to pay attention, make a plan, and actually carry out that plan until the goal of that Read more

Children & Swearing: Dr. Robyn Silverman on Good Morning America as Child/Teen Development Expert

A new study is telling us that children as young as 2 years old are swearing more than ever.

Of course they are!

We see so much more swearing through TV, internet, and other technology that it’s become normalized. Something like WTF has become part of the culture that it’s like an entity in itself- people don’t even think of it like a swear and it becomes more “funny” than offensive to people. However, we cant just blame media for that- what’s handed down through the media is then delivered through a trusted source such as parents or peers- then it makes a real difference.

So, while I’m not surprised by the results of the study, it’s important to note that people are quick to just point the finger at media. As parents, peers and educators we must realize that we need to take some responsibility for it as well. We can take some control over it.

What should you do if your children are swearing? If you don’t want children to swear, you need to first look at your own behavior.  If you are swearing, if someone in your household or family is swearing, if you are watching media where swearing is prevalent, these are some things that you can curb.

You also need to look at your own reaction to these words.  If you hear it and laugh or hear it and fly off the deep end, your child has discovered a very intriguing way to push your buttons and he will likely do it again.

We also need to set boundaries and rules around swearing. If you don’t want your children to swear, and they currently are, set the rules that you want them to follow and the consequences if it happens again. Then, be consistent with those rules and consequences.

Finally, make sure to underscore your values.  Make respect and impulse control part of your own Powerful Words in your home.

You might be wondering; what’s the big deal? It might not always seem to be! When kids are amongst their peers, it might be considered cool or just simply, “normal.” But when your child drops the “F-Bomb” or the you-know-what hits the fan in mixed company (with his teacher, when talking to his principal, in front of your mother-in-law!) then people might conclude that perhaps the parent is using these words at home, that the parent has no control over their children, or that the parenting itself is too lax. That may not be the actual truth—but these days, perception seems to trump accuracy!

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New Study Says Weight Teasing Has Profound Effects On Preteens and Teens

relational aggression and mean girl bullying

We know that bullying and relational aggression can strip children of their dignity, self esteem, and desire to go to school.  Having focused on appearance-based discrimination in my own research and in preparation for writing Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, I quickly realized that what I termed “body bashing” or “body bullying” can be particularly insidious as it plays on a major insecurity in many preteens and teens.

So it isn’t surprising yet still sad that a new study in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology suggests that teasing about weight can have profound effects on how young people perceive their bodies. Read more

Can Boxing in Our Kids Curb Their Leadership Tendencies?

Rules for children- safety or dead end?

Boxing in our kids: Do We want them to Follow the Rules or Not?

Follow the rules. Think outside the box.  There is something very incongruous about these 2 statements.

Since we are talking about manners this month for Powerful Words, I started to ask myself, do we really want our children to simply follow the pre-determined rules or do we want them to think outside the box? I mean, after all, it used to be good manners to be seen and not heard.  People broke those rules and we’re certainly better for it…I mean, most of the time anyway.

Since bringing out the leader in children is certainly one of my interests and goals, boxing kids in is not desirable.  We want them to be safe and fair but we don’t want them to be stifled. So where do we draw the line? It seems that balancing rule following with allowing for rule testing is the answer.

Last year a study came out in The Leadership Quarterly that said Read more

Self Control Sunk? New Study Tells us Why to Eat Cake

Smokers and self control

Trying to kick your smoking habit? Have an older teen/young adult who needs to quit? Let smokers eat cake! Well, that’s what the studies show. Our self control (our Powerful Word of the Month) can only go so far.

This may be the reason so many struggle with restrictive New Year’s Resolutions. It turns out, if you tried to take on too many restrictive things at once, you are probably struggling right now with those New Year’s Resolutions. So researchers say…if you’re going to quit smoking, you may want to indulge in a little chocolate cake– or something else that is tempting to you.

UC San Francisco researchers Dikla Shmueli and Judith Prochaska have found that self control certainly has its limits. It turns out, it’s not a good idea to try to change too many things at once when dealing with temptations.

The Study, part 1: 101 smokers participated in a study on food temptation. They were told that the Read more

Self Control is Contagious: The Good and the Very Ugly

Self control is contagious. Women and drinking.

You are who you hang out with– or perhaps we should say, you do what you see.

So…want great self control? Hang around with other people who have great self control. A recent study out of the University of Georgia and Duke University suggests that self control or lack of self control, is contagious.

We see it with kids– they’re more hyper around the kids who are hyper and more relaxed around the kids who are relaxed. We see it with teens– they’re more inclined to smoke or drink around peers who do the same. They’re also more likely to say no to such things when they have friends who do the same.

There are a lot of perks to this news– if you are trying to curb some unhealthy habits like binging on high sodium, high sugar fast foods or, perhaps, like smoking, drinking, cheating, stealing, or lying, hanging around with others who have strong self control is the way to go.  By the same token, if you choose to hang around those who have poor self control, you will likely have to suffer the consequences as well.

This study– or series of studies– caught my eye for a few reasons. Read more

Breastfeeding Makes College-Bound Kids?


Talk about a touchy subject.

For those of you who have infants in the house, you might want to pay attention to this interesting bit of news.  According to a new study published in the Journal of Human Capital and featured in the NYT this morning, breastfeeding is associated with “substantial” increases in grade point average in high school and a higher likelihood of your child getting into college.

What did the researchers do? Reis and Sabia compared children who were breastfed with their own siblings who had not been breast fed.  My comparing children in this way, they did not have to adjust for mother’s education or possible interacting facotrs like socio economic differences between children.

Who did they studfy? They  studied data on 126 children from 59 families which had been collected as collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

What were the interesting findings?

  • For each additional month of breastfeeding, there was an average increase of  .019 points in a child’s high school grade point average and a .014 percent increase in probability that the child will attend college.

What is your opinion of breastfeeding?  What do you think of this studies results? Is it every parent’s responsibility to breastfeed in order to breed smarter children? Looking forward to hearing your opinions.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Do Latinas and African American Girls Have Better Body Image?

do ethnic girls have better body image?

Do Latinas and African American Girls Have Better Body Image?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

A new localized study caught my eye this morning because it talked about a discrepancy in the way Latinas viewed their bodies in comparison to the way that mainstream American women view their bodies. In particular, the researchers suggested that the Latinas they followed wanted to lose weight due to health reasons rather than for looks. So do Latinas have a more positive body image? What about African American girls and women?

While it’s been suggested for quite some time that Latinas and African American women have a more positive body image than their Caucasian counterparts, the sample size of this study was quite small (35 Mexican American immigrants) so more research to add more confidence to the researchers conclusion are necessary. The fact that these women were born and raised in another country certainly makes it much more likely that they would have a better body image than girls and women in American who are constantly exposed to media that makes them feel inferior and “less than.”

Studies don’t always agree on the topic. Of course, while middle to upper class European-American families tend to be the focus of most empirical research on body image, all social classes and ethnic groups are becoming increasingly affected as shown in the research produced in the last 20 years.

What if the Latinas were born in the United States? Body image plummets. The American Association of University Women found that Latinas between the ages of nine and fifteen actually maintained a negative body image and those who were “happy” with themselves dropped by 38% as they increased in age. More recent studies explain that Latinas born in the United States, and thus exposed to American culture, are more likely to prefer a smaller size and express the same concerns about their body shape and weight as European-American females. These girls believe that they are too fat and should strive for a thinner body. In fact, Latinas were recently reported to have the lowest levels of body satisfaction than any other girls in the United States (Robinson). Even the youngest children are compromised.

While there have been hints of body image problems among Asian-American and African-American adolescent girls, lack of ethnically diverse research has caused such concerns to remain overlooked. In the recent past, studies have shown that the leanest 25% of Asian-American girls were significantly more dissatisfied with their bodies than European-American girls. In addition, although it has been shown in earlier studies that African-American girls are most secure with their bodies as a result of the cultural tolerance among African Americans for larger women, and lower incidence of weight-related discrimination than their European-American counterparts, African-American girls are not immune to American weight issues. It has been recently noted that there are no racial differences between black and white girls in their efforts to lose weight or to practice chronic dieting (i.e. Schreiber)

Not surprisingly, concerns have been voiced about young African-American girls’ recent exposure to very thin African American media models and actors and their possible negative influences on body perceptions and attitudes. Interestingly, in the last five years there have been a significant amount of weight loss concerns among prominent African American celebrities such as talk-show host, Oprah Winfrey, and others, found that Black female stars in the film, music and fashion industry are now just as thin as their European-American counterparts. Girls just don’t feel that they are “enough.”

Such unachievable ideals have been on the rise in European-American culture as illustrated by the models featured in many well-read magazines, on the internet, and on television during the last several decades and this trend has been blamed for America’s weight obsession. However, thinner, more diverse media personalities are fairly new to the African American population and culture and are likely raising weight awareness in more diverse communities.

We’ll talk more about this in my upcoming book which will be out in 2010. Would you like to conttribute a story to it? Please do!

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