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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

Is the “Chinese Mother” superior? Are Western Parents missing the boat?

I was interviewed for this yahoo.com article posted today about the opinion of one “Chinese mother” (her label) on the difference between Western parenting and Chinese parenting. How self esteem is really cultivated is certainly in question.

“Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches,” Chua wrote in her recent Wall Street Journal article. “Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently…. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish, and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.”

What do you think?

I think it’s important to note that according to recent studies, Asian-Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest suicide rates of all ages in that age group. They have the highest rates of depression as well.  “Model minority” and the intense pressures to achieve are often cited as factors of the suicides.

While we all have a lot to learn from one another—perhaps Western parents allow their children to quit too easily and may not push hard enough and Chinese parents (as defined by the writer) push too hard and use too many radical methods to ensure achievement—we know that self esteem, sense of self, and individuality develop throughout childhood.

How should success be defined within families? How do we know how hard we must push?

“If you look at the suicide and depression statistics of Asian-Americans, I think they contradict her assumption that this kind of verbal abuse has no effect,” says Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child-development expert and professional speaker. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Asian American women, ages 15-24. Asian American women, ages 15-24 and over 65, have the highest female suicide rates across all racial/ethnic groups…and family pressures are often cited as factors.” Read more

A Dad’s Perspective: Most Recent Review For Good Girls Don’t Get Fat

As a father to a 20-month-old girl, this just may be the most important book I’ve read since becoming a parent. Do something special for the girls in your life and read this book. — Chris Singer, Book Dads, reviewing Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It
Thank you, Book Dads (Chris Singer), for an outstanding review of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat– A Dad’s Perspective (on body image and girls)
A Dad’s Point of View on “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat” By Book Dads 5.0 out of 5 stars
How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It (Paperback)

I think the title of Dr. Robyn Silverman’s book (Good Girls Don’t Get Fat) really says it all. We’ve trained our girls to think they are bad or less of a person if they are fat. Whether it’s through magazines, television, the internet or ironically, the people who are supposed to love these girls the most (parents, siblings, “friends,” and teachers – yes teachers!!), girls are beginning to worry about their weight at younger and younger ages. While talk radio programs air news stories weekly extolling the dangers of obesity (which is, of course, also an important health issue), Dr. Silverman sees countless girls in her practice with only minor weight problems or none at all. However, these girls have convinced themselves they are fat and therefore “bad.”

The book provides excellent information of how aspects of a young girl’s life can send her the message of to be thin is to be happy, healthy, loved. The author takes the discussion from the “inside out” starting with what a girl thinks about her weight in her own head and continuing to cover how the various relationships in her life can exacerbate the issues. Including how powerful words can be in these various relationships (mother, father, step-parents if applicable, other family members, teachers and other adults).

Dr. Silverman uses a lot of tools, tips and worksheets throughout the book and are an excellent supplement to the information. Readers get examples of weight issues that may arise with girls and can read “Say What” boxes to give guidance on “what not to say” and “what to say” — (dads take note of that please). “Overheard” boxes appear throughout the chapters as well which share (read the whole review on Book Dads here: http://ow.ly/3sYEi)

Again, many thanks to Chris Singer of Book Dads! I would love to hear what you all thought was the most helpful part of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat and what articles and tips would help you in the future.  After all, 2011 is going to be a fantastic year…so let’s plan for positive body image, confident girls, and dreams fulfilled!

Body Image: Why it can’t be about FAT

Girl and woman weight and fatWhat’s going on with girls and body image? A fifth of teen girls in Britain admit that they “can’t bare to look at themselves in the mirror” according to a new survey of 1000 girls between the ages of 12 and 18 years.  Two-thirds want to lose weight and 63% feel that they are under pressure to change their appearance in some way. Yes, it’s safe to say that the body image of girls is certainly suffering.

We hear these types of statistics often and yet still question what we should do. Caught between the pressure of the “obesity epidemic,” I am often faced with the question, “but how can we NOT say something?”

It’s important to realize that this really isn’t about fat at all. Or it shouldn’t be.  We Read more

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

A HUGE step forward or back? ABC Family Show on Weight Loss Camp

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A HUGE step forward or back? ABC Family Show on Weight Loss Camp

ABC Family is debuting a show called HUGE on Monday night and we are all waiting to see how the show is received and what we’re all going to think of it. As a body image expert, the author of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat (due out in October 2010) and a child/teen development specialist, I draw a fine line between what moves us forward and what moves us back when it comes to weight, size, and body image.  As TV and celebrities like to be “in your face” or else they’ll have no viewers, they have taken a HUGE stance with HUGE—a full dramatic show centering on teens at weight loss camp.

Some might be frustrated.  I mean, why do we have to go there? In an attempt to move forward, don’t we simply want the gaggle of Gossip Girls to be more diverse in their cliquey membership? Yes, of course we do. But I do believe, this could be a step in the right direction.

Why? Because in a show where all the main characters are considered plus size, the typical Read more

Dr. Robyn Silverman Appears on the Tyra Banks Show Again!

Did you catch The Tyra Show Halloween special? This was a fun show…check out this clip where I helped Caitlyn (along with Top Model, Toccara!) overcome her fear of all things Halloween as she conquered Blood Manner in NYC. The courage technique I used with Caitlyn which I created for my coaching clients, is called “Beat The Fear” or BTF. BTF, in turn, stands for Body, Thoughts, and Feelings. Whenever we want to access our Powerful Words, Confidence and Courage, we need to remember to stand up tall in a way that shows confidence, think positive, confident thoughts, and remeber how we feel when we feel our most courageous and confident.  This puts us in the right state of mind to Beat The Fear.  Here’s The Tyra Show clip!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFE_P7-p0_o]

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PARENTS! FREE Back to School Fears Teleseminar Wednesday Night 8/26

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Only a few spots left!

FREE “How to Help Your Children Deal with Their Back to School Fears” Teleseminar!

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Good morning powerful parents!

After I was interviewed as the parenting expert for Education.com on How to Deal with Back to School Fears in Children and related articles, I was contacted my several parents who wanted to know more.  They were having many issues and concerns with how their children handled “newness,” especially the transition to school.

So I’m offering a special FREE Parenting Tele-Seminar TOMORROW for all Powerful Parents on Back to School Fears and Dealing with New Situations.

The Teleseminar will take place on THIS COMING WEDNESDAY, August 26th at8pm EASTERN, 7pm CENTRAL, 6pm MOUNTAIN, and 5pm PACIFIC.

There are a limited number of lines—and only a few left now that we are closer to the date.  Please sign up now to be part of this FREE event!

We will be going over several concerns and questions including:

  • What are some typical fears that children will be dealing with when going back to school?
  • How would parents know if their children are really having a problem?
  • What specific action steps can parents to take to help their children cope?
  • What would cause a child to exclaim “I’m never going back!”
  • What big mistakes can parents make in these situations?

And other questions too!

Looking forward to hearing you on the teleseminar! Sign up here!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Getting children to redefine what their best is…everyday

Dr. Robyn SIlverman as a young teenager

Do you see “vision” in the eyes of your child?

Dr. Robyn Silverman for Powerful Words

Some might say that the difference between a successful child and an unsuccessful child is brains.  Others might say talent. Still others, might realize that it may just be the vision and belief that one can set goals, go after those goals, and succeed in achieving those goals.

When I was about 8-12 years old, I was convinced that I was stupid.  My brothers had been in all the advanced classes- I hadn’t. My brothers got high marks on all their tests—I didn’t.  My brothers were among those kids invited to their teacher’s home for a special celebration of “smartness” and I…played with the Barbie dream home.

It wasn’t like I was failing anything—I was pretty much just average. But boy—it was convenient to believe otherwise. “I’m not as smart as my brothers” and “I’m stupid” became my mantra.  It was my answer to all things challenging at school—all bad grades, the reason I was more of a follower than a leader among my friends, my fallback mantra anytime I got stuck in a pickle–  it provided my perfect excuse for mediocrity.

What’s funny about the repetition of a mantra is that not only do you begin to believe what you are saying—but so do others around you. My family just knew that they needed to help me out quite a bit since I could hardly do things myself.  My mother barely would say anything about the Cs on my report card because they were clearly the best I could do. My father admitted later on in life that he began to thank God that I was cute since I didn’t get blessed with the brains in the family. It’s not their fault.  I was VERY convincing.

So, when I entered 8th grade, I didn’t expect anything different than my typical average performance. Nobody did. But in meeting Mr. Hendrickson, who asked us all to call him “Hendi” since he was only 24 years old at the time, I had met my match.  Still young enough to know what a cop out looked like and old enough to know the difference between poor self esteem and actual stupidity, he called me into his office.

“What do you need in order to ace this next math test?”

“I can’t ace any test.  I’m a horrible test taker and I stink at math.”

“But what if you could?”

“Could what?”

“Ace the test. What would you need to do it?”

“Someone else’s brain?”

(The parent/teacher look.  You know the one.  You probably give it to your children when they make such remarks.)

“OK. I guess I would need a lot of extra help (but I couldn’t resist)…but a brain transplant couldn’t hurt.”

“Fine. My door is open to you everyday during free periods and after school. As for the brain transplant, you don’t need it.  But you need a thought transplant. You need a new definition of what your best is.”

“I try my best.”

“No, you try what you once believed was your best. You need a new definition. Your current definition is yesterday’s news. What do you want now? What can you do now? I don’t think you know what you are capable of.”

“Not much.”

“You’re doing it again. I’m not buying it. I want you to wipe clean the slate and see what’s possible now.  You’re going to ace this test.”

“If you say so.”

No , I want you to say so.”

“I’m not there yet.”

“Get there.”

“I’ll try.”

You see, I was basing my performance level, my attitude, and my belief in myself on who I believed I was—the stupid one—not on who I could be. Once this belief was exposed, I needed to either prove him wrong or prove him right.

So for the next 2 weeks I came in every day for extra help.  An opportunity had opened up—not that it wasn’t always there but I hadn’t been willing to take it.  After all, why bother when the results were bound to be the same?  Perhaps even with extra help, I wasn’t going to be able to do it.  But in the back of my head, a tiny voice asked meekly, but what if you could?

The day of the test came. I took it and didn’t feel half bad about it. Not that that would make a difference—since the results were bound to be the same.  But what if they weren’t?

It was later on in the day that I bumped into Hendi.  He stopped me in the hallway and said; “You did it.”

Not believing my ears I asked, “I did what?”

“You aced the test.”

Doubting these different results I questioned, “are you sure?”

To which he joked, “I’m not checking it again.  See… you can do it.  And now we all know.  We all have a new definition of what your best is. So, now you’re really in for it!”

It’s a day that changed more than just my definition of my best. It told me what was possible. It changed my vision of the future and redefined what I was capable of NOW rather than going by what I thought I was capable of then.  It infused me with confidence and the ability to push myself and to redefine what my best is every day.

Children must have the ability to dream if you want to see them rise to their potential . They must believe in what’s possible even if it hasn’t been done before.  They must be willing to challenge themselves and others. And yes, they must redefine what is “their best” everyday and refuse to live by yesterday’s definition of one’s best.

As parents and teachers,we must give children the permission to succeed—dropping who they might have been and building on who they can be. Sometimes we all get stuck in believing their performance sabotaging mantras. It’s time to stop allowing it to happen.

So, how are you inspiring your children to redefine their definition of their best?  Looking forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

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Dr. Robyn On Radio June 15th: Discussing Body Image

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Hi everyone!

Join me via the web or on the radio in Harrisburg, PA, for an hour long discussion on body image.  I’ll be on the radio show “Smart Talk” on the station WITF, an affiliate of NPR.

Host Craig Cohen will lead the discussion on Body Image. From the shows and ads on TV, to the models in newspapers and magazines, to storefront windows, to…well…anywhere you look – images bombard us that tell us what we’re supposed to look like. And many of those images are not only utterly unrealistic, they can do great harm – to adolescents especially – who grow concerned about their body image. Vanity also has led to a booming cosmetic surgery industry. But where’s the line between reasonable, appropriate efforts to look one’s best, and unreasonable, unrealistic efforts to reach some sort of ideal? And what does it say about us that we feel so compelled to always look “better?”

If you’d like to hear the full show at a later date/time, audio will be archived that afternoon at witf.org. Click on the SmartTalk icon and look for Monday’s blog entry on Body Image.

Would love to hear from you!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs