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Parents forget child at Chuck E Cheese: 10 parenting tips for safety and preparation

I can’t believe I’m saying this…Parents are forgetting their kids at the children’s play place, Chuck E. Cheese’s.  While this may sounds like the makings of a Saturday Night Live skit to you, it’s actually the truth. Yesterday, Good Morning America called me to do a piece (which was squashed at the final hour) about a 5 year old girl who was left at Chuck E. Cheese’s last week.

It happened on Thursday night when the child was left at Chuck E. Cheese’s immediately following her own birthday party.  One of 10 children in a family, she was left behind by her mother—it wasn’t discovered that she was missing until the following day when her mother realized the girl wasn’t in her bed (she as getting her up for school).  Sounds completely implausible, right?

Perhaps.  But when 3 adults were attending the event with 19 children—things can get pretty hectic.  Was there a miscommunication of who was taking the child home?  Did everyone assume someone else was taking care of her?  We don’t know. The girl is now in protective custody until they determine what really happened here.

But, believe it or not, this has happened before to other parents.  In fact, it just happened last Monday to another family! Three-year-old Harmony was left behind by her parents at a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in Bel Air, Maryland. They only realized that they had forgotten her when they saw a report about her on the evening news. Apparently there have been other cases of this in other areas as well.

Were the children misbehaving? Were the parents trying to employ the safe haven rule at Chuck E. Cheese’s? No. Parents haven’t left their kids there because they were at their wits end, they were leaving them there…by mistake.

I know.  It’s ridiculous. How can people forget their child…let alone in a place that they attended for their children? But if you had 10 children…if it was a big crowd…if you made assumptions about who was picking up or dropping off your child…if you were exhausted or fed up or had a headache…could it happen to you or someone you know?

Whether you think so or not, this does beg some tips about parenting in a large, chaotic play place.

(1) Ensure that you have enough adults: When you have 19 children at a range of ages (some very young) and only three adults, you are out sorely outnumbered. There needs to be enough adults to ensure the safety of the children—especially when they may all be heading in different directions.

(2) Have an exit strategy: When you are dealing with multiple children, make sure every child and every adults knows where to meet, who they are going with, and how to check in with the adults.

(3) Make sure everyone knows the rules: Before entering a large play place, talk to your children about the safety rules. Even though this place is devoted to having fun, safety must come first.  Young children must be Read more

Walmart Kidnapping: How can I keep my child safe from unkind strangers?

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My Facebook page is hopping today after I posted about the little girl, Brittney Baxter, age 7, who fought her way out of getting kidnapped from Walmart yesterday, when a man grabbed her, covered her mouth and tried to subdue her.  The girl is safe and the alleged kidnapper in custody, but these stories of attempted child abduction always leave a trail of fear, frustration, concern, and questions from parents and educators.

Several parents and concerned citizens have gotten in touch because they are unsure about how they can protect the children in their lives from a similar situation. I wanted to reach out to you to provide some tips.  Please feel free to pass it on and repost the link as this is an issue on many people’s minds today.

In terms of “stranger danger,” what are we supposed to tell our young kids?

(1) People are mostly kind…but some aren’t:  For the most part, people are good, kind and helpful.  But not everyone. “Most people are very kind. When we go to the store, there are many kind people who are there to help you, right? Most people want everyone to be safe and happy. But some people are not kind.  Some people do not make safe and kind choices. We don’t always know who the kind and unkind people are because there are no superhero or villain masks in real life.”

(2) Stay by the person who brought you:  Your school age children should be told to stay by you or the person who brought them.  “When we go out, please stay where I can see you and you can see me.  Please don’t wander into the next aisle alone because I won’t be able to see you.  Wandering off is an unsafe choice.  Staying by me is a safe choice.”

(3) State what you want in the positive as well as in the negative: We Read more

Bah Humbug! 7 Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer to the Cheerless

Not feeling too cheerful this holiday season?

We all know that some people aren’t feeling particularly cheerful this holiday season.  Perhaps you are in that same boat. Recession. Poor health. Bad breaks.  Family frustrations. Maybe it isn’t even you—but you are constantly surrounded by doom and gloom such that you feel that you have to be (as one of my friends confided in me) “the proverbial daisy popping through the cement sidewalk for all.” Whatever your specific frustration, the holiday music reminding listeners of white snow and the commercials demanding that you buy the latest gadget are probably not helping.

So how are you supposed to bring cheer to the cheerless…especially if you’re the one who just wants to say “Bah Humbug?”

(1) Reach out to those who put a smile on your face: While you may not be able to leave your frustrations behind, you can catch a little time on the phone, on skype, or even in person with one of your favorite friends.  Sometimes the Read more

Ask Dr. Robyn: How do I cultivate perseverance in my children?

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How can parents encourage their children to persevere? In a world where attention seems to be short and quitting can be pervasive, it can be challenging to get kids to stick with something until the end.  Dr. Robyn answers one parent’s question about how to get her children to show perseverance in this short video.

Dear Dr. Robyn,

I am looking for ways to teach my child that quitting is not an option.  It seems that when he tries something new, he doesn’t always see it through to the end.  He puts up a real fight when we tell him he shouldn’t quit.  I find myself apologizing or taking over if I can. Can you give me some advice? — Paula; St. Louis, MO

Perseverance Quotes:

“Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.” — Douglas MacArthur Read more

Ask Dr. Robyn: How do I build confidence in my child? Part 1

The Powerful Word of the month is confidence!

Dr. Robyn Silverman. child development expert, answers one powerful parent’s question about instilling confidence in children in the following video blog:

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Part 2 of this addition of Ask Dr. Robyn will be provided in the next blog entry.  Check back!

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10 Tips for Working with Children with Poor Self Confidence

shy child

10 Tips for Working with Shy Children, Nervous Children, or Children who Lack Self Confidence

Dr. Robyn Silverman

It can be frustrating to work, teach, or parent children who lack confidence who seem shy or nervous.  Especially when you are an outgoing, confident person, shy and nervous children can seem like a mystery. That acknowledgment aside, you need to be sensitive and tolerant of children who are shy or nervous, or who lack confidence.

When working with shy or nervous children, remember to…

(1) Tell them never to fear asking questions: Questions lead to knowledge and knowledge leads to confidence.Don’t toss off questions as trivial, silly, rude or annoying.  When children question, they learn.

(2) Share Your stories about trials to triumph: When they hear your struggles and how you overcame them, they will learn that they can overcome their struggles as well. You can be a role model in action as well as in discussion.

(3) Highlight that persistence leads to success: We’ve heard it before. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall but rather, how many times you get up. People value persistence! Let them know that perseverance is more important that getting it right the first few times.

(4) Encourage them in the areas in which they excel: Many teachers and parents make the mistake of paying attention only when a child is struggling. Instead, focus on the child when he’s doing something right and when he can be a positive example to others. Nothing breeds confidence like feeling successful.

(5) Let them know it’s safe to make mistakes: You do it, they do it, their heroes do it, and their teachers do it too! Everyone makes mistakes. Many children are afraid to try because they’re afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes often lead to judgment. Make sure that these children know that they will never be judged negatively when they do their best and try their hardest—even if it doesn’t lead to success right away. Encourage them to “try, try again!”

(6) Praise appropriately: If they failed, don’t tell them they did well. You belittle them by doing so. They know what empty praise is by now. Help them to figure out what they can do to fix the problem and praise them for their courage and perseverance. Relay that you believe in them and with persistence, they will be successful.

(7) Help them to balance their goals with realistic expectations: Goals may take a while to achieve. We can’t all be an elite gymnast, swimmer or martial artist the moment we step into training. Goals are great but take time. We need to help these children understand that they move forward in benchmarks not leaps and bounds. By assisting them in mapping out their benchmarks, they will see that they are making progress.

(8) Don’t compare them with your confident children: Each child is an individual. By saying things like, “why aren’t you out there with the other children?” or “Katelyn is showing courage by doing X, why can’t you do the same thing?” you are only making the child feel bad and not honoring her own individual needs.

(9) Celebrate successes before moving on: Often, when a goal is achieved, we’re already onto the next goal before celebrating the success of the current one. It’s important for children to celebrate their success each time it happens. Let him or her take credit for those successes and talk about the qualities in your child that lead to that success. “You were courageous and persistent—you did it! Congratulations for sticking it out!”

(10) Accept your child unconditionally: Some children are shy or nervous while others are outgoing. Your child needs to know that whatever way they are, you accept them and you’re not trying to change them.

While these tips are especially important for shy children or children who lack confidence, they work for all children!

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Ask Dr. Robyn: Tips on Teaching Tolerance to Children

How can parents teach tolerance to children?

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman Child Development Expert

Dr. Robyn Silverman answers a reader’s question about teaching tolerance to her children who DON’T live in a diverse neighborhood. These are easy parenting tips that any parent can follow to inspire children to keep an open-mind, be more accepting of others, and show more tolerance for differences.

Tolerance is the Powerful Word of the Month!

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Do you have a question for Dr. Robyn? Enter it here.

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7 Ways to Raise a Sizeist Child

7 Ways to Raise a Sizeist Child

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

We’ve all heard it before. Media is riddled with it. Janice Dickinson scoffs at it. Tyra Banks yells about it. Keira Knightly and Kate Winslet are sick of media’s hand in it. It’s sizeism.

We see it when people stop and stare.  Point.  Laugh and say; “He’s sooooo fat.” “She looks gross.” “She’s way too short!” “Have you seen her thighs?  Her muffin top? Her butt?” Prejudice comes in all forms. Sizeism is just as ugly at the rest of them…and just as transferable.

Think about the people in your life. The folks at work. School. Your home. Do you know anyone with a sizeist attitude? Any idea where it came from? We can’t only point the finger at the media. It’s time to take responsibility for our own actions and reactions as well.

Here are 7 ways that you can teach a child how to be a sizeist citizen of our already sizeist culture:

(1) Your physical reactions out you: Even babies and little children can feel the difference when a parent holds them closer around a person that makes them squeamish. Imagine that every time a parent is approached by a fat woman or man, s/he is rude, belittling or snooty but every time a parent is approached by a thin person s/he is positive, kind, and relaxed. You might think that a child won’t pick up on your body language—but next to you, your child can likely sense body changes in you fastest and easiest. The message is clear; “Fat people make my parents feel uncomfortable, therefore they must be bad.”

(2) Your choice of words outs you: Everything that you say when you are around your children is likely heard—even if you don’t think it is. That means that what you shout at the TV, the comments you make when leafing through a magazine, or what you whisper to a friend at lunch when a fat person walks by may just be embedded in a young child’s lexicon forever. I’ve heard it in my parent coaching groups—a child will repeat what you’ve said in the most inopportune times. One client shared with the group last week that her 4 year old son walked into Walmart and sound loud enough for at least 25 people to hear “Woah! You’re right, Mom. Everyone IS fat in here!”

(3) Your reactions towards them outs you: When your children say something rude, sizeist or snobbish, the way you react is worth a lot more than words can say. For example, a parent came to me and described the following: In her 5 year old daughter’s dance class a few weeks back, one of the other girls was demonstrating a skill when another little girls said; “fat people shouldn’t dance. They look like rollie pollies!” The teacher couldn’t help but laugh. Laughter in this type of situation is not only completely inappropriate, it only reinforces these statements and adds fuel to the fire.

(4) Your choices out you: This one may be subtle but it happens all the time. If you choose to allow certain children to do things due to their body shape and size while restricting others from doing the same things, you are brewing up stereotyping and sizeism. So, for example, one of my girls from my preteen coaching group, Sassy Sisterhood, said in group, “Whenever we need to move the chairs and desks around in class, my teacher only picks the boys. She says they’re bigger and stronger than the girls.” I’ve also seen it when teachers evenly separate the fatter boys or girls on gym teams in school. I’ve heard a teacher say that she does this so that everyone has the same amount of “dead weight.” Choices such as these, however subtle, speak volumes.

(5) The way you take responsibility outs you: Upon hearing children say sizeist remarks, you can either pretend you don’t hear it or choose to take responsibility or not. Denial is certainly a strong reaction. Many people believe that children can’t understand what’s really being said or done. However, even if they don’t process it in the same way as adults, they do indeed process it. Shrugging off responsibility for sizeism (or any other kind of prejudice) is not helpful. Yes, they might not have gotten it from you—but it still remains your responsibility—all of our responsibility– to teach them the right way to react to others, isn’t it?

(6) The way you accept yourself outs you: Do you look in the mirror and bash your “fat butt” [fat=bad] or swear at your “skinny” jeans that don’t fit anymore? Do you joke with your family over the holiday table about needing to lipo your “huge gut?” You are your children’s role models. Your children hear this—they see it—and they process it. When we don’t accept what makes us who we are, how can we expect our children to accept themselves? In this case, parents are teaching children to reject these features in themselves as well as in others.

(7) Who you surround them with outs you: You likely heard the advice “surround yourself with positive people.” When it comes to our children, they tend to absorb what they see and hair from those who are around them most of the time—it’s part of positive assimilation with a group. Therefore, when you surround your children with people who make statements laced with sizeism or act or react with prejudice motives, your children have a great chance of adopting similar prejudices. One girl, age 13, told me that her Mom’s best friend (recently single) always put down her “big thighs.” Now she couldn’t stop looking at her own—and comparing them with those of her friends’. She actually said to me, “Fat thighs means No Guys.” Where do you think she heard that one before?

As educators, parents, coaches, and mentors, it’s crucial that we admit when there’s a problem—and there is– and then work to take responsibility to deal with the pertinent issues. Watch your actions, your reactions, and your words. We need to stop generalizing based on appearance (or any other trait) because it takes away our ability to get to know people’s unique gifts on an individual basis. It causes our children to be narrow-minded. It causes children to hate—not only others—but parts of themselves as well.

Please comment below. Do you know anyone who has raised a sizeist child? How do you think they got that way? What warnings or tips do you have for parents?

7 Ways to NOT be a Helicopter Parent When Approaching Teachers

Bringing a concern to a teacher or coach respectfully and responsibly

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Dear Dr. Robyn,

I’ve been told by my daughter that I used to be a “helicopter parent” but that now I’m much better. I’m happy about that! I was wondering though, if I do have a question of concern for my child’s instructor and my daughter wants me to talk to him, what’s the “right way” to do it so that I’m not coming off like one of those crazed “Mama Bears” who’s just trying to cause trouble?                                                                          –Karin T, Austin, TX

Hi Karin,

Thanks for writing in. This is a great question and I imagine we can all benefit from starting this conversation. I’d like to offer some possible solutions, but I’d also like for other parents and educators to chime in and offer how they like these situations to be handled as well. So please comment below if you have an idea or question about approaching teachers, coaches, or instructors with problems or concerns.

(1) Ask yourself; can my child cope with this on his or her own? We all want our children to become more self reliant and feel confident dealing with a wide array of problems and questions as they develop. Talking with teachers and expressing concerns is something that builds courage and character. Often, the best way that you can help your child is by role-playing with them and helping them come up with how to best approach the teacher or coach about something which upsets them, scares them or confuses them. There are countless rewards for children who learn that they can do it by themselves! Let them use those Powerful Words!

(2) Talk to a trusted adult who has perspective: If you’re unsure if your concern warrants a meeting with the teacher or coach, run it past someone you trust who is uninvolved emotionally, can think clearly, and can offer you some perspective. A success coach or more experienced friend, who does not know the teacher, would be a good choice. Whomever you speak to, ask for an honest, non-emotionally charged opinion and be sure to ask for complete confidentiality. You want to be able to approach a teacher or coach if and when you’re ready not when s/he hears it from someone else.

(3) Discuss conflict out of earshot of children and other families: If you are certain that this concern should be brought to the teacher’s attention, and that it should be done by you rather than your child, it’s vital that you discuss the concern with the teacher in private. While it might be quicker to discuss your child whenever and wherever you can find the time, it’s inappropriate to talk to teachers about your concerns when in public. You must agree on confidentiality for the good of the child and the fairness of everyone. Just as parents need to know that teachers won’t embarrass them or their children in front of other people, you, in turn, need to be respectful by refraining from broaching concerns in public places as well.

(4) Know the facts: Step back. Take a breath. Don’t accuse a teacher or coach of lack of judgment or poor choices when you don’t know all the facts. While it might seem apparent that something questionable has happened, there are always several sides to one story. Especially when events are emotionally charged and your child isn’t happy with a teacher’s choice, you might be only getting half the facts.

(5) Speak directly to the teacher: While it might seem easier to simply “send someone” to talk to the teacher—whether it’s the Nanny, the grandparents, or other guardians, it’s important to speak directly with the teacher. Otherwise, you might be unaware of any difficulties that are occurring with your children—and you may just get the “cliff notes.” Sometimes there is a misunderstanding that must be cleared—and sometimes, frankly, it’s nobody’s business but that of the parent and teacher. It’s important to request direct contact with the teacher so that you can define the problem and solution together as a team.

(6) Avoid criticizing teachers in front of their children: Criticizing the teachers in front of the children is not helpful and is often confusing to the child. Children are very perceptive and pick up on anger and frustration. Since the teacher and the parent are very important people in the lives of the child, they do not know where to assign their loyalties and may even cause them to question authority. Therefore, it’s vital that you refrain from talking negatively about a teacher to another person in public (even if you think nobody’s listening) or showing anger towards a teacher in front of your children. Adult matters should stay adult matters.

(7) Choose a mutually agreed-upon time and place to discuss the conflict: Speaking when tempers are hot or time is limited is not likely the best time to discuss a disagreement. Is the best time in the morning? Afternoon? After a certain class? Remember—you’re thinking about the welfare of your specific child—the teachers, instructors, and coaches must think of the whole class (or multiple classes) and what is fair and safe for all of them. That means that what’s convenient for you might not be the best time for the teacher and the rest of the class. Just as important, if you know the time, you can ensure that you can secure child care for your child so that you can speak freely with the teacher or coach without distraction.

Always remember that you are guiding and modeling the ways to resolve conflict respectfully and responsibly when dealing with concerns or problems. Ask non-accusatory questions. Be gracious.  Listen.  Offer some possible solutions. Aim to work together. Children will look to you and their instructors to understand how to express frustration and work through disagreements. Even when you’re angry or concerned, you can still be an excellent role model. It’s largely your responsibility to lay the groundwork for constructive communication and conflict resolution.

All you teachers, coaches, instructors and parents out there– let’s hear your tips and comments about ways to approach a teacher with a concern! Comment below!

10 Ways to Take Control Over The Fast Food Kid's Meal Problem

How to Take Control of the Kids’ Meal Problem

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

As you read in yesterday’s discussion of the new fast food nutritional study (or shall we call it, lack of nutrition study?), many fast food restaurant chains have crammed the kiddie meal full of too many calories. It’ s frustrating for parents and others who are taking care of children because they figure if it says “kids’ meal” it should, in fact, be constructed with kids’ best interests and health in mind. Alas, it’s not.

Since many of these restaurants are in no rush to reorganize their menu’s for children what should we do?

(1) Take initiative and use discretion when you enter these establishments in order to choose the best lunch or dinner options . You can buy ala carte, give your children choices between the best 2-3 options, go to a place that offers healthier options, or brown bag at least a portion of the meal.

(2) Drop the soda and highly sweetened juice and opt for water, low fat milk, or bring along something you trust and know is healthy.

(3) Do a little research: While I agree that it should already be done for us, in many cases, it’s not. Many of these foods might look harmless but are packed with calories, sugar, fat, and sodium.

(4) Ask for details: If they don’t have the nutritional information out, ask for it. You have a right to know what your child is putting in his or her mouth.

(5) Make your wishes known: Let your local restaurants know what you want. With enough people asking, they’ll be more likely to provide it.

(6) Ensure that the rest of your children’s meals are on target: You may not have full control of ingredients when you’re eating out, but you can certainly take control when your children are eating in your home. Pay attention to labels at the store and integrate more whole grains, veggies, and fruits into each meal.

(7) Talk to your children about healthy choices: When children know what foods make them grow strong, healthy and tall and what foods don’t have that same power– they’re much more likely to make healthy choices. Who doesn’t want to grow up strong and healthy?

(8 ) Expose them to healthy foods at home: They’re much more likely to gravitate to healthier options if they’re used to them. Have fun! Nutritious food doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless. You can make yummy, healthier versions of children’s favorites like pizza, tacos, chicken nuggets, and even shakes at home so that you know they’re getting the good stuff and they won’t crave the “bad stuff” nearly as much. (I started making my own dairy-free ice-creams so that I know exactly what’s in them, how much, and what’s going into my family. They’re delicious!)

(9) Ask to substitute: You’re the buyer– don’t like what you see? Ask for something else. For example, if you don’t “want fries with that,” ask for apple slices or veggies, if they have them.

(10) Split it: Just because they give you double the calories, fat, sugar, and sodium in the kids’ meals doesn’t mean that it all needs to be eaten in one sitting. Your children want fries? Split the order in half and share it between the two. You can do the same thing with the chicken, burgers, or pizza. Don’t have more than one child? Either split and give the other half to someone else who is unable to buy it themselves, put it away for later, or get rid of it. We want to teach children that just because it’s in front of them doesn’t mean it’s healthy to eat all at one time.

It’s vital that we don’t allow the restaurant chains to make nutritional decisions for our children. After all, they’re working for us! Get the information you need to make the best and most powerful decision possible for your children and your family. They’re depending on it.

Have a Powerful Day-