Being a Positive Role Model: Seven Ways to Make an Impact

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She wants to be just like you. Are you being a positive role model?

A role model is someone whose behavior is imitated by others. Of course, there are good role models and bad role models. There is even the counterintuitive anti-role model who behaves so badly that s/he serves as a good example of what NOT to do.

Given all the negative messages children are getting about body image and self worth, we all hope that children have good, strong role models. These role models should possess the kind of qualities that make our sons and daughters want to be (and become) better people. While there is some variation in every parent’s definition of what it means to be a good person, the following 7 characteristics of a positive role model remain constant.

Positive role models;

(1) Model positive choice-making: Little eyes are watching and little ears are listening. When it comes to being a role model, you must be aware that the choices you make don’t only impact you but also the children who regard you as their superhero. Someday, they will be in the same predicament and think to themselves, “What did s/he do when s/he was in the same situation?” When you are a role model it’s not enough to tell your charges the best choices to make. You must put them into action yourself.

(2) Think out loud: When you have a tough choice to make, allow the children to see how you work through the problem, weight the pros and cons, and come to a decision. The process of making a good decision is a skill. A good role model will not only show a child which decision is best, but also how they to come to that conclusion. That way, the child will be able to follow that reasoning when they are in a similar situation.

(3) Apologize and admit mistakes: Nobody’s perfect. When you make a bad choice, let those who are watching and learning from you know that you made a mistake and how you plan to correct it. This will help them to understand that (a) everyone makes mistakes; (b) it’s not the end of the world; (c) you can make it right; and (d) you should take responsibility for it as soon as possible. By apologizing, admitting your mistake, and repairing the damage, you will be demonstrating an important yet often overlooked part of being a role model.

(4) Follow through: We all want children to stick with their commitments and follow through with their promises. However, as adults, we get busy, distracted, and sometimes, a bit lazy. To be a good role model, we must demonstrate stick-to-itiveness and self discipline. That means; (a) be on time; (b) finish what you started; (c) don’t quit; (d) keep your word; and (e) don’t back off when things get challenging. When role models follow through with their goals, it teaches children that it can be done and helps them adopt an “if s/he can do it, so can I” attitude.

(5) Show respect: You may be driven, successful, and smart but whether you choose to show respect or not speaks volumes about the type of attitude it takes to make it in life. We always tell children to “treat others the way we want to be treated” and yet, may not subscribe to that axiom ourselves. Do you step on others to get ahead? Do you take your spouse, friends, or colleagues for granted? Do you show gratitude or attitude when others help you? In this case, it’s often the little things you do that make the biggest difference in how children perceive how to succeed in business and relationships.

(6) Be well rounded: While we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin, it’s important to show children that we can be more than just one thing. Great role models aren’t just “parents” or “teachers.” They’re people who show curiosities and have varied interests. They’re great learners and challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zones. You may be a father who’s also a student of the martial arts, a great chef, a good sportsman, and a treasured friend. You may be a mother who’s a gifted dancer, a solid rock climber, a celebrated singer, and a curious photographer. When children see that their role models can be many things, they will learn that they don’t need to pigeon-hole themselves in order to be successful.

(7) Demonstrate confidence in who you are: Whatever you choose to do with your life, be proud of the person you’ve become and continue to become. It may have been a long road and you may have experienced bumps along the way, but it’s the responsibility of a role model to commemorate the lessons learned, the strength we’ve amassed, and the character they’ve developed. We can always get better, however, in order for children to celebrate who they are, their role models need to show that confidence doesn’t start “5 pounds from now,” “2 more wins on top of this one,” or “1 more possession than I have today.” We must continue to strive while being happy with how far we’ve come at the same time.

While it may seem like a great deal of pressure to be a positive role model; nobody is expecting you to be superhuman. We certainly wouldn’t expect that behavior from the children who are looking to us for answers and guidance—nor would we want them to expect that kind of flawless behavior from themselves or others. You can only do your best. And, if you mess up today, you can always refer back to tip #3 and try again tomorrow. Good role models earn multiple chances from the children who believe in them and know they can do anything if they simply put their mind to it.

Here’s to a Powerful Week!

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Dr. Robyn in Bye Bye Birdie: Guest Blogger

Wow! I had the most amazing weekend ever! As many of you know, our very own Dr. Robyn Silverman took on the role of Rosie Alvarez in Bye, Bye, Birdie…and I gotta tell ya…she was AWESOME!

I had the pleasure of watching the show on Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon and it seems that it just keeps getting better and better. Now, I know that my wife is a spectacular singer, however, her performances were showstopping!

Here’s a youtube clip of one of her numbers…please understand that the video and sound quality DOES NOT DO HER JUSTICE in any way shape or form!

Enjoy!

Jason M. Silverman
Powerful Words Character Development

Game Day for Bimbos and Sweet Valley High’s Low Blow

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This week was filled with some body image garbage.

(1) My colleague Amy Jussel brought this fabulous story to my attention this week: Bimbo Bait: Is Silence or Outrage the Solution for Digital Drek?

She says: “Just when you thought media influence on body image had reached the tipping point of toxicity, our pals at Beauty and the Breast (and parents, Feministing, mashable, and industry colleagues at Edelman Digital) are reporting in disgust on this new web game, Miss Bimbo making the rounds in Europe where “Girls are encouraged to compete against each other to become the “hottest, coolest, most famous bimbo in the whole world.” CNN reports, “When a girl signs up, they are given a naked virtual character to look after and pitted against other girls to earn “bimbo” dollars so they can dress her in sexy outfits and take her clubbing…” Read more here…

My opinion: Can we sprinkle some stronger body image salt on the proverbial gaping wound of female body image development? Check out the video!

I’m disturbed that some of girls are likening it to dressing up dolls. I don’t remember exchanging bimbo dollars or asking for boob jobs to get a better rating when I dressed up dolls in the past, do you?

Studies are now showing that girls are regarding dieting as “normal” behavior. That in fact it is “abnormal” to not diet! This is not surprising since they are inundated with diet articles, dolls that look like they’ve been dieting too long, and now, Bimbo World has landed. Will plastic surgery also be “normalized” to the point in which it will be “abnormal” to NOT get plastic surgery? A scary thought.

It would be great to have a game for girls in which they gain value by using their brains and their creativity instead of pumping up their boobs and bagging a billionaire.

(2) Kate Harding and Feministing let us know about Sweet Valley High’s bizarre change in character description of the featured twins:

Well, I guess Random House felt bad that size 6 teenagers were being denied the profound sense of failure that comes with seeing “perfect” juxtaposed with a size you can’t achieve. So in their re-released versions, the twins are a “perfect size 4.”

 

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My Opinion: On the unfortunate female quest to conquer perfect, its amazing that “feeling good about our bodies” is pushed just a little bit further out of reach by this teen series.

The Sweet Valley High MySpace has this to say in the “about me” section: “Elizabeth: I tend to play down my looks. I’m most comfortable in khaki shorts and a polo shirt, with my long blond hair pulled back in a barrette or practical ponytail. Maybe it is because I think who a person is inside and what she does is more important than how she looks.”

How do you think Miss Elizabeth feels about loosing a size?

Think nobody is looking at this information? They have “312 My Space Friends” )

The video on today’s (March 28) Feministing tells the story. Warning to those faint of heart: bad language is used in this video.

Hope next week is better.

Feeling “Too” Tall or “Too” Short: Another Body Image Challenge for Children and Adults

beckytand_proflim.jpgIt can be challenging for children to feel like they can fit in, feel confident, and thrive when they feel so different from others. Yesterday morning’s (3-26) New York Times featured “The Life of a Tall Girl,” an essay by the exquisite Becky Thomas. This essay talked about the tough mental challenge to “feel good about ourselves” while we’re growing up, especially when we are different from others. Ms. Thomas said “Everywhere I go people stare at me. At the grocery store children gawk at me wide-eyed, craning their necks and pointing as they tug their mothers’ shirts. When I pass people on the street, I hear them mumble comments about my appearance.”

As many of you know, I wrote a series on “Fitting In and Standing Out,” a struggle for many children whether they feel too tall like Ms. Thomas, too short, too thin, too fat, or “too” something else. To give the other side of the coin, here is the second article of the series on “coming up short in a tall-is-all world” originally published in Bay State Parent Magazine.

5 Tips to Help Your Child Deal with Coming up Short in a Tall-is-All World

By: Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Everyone thought Dylan was adorable. Girls wanted to pick him up and cart him around like a doll in a baby carriage. Boys called him “Mouse.” He was 8 ¼ years old and was starting third grade. He looked like he was in first.

Perhaps you know a child who is struggling with this same issue. Perhaps it’s your child. Perhaps it was you! When it comes to body image, weight isn’t the only thing that gets scrutinized by others. Short children often feel that they can’t measure up.

It can be difficult for children to cope with feeling short when their same-age friends or younger siblings start to surpass them in height. Especially at the start of a new school year, this issue gets a great deal of attention—children go for their back-to-school check-ups where height and weight are routinely examined and of course, it’s only natural that students compare heights, along with summer experiences, on the first day of school.

Studies show that people unknowingly assign positive qualities to tall people. With height comes assumed qualities of worthiness, dependability, intelligence, and authoritative leadership qualities. Even for girls, although short stature can be connected to positive qualities of being “cute” or “sweet,” being short can subconsciously keep others from putting a girl in a leadership position.

On a normal bell curve, some children will be tall, some will be short, and many will fall somewhere in between. It typically doesn’t matter where they fall on the bell curve, but rather, their pattern and rate of growth over a period of time. In fact, a child who’s in the 10th percentile for height and a child who’s in the 90th percentile of height can have the same rate of growth. They are both normal. If a child is not growing at a consistent rate or showing a predictable pattern, a pediatrician can determine if tests are needed.

While being tall may have social advantages, being on the low end of the measuring tape can feel like you’re getting the short end of the stick.

How can we help our short children stand tall?

(1) Be careful about transferring your worry: As caring parents, it’s common to become worried about your child’s height. Studies confirm that parental concern often outweighs the child’s concern when it comes to height! Parents may be anxious about the possibility of their child being teased or treated unfairly. They may be stressed about what the future might hold (professionally and socially) if their child remains short in comparison to others. While the concern is good intentioned, these worries might lead to repeated measuring, comparing, and doctor’s visits. When we transfer our worries to our child in this way, it teaches him that his height is an issue— even if in the child’s view, this wasn’t the case until it was brought to his attention.

(2) Don’t compare: Grade school is often about “who’s in, who’s out” which can be determined by as little as the color shirt the child is wearing that day or how many inches he measures. As parents and teachers, it’s important that we don’t inadvertently make our short children feel inadequate by comparing them to taller siblings and friends. Lining up by height or comparing how high someone’s mark is on the height chart in comparison to others may feel more like a competition than interesting fact. Since the child has no control over their height, such a comparison can make them feel that they will never “measure up.”

(3) Watch your language: Often height comparisons or statements are tainted with language bias. Parents and other family members might not think they’re being hurtful, but they’re language may be sending messages that celebrate taller members and denigrate shorter ones. Nicknames like “shorty,” “shrimp,” or “pip-squeak” may be said in jest but received as mockery. One of my coaching clients, a parent of two sons, told me that their grandmother would joke; “you wouldn’t believe they’re brothers- my Thomas is so short I feel like I can scoop him up like a rag doll and my Tony is so tall that I think he must hang the rainbows up after it rains.” The former sends a message of insignificance while the latter sends a message of superhuman qualities. It’s no wonder that Thomas always felt that his family looked at him like he was still a baby even though he was 12 years old.

(4) Celebrate all different heroes: Children need to be able to picture themselves and people like themselves as the heroes every once in a while. Superheroes, presidents, and sports stars are often described as being tall and strong. However, there are plenty of heroes who are shorter in stature while still being highly regarded. For instance, James Madison, “the father of the constitution” and “the father of the bill of rights,” stood 5’3 ¾” tall. Exposing children to different kinds of people of varying heights, both from our history as well as from our own communities, can help children see that anyone can be successful no matter how tall they are.

(5) Don’t allow height to dictate their involvement: Life doesn’t have to be a series of signs that read “too short to ride this ride.” Individual sports like swimming, dance, gymnastics, and martial arts arrange children by skill level and age rather than by skill level and height or weight. Jessie, a girl with dwarfism, began martial arts at age six. While some skills needed to be altered for her size and physical differences, she was able to excel as a leader in her class. When her mother told me, “Jessie doesn’t know that she isn’t supposed to be able to do any of this stuff,” I responded, “don’t tell her!” Sometimes limitations come from our own limiting thoughts (or what we have been told) rather than what is truly accurate. Jessie excelled because she could and nobody told her that she couldn’t.

And of course, talk to your child. Ask him or her how s/he feels, what s/he wants and what s/he hopes to become. Support these dreams just like you would any child. When it comes to our children, no matter what their height, it’s important that we don’t sell them short.

To our children!

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Webmaster’s Note: This article was originally printed in Bay State Parent Magazine and was part of Dr. Robyn’s award winning series “Fitting In and Standing Out.”

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman is child and adolescent development specialist, success coach and body image expert whose programs and services are used worldwide. Known as “The Character Queen, she’s the creator of the Powerful Words Character Toolkit used by the best and most progressive children’s activity programs, daycares, and personal development centers worldwide. She is an award-winning columnist for Bay State Parent Magazine.

Feminists Forgiving of Fat, Research Says

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Yesterday’s New York Times highlighted some new research on fat and feminism. Researchers (Viren Swami and team) out of the University of Westminster in London showed that those women who describe themselves as feminists were more likely to positively perceive a wider range of body sizes than non-feminists. The research was published in The Journal of Body Image.

How the study worked: Researchers compared 129 women who identified themselves as feminists to 132 women who identified themselves as not-feminists. The participants were asked to rate a series of 10 photographs of women (faces concealed) that varied in BMI (Body Mass Index) “from emaciated to obese.” All of the photographed women were wearing plain, tight, gray clothing. Participants were asked to identify (1) the thinnest woman they considered “physically attractive” (2) the heaviest women they considered “physically attractive” and (3) the women they considered most “physically attractive.”
The Results: Results showed no significant differences between feminist and non-feminists in the figure they considered to be maximally attractive. However, feminists were more likely to positively perceive a wider range of body sizes than non-feminists.
The Hypothesis: Researchers speculate that these results could be attributed to possible protective factors that feminists may possess due to ideology. According to the researchers; “Feminism, does appear to afford women a more inclusive perception of who is physically attractive.” Feminists may be less likely to internalize the hype about the thin ideal and body objectification. In other words, feminists aren’t taken by the notion that it’s very important for a woman to adhere to society’s thin ideal.
Interesting Finding: Researchers reported that feminists and nonfeminists tended to agree on which woman was the most “physically attractive.” The chosen woman was typically somewhat underweight, according to Swami and team, which may suggest that even feminists may still be affected by societal opinions that thin=attractive.
Note: BMI is a standard measurement that researchers use to assess Body Mass Index, a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. While it it can be a reliable indicator when doing research and for medical doctors who are trying to assess whether a person may be at risk for medical problems, it isn’t perfect.Are we making progress of do we still have a long way to go?

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BeingGirl Article Removed Due to Concerned Blogs

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Congrats to all those who wrote about it! Proctor and Gamble removed the controversial article from their BeingGirl.Com website that many of the Body Image and Parenting Blogs, including KMA, wrote about recently.

Here is the result from our concerned colleagues over at Parents for Ethical Marketing who complained personally:

“As of Saturday morning, the article promoting eating-disordered behaviors at beinggirl.com had been removed. Thanks to everyone who blogged about this (especially Rachel, where I first read about it) and to those who took the time to write or to call. I had received an email from Procter & Gamble after I complained and, as noncommital as it was, at least they responded to me.” Read the whole article.

Thanks Everyone!

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Body Conscious or Body Obnoxious? A Controversial Website for Girls

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A reader alerted blogger, Kate Harding, to a controversial article on http://www.beinggirl.com, a website sponsored by Tampax and parent company Procter & Gamble. Many of the body image blogs are talking about it since it’s message is not of positive body image but rather, of questionable tactics aimed to help barely pubescent girls stay thin.

Here are some of the most controversial points:

1. At the moment you grab for something to eat, tell yourself you can have it if you still want it but you have to wait 30 minutes. The craving may pass, you might get distracted, you might become wise enough in that half hour to find a more life affirming way of getting rid of that creepy stress.

2. Write down everything you eat. Icky, we know, but we also know there’s no better substitute (except looking at yourself in the mirror naked), that’s better than tracking what goes into your mouth to get you into the habit of thinking before you eat.

5. Post-It notes are great for reminding you of the right thing to do. Stick them on the bathroom mirror, on the inside of your locker, on your computer. Be creative with your reminder. “How hungry are your really?” “Exactly why are you eating that now?” “What will the scale say tomorrow morning?”

Do we really want our girls obsessing about what the scale will say the next day? Yikes.

Please read the article as well as this point by point take on the topic. What do you think?

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