Why, Oh Why, Oh Miley? 8 Ways to Clean Up the Mess

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman


Dr. Robyn was on Dr. Drew’s national radio show at 3:35 EST/12:35 PST today to discuss the Miley Cyrus situation; click here to listen to the interview.


Yes, everyone is scrambling to right Miley’s misstep. Vanity Fair issued their YouTube video (above) to show the relaxed atmosphere of the photo shoot (sans the actual Lolita-like photo in question). Annie Leibovitz is defending her photos as “beautiful.” The network is claiming deliberate manipulation of a young girl. And the press is just trying to make sense of it all– the possible desire for a young starlet to shake her tween image and be seen as “more grown up,” the creation of a public frenzy that can add to the Miley millions (ahem, billions?), and which photo is more offensive (the one of Cyrus’s bare bod coyly wrapped in a sheet, or the shot of bare midriff while sprawled across her Daddy’s lap?).

But while the public is cyber-guessing the fate of Miley and her empire, parents and tweens are left in the wake of it all. Moms and Dads don’t care about whether Disney will find a replacement for Miley– they’re busy wondering what to do next. Considering the harmful impact of increased sexualization of girls in the media and the jarring way tween idol was introduced as “not a girl, not yet a woman,” to her fans, it’s not surprising that parents are reeling.

Just looking at the comments from yesterday’s post on the Powerful Parent Blog, you can see anger, dismay, and confusion. Tweens and teens feel betrayed:

Oh my gosh, I completely agree. I was so upset when I saw those pictures. It was like, “Whoa. That’s depressing.” I don’t want to say it, but I think my role model has turned into a…well, you know. I’ll just say…one of THEM. The worst part was that I practically worshiped her. Now I feel stupid, especially since I was her biggest fan in the entire universe. (by: Lifeswhatyoumakeit)

and adults are asking for help:

I’m a mother of a Tween girl and every time the media reports something new about a child icon– I gulp wondering; how do I explain this to my daughter? I sort of resent having to explain these more adult like issues before I would like to. (By MaryRobb64)

Let’s get down to it. So what are parents to do?

  1. Chalk it up to a teachable moment: Ignore it, and it won’t go away. Might as well take the bull by the horns. Tweens and teens can learn from the mistakes of their favorite idols if you frame it correctly. Talk about your values, the values of the family, and what you believe the icon did right or wrong. Grasp onto stories of teens, athletes, or celebrities that made mistakes and then changed their life for the better. For example, America’s sweetheart Drew Barrymore once made headlines for drugs, alcohol, and partying but has since become a stable adult. This is a good lesson for teens to hear. In the same way, when athletes make mistakes and admit them publicly, it’s another moment for a great conversation.
  2. Ask questions: Stop talking. Take a breath. Don’t jump to conclusions. You don’t even know what your child is thinking yet! What does she think of Miley Cyrus’ decision to pose topless? What would she have done in the same situation? What does she think Miley should do next? You might be surprised by what your children have to say if you just give them a chance to express themselves.
  3. Communicate without condemning: You may want to be critical, but in doing so, you may alienate your child. That’s not what you’re aiming to do! Have a conversation about the icon in question. Remember, it’s not the individual you have a problem with, it’s their behavior, right? In the case of Miley Cyrus, don’t put her down, rather, talk about the message that her partially nude photograph is sending to her fans.
  4. Find the positive: I know it can be difficult at times– especially with celebrities you find so detestable. While you may not like everything about a celebrity—perhaps there’s something you can find that send a good message. The singer, Pink, may be rough around the edges, but she tells girls that it’s important to be themselves even when everyone is telling them to blend.
  5. Provide counter-media role models: All role models don’t need to come from between the pages of a magazine or on TV. Role models can be found everywhere. Teachers, big sisters or brothers, local heroes, soldiers, local artists, and even heroes and heroines in books can provide more stable, consistent role model standards. When you expose your children to a variety of role models, they won’t have to defer to celebrities and celebutants for inspiration.
  6. Take a look through their eyes: You might be wondering what makes your daughter or son choose a certain role model when their icon has made a few blunders. Take a walk in their shoes. Ask them about their hero—what is it about them that really floats their boat? When you look at Kelly Osborne, daughter of the famous-for-being-dysfunctional Osborne family, you may see a foul-mouthed girl dressed in black. Your daughter, on the other hand, might see a girl who speaks her mind and doesn’t conform to the typical size 2 celebrity body requirement that’s so prevalent in today’s world. A celebrity might make a kid feel more OK with themselves.
  7. Be the role model they deserve: Be a positive example to your child. They’re watching you to see what they should do next. 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. Do you show confidence in yourself and what you look like? Are you respectful? Self-disciplined? 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.
  8. Talk about powerful words and powerful actions: What kind of family do you aspire to be? Have a family meeting and get everyone’s input. While the outside world may be erratic and unpredictable, together, you can create safe boundaries and limits so that your children can stay on the path to reach their goals. Use the character lessons your children are learning in their classes each month as springboards for discussion at your own dinner table or “drive the point home” after you leave your Powerful Words member academy.

And, as my mother always told me, “this too shall pass.” Tweens and teens are resilient– and you are too. And while your child is dealing with the blow to her icon, you can give her a safe place to land. She needs it and we’re depending on it.

Come back tomorrow when we explore another part of the Miley Mess and answer the question: Can parents really make a difference? See you then.

Dr. Robyn Silverman is a nationally known child and teen development expert and parenting coach. She’s an award-winning parenting columnist for Bay State Parent Magazine, the body image expert for The Applied Developmental Science Encyclopedia and Shaping Youth and the creator of the Powerful Words Character Development Curriculum used by over 500 top-notch after-school programs worldwide.


Miley Cyrus: Disney Role Model Ruined?

When 15 year old, Miley Cyrus showed up topless and coyly wrapped in what appears to be a satin bedsheet in the June issue of Vanity Fair, controversy broke out and opinions multiplied. It wasn’t so much about what was showing or whether or not the Annie Leibovitz photo could be considered art. But rather, it was the mature spirit of the photograph juxtaposed with the immature fan-base the tween icon who worships her every move. Disney, the parent company of the billion dollar Hannah Montana franchise aimed at tweens is reeling, Miley voiced embarrassment and apologies, and her spokesperson claimed manipulation. But the ones who are extremely concerned are the parents of young girls who look up to Miley as a role model.


Click here to listen to Dr. Robyn on the Dr Drew radio show talk about this issue


Given that young girls like to dress up and act like their favorite stars, parents should be on alert. Developmentally speaking, tweens experiment. They’re trying on different identities and figuring out which ones feel right. In working out who they are, they copy those who they admire. So when teen singer, Avril Lavigne, wore a sleeveless T-shirt with a tie, girls showed up to school the next day having raided their Dad’s closet. Given Miley’s recent misjudgment (or perhaps the misstep of her parents, publicist, photographer, or host magazine?), no parent should be surprised if today’s tweens drop their favorite outfits and show up to playtime loosely wrapped in their Beauty and the Beast bedsheets as their best friend takes their best shot.

Where did all the role models go?

What makes up a tween/teen role model has changed dramatically over the last several decades. Kids used to look to public figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, President John F. Kennedy, or the squeaky clean Brady Bunch and Partridge Family for their inspiration. Then media took over. Everyone starlet seems to be growing up too soon, tying one on, or taking something off. Parents are contending with the likes of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Eminem. The latter, who even quips in his lyrics;

I came to the club drunk with a fake ID
Don’t you wanna grow up to be just like me!
I’ve been with 10 women who got HIV
Now don’t you wanna grow up to be just like me!
I got genital warts and it burns when I pee
Don’t you wanna grow up to be just like me!

Teens and tweens are saturated with a large does of media garbage. The average American child spends 4-4 ½ hours a day exposed to TV, radio, video games, or the Internet. That means they’re spending the equivalent of a good part time job with questionable mentors.

Why it’s hard to trust:

We loved Lindsay Lohan as a freckle-faced charmer in Parent Trap. Britney Speaks was adorable in the Mickey Mouse Club. Barry Bonds had every boy’s heart in his hand as he got ready to break Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record. What happened to our kids’ role models? Either drugs, alcohol, DUIs, sex tapes, rehab, jail-time, psych wards, negative peer pressure, exposed body parts or a combination of a bunch of the above.

Parents and tweens are always selecting role models that seem wholesome, pure, and promising. We are seeking out people who exemplify the values we believe are important; respect, self-discipline, gratitude, and other powerful words by which we try to live. But the public is getting burned. It wouldn’t be surprising if parents are becoming suspicious and jaded. I think one parent said it best after a Hillary Duff concert;

“We thought she seemed really nice,” said Debbie Wright of Lexington. Wright had brought her two daughters, ages 9 and 13, to the show and waited for them on a couch in the parents lounge. She added, “Of course, we thought that of Britney Spears.”

When it comes to racy role model, Danica Patrick and her controversial decisions to expose (or overexpose?) herself or Kim Kardashian decides to pose for playboy, we know that, whether we think it’s a good decision or a bad one, and adult made the decision. It may make parents angry, but somehow, it’s different. These adults are allowed to do dumb things.

But tween role models aren’t allowed the same amount of space for slip-ups. Parents and tweens are watching their every move. They’re under 24/7 surveillance. They’re overexposed through TV, magazines, internet, texting, and every other media outlet that tells all. Miley’s Vanity Fair photos might only reveal her back, but parents see a Little Lolita. It may not be warranted. It may not even be fair. But they begin to wonder if it’s only the beginning of a series of bad judgments from the Hannah Montana star. After all, this is what they’ve gotten used to with the celebs who’ve come before her.

We know tweens and teens grow up. Celebrities grow up. But when our kids are copying their favorite star, parents are looking for consistency. Reliability. One hundred percent wholesome character. Anything else and the balance gets knocked around. The children have a few choices with regard to how to internalize the information:

(1) Go with the flow: Copy what their favorite role model is doing for good or bad. “What’s the big deal, Mom? Miley’s doing it…it must be cool, awesome, special, hot, daring…”

(2) Go against the flow: A harder endeavor. Make their role model the anti-role model and say “ta-ta” to their idol who deceived or disappointed them. “I never liked her anyway. Who does that? It’s so stupid, gross, dumb, raunchy…”

(3) Go into denial: Say it didn’t happen or it didn’t happen that way and keep on going in the same direction they always went, not changing a thing. “She was forced, tricked, pressured…she’d never do that if she knew what was really going on. Adults can be so disgusting. “The best of both worlds…oooohh, ooooohhh!”

So what’s doing to happen with girl-next door, wonder-girl, Smiley Miley? We have to wait and see how she handles it. Nobody’s perfect. Sometimes it’s not the mistake but how the celebrity deals with that mistake that provides the greatest lesson to teens and tweens.

You can help too–Stay tuned tomorrow for 8 tips to help parents cope with controversial role models!

Banned: Illegal to promote ultra thinness in France

Places around the world (not the U.S.) are finding ways to discourage ultra-thinness and eating disorders in a powerful way.


The Christian Science Monitor reported the other day that you will now we fined (or jailed) if your website or blog promotes ultra thinness or excessive dieting. The promotion of excessive thinness or eating disorders is now a punishable crime with fines up to $78,000.

France is fed up with the growing numbers of sites that glorify destructive eating behaviors; particularly those sites that offer contests, support, and tricks that lead to the success of starving oneself.

Coming on the heels of related initiatives in Spain and Italy, the ban is the latest and most far-reaching attempt to stem a disorder – and an image of womanhood – with which hundreds of thousands of Europeans wrestle. But how effective will the measures – and some are quite creative – be?

France’s bill, which must now be approved by the Senate, won unanimous support from Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, empowers judges to punish with prison terms and fines of up to €45,000 ($72,000) any publication, modeling agency, or fashion designer who “incites” anorexia. It also allows for the prosecution of websites whose pages and blogs promote eating disorders.


France’s fines follow the ban that Spain put in place in 2006 that banished ultra-thin models from walking down the catwalk.

In Spain, where some experts say that eating disorders affect 1 in 200 young women, the country’s major fashion show provoked controversy two years ago when it tried to address the issue. Banning from the catwalk models with an unhealthily low body mass index (or BMI – a weight to height ratio) of below 18, the vice-councilwoman for the Economy in Madrid’s regional government, Concha Guerra, said, “Our intention is to promote good body image by using models whose bodies match reality and reflect healthy eating habits.”

In addition, the Spanish government has successfully persuaded 90% of Spain’s clothing manufacturers to standardize female clothing sizes. This action was based on a study of the size and shape of 8,000 Spanish females between the ages of 10 and 70. Spain also wants to discourage the use of display mannequins that are smaller than a Size 38 (U.S. Size 6).

Note: According to The World Health Organization, anyone with a BMI below 18.5 is underweight. In addition, a BMI below 17.5 is one of the criteria for the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. A BMI nearing 15 is usually used as an indicator for starvation. (Here’s more information from the National Institutes of Health along with a BMI calculator for your reference)


Unilever, parent company to Dove and Axe, agreed to ensure that their models adhered to a BMI of between 18-25, which is, medically speaking, in the “normal” range.

“Unilever has adopted a new global guideline that will require that all its future marketing communications should not use models or actors that are either excessively slim or promote ‘unhealthy’ slimness,” –Ralph Kugler, president of Unilever’s home and personal care division


The Health and Sports Ministries in Italy launched a campaign last month that provides media guidelines that are meant to discourage ultra-thin body ideals. Milan, following the path of Spain, is requiring it’s fashion runway models to have a BMI of at least 18.5 They are also providing eating disorder education in schools.

That campaign came just months after one of the country’s clothing labels began its own anti-anorexia campaign with billboards depicting the nude, emaciated body of anorexic French model Isabelle Caro. –CSM

The UK

While the organizers of London’s Fashion Week did not follow Spain and enact a ban of any models who had a freakishly low BMI, they did require all fashion models to demonstrate that they were in good health by bringing in a signed certificate from an eating disorders specialist that stated it was so.


The government recently launched a media code of conduct on body image. Minister of Youth Affairs, James Merlino, explains that the code of conduct contains 4 clauses that he encouraged the media, fashion world, and advertisers, to adopts.

The Code contains four clauses regarding:
· The use and disclosure of altered and enhanced images;
· Representation of a diversity of body shapes;
· Fair placement of diet, exercise and cosmetic surgery advertising; and
· Avoiding the glamorization of severely underweight models or celebrities.

As Leslie Goldsmith mentioned over on The Huffington Post, it’s been quite a “tumultuous week for body image” in Australia. In addition, it’s been proposed that as of mid-2008, plastic surgery (and tanning beds) are off-limits to teens under 18 years of age. Unfortunately, at the same time, the news highlighted “Club 21,” a clique that ranks girls based on weight. Nope, not kidding.

Members of the elite club, dubbed “Club 21” or “Big 21”, parade their ranking from one to 21 on their wrists. The skinnier and prettier the girl, the higher her rank. One respondent to an internet forum on the issue said: “Ugly girls need not apply.”

I guess we need to take the good with the bad in Australia. At least the government is taking some action.


Still waiting…

Currently, our defense against ultra-thin models has to do with plumping out disturbing waifiness with photo-shop instead of hiring more “real-size” models, as well described on feministing and shapely prose.

Due to first amendment rights, people are skeptical that such a ban issued in France could be successfully issued in the U.S. According to Sudan Scafidi, an expert in fashion law at New York’s Fordham University Law School;

We do ban advertising of smoking in the U.S. and we take smoking into consideration for movie ratings. But we know there is a clear link between smoking and lung cancer. No one has yet established a connection between images in magazines and skinny girls.”

I guess that means it’s back to work for all of us…

photo from http://thisislavie.wordpress.com

Danica Patrick: Too Sexy to Be a Role Model?

Danica Patrick- Sports Illustrated, photographer; Ben Watts

Blog pal, Amy Jussel, of Shaping Youth is calling for my response on the tough topic of Danica Patrick, race car champion.

And a personal invitation for our own Dr. Robyn Silverman at Kiss My Assets, (our newest body image expert) to share her input too (see her new body image data from this week’s stat round-up linked above and always in our sidebar)

Don’t be shy…or concerned you’ll offend me, even you board advisors, ok? As Sharon and I have already proved, we can ‘agree to disagree’ now and then and still raise vital awareness and uncork some doozies of a conversation…

So what d’ya say?

Here’s part of the scoop from the Shaping Youth Blog:

Danica Patrick has sparked a mini-debate among my own advisory board (particularly this exchange between Dr. Sharon Lamb and Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown of Packaging Girlhood and yours truly)…not for her hard-fought win of course, but for her mixed messages as a role model for girls which will no doubt accelerate even faster than a final flag lap in an Indy race.

So here’s the deal…

indycarseriescolorjf7.gifNo question Danica Patrick’s racecar driving smacks of bold, gutsy, ‘believe in yourself’ confidence with style and substance of a ‘one girl revolution’ (that’s one of the more poignantly ironic music tracks on her website that caught my ear as a deeper subtext of her public persona) but overall, I personally feel the mixed messages of self-objectification and body hawking are enough to give many girls whiplash.

My own daughter’s comment on her photos (which pop up first in her Google name search) and her Go Daddy “beaver” ad called Exposure nixed from the Superbowl line-up as inappropriate was this retort, (unprompted, honest!)

danika-patrick2.jpgDanica’s ad choices are her own, most certainly, but her ‘role model’ caché will no doubt go ‘ka-ching’ and be even more visible to girls with this victory, and this concerns me.

If she keeps up the objectification cues in her new endorsement deals, I’m going to go really, really basic here…and ask at the very core:

Here’s our play by play commentary…with one more added query:

dann4.jpgSince media’s tendency is to either herald or marginalize public figures without looking at the surround sound snapshot of the overall media and cultural landscape (not to mention how it’s all landing on kids) shouldn’t role models themselves be held accountable for their own actions too, rather than masked under the guise of media and marketing as the big bad wolf?


So here’s my (Dr. Robyn’s) response:

You might think I would have an immediate and solid answer for this problem since I’m a body image expert. However, I’m also all about girls challenging stereotypes and ripping the doors and glass ceiling off of male-dominated activities.

So, I don’t have only one feeling about this situation. I am torn like any woman would be who works for the protection and advancement of positive youth development. On the one hand, you have the sexualization of women so that the celebrity has more market appeal. Yes, yuck. As a body image specialist, I really hate to see it. It turns my stomach and gets me angry that this is the natural progression of things when it comes to great sports women in the media. On the other hand, you have the strength and power of an amazing triumphant woman highlighted and getting some great attention. As an advocate for girls, I love that part.

In the martial arts world, Gina Carano is being treated in much the same way. On the one hand, her body has been “pinned up” and featured to bring market appeal to Mixed Martial Arts. She’s pictured like a ring girl instead of a fighter. On the other hand, her star power makes people take notice of her strength and power in a typically male-oriented world. It says to girls, “You can do anything—just as good, if not better, than the boys.” I pray that this is the overarching message that is sent out loud and clear. Yes, that part, I have to say, I like a whole lot.

So what’s the deal? Do these women really need to get “sexed up” to draw appeal and attention? Oh boy. In today’s world, right now, we know the score. Advertisers don’t cover women in sports much as it is—and when they do, well, you can see how they slant things. It’s too bad, since study after study shows that girls in sports glean great benefits.

I hate to say it, but sometimes we need to bring people through “their” door (i.e. “look at me, I’m hot”) to get them to go through “ours” (“look at me, I’m a strong, successful woman, and you can be too”).

The message that says “girls can survive and thrive in a male-dominated field” is so important and our girls may not hear it as loudly if the star doesn’t get the “media makeover” that seems a requirement these days. I know—this is the problem at hand. Girls want so badly to associate with these beautiful stars and my hope is that while they may first be stunned by the beauty and star appeal, they may second, fall in love with the strength, courage, and power that it took to get to the top. In this case, when they think of these women, they exchange this sexualized look for this message of triumph, and this sexualized look for this message of perseverance.

Given that the “hubba hubba” messages are not going to stop anytime soon—I’ll take the good stuff when I can get it…even if I wince a little (or maybe a lot) when greatness is served with a pink teddy bear wearing red lipstick, patent leather, and a way-too sassy attitude. My hope is that the girls peel away the fluff and get to the guts.

And that’s my take on it.

Eating Disordered Behaviors among 65% of American Women

A little round up of some body image information that has come out in the last week:

(1) Popular F-Word Blogger sticks it to Self and basically tells the magazine to take some responsibility.

An article in the LA Times reports that Self Magazine, along with the University of North Carolina, published a survey on Tuesday which stated the following: 65% of American women, ages 25-45, display some sort of disordered eating behaviors. In addition,10% of women report symptoms consistent with the traditional diagnoses of anorexia or bulimia. The survey described disordered eating behaviors as including attempts to lose weight when you’re already at a normal weight; cutting out entire food groups from your diet and skipping meals.

The survey has generated response from bloggers questioning parts of the study. According to the LA Times, bloggers such as Rachel Richardson, writing on The-F-Word.org, calls Self Magazine “not so selfless.” Since Richardson is a recovering anorexic and bulimic and her site discusses issues related to body size acceptance, she calls it like it is:

“While I don’t doubt the high levels of unhealthy relationships with food amongst a national cross section of women, I do have to point out that Self isn’t exactly a paragon of body size acceptance. Every edition touts some kind of diet and weight loss plan, along with some half-naked airbrushed woman on its glossy cover.”

Read the whole article

(2) Perhaps your stomach turns from reading some of the popular headlines in the beauty magazines. But across the pond in the UK, people are actually staying home from negative body image sickness. Millions of women refuse to go to work because they feel fat. The findings – from a study of more than 1,000 women – show what low self-esteem and negative body image can do to a woman’s ability to get up and go to work.

Read the whole article

(3) Guess what? You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. A study showed that more than 1 in 5 women (22%) between the ages of 18 and 24 want to be a size zero.

Bullying Video Game for Kids: Violence and Media

After writing about the prevalence of bullying in our schools yesterday and alluding to the violence in video games, I wanted to bring something to your attention. Here is an example of an enhanced, newly re-released addition of the “Bully” video game that came out last month. It focuses on bullying and violence in schools.

Hidden in the background are girls as kissing targets, girls throwing up in toilets, and girls talking about dirty pictures circulating.  Just a little something I noticed in the promos.

The One Side of the Argument

In the game, the main character, age 15, uses violence to deal with bullies in school. He is described by the makers as “Jimmy Hopkins, a teenager who’s been expelled from every school he’s ever attended.” The player gets points when Jimmy kisses girls, plays pranks on teachers and beats up his enemies. Believe me, I wish I was kidding.

Especially after several examples of YouTube videos showing bullying, a video game promoting violence in school is disturbing. While no guns are used or blood shed (thank goodness), it certainly isn’t a calm day at Bullworth academy.

The game has been suspended in Brazil and has received a lot of negative publicity in the US, Australia, and the UK.

While some gamers actually say that bullying is not glorified in “Bully,” what they are neglecting to acknowledge is that the game adds to the number of acts of violence that a child sees and virtually “experiences” during a typical day.

As we know from extensive research, the average person has viewed around 200,000 acts of violence by the time he reaches 18 years of age. In addition, research has shown that repeated exposure to violence in media can indeed make children and teens more violent and aggressive. It does have an effect on their brains, perhaps temporarily, and what may be the effects over time?

Children’s viewing of violent TV shows, their identification with aggressive same-sex TV characters, and their perceptions that TV violence is realistic are all linked to later aggression as young adults, for both males and females…Results show that men who were high TV-violence viewers as children were significantly more likely to have pushed, grabbed or shoved their spouses, to have responded to an insult by shoving a person, to have been convicted of a crime and to have committed a moving traffic violation. Such men, for example, had been convicted of crimes at over three times the rate of other men.

–Huesmann et al, University of Michigan

The Other Side of the Argument

With every point of view, there’s an opposite one. This topic certainly seems to ruffle some feathers.

The makers are quick to underscore the positive side of “Bully.” Namely, actions do have consequences. If you stay out past curfew, the screen will blur and you’ll become sleepy. Then you’ll pass out. If you skip a class, a group of adults will voice their disapproval. And the incentive for attending the twice a day classes? Your character may get an enhanced ability to flirt with girls or a great recipe to make stink bombs and other prank devices.

Oh, good.

Interestingly, the makers didn’t make a feature that allows the students to post their beatings up on YouTube.

Seriously though, old friends, Dr. Larry Kutner and Dr. Cheryl Olson of the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media (and authors of Grand Theft Childhood), performed extensive research that actually supported the playing of video games like “Bully.” They found that that after several years of study that (1) the claims that violent games= violent children was unsupported; (2) Only kids who played over 15 hours of violent video games may be affected; (3) Kids who didn’t play video games at all might be at risk of having low social competency; (4) Kids who play video games have the ability to test new skills and make mistakes and correct them in a fantasy world. Check out this interview with them. (Thank you to Amy of Shaping Youth for the great link).

The big concern that playing violent video games will turn your child violent…there is absolutely no evidence of that…if you look at the violent crimes of teenagers over the last several years its gone down and down significantly and if you look at video game playing, it;s gone up and up significantly.

— Dr. Lawrence Kutner


I have to admit, even after reading the research, I’m still unsettled about this– intuitively, I’m just not into the idea of children and teens playing violent games. How does it serve? It seems so counterintuitive that I just can’t endorse it. I mean, what ever happened to Monopoly and Operation? It sounds to me like we still have more research to do. And is it OK that kids who play video games for over 15 hours per week are, in fact, negatively affected? I don’t think so. What do you think?

My verdict?

Perhaps we should send next month’s Powerful Words curriculum to Bullworth academy? It looks like they need a little help in the area of compassion. I certainly stand behind that intervention.

Here’s to you,

Raising Strong, Confident Daughters: The Next 3 Ways

You’ve read the first and second volume of this article. Now here are the next 3 ways to raise strong, confident daughters:

(11) Scrap the comparisons: Nothing can make a child feel worse than being compared to their siblings or their friends when it comes to success. One parent with whom I worked used to ask her child, “why can’t you be more outgoing like your sister?” This tactic does not make your child more likely to become extroverted, but rather, attacks her character and makes her feel inadequate. When it comes to body image, these kinds of comparisons can be particularly hurtful– making a girl feel that she will never measure up unless she is “taller,” “thinner” or less like herself.

(12) Limit the labels: When we label our child it can stunt her initiative to try something new or travel outside of her comfort zone. Labels such as “she’s shy” or “she can’t pay attention” or “she’s disabled” can make a child live up to the expectation instead of challenging it (and achieving success). I worked with a mother of a girl who had dwarfism and coached her on whether she should allow her daughter to try martial arts. Her mother was convinced that she wouldn’t be able to do it. However, her mother promised me that she wouldn’t tell her daughter these thoughts. Her daughter surprised everyone when she progressed through the belt system at her martial arts academy. In fact, she was often chosen to demonstrate skills in front of the class. By not telling your child that she can’t do something, it gives her the initiative to try and the confidence to succeed.

(13) Foster indomitable spirit: My mother always sung this song to me when I was little and fell down: “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” I can still hear it clearly in my mind. When we allow children to make their own mistakes and encourage them to make a second, third, or forth attempt, children begin to realize that they do not need to get it right on the first try. Knowing that “do-overs” are part of life, can help spur children on to try new things and stretch their limits.

Confidence is built over time and takes patience and persistence. Your daughter has the power to do many great things. A powerful parent is one who supports, encourages, listens, and loves without contingency. After all, it is not for us to empower our daughters but rather, to provide them with the tools and the support so that they can identify their own power and ultimately, their own sense of self worth and confidence.