Body Image Tips to Raise Healthy, Confident Daughters

Dr. Robyn Silverman

September is an amazing month for action. You can smell it in the air. Back to work.  Back to school.  Back to…snarky body-bashing comments from “friends,” coworkers, and the girl next door who, as it turns out, isn’t that nice after all.

What are we doing? It’s time to get it together.  If women can’t be nice to each other, who the heck are we all supposed to lean on?  Come on.  Men are…men.  We love them but they don’t understand the plight of women and girls like…well, other women and girls!

I know next month is national Love Your Body Day– in fact, I will be posting an amazing interview with Love Your Body Day event planner, Chenese Lewis this week. But do we really need to wait to love our bodies?  Do we really need to wait to give our friends, colleagues, and family members a compliment, a smile, and a quick “you go girl” to help them feel like they are valuable, worthwhile, and an asset to themselves and society? Yes, I mean despite their weight.  Who cares?  No woman or girl is worth more when they weigh less.  We need to fight back.

Here are some quick tips for parents and yes, other women, to help inspire our girls to hone those assets and reach their potential.  Don’t wait for Love Your Body Day.  Do it now. How about teaching that to your daughter or some other girl today?


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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.

Top 10 Ways to Thank teachers who make us feel good about ourselves


It’s rare to find someone who inspires us to be our very best– who makes us feel good about who we are– no matter what our size or shape. Do you have a mentor, teacher, or coach who does that for you or your daughter? Let’s show them a little gratitude!

(1) Send out a press release: Press releases are simple and free. Write up a letter and send it to the press for all the community to see.

(2) Prepare a meal: The busiest mentors or teachers might not have time to prepare something special for themselves!

(3) Send a note of gratitude: Take time to write something really special. Teachers and coaches appreciate your words of support. Site specific ways that they have helped your children or family. You might think that “everyone” will send a note of appreciation—but many won’t. Be the person who provides a heartfelt thanks to a favorite teacher, coach, or mentor. You can even send a free e-card!

(4) Give a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant: Sometime during the month ask your teacher’s friend about which restaurant is a top-pick or ask the teacher where s/he might suggest you take your spouse to lunch or dinner over the weekend. Then get the gift certificate and surprise the teacher!

(5) Give a gift certificate for a massage, manicure/pedicure, or facial: Many teachers, coaches and mentors don’t take the time to pamper themselves. Give them the gift of relaxation as a real treat!

(6) Personalize t-shirts or coffee mugs: Take a picture of the children or teens that the teacher, mentor or coach have helped or have the children make a special collage and get it transferred onto a shirt or mug for posterity!

(7) Picture it: Take a picture of your daughter and put it into a special picture frame for the special teacher or coach. You can even personalize the picture frame with the teacher’s name, the grade, and the year with a little engraved brass tag or ask an artistic friend to paint it right onto frame.

(8) A tasty surprise: Bring in muffins, a cake, or pizza so that your favorite teachers or mentors can enjoy a special well-deserved treat.

(9) Walk of fame: Borrow or purchase a red carpet, roll of felt, or paint butcher paper red and tape it down in the center hallway. Make gold stars with each teacher’s name on one. Have the school greet the teachers as they enter the school, take pictures (paparazzi) and celebrate!

(10) Have a give-back day: The best way to show gratitude is to give back! Help clean, paint, and wash the windows! Raise money for the mentors/teachers’ favorite charity. Plant a tree or some flowers! Donate some books to the library in their honor! Refill their supply closet! There are many things you can do to give back to the people who’ve helped your family all year long!

We love our teachers, coaches, instructors, and mentors!

Thank you!


Raising Strong, Confident Daughters: The Next Five Ways

How can we build up our daughters’ self confidence?

Parents can do so much to help our daughters’ thrive. You’ve read volume 1. Here’s volume 2 of raising strong, confident daughters:

(6) Catch your child “being good:” We often are quick to jump when our child is exhibiting poor behavior, however, when our child is making good choices, we “let sleeping dogs lie” and refrain from making a comment. When you praise your child when she doesn’t even know you were looking, two things happen. She becomes more apt to repeat the positive behavior and she feels good about the choices she is making independently of you.

(7) Be a positive role model: How is your self esteem? If you look in the mirror and say negative things about yourself or your body, your child will absorb those actions. Your children are like little sponges! Even your subtle, unspoken negative reactions to how you have performed or how you look (as you believe it reflects on you as a person) can be read by your children. This negativity can filter down to your children and lead them to question if they are good enough.

(8) Love is unwavering: My friend used to tell her young children, “nothing you can do or say will make me take my love away.” When your children know that even when they make mistakes you will still love them, they will become more self assured and more understanding of how many childhood mistakes can be fixed with some purposeful effort and perhaps a few heartfelt apologies.

(9) Enroll your child is an activity that fosters confidence: There are many activities that can make your child feel successful. What are her talents? What are her interests? Some programs provide a character development component into their lesson plans which help children put a positive name to their positive behavior. For example, many martial arts academies are using a systemized character education program that is formulated to build children’s sense of values and self worth. Choose an activity with positive role models and a positive curriculum.

(10) Talk with your child: When you talk with your child, ask powerful questions, and really listen. Let her know that she is valued and that her opinions matter. Many parents find themselves “talking at” their child which, as we know, isn’t always well received. Spend time talking with your child about things that matter to the whole family and the things that matter to her.

Until next time (and the next ways to help your daughters!),


Raising Strong, Confident Daughters: The first 5 Ways


What does your daughter see when she looks in the mirror?
Creating Powerful Girls (Volume 1)

The diet commercials are in full force which can only mean two things; bathing suit season is right around the corner and nationwide body image is getting ready to plummet. Many parents worry that between all the talk about buff bodies and diet plans, their young daughters will slip into a self esteem slump. How can we elevate our daughters’ self worth without needing to go on and on about loving your body?

Confidence and self worth, both positive and negative, can influence how a person feels, thinks, and acts throughout childhood and adulthood. Those who have strong feelings of confidence and high self worth will feel more positive about themselves, think more positively, and act and behave more positively than those who have low self confidence and low self worth. In addition, someone with strong feelings of confidence and high self worth will like who they see in the mirror each day and know that they are worthy of love.

Here are the first 5 tips to strengthening your child’s confidence and feelings of self worth:

(1) Help your child realize her unique gifts: Everyone is talented or special in some way. While we are not all little Einsteins or mini- Monets, everyone has something to offer. Let your child know that you appreciate their gifts. Allow your child to show you what she can do—without doing it for her! She will get better with time. Hang up artwork, projects, or awards that exhibit these gifts so that your child knows that you value her special talents. Creating a Wall of Fame will allow her to see all of her accomplishments.

(2) Be present: When your child is sharing new knowledge or new gifts, pay attention! This is the time to shut off the TV and the cell phone. When you do this, your child will know that they are important and worthy of your undivided attention.

(3) Don’t over-praise: While letting your child know that their gifts are special, don’t over-praise to the point of being phony. Not every art project and assignment is worthy of the Wall of Fame. Not everything your child does is super, perfect and fantastic. When you praise your child when praise is due, your child will know you are being genuine and that she has really done a good job.

(4) Be a RAD parent (Reliable, Accountable, and Dependable): While you may not always be available when your child needs you, create a pattern of responsiveness and responsibility. Be on time, be reliable, and follow through with what you say you are going to do. When you are a RAD parent, your child will know that they can count on you and that they are worthy of your follow through.

(5) Praise effort: It may be easy to focus on a high mark on a paper or a gold medal, but it is really important to praise effort instead of results. When your child knows that she has worked hard and that hard work is praised, she will likely keep putting in the effort to make the accomplishment. When we are results driven, failure can stop us in our tracks and make us give up for fear of failing once again.

When we take the time to instill confidence in our children, they become a little bit stronger. Then they can call upon that strength when they are feeling low or bombarded with negative, body-bashing messages. The strength of positive parents carries on even when they are not around!

Until next time (and the next 5 tips)–