Randy Pausch: On Not Giving Up on Your Students

**This article is posted in an altered form on Dr. Robyn’s Powerful Parenting Blog as a service to all of our fabulous Powerful Words family schools throughout the world. —————————————————————————————

“Experience is what you get is when you didn’t get what you want…We send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is… for indirect learning..we don’t actually want them to learn football… We send our kids out to learn much more important things; teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, etc. etc.” –Randy Pausch

The article below was in the March Powerful Words Newsletter– since Perry Bateson in Canada just reminded me about the Randy Pausch video (thank-you!), I figured I’d post it here for all of you. (The full YouTube version is over an hour– well worth it, so pull up a chair– but there is a shortened version (10 minutes) that played on Oprah for your convenience).

Aren’t you ruining my child’s self esteem?

Mrs. Phillips came to talk to me while her son, Patrick, age 8, was in class. “Patrick was upset the other day because Guro Jason corrected three times on one of his skills. When you tell him he’s doing something wrong, aren’t you ruining his self esteem?”

This story came to mind today when I was watching a video of the inspirational “last lecture” of Randy Pausch, who’ll likely die of liver cancer within the next few months. I love watching videos like these because they shine such a bright light on learning and put a fire in my belly. In fact, they make me feel like running to the helm of a ship and yelling “I’m the king of the world!”

Anyway, Professor Pausch said; “when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up…your critics are the ones who still love you and know you can.” Boy, do I agree with that–although, it’s not always easy to experience criticism and it can be excruciating to watch someone we love being critiqued.

I wrote an article on my own experience with this phenomenon. At Tufts, my advisor was known to be the toughest in my department. My dissertation was often filled with red marks and comments like “no!” “wrong!” and “don’t say this” throughout it’s 150 pages. I’m not condoning my advisor’s unforgiving approach—but rather, his practice. Would he be helping me by giving me a disingenuous pat on the back? Certainly not.

Interestingly, after I was awarded my doctorate, he did say something to me that I’ll never forget; “I was hard on you because I always knew you could do better. And you did. In fact you did so well that you became one of the very best.” I felt as though I had destroyed every brick wall placed in front of me and I was ready to take on the world.

So, what about the claim Mrs. Phillips made about her child’s self esteem? While too much criticism in the absence of praise can be detrimental, too much praise in the absence of critique is just as damaging.

Feelings of self worth, esteem, and gratification come from overcoming challenges. They derive from hard work, perseverance, self discipline, and self reliance. They don’t come from simply being the best but rather, doing one’s personal best and raising the bar higher every time we approach a skill. These feelings don’t come from our teachers and parents telling us we’re doing well when we aren’t or telling us we’re doing “the best” when we’re not putting in “our best.” They come from when others, whose opinions we value, tell us that they know we can do better and then notice it when we do.

In the end, we gain self esteem when we break through brick walls when even we wondered if we could.

As educators, coaches, teachers, and instructors, it’s our duty to inspire students to rise to their potential—not so that they necessarily become better martial artists, gymnasts, swimmers, dancers, or cheerleaders, but so they strive towards their personal best in everything they do.

Nobody ever feels satisfied while leaning against a brick wall that blocks their dream as their superheroes yell “at-a-boy!” But I’ve certainly felt the rush of achievement when I’ve barreled through brick walls, bruises and all, with my mentors and loved ones nodding their heads saying, “we knew you could do better. And you did.”

Here’s to you– for not letting our students give up on their dreams,

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Helicopter Parents; Volume 2: 4 Consequences of Being Overprotective

This article is Part 2 of a series on Helicopter Parenting. Part 1, “Why are they so overprotective” can be found here.

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What are the negative effects of helicopter parenting?

By Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

While overprotective parents want the very best for their children, in the long run, they might be doing more harm than good. After all, childhood is supposed to be a time to make mistakes, learn from them and grow to be independent and self reliant. Without this training ground, adulthood can be a very rude awakening.

Harmful effects of helicopter parenting include the following:

(1) Undermining children’s confidence: No one can argue that confidence is one of the most important predictors of success. It is the foundation of self reliance and lays the groundwork for commitment, perseverance, goal achievement, and courage. When parents take the reins, they do not allow their children to learn how to take charge of their own lives. The repercussions can be long lasting.

(2) Instilling fear of failure: If a child is learning that success is always dependent on the help of Mommy and Daddy, he can become fearful that failure is imminent if he tries to go it alone. Clearly no parent wants to see their child fail. However, if a child is continually shielded from disappointment and inadequacy, he is being denied the chance to learn how to persevere.

(3) Stunting growth and development: Since helicopter parents are essentially “babying” their children, it’s not surprising that kids of smothering mothers can be less mature than their self reliant counterparts. Studies have shown that these children lack some of the knowledge to negotiate what they need, solve their own problems, stay safe, and interact in close quarters with others.

(4) Raising anxiety levels: Research has shown that parents who consistently judge their own self worth by their children’s success report feeling more sad and having a more negative self image than parents who did not engage in this behavior. Interestingly, parents’ anxiety levels and dissatisfaction with life has shown a marked increase during the past twenty years as parents have become increasingly involved in their children’s lives.

As you know, it’s self reliance month for Powerful Words schools. While we all want parents to have a healthy and positive interest in their children and their education, it’s important to help parents understand that too much participation can be a detriment to their children’s development of self reliance and self confidence.

Parents and educators need to partner with each other for the good of the children– and this, inevitably, will allow our students to become thriving, self-assured leaders in life.

Until next time…Have a Powerful Month!

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Dr. Robyn Silverman Wins a Writing Award!!!

Greetings All~

I am thrilled to announce that our very own Child Development Specialist / Success Coach / Founder and Creator of POWerful Words Character Development has won a very exciting award! As many of you know, she writes a monthly column for Bay State Parent Magazine that is quickly being heralded as one of the finest parenting magazines in the country.

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Parenting Publications of America (PPA) gave out more than 400 awards to 78 parenting publications in the USA, Canada & Australia. PPA’s Editorial & Design Awards Competition recognizes excellence in journalism, photography, and design achieved by publishers, editors, writers, and designers at member publications. A panel of judges reviewed 1,249 entries this year to choose the winners in each category. All judges have had significant professional journalism experience.

*** Here are the Awards that Dr. Robyn won or played a part in:***

* Special Series:

Silver Medal: Fitting In While Standing Out (September, October, & November 2007)

Writer: Dr. Robyn Silverman’s Parenting 1-2-3

Judges Comments: “Timely and informative, these columns contain the ideal mix of fact and narrative.”

* Overall Reporting

Bronze Medal: (Submitted issues: March, September, & October 2007 )

Writers: Susan Scully Petroni, Alyson Aiello, Kerri Augusto, Amy Benoit, Robin Burke, Rosemary Cafasso, Lindsay Crone, Michelle Xiarhos Curran, Antoinette Donovan, Jon Grayzel, Marta Kowalczyk, Jennifer Lefferts, Sue Lovejoy, Jane Mackay, Maria Marien, Marguerite Paolino, Elizabeth C. Regan, Dr. Robyn Silverman, Donna White

Judges Comments: “The sheer volume of content in this magazine is impressive, but its writers and editors also take the time to make every page, story and listing exude authority and provide useful information. Monthly themes give each issue a personality all its own.”

* Overall General Excellence

Bronze Medal: (Submitted issues: September, October, & November 2007)

Writers: Susan Scully Petroni, Alyson Aiello, Kerri Augusto, Amy Benoit, Robin Burke, Rosemary Cafasso, Lindsay Crone, Michelle Xiarhos Curran, Antoinette Donovan, Jon Grayzel, Kate M Jackson, Jennifer Lefferts, Sue Lovejoy, Jennifer Lucarelli, Sarah MacDonald, Jane Mackay, Marguerite Paolino, Elizabeth C. Regan, Donna Roberson, Dr. Robyn Silverman, & Donna White

Judges Comments: “This publication is full of nicely reported and written local stories full of local real people and experts. The design is consistent and organized, and it is easy to navigate through the publication. ”

***Please join me in congratulating Dr. Robyn for being recognized as the marvelous parenting and school owner resource that we all know she is!

Have a Powerful Day!

Jason M. Silverman