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Ask Dr. Robyn: COURTESY

8-23-2015 6-15-34 PM

Dear Dr. Robyn,
In a conversation with my children’s grandparents the other day, they pointed out that so many children these days don’t use common courtesy. It’s all “me, me, me!” I think they are right. Can you provide some tips so we can make sure our children aren’t part of the problem?
— Jade & Pete G, Omaha, NE

Dear Jade & Pete,
In order to raise courteous children, we need to make sure we teach them and show them how to be courteous! But we also need to expect them to show courteous actions without dismissing disrespectful actions. Sometimes, we do one without the other.

In order to raise courteous kids:

(1) Take the extra moment to teach your child: When your child does not remember to use manners, hold the door or help others, don’t jump in and rescue. Take the moment to teach your child the right thing to do. Ask them politely, “Please hold the door for the person behind us. It shows courtesy and it’s what we would like others to do for us too!” Even small children can show courtesy!

(2) Expect courteous actions: Whether it’s at the dinner table, walking into a store, taking the groceries into the home or interacting with friends and family, expect your children to show courteous, developmentally appropriate conduct. Expect table manners, holding the door for others and a helping hand. When we expect kind conduct and relay this to our children, they are much more likely to show it.

(3) Provide courteous opportunities: When you see an opportunity to lend a helping hand or overtly use manners, take it! Say to your children; “that elderly woman is struggling with her bags and getting to out the door– what do you think we should do?” Allow them to hear the courteous way you order from a restaurant and ask them to shadow you by ordering in the same way after you. You can even go to a public area with the intention of looking for courteous opportunities.

Finally, get your family involved with charity: When we can show our children the many people, animals and places that are in need to help, it can ignite their empathy and desire to help. It can also help to underscore how fortunate they are and help them to see that they have the ability and resources to help others. Through charity, our children can learn to show concern and kindness for others and do something that can help others!

Here’s to your success!

Dr. Robyn Signature

Kid Martial Arts

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Ask Dr. Robyn – GRATITUDE

4-14-2015 2-13-14 PM

Dear Dr. Robyn,
We would like to start some gratitude traditions in our home but we do not know where to start. Can you give us some ideas? Thank you in advance.
— Sue and John F, Seattle, WA

Dear Sue and John,
Creating gratitude traditions in your home is a wonderful way to teach your children to look for ways to show gratitude. In
an age in which society seems to yell “bigger, faster, more, more, more!” it’s important to slow down and simply appreciate our blessings.

Here are some ways to incorporate gratitude into your home:

(1) Attitude of Gratitude list or journal: Keep a public family list up on the wall or start a public family journal that allows family members to write (or draw) why they are grateful each week. You can then read (or show) the contents of the journal to everyone at the dinner table one night of the
week to honor both the one who showed gratitude and the one who deserves the recognition.

(2) Gratitude table: Go around the table before dinner and allow each person to explain why s/he is grateful. Who is s/he grateful for and for what is s/he grateful? This idea is simple yet effective.

(3) Create a gratitude calendar: If the gratitude table isn’t possible due to time or logistics, you can create a gratitude calendar which allows you and your family to write down one reason why you are grateful each day. At the end of the month, it’s fun to look back and see all the blessings at once.

(4) Give back: When someone helps you or your family, encourage your family to find ways to give back to that person. Did Grandma baby sit when you needed help? Ask the children to make her a card, plant a garden or find another way to show her gratitude. Did a teacher stay after school to help your child? Send in some extra supplies for the classroom, write a personalized thank you card or find out one of her/his favorite treats and send them along.

(5) Pay it forward: When we receive so many blessings, it’s wonderful to pay it forward to others who are in need. Create breakfast-to-go bags for the local food pantry, collect animal supplies for the animal shelter, donate family time to helping out the soup kitchen or organize a collection for your favorite charity or family in need.

No doubt your efforts will be appreciated!

Here’s to your success!

Dr. Robyn Signature


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December, 2014 Powerful Word: Fairness

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This month we will focus on the powerful word, “fairness”.

Fairness is a tough concept to understand for many children. It’s easy to see why. Fairness does not necessarily mean equal or “the same” and yet studies tell us that young children believe that inequality is unfair (i.e. Science, May 2010). As adults, we know that fairness is reached when everyone gets what is needed, deserved and appropriate given age and circumstance.

For example, picture the family that sits down to dinner. If fairness meant “the same” then everyone should be given the same amount of food regardless of need, hunger, weight, or size. Most would agree, that wouldn’t be fair at all!

A recent study out of Yale University found that children can be unfailingly fair when dividing up candy bars between two other children (Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2014). In fact, when considering whether to give the extra candy bar to one child or throw that extra bar away, they typically chose to throw any extras away. They even keep up this fairness streak when they are involved as a recipient. The only time this paradigm is disrupted is when the children believe that no one will know if they receive the extra candy bar. Some will choose to accept the extra prize in that circumstance!

One of the areas that we will be discussing this month, aside from defining fairness, is how to play by the rules. On the surface, we equate “playing by the rules” to when we play games, do sports or enter contests with others. Children need to learn about cheating, stealing and showing respect while competing with others.

But “playing by the rules” also relates to “fighting fairly” when  in debate with others. This takes empathy, self control and listening skills. On the one hand, children need to learn how to listen with an open mind, identify the problem and take responsibility for their actions. On the other hand, children need to restrain themselves from yelling, blaming and  intimidating.

We thank you for your support. You are pivotal in helping to make our school one of the best personal development centers in the world.

Keep up the good fight!


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NSMAC Holiday Food Drive

Food Drive PicNorth Shore Martial Arts Center is rolling out its 6th annual food drive to help end hunger in the community. Between now and December 23rd, North Shore Martial Arts Center will be hosting a Food Drive to Combat Hunger . Food donations will be given to “A Servant’s Heart” food pantry on Franklin Street in Melrose. Donations can be made at North Shore Martial Arts Center.

All are encouraged to make donations of canned goods or dry boxed food.

Keep up the good fight!


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September, 2014 Powerful Word… CONFIDENCE

9-3-2014 10-11-47 AM

This month we will focus on the character concept, “confidence.”

Confidence is a combination of trust, conviction and assuredness. Confident people embody a feeling of inner certainty that problems and challenges will work out as envisioned. They believe in themselves, their abilities, and in those they trust.

When speaking to children, t’s important to delineate the difference between confidence and cockiness or conceit. Confident people are aware of their strengths but don’t feel they need to brag about them for validation. They already have that certainty inside. They can admit their weaknesses–but not in a way that heaps on shame. Rather, they talk about weakness in a productive way that helps them to reach out for help, strengthen their skills and connect with others.

When it comes to goals and goal-setting, confident people follow their passion and try new activities. They are open to meeting new people and are comfortable embracing their own identity even if they’re different from others. They have faith in themselves and their ability to succeed.

A recent study published in the journal of Child Development shows the importance of giving children praise for their efforts (such as “you worked hard on that”) rather than for their personal qualities (such as “you are such a big girl/boy”). The longitudinal research design demonstrated that those children who receive praise for their efforts are more likely to be confident in their ability to improve their intelligence and personality through hard work on challenging tasks. These children also used  strategies for overcoming failure.

Society can, at times, provide messages that tell children they are not valuable as they are, which can become barriers to confidence. It’s important for our children to be around others who help to build them up rather than tear them down. We are happy to be part of their support system!

We thank you for your support. You are  pivotal in helping to make our school one of the best personal development centers in the world.

Best Regards,
—Your Motivated and
Dedicated Instructors

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Some Thoughts on Courage…

This month, we have been teaching our child students about courage.  It’s funny… when you ask them if they know what it is to have courage, they all seem to answer the same… “it means you are not afraid of anything”.  It is so refreshing to see such innocence.  I can actually remember being a child and thinking that there was nothing my dad was afraid of.  Of course we all learn as we mature that there is nobody on earth who does not feel fear.  I explain this to them and tell them that having courage is doing something that you believe is necessary, even though you may be afraid to.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines courage as “moral or mental strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty”.  Therefore, having courage is having the ability to overcome your fear and face something or do something that you feel needs to be done because it aligns with your personal beliefs.  The courageous individual can control his fear and does not let his fear control him or his actions.

Some obvious situations that children can relate to that require courage are standing up to a bully or learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels for the first time.  However, danger does not always have to be present for one to be courageous.  Consider the situation of a person’s first time speaking to a crowd.  It really amazes me, but according to studies, the thing that the majority of people fear most in life is public speaking (apparently, death is second on this list).  There is really no inherent danger in making a speech.  However, it takes a lot of courage for most people to speak in front of a crowd for the first time.  Obviously, the public speaker must face the fear of embarrassing himself.

When explaining the meaning of courage to the students, I always make sure that they know the difference between having courage and being stupid.  You see, just because you do something that you are afraid to do does not mean that you are courageous.  For instance, I would be more scared than the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz to jump from the Tobin Bridge into the Mystic River just because it was hot out.  To actually do it would not be courageous, but rather stupid.  It is stupid because being hot is obviously not a good enough reason to justify taking such a big risk.  It is only an act of courage if the risk is worth taking.

So what is it that makes the risk worth taking?  The intended result of the courageous act must produce benefits that exceed the value of that which is at risk.  Taking the example of a child learning to ride a bike without training wheels for the first time, consider what is at risk and what the intended result would be.  The likely risk for the child might be a minor injury, such as a skinned knee or a cut on the arm.  There is also a risk of a more serious injury such as a broken bone or a sprained ankle, but this risk is much lower and less likely to happen.  The benefit of course, is that the child learns to ride a bike, giving that child a certain freedom and a great deal of enjoyment from this activity, perhaps for the rest of his or her life.  In addition to this, it will give the child an increase in confidence to face other challenges he or she is certain to face in the future.  In this instance, I think most would conclude that the risk is worth taking.

Why do we as Martial Artists feel that it is important to have courage?  Courage builds strong character, which is what we are all about in the Martial Arts.  There are many times during everyone’s life when they are faced with a situation in which a difficult decision has to be made.  Sometimes the right decision involves carrying out an act that may put one in danger or in a position that they are not very comfortable facing.  We want our students to have the ability to evaluate these situations and have the confidence to decide what is right.  When the right thing to do is something that is dangerous or uncomfortable, we need them to have the courage to execute.  No matter how the situation turns out, there should be no regrets.  Only a person of strong character can carry this out.

Keep up the good fight!

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Stranger Danger???

Should we Really teach our children to never talk to strangers?

I did a short talk this morning for some of the young children in the community, regarding the topic of Stranger Danger.  As I was preparing the information that I would talk about, I came across a point of view that really made me think about this topic.  As far back as I can remember, we have been teaching our children to never talk to strangers.  When we define what a stranger is to children, we tell them that a stranger is anybody who you do not know.  So we are basiclly teaching our children to never talk to anybody you do not know.  I can honestly say that I do not agree with this.  What if your child is lost? Should they not ask someone for help? What if your child notices that he/she is being followed by an adult who could be looking to kidnap them? Should they not approach an adult and inform them of this and ask them for help? We could be telling our children not to do something that could potentially save their lives.

We must educate our children about strangers who are likely safe to talk to and those strangers who are more likely unsafe to talk to.  Let’s face it…  an overwhelming majority of the people out there are not dangerous to children and would likely be more than willing to help any small child who is in trouble.  Also, kidnappings by people that the child knows quite well are much more common than kidnappings by strangers.  So what strangers are not safe to talk to? I tell children that any adult who approaches them looking for help with something or looking to befriend them is someone they should stay clear of.  If an adult is really in need of any help with anything, he would ask another adult for it, not a child.  Likewise, an adult would not go looking for a real friendship from a child… what could they possibly have in common with a child?  Another stranger to avoid is one who approaches them and claims to be someone with authority.  Examples of these situations would be 1) a man approaches a child in a store, perhaps with a badge, claiming to be a store detective and accuses the child of stealing and tells the child he/she must go with them, 2) a man approaches a child with a badge, or even a police uniform and tells the child that he/she must go with them to the station to identify some lost property, or 3) a man approaches a child in a doctor’s coat and tells the child that his/her parents have been in a terrible accident and to go with him to the hospital.  Something should feel wrong to the child in each of these situations.  In the first situation, if the child did not steal anything they should sense that something is not right.  The second situation is just a weird, out of the blue circumstance that should cause them to raise a red flag.  In the third situation, anyone would initially ask themselves, “why would the doctor come out looking for me?” and should realize that something is wrong.

Bottom line??? I tell children to trust their first instinct.  If they get that little shot of adrenaline causing butterflies in their stomach and their legs to feel like jello, that is a sign that something is not right.  Listen to it and get out of there as fast as you can!

Keep up the good fight!


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