Dr. Sylvia Barkan Rimm (born 1935) is an American psychologist specializing in parenting, child development and learning. She has written books on raising gifted children, success for girls, and communication skills.
Dr. Rimm has a PhD. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She has been Director of is a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
She is a proponent of "referential speaking" as a powerful tool for behavioral modification. "Referential speaking" is sincere conversation between adults that is overheard by the child referred to in the speaking. For example, if a child overhears a parent telling a grandparent that this child is smart and doing well on homework, then the child will think that he or she is smart and can do homework well. Conversely, if the child hears one parent tell the other that this child is rotten and cannot control behavior, then the child will believe that bad behaviors cannot be controlled. Effective parenting, therefore, will include a commitment to make referential speaking positive. Whenever the child might overhear, the conversation must be positive about the child's abilities and application those abilities to achieve success. Discussions of problems or concerns must be done between adults when there is no possibility of the child overhearing.
Dr. Rimm also calls for parental cooperation on coordination on setting realistic goals for children and communicating expectations.
Dr. Rimm is cautious about putting too much pressure on children. Referential speaking about the child being "perfect," "the best," or meeting other impossible standards can discourage a child who feels incapable of meeting such standards. This can make even gifted children underachieve. Overreacting to a child's success can have the same effect. Children experience more tension about their homework when they are worrying about it than when they are doing it.
She has numerous outlets in the popular media. She is a contributing correspondent to NBC’s Today Show (since 1996). Her book See Jane Win was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She writes a parenting column that is syndicated nationally with Creators Syndicate.
She maintains a private practice of psychology directing the Family Achievement Clinic, in Westlake, Ohio (and seeing some clients in Wisconsin on a limited basis) . She received her psychology license from the Ohio State Board of Psychology on March 12, 1993.