November 29, 2006

What Parents Do For Kids!

A Wonderful Holiday Experience

Last year, Barbara and I had a wonderful experience that started our Christmas Holidays off on such a great note that I want to share it with you during this year’s Holiday Season. Following a late morning appointment we stopped for breakfast at a local restaurant. The most cheerful and smiling gentleman waited us on. While making the usual small talk, he mentioned that as soon as he got off work at the restaurant he was going to his primary job as a meat cutter at the local grocery store. The fellow looked about my age so I said, “Wow, two jobs? You must be putting a kid or two through college!”

His answer brought tears to our eyes! “I have seven kids… but only two still at home! Five are out on their own now, and supporting themselves. The two still at home are in college now. Won’t be too long before I won’t need to work two jobs!” And to me, the key was that he said all of this with that ever present big grin!

A Parent’s Sacrifice? Hardly!

I said, “Wow, what a sacrifice!”

In his answer we found an ace we could keep. He said, “It has not been a sacrifice at all, it has been worth every minute of the work. All of our kids are fantastic adults. One is a painter at the Chevrolet dealership in Whitefish, another has a construction business in Delaware, another is a teacher, another is a contractor, and the fifth is a Doctor! Oh that fifth one was amazing,” he said. “She had bad grades all through early days of school but then, one day in about the tenth grade, she just said she was going to become a doctor. She went to work, brought her grades up went to med school and now she IS a doctor! The last two are in college and it looks like we got lucky because all seven are going to turn out all right!”

No Luck Involved

“Sir, there is very little luck involved in how your kids turned out", I responded. “There was no accident in your home! The sacrifices you made on their behalf and the obvious work ethic you taught them is the reason that they turned out to be fine adults!”

This hardworking man, clearly, was a living lesson to his kids. Yes, he worked two jobs, but he did so gladly and cheerfully. Through his cheerful willingness to work hard in order to provide for them, he obviously had taught his kids to be their own miracles. None of them were raised to just sit and wait for luck, or good fortune to land on their doorstep. Each had been taught that they would become what they chose to become, and that each would get just about what they decided to work to achieve. It was interesting to us to observe that this loving father did not seem to place any more or less value or pride in the various professions of his kids. He was obviously, equally proud of the unique accomplishments of each child.

A lesson Taught by a Working Father

Another lesson he seemed to be teaching us was that parents must never give up on kids. Keep teaching them and eventually they will get the message. The daughter with the poorest track record in early school eventually went the furthest with formal education. As he put it, “I just never gave up on believing in her! I knew that someday she would find her dream!”

As he talked of his kids his eyes filled with tears and his permanent smile just got bigger. That father is a man who will probably go to his grave with little of material value to show for all of his long hours of work… but he will go to his grave a rich, rich man! He was important in the lives of his children. He delights in the really important things in life; his kids and his family!

So why do I share this experience about this simple, loving, hardworking man with you parents? Because his life is a living lesson to all of us; that loving, teaching, supporting, and believing in your kids is a wonderful way to find real meaning in life! I believe that parents who focus on the positives in their children while continuing to teach, teach, teach by word, deed, and example will find their days filled with a lot more joy and a lot less stress.

When it is all said and done, about the only footprint any of us will ever leave on the world will lie in what we have taught to our children.

November 28, 2006

Starting a Parenting with Dignity Class

(Another in Series of Letters from Concerned Parents (If you would like to submit a question for Mac to answer, please feel free to post your question at the bottom of the page!)

Why Would We Want to Start a PWD Class?

Dear Mac,

My wife and I recently purchased a set of the Parenting with Dignity, DVD curriculum and we love it. (We really loved the fact that we received a book for free with the order! the book really helps to refer to after watching he video.) The techniques are working with amazing success. We cannot believe the change in the climate in our family, and both of us feel so much calmer since we are actually approaching our three kids with a real plan. We are about halfway through the Assignment sheets and have just finished with Segment 5.

Our question for you is regarding the starting of a class. We love the curriculum but on your website you are continually trying to get parents to get together and watch the sessions as a group or class with other parents and we are not sure that we see that added value in going through the curriculum with other parents. Why should we put forth the effort to meet with others since the curriculum is working so well for us?

Father and Mother from West Virginia

A Simple Answer to A Common Question

Dear Father and Mother,

Your question is very perceptive and it is one that I receive almost weekly, so I will answer your question (and the questions of others) regarding the value of holding Parenting with Dignity classes!

It is really quite simple when you think about it; from the day your kids enter school at the common age of five they will spend more waking hours with the kids of other families than they spend with you! Those kids from other families are going to exert a very real and powerful force in the lives of your kids (this is commonly called "peer pressure"). You don’t say how old your kids are but if you have three it is probably pretty safe to assume that at least one of your kids is already of school age and maybe all of them are already in school.

Just like it says in our curriculum, “The ideas in the heads of you kids will rule their world! And it does not matter where those ideas come from”. In the American culture many of the ideas in kids heads come from the kids that they spend time with at school! If you are NOT willing to engage in discussions with the families of those kids and insist on doing “your own thing in your own home” with little or no interaction with the families of the kids that your kids go to school with and play with, then you are committing a fatal error. Those other kids and families will exert lots of pressure on you kids with some pretty dysfunctional ideas; and if you are unwilling to interact you must accept what you get! But peer pressure need not be a negative force!

This Will Sound Familiar!

It works like this: It is so much easier for you to teach something as simple as saying “please” and “thank-you” at your dinner table if, when your kids visit another family home and your kid says, “Hey gimme a biscuit,” and then someone at that table asks them to use “Please!” All of a sudden you are not so weird for demanding the same in your home.

Roll the camera ahead a few years and your daughter or son is on a date to the Prom. It is so much easier for your kid to practice appropriate dating behavior if the kid he or she is dating is practicing the same behavior!
It is so much more reasonable to expect your kid to say “no” to drugs if he or she has friends who are cool, and who are also saying “no” surrounding them! It is much easier to place productive and healthy ideas in your kids’ heads if the kids that they go to school with and hang out with have similar ideas in their heads!

“How do we get there?” you ask. Well it is really pretty simple; you have to get together with the parents of the kids that your kids play with, and go to school with. You need to sit down with the other parents and look each other in the eye and agree on some similar techniques and ideas.

At this point so many parents say, “But we will never agree with other parents on everything!” Granted, but, you know, I have now been in communities in every one of the fifty states, and let me tell you it is not nearly as hard as it may appear at first glance!

Not So Difficult to Find Agreement

If you put twenty adults in a room and ask them to form a list of the twenty biggest problems that they anticipate that their kids will face before they are twenty-one, almost every group will come up with the same list!

The key is to anticipate what your kids will face and to give them the guidance BEFORE they are in the situation. If a whole group of parents have agreed that they want their kids to know what to do in the event that drugs are offered, then they must develop those positive expectations in the heads of their kids! This works so much better if those same actions are in the heads of many of your kids friends and classmates!

A Stimulant for Discussion

Our classes are a great medium for stimulating those discussions in a very non-threatening way! If you will hold the classes with twelve other families then you will have twelve allies in placing productive and positive ideas in your kids heads!

I cannot encourage you strongly enough to set up a class with Parenting with Dignity solely for the purpose of engaging with other parents in building strategies for collectively creating the community to raise your kids. Believe me it works! (And the review of the curriculum will not hurt you either!)

In closing let me offer just one more side benefit to holding classes… you will learn more from the other people in the class than you learn from the curriculum! It is true. You will learn more from the ideas and experiences that the other parents bring to class than you will learn from the curriculum itself. The other families will bring in examples and situations typical to your community and your local culture!

Good luck and if you need help setting up your class just go to and print that page. It is a compilation of things we have learned about setting up successful classes.

Go for it and let me know if I can be of help in setting up your class.


Mac Bledsoe

November 27, 2006

Be an Effective Listener to Your Children

Listening is Fundamental to Being an Effective Parent

One of the keys to being an effective parent, especially a parent of teens, lies in being an effective listener. Today, I would like to offer to you six words or phrases to use whenever you find yourself listening to your children. These “listening words” let your children know that you are listening, they let them know you heard what they said, but the key is that these words are non-evaluative in nature.

So here are the six "listening words and phrases":

“I didn’t know you felt like that!”
“Tell me more!”

If you will just insert these words into pauses or spaces in the talk of a child, it will let them know that you are listening. It let’s the child know that you heard them but because these words indicate nothing of what you think, they allow the child to continue. Many times what children are doing when they are talking with you is thinking out loud. By listening and occasionally letting them know you are hearing them it will draw them out and encourage them to speak to you some more.

The Ultimate Goal

If your ultimate goal is to raise children who are capable of making good decisions for themselves, good listening is so important. While your children are thinking out loud they are actually getting experience in making decisions before they are actually in the live situation. Listening to your children allows them to try out some ideas before they actually use them. I know that it will sometimes take all you have to just offer one of the listening words and keep quiet but it will usually result in your children coming to you repeatedly to try out ideas before they actually use the ideas. Many times the conversation with you will be all that a child needs to make a good decision.

The big advantage to you is that by creating the atmosphere in your family where you are viewed as being a good listener, you will have an opportunity to speak in due time, and you might then speak at a time when your child might be more open to listening to you.

A Critical Question

We have also found that many times it helps if you, the parent will ask one simple question when one of your children is beginning to speak to you. Ask them, “Are you seeking my advice or do you just want me to listen?” We found that most of the time the child will opt for “just listen!”

The next time that one of your children comes to you and starts talking to you, try using those listening words and phrases in any pause. Ask your child if he/she wants you to offer advice or wants you to just to listen. If they tell you they just want you to listen then honor that request.

A final step in being a good listener is just repeating back what you have just heard. Repeat what your child says in your own words. Your child will correct you if you get it wrong.

Become a good listener. Then, if your child views you as a good listener, they will often listen to you when you have something to say later on!

November 24, 2006

Creating “Positive Peer Pressure”

Questions and Answers Are Only part of the Picture

I wish to thank those of you who submit questions to this column. Not only do you personally receive an answer to your own questions, but by asking your question, you also allow others to benefit because you may have just asked a question that helps many others as well. Many families can benefit from the question asked by one parent! However, I would like to point out that these questions and answers in this column represent only a small part of the value that the Parenting with Dignity Program has to offer to you and your family! Just think how wonderful it would be to be involved in the same process with weekly discussions about similar issues with other parents in your community !

Build a Strong Community to Raise Your Children

I cannot recommend strongly enough that you order a copy of the Parenting with Dignity Video Curriculum and/or a copy of either of my books, Parenting with Dignity or Parenting with Dignity the Early Years! By writing questions, many readers of this column can, and do, receive specific help with individual problems , however, this process may be of fleeting value because that small bit of advice may not help out the next time that another different problem arises! This process of question and answer keeps throwing parents back into the same loop... ask, answer; ask, answer; ask answer; and so on.

Develop a Complete Plan for raising Your Children

What the Parenting with Dignity Course does is to outline a complete plan for raising children in a highly effective and dignified manner. The program teaches you to be your own source of answers! My books do the same thing. In my books, I outline a complete plan for raising self-directed and fulfilled, happy children who are fully capable of making great decisions for themselves based upon a strong and complete foundation of values, morals, and ethics that you have taught to them! The video curriculum and the books teach you to create your own strategies tailored to your own family and your own problems.

Obviously, I will continue to offer specific advice via this column because it fills a need for so many parents and so many families. Even parents who have completed the course find this type of forum to be helpful. However, the point that I am attempting to make here is that in spite of receiving valuable help from these regular articles, the most broad and lasting value that you can receive from Parenting with Dignity lies in allowing yourself to go through the entire course with other parents. Going through each lesson and doing all of the assignments in conjunction with other families will bring the most value to your family!

Get the Maximum Value from Parenting with Dignity

The maximum value that families can receive from Parenting with Dignity comes from not just going through the class; the greatest value comes from forming a class and going through the curriculum with other parents in the neighborhood or community! When families go through the complete course together, they all benefit much more than they would by just going through the curriculum on their own.

Benefit from the Experiences of Others!

Just like in this column, many others may benefit from the question submitted by one parent. Most people tell us that they benefit as much from the discussions with other parents in their classes as they do from the curriculum itself!

A Very Simple Concept

But even more than benefiting from the questions of others, there is an even greater benefit that families receive from going through the curriculum together! This is not a difficult concept to understand. Please understand this: It is so much easier to teach your own children something if every other home that they visit is teaching a similar thing! It is so much easier to teach something as simple as saying “please” and “thank-you” at your own dinner table, if every home your child visits is teaching the same thing!

Likewise, it is so much easier to teach your children the advantages of drug-free living if your children are in constant contact with other children who have been taught a similar approach to life! Peer pressure is only negative if it pushes in a negative direction! Positive peer pressure can be a parent's biggest ally! Parenting with Dignity helps you to create this powerful positive force for your children.

Positive Peer Pressure

It is so much more natural to expect your children to behave in a desired manner if their friends are doing so too! Can it be more simple? It is just so much more reasonable to expect your child to behave in an appropriate manner while on a date to the Prom if he/she is dating a young person who has been taught similar dating behavior! Then just imagine that they are on a "double-date" with a couple more young people who have also been taught similar dating behavior; the peer pressure is now pushing them all toward doing the right thing!

Create a Positive Community for Raising Your Children

Put very simply, Parenting with Dignity will help you to build the positive community to raise your children! Parenting with Dignity will create positive peer pressure to "push" your children towards positive decisions and behavior! Please join the many other families who have started a Parenting with Dignity Course in their neighborhood. Order a copy of our DVD Curriculum and start a class today!

November 22, 2006

Dysfunction, Abuse, and Neglect

(Another in Series of Letters from Concerned Parents (If you would like to submit a question for Mac to answer, please feel free to post your question at the bottom of the page!)

(As an introduction to this letter, let me just tell you that I have since been in contact with this mother and she assured me that she was never considering any kind of stoppage in her efforts to be a great parent... she was just asking a theoretical question.)

A Question

Hi Mac,

I have a question. I was just noticing how most of the leaders of the world come from very hard/dysfunctional/abusive... childhoods. It kind of makes you think doesn't it? What I want to know is, with all the good parenting we give to our kids, are we really serving them well for their future? (Obviously, I'm not going to parent my children any less than my best because of this, I'm just curious).

I'm eager to hear your opinion.

Kind regards,
Wondering Mom

An Answer

Dear Mom,

I seldom receive questions of a general nature like this but I will try to answer your question as honestly as I can.

First, let me tell you that in my line of work, I find far more people who have been irreparably damaged by "hard/dysfunctional/abusive... childhoods" than I have found people who become leaders of the world from "hard/dysfunctional/abusive... childhoods"!

I would not disagree with you that there are many people who have difficult times in life, but who still go on to achieve very high levels of performance and leadership... However, I would contend that those who made it to the top did it in spite of their circumstance rather that because of them! In addition, I would contend that people who live successful lives after living through dysfunction and abuse, are definitely, the minority! Most people from that type of background live lives filled with anguish, failed dreams, misery, and self-doubt. Few have much in the way of positive self-esteem and even fewer live fulfilled lives.

"Are we doing our children a disservice by being a good parent?" I cannot believe that someone would consider that as a rational thought. I'm sure you don't. The thought of intentionally raising a child in dysfunction or abuse in order to help them is so ludicrous that I am surprised that I am even answering this question! I know that you are just asking in theory, but it still is a shocking question to me. However, the question does bring up some good ideas!

Well, in answer to your question, "I want to know, with all the good parenting we give to our kids, are we really serving them well for their future? " I must reply that it seems to me, that your picture of good parenting must be quite different from mine. I do NOT believe that good parenting just protects kids from life. I believe that truly effective parenting teaches kids to live life, all of it, good and bad alike. And good parenting teaches children to deal with tough times in a positive way. You seem to be equating good parenting with some kind of a soft life... but not me. Ask our kids if they lived in a soft home. I'm sure that the answer would be a resounding, "NO! We worked harder than most kids our age!"

Our curriculum is being used in over 52 prisons nationwide and I have visited most of those institutions. Those institutions a filled with people who were raised in homes of dysfunction and abuse! I did not meet many world leaders in those places! I have met thousands of inmates and the most universal characteristic of those, mostly miserable, incarcerated men is that almost every one came from a dysfunctional home!

An Easy Life?

I will say this in answering your question... anyone who reads my material and gets from what I am teaching that I believe that we ought to make life easy for kids has misinterpreted what I am trying to teach. In no way would I ever propose that parents ought to orchestrate an easy and unchallenging life for their children. On the contrary, I believe with all of my heart that children ought to be challenged by difficult decisions and tough and demanding work, whether it is at home, school, athletics, music, or where ever. Most of life’s great lessons are taught by overcoming obstacles.

Life’s Great Lessons

Doing your best for your children rarely implies that you are going to orchestrate success for them. Some of the most challenging and difficult situations teach the most to your children. Attempting to reach for something great and coming up short teaches some of the best lessons in life!

Dealing with Unfair People

When one of our sons would come home and tell me that a teacher was not fair, I didn’t go to the school and try to change the teacher. My advice to our children was to ask them to try to figure out what the teacher wanted them to do. Once they figured that out, I would ask them, "Is what the teacher is asking you to do a violation of any of your values, morals, or ethics? If not, then I would strongly advise you to do what the teacher wants you to do, to the best of your ability, or just accept what you get... but it is your choice! In life you will run into unfair people and you need to learn how to deal with them. Most of the time it works best to give your best effort no matter what. I'm here if you want to run your ideas by me. I will be watching with interest to see how you deal with this situation."

Help Children to Learn from Difficult Situations

The key for the effective parent is to be there for their children to help them learn from disappointments and tough times. Do NOT ever interpret what Parenting with Dignity is teaching to mean that parents ought to protect their children from tough situations! We do NOT teach that.

All we say is that we parents have the obligation to protect our children if an action or situation is illegal, immoral, or life threatening! I those situations, we as parents, ought to step in to prevent them from irreparably damaging themselves but the rest of the time we ought to let them learn from their actions and give the guidance in making good decisions for themselves. We ought to be teaching them the values, morals, ethics, and other rules that will help them to make good decisions. then we ought to be guiding them in how to use those ideas as the ones that they choose to rule their world. (See Lessons 7 & 8 in our Parenting with Dignity Curriculum or Chapters 10 and 11 in my book Parenting with Dignity.

Save Children from “Speeding Trucks”…
Let Them Take On Most of the Rest of Life’s Challenges!

Like I have said many times, the way I kept my actions straight in my head was to ask myself, "If my son was running for the street and there was a big truck coming that would kill him, would I act to stop him from running into the path of certain death? Well, of course I would prevent that from happening. But going outside in cool weather without a coat is not in any way like a speeding truck. Let him go outside and feel what it feels like without a coat and then let him learn to make adjustments in his own behavior.

I hope that what you are speaking of in your question is the way that so many parents, in the name of what they perceive to be "good parenting" deny their children the right to experience some of the results of their own bad decisions. Life can be a good instructor, but the tragedy is when kids make bad decisions and their parents are nowhere in the picture to help them learn HOW to make a better decision the next time.

We Must Act as Parents at Critical Times

Like I said, there are times when I believe that parents ought to be there to prevent children from even trying to learn from their mistakes. Some things that come to mind immediately would be drugs, sex, violence, breaking the law, or unsupervised use of the Internet. Some of the consequences of those behaviors are so dire and so long lasting and life changing that our children cannot be allowed to just experiment with those things in order to learn that there might be dire consequences! Our prisons are full of people who had that kind of parenting.

That being said, I believe that children should be challenged by difficult circumstances and situations. While they are being challenged, I believe that they need someone to act as their teacher and guide.

Most Great Leaders Overcome Difficult Situations...
Because of Great Teachers!

The one thing that separates the world's great leaders who arrived at their positions having come from hard/dysfunctional/abusive childhoods, and the criminals I have met who came from similar situations, is that every person I have met who became successful, in spite of their situation, can point to one or more good teachers in their lives!

I would suggest that you too do some research and find out about those great leaders form humble backgrounds! I believe that you will find, just as I have, that all of them had at least one or more great teachers who helped them to overcome their situation or circumstance.

Now I do not use "teacher" in this sense, as to mean just a schoolteachers. Many of those people count one or both parents as their great teachers. Others point to a pastor or a big brother or big sister. Maybe it was an aunt or an uncle. For me, I can point to some fantastic teachers that I have had in my life. The key elements in the lives of all successful people, were the great teachers in their lives who helped them to learn the important lessons in life! Are you choosing to be one of your children's great teachers? Or will your kids have to find their teacher someplace else?

Don’t Just Protect Your Children…
Teach Them!

With your children, I would never advise you to just protect them from life. What I am trying to advise you to do is to be their teacher; to help them learn life's important lessons, whether they be tough or easy!

When our son and his wife bought a little farm in Western New York, there was a 3-acre lake on their 34-acre property. One of their friends came to me to try to make me promise that I would see to it that our son built a locked fence around the lake to protect our four grandchildren. "Oh that water just scares me to death!" she said, through pleading tears.

You need to hear my answer to that lady... I said, "No, ma'm, you have it all wrong. Our son and daughter-in-law need to teach their kids to swim! Building a fence only protects them from that lake! What about all of the other water in the world? If they teach them to swim, then... no water, anywhere, poses much of a danger to them! They still might fall in, but they would know how to get themselves safely to shore and out of the water!" (Just to let you know, all of our grandchildren could swim, unaided, in the deep end of the pool for five minutes, by the age of two.)

That story is a great metaphor for raising children. We cannot protect them from all of the world... but we can teach them how to live in it safely and with fulfillment! That to me ought to be the goal of all effective parenting.

I hope that helps for you to understand how I feel about your question.


Mac Bledsoe

November 21, 2006

Helping Kids through Sexual Molestation and Other Trauma

(Another in Series of Letters from Concerned Parents (If you would like to submit a question for Mac to answer, please feel free to post your question at the bottom of the page!)

Dear Mac,

Hi, I have your Parenting with Dignity videos but I have a problem that your curriculum doesn't cover in detail. My son's father molested him when he was younger, and although my son and I are in counseling, are there any other suggestions you might have on ways to deal with such things as anger, comforting, feeling safe and issues of that nature.

Thank you,
Mom in Florida

Kids Dealing with Trauma Need LOVE

Dear Mom,

I would strongly suggest that you continue to seek counseling and that you make sure that the counselor is trained in this kind of trauma. I do not feel particularly qualified to offer advice on this issue of sexual molestation specifically, but I would encourage you to keep our "Ten Ways of Communicating Love" close at hand and use them daily.

Make a Plan to Express LOVE

I would suggest as strongly as I can that you lay out a plan of communicating your love to your son on a daily basis. Go to our handout in the Parent's Workbook and do the assignment that goes with lessons 5 & 6 in our curriculum. Your son needs you to do that for him! All kids need daily expressions of love but children who have been treated badly in any manner need to know that they are loved unconditionally more than most. Your son has been betrayed and he needs to be confirmed in the fact that he is loved.

Trauma Does NOT Need To Dominate His Thoughts

While your son has had a traumatic incident with his father, he is NOT doomed to let that be the dominant experience in his life. You must provide him with lots of experiences with the healthy and wonderful expressions of love to overcome this frightening event. To me, the problem with some counseling is that the process forces the traumatized person to relive... and relive... and relive the negative experience rather than focusing on building a lifetime of wonderful relationships and wonderful positive experiences.

Remember! The ideas in your son’s head will rule his world. If all he is ever helped to think about is the one negative experience – that terrible experience will rule his world. The flip-side of that is true also... if all he thinks about are the wonderful experiences he is having, daily, then those new experiences and ideas will rule his world instead of that one bad one!

I have met many people for whom this process of love overcoming trauma has worked miraculously. One of the amazing gifts we have all been given is that our minds can focus so completely on positive ideas that those wonderful ideas can force negative experiences completely into the background. We may never completely forget, but we certainly do not have to be consumed by traumatic experiences either. Your son can be taught to focus on all of his wonderful experiences by making sure that he has lots and lots of them!

An Act of Love Can Overcome a Terrible Trauma!

Just three days ago I was privileged to meet a young lady in Delaware who had been abused and deserted by her parents. All she could talk to me about was the wonderful life and guidance that had been provided to her by her foster parents. I have challenged her to write down a brief story of her life and send it to me. If she does, I will be sure to share her story with you in this column. As she stood there smiling at me, she was telling of how the love of her foster parents had overcome her early life of abuse and abandonment! Her life definitely was not dominated by her trauma of her early life! Listening to her story, I took great hope in knowing that the same could be true for children like your son! Golly, your son does not even have to go to a foster home to find someone to love him unconditionally... he has a Mom who loves him right there at home!

Good luck and keep letting your son know that you love him in every way that you can think of… DAILY!


Mac Bledsoe

November 20, 2006

Supporting Children’s Activities and Events

YMCA’s, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H, FFA and Other Youth Organizations

My visit to Sussex Family YMCA in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware was extremely fulfilling and inspiring! It is so encouraging to visit an organization that supports wholesome atmospheres for children and families. It was fun to hear that those wonderful supporters of their YMCA not only met their goal for fundraising but they exceeded it by a good margin! This means that the staff will again be able to expand services to include more families!

It was so wonderful to see the recognition of their donors. Man, when the contributions of those wonderful people were announced there was not a dry eye in the house! I so admire people who contribute so selflessly to make their communities strong. My hat is off to all of them.

The Age of Most Donors Was Shocking

One thing hit me as I was watching the event unfold last Thursday evening and it kind of scared me because I have seen this same phenomenon in so many communities across America…

Most of the Donors Were Older Than Me!

So why is that a scary picture? Because I am now sixty years old… and if most of the donors are older than me, a serious question arises. “Who will support these organizations when our generation is gone?” Now don’t get me wrong, I do not view us as having one foot in the grave because most of us are still in the prime of our productive lives; but in ten to fifteen years most of us will be past the peak of our earning years and will no longer be able to contribute funds to support these agencies and activities.

We Must Recruit Our Replacements!

When we hold fundraising events we must invite younger generations! We do not need to have them attending just to give money because many have yet to have earned enough to afford large donations of funds. However, we need to be pay attention to the task of educating the younger generations about the fact that these wonderful family activities need their support and volunteer efforts.

America has been founded upon volunteer effort in our communities. My experience is telling me that we are not doing a very good job of educating the younger generations about this fact. Far too many of the next generation seem to be looking for Government to support all of the agencies that we hold dear. When that happens we will be in dire straits! It is not the responsibility of Government to support these organizations.
Every time that you attend a fund raiser, be sure to include one young person with you and teach those younger than you what it means to support the organizations that make your community strong!

November 16, 2006

Moral and Ethical Guidance

YMCAs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H, and FFA

Today I am in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to speak at a fundraiser for their Sussex Family YMCA. I am honored to be doing this because the Director of this YMCA is a wonderful friend by the name of Terry Rasberry, who used to be the Director of the YMCA in Yakima, Washington, a town where we used to live and teach school. I am glad to be doing this because it is an opportunity to help sustain one of the most important institutions in America… a YMCA!

“Why would I make a grand statement like that?” you ask.

Well, let me ask you a question in return, “Would America be a better place if every American child was a member of a YMCA, 4H, FFA, or was a Boy Scout, or Girl Scout?” Well, let me tell you I ask that question of people all across America, and the answer is always a resounding, “YES!”

It is pretty simple really. All of those organizations have at their core, guidance in moral and ethical behavior. All of those organizations have the courage to stand for honesty, integrity, hard work, faith in God and country, and other important beliefs like fellowship and belief in family and friends! Each of those organizations set high standards for our children.

In my case, I was touched deeply by 4H, FFA, Boy Scouts, and most of all I was affected by my experiences at our local YMCA and at Y Camp. Those activities affected me deeply! In those organizations the values I was taught at home were reinforced very strongly. Those organizations were the community that raised this child!

But here is my concern; all of those wonderful organizations a dying out across America. The ones that are still doing their great work are struggling to stay afloat and meet their needs financially! I know that the “Y” here in Rehoboth Beach is a wonderful influence in this community simply because I know Terry Rasberry! I know what the “Y” was like in Yakima and without ever visiting this “Y”, I am certain this one is like the one Terry directed in Yakima. I certainly hope that they meet their funraising goals this year!

Wholesome Activities

During the time that I was in Yakima, I ran a program called Seizing Opportunities for the local Juvenile Court. For more that six years, almost every child that was involved with Juvenile Court was required to take the Seizing Opportunities Course. In that course I was trying to get kids to hold positive ideas in their heads about how and where they spent their time. I knew that I could send them to the “Y” for wholesome activities. In many cases Terry would make it possible for these kids and their families to join the “Y”. Many were “scholarshipped” by Terry. (I got the feeling that some were even funded out ot Terry's own pocket.) Those kids would begin hanging out at the “Y” for the Saturday Night Live program rather than out on the streets on weekend nights. The SNL program was simply a wholesome place for kids to go on weekend evenings where they could spend their time playing games, listening to music, swimming, and hanging out with their friends in a place where they were safe.

In addition to being safe they were in a place where they could seek guidance and counseling from a trained staff that they had grown to trust through the weekend activities that were so much fun. It was an atmosphere of moral and ethical guidance and it was a fun place!

Reinforcing What You Teach at Home

The “Y” changed so many kids in Yakima... but it was always struggling to keep its’ doors open because community support was hard to come by. Terry always found the money some way, and that “Y” was there for the kids of Yakima. But, in so many towns and cities I see those great organizations closing their doors simply because their communities did not support them.

I know what that is like because the "Y" in my hometown closed due to lack of funding when I was in 9th grade. I know personally how abandoned we kids felt when the "Y" closed it's doors. It had been a place where we all learned to swim, play sports, and most importantly where our "Gra-Y" and "Junior Hi-Y" groups met. At those meeting we had fun but more importantly, we discussed important issues of growing up with our great leader, Alden Esping. (Read about how those discussions changed my life in my book Parenting with Dignity.) It ripped our hearts out when our "Y" closed and Mr. Esping left town.

Support Those Organizations!

If there is a YMCA in your town, donate to them! If you cannot donate money, donate time. When a Girl Scout comes by yiour house selling cookies, buy ten boxes. You can give them away as gifts and each gift will help that organization stay viable. Go to your local Boy Scout leader and offer to scholarship one boy to Scout Camp. Attend a livestock sale for 4H or FFA and buy an animal to meet your families needs and support those organizations with your food dollars.

It Takes a Community to Raise a Child

It does take a community to raise a child. Help to build a strong community where you live. Help those organizations that reinforce what you are teaching at home!

November 15, 2006

You Can Fake Like You Care, But You Can't Fake Being There (Part 2)

Love Is a Participation Sport!

In the lives of our kids it is often easy to become caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life and forget to "show up" in our kid's lives. It is common, in the hurry of the day to speak much more cheerfully to the person serving coffee at the Quick-Stop on the way to work than to those in our family that we love. With fall upon us and a busier family schedule due to school etc., it never hurts to stop and develop a plan for SOWING THAT WE CARE, and not just assuming that others know it.

Here is a list of 100 ways that we can show our love for our children: (and remember that spouses can benefit from the same loving actions!)

Notice them... get caught staring at them-even throw in a wink.
Answer their questions with full attention at eye level.
Create traditions and fight for them.
Laugh at their jokes.
Include them in your jokes. (If that makes you uncomfortable, maybe you ought to change the jokes you tell.)
Smile a lot
Acknowledge them with a heartfelt "Good morning!" and a "Hi!" when you see them.
Discuss their dreams (nightmares included.)
Be relaxed in their presence. Just sit with them.
Say their names.
Contribute to their collections.
Hide surprises for them to find.
Kneel, squat, sit so that you are at their eye level.
Go and find them at unexpected times.
Play outside together.
Surprise them.
Remember their birthdays and other significant days in their lives. ("This was the day that you took your first step, trip to the doctor, etc.)
Ask them about themselves.
When they ask your advice give them options.
Listen to the answers.
Stay with them when they are afraid.
Notice when they are absent.
Follow them when they lead.
Play with them... Adults can start the water balloon fight!
Expect their best... and accept that it is not perfection.
Be available.
Do what they like to do.
Share their excitement.
Be honest.
Be sincere.
Include them in conversations.
Brag about them when they don't think you know they are listening.
Call them from work.
Eat meals together.
Plan discussion topics for dinner and announce them ahead of time.
Tell them what your expectations are for their behavior.
Practice the behaviors with them before they are in the situation.
Introduce them to adults and tell the adult something of significance about them.
Help to see mistakes as learning opportunities and not failures.
Tape record messages to them.
Tape record them.
Video tape them just being themselves... like during one of those dinner conversations.
Write them letters and send them in the mail.
Go places together... take them along on errands.
Build something together.
Give them jobs at home that require thought and planning.
Welcome their suggestions and use them.
Make decisions together.
When you make decisions for them include them in your thought processes.
Help them to take stands on moral and ethical issues and then stand with them.
Hug them.
Set boundaries but help them to understand the reasons for them.
Believe what they say.
Tackle new tasks together.
Cheer for their accomplishments.
Encourage them to help others and recognize them when they do.
Create a safe environment for them.
Share secrets.
Stop and enjoy time together. Even a minute at the bathroom sink.
Be consistent but flexible.
Praise loudly, criticize softly.
Let them act their age.
Tell them about yourself.
Tell them what you believe and why you believe it.
Help them to become an expert at something.
Ask their opinion about things.
Show that you are excited to see them.
Let them tell you how they feel.
Display their artwork around the house... nicely framed.
Thank them!
Smile at them constantly.
Keep promises... even small ones. In there eyes they are all the same size.
Find a common interest.
Let them pick the music and listen to it with them.
Apologize when you've done something wrong.
Hold hands.
Take a walk.
Read aloud together.
Read moral literature and help them understand it.
Use your ears more than your mouth.
Show up at events.
Learn from them and let them know what you learned.
Tell them how terrific they are.
Always suggest a better behavior when they have chosen an inappropriate one.
Be nice.
Look them in the eye when you talk to them.
Give them space when they need it.
Use the car as interaction time.
Tell them how much you like being with them.
Develop a "secret word" for your family.
Meet their friends.
Meet their friends parents.
Admit it when you make a mistake.
Be honest
Give them a private nickname and don't use it in front of others. (let them do the same with you.)
Above all laugh, Laugh, LAUGH, and laugh some more.
Print this list and pick one each day to use.

You can plan to show your love for your kids. Make a list of your own. Find lists elsewhere of ways of showing love and care. We found many of these in YMCA handouts, church bulletins, childcare brochures, and other places.

Remember that you can fake like you care but you can't fake being there. The common element to each item on the above list is time.

Kids spell love "t-i-m-e!"

November 14, 2006

Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving Time

Give Thanks for Family!

(Sometimes the things that annoy us are really things for which we should give thanks!)
During this Thanksgiving season, set an example for your children by openly giving thanks for some of these things with your children:

For the husband/wife who snores all night, because that means he/she is at home asleep with me and not with someone else and it means that I have a family.

For the teenager who is complaining about doing dishes, because that means he/she is at home & not on the streets, and doing dishes usually means that we have eaten.

For the taxes that I pay, because it means that I have an income and that my kids will have a school.

For the mess to clean after a party, because it means that friends have surrounded me.

For a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing, because it means my family has a home.

For all the complaining I hear about the government, because it means that we have freedom of speech and it means that my children will grow in a land which they can change for the better.

For the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot, because it means I am capable of walking, that I have been blessed with transportation, and because it means that I live in a prosperous nation.

For my huge heating bill, because it means my family is warm.

For the person behind me in synagogue/church/mosque that sings off key, because it means that I can we have the freedom to worship as we choose and it means that I can hear.

For the pile of laundry and ironing, because it means my family has clothes to wear, clean water to wash them in, and a home to keep them in.

For weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means I have been capable of working hard and that I have a job.

For the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours, because it means that I am alive and able to arise and share the day with my family.

Remember that the ideas in our heads as parents rule our world every bit as much as the ideas in the heads of our kids rule their world! As parents we must be very careful to not let unwanted ideas into our head because they will very certainly rule our world in some very unwanted ways if we let them occupy our thoughts. This list is a very small beginning for you to use in training the focus of your thoughts about your family.

(Please feel free to post some additions to this list with some ideas you have written for yourself and your family. Please share your good ideas!)

November 13, 2006

Sibling Rivalry, Potty Training, and other Challenges with Very Young Children

(Another in Series of Letters from Concerned Parents (If you would like to submit a question for Mac to answer, please feel free to post your question at the bottom of the page!)

A "Rebellious" Two-Year-Old

Dear Mac,

My wife and I are extremely interested in purchasing your parenting course on video, but first, I have a couple of questions. We have a 2 1/2 year old son and a 8 week old daughter. Our 2 1/2 year old is very rebellious at this point of his life. He is normally a very well-behaved, mild-mannered boy, but he is going through a lot right now, including the birth of his sister, starting school and potty training. Does your curriculum include working with children this young or is it geared for more for older children.

Dad in New York

There IS Hope for Young Parents!

Dear Dad,

The answer to your question is definitely a resounding, “Yes, the course absolutely applies to younger kids as well!”

You ask some great questions! The central core concept that our Parenting with Dignity course is built upon is that "your kids will make ALL of the big decisions in their lives." So it is our belief that the best time to begin giving them decisions to make is at the youngest age possible. The earlier that you start, the more skilled your child will be at making GOOD decisions!

Parenting with Dignity for the Early Years

In fact, the issue of starting when your children are young is so important to me, that I have written a whole book applying the teaching principles of Parenting with Dignity just to those critical early years of life! The book is titled Parenting with Dignity the Early Years.

The Book Will Help You to Develop a Plan

Doesn’t it seem silly to wait to establish your plan for raising your children until they are older and have developed some bad habits? This book will help you to start now. I firmly believe that you should still order a set of the DVD curriculum and watch the lessons in the video form too, but while watching the classes, read the “Early Years” book concurrently. The book applies the techniques taught in the video course to the specific situations and circumstances most often encountered when raising children under the age of six or seven.

The Ideas in Your Head Will Rule Your World

Now, for a specific comment on your observations about your son; one key concept that we teach in Parenting with Dignity is that “the ideas in kid’s heads will rule their world!” You will understand this concept as soon as you get going with the videos! You will also realize that the same fact is true for parents… “the ideas in your head will rule your world!” Let me demonstrate this to you by changing one word in one sentence that you wrote to me:

“…our 2 1/2 year old is very rebellious at this point of his life.”

Now, please allow me to now change the one word in your sentence and I believe that you will see that changing the idea in your head changes your whole approach and thought process:

“…our 2 ½ year old is very inquisitive at this point of his life.”

Notice how changing just that one word changes your observations about your son’s behavior at this most exciting period of his development. What you might have seen as annoying about your son's behavior when viewed as rebellious, really looks different when you view his behavior as that of an inquisitive young man trying to see how the world works and how he fits into that world. By changing that one word, he is now seen by you as using his behavior to “inquire” of you about how he should act and to see how you will react to his actions.

Sibling Rivalry

Now, please let me offer a couple of thoughts on one of the behaviors you have mentioned; the beginning of sibling rivalry. Begin by asking yourself, “What is the desired behavior that I would like my son to use with ‘Little Sister’?” Make a list of 4 or 5 specifically and behaviorally described actions that you would like for your son to use with his sister. Then, very simply, begin practicing those actions with him.
Practice Desired Behaviors!
Practice the specific actions with him, before he is in the situation. Practice, so that he can work with you on those behaviors away from his “Little Sister”. That way your son will receive undivided attention from you that is not shared with her. That way she is a reason for him to get extra attention! Make the actions that you decide to teach him be things that let him feel like he is in some control of his time with his little sister.

It might be good to get a life-sized doll with which for this practice. Let him sit in a chair and teach him how to hold her. Then once he demonstrates that he can hold her safely, let him hold her when grandparents, family and friends come to visit the new baby.
By doing this you will have not only taught him to safely hold his sister, but you will also have created a very wonderful experience for your son. When he is holding her, others will naturally comment about him as well as cute little sister! You may have prevented his natural jealousy of his sister.
Let Older Children Receive Your Attention Too!
Next, have him gather the necessary diaper, handy-wipes, warm wash cloth, ointment, etc. when you change "little Sister's" diaper. Have him with you when you change the diaper and let him feel important in this necessary moment when you must pay attention to his sister. That way he will be less likely to resent her. And you will receive much needed help!

Figure out a couple more behaviors (best for you to select a couple that fit your family) for him to learn and work on those actions with him. He will learn how to help with the new addition to the family while at the same time getting attention because she is here!

With regards to school, I would suggest that you use a very similar tactic; practice 4 to 5 desired school behaviors at home by "playing school" with him. Define a few behaviors that will allow him to practice the appropriate behaviors away from the stress of being in a room full of other kids being with a strange teacher in control. He will become comfortable with the behaviors so that school will be a more familiar and comfortable experience for him. At the same time, he will be getting some undivided attention from you because he is going to school!
"Potty Training"

As to the potty training, it is natural for kids to regress at times of stress so I would not worry about this, it will most likely take care of itself as he becomes comfortable with school and little sister. Your practice of behaviors with his sister and behaviors to be used in school will greatly reduce his stress and I woujld predict that the "potty training issues" will disappear with the reduced stress!

Good luck with the Parenting with Dignity course. Please see: to learn how to maximize your learning while using the videos and books. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to start a class. You will learn more from that process than you will from the tapes alone!
Mac Bledsoe

November 10, 2006

Give Children Reasons to Believe What You Teach Them

Children Want To Know, and Need To Know WHY?

We, as parents, absolutely must find opportunities to teach our children WHAT we believe; but I feel that it is of equal importance to teach them WHY we believe as we do. They need substance to understand WHY we believe as we do if they are ever going to use some of our ideas to rule their worlds. This story might help you to talk with your children about our nation and WHY you believe as you do about your country.

I strongly recommend that you print this story and read it aloud with your children, so that they might understand a little bit about Veteran’s Day and WHY our country celebrates this day. Discuss with them HOW it makes you feel and WHY.

A Tale of Six Boys
Author Unknown

Each year I am hired to go to Washington, DC, with the Eighth Grade Class from Clinton, Wis., where I grew up. I go along to videotape their trip and to act as another chaperone. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall's trip was especially memorable. On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima Memorial.

This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history -- that of the six brave soldiers raising the American Flag at the top of Mt. Suribachi, a rocky hill on the island of Iwo Jima, Japan, during WW II.

Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. As we approached the memorial, I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue. As I got closer he asked, "Where are you guys from?"I told him that we were from Wisconsin. "Hey, I'm a Cheese Head, too! Come gather around, Cheese Heads, and I will tell you a story."

(This man, James Bradley just happened to be in Washington DC to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that evening to say good night to his dad, who had passed away in 1994. He was just about to leave when he saw our buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to copy his words from my videotapeto and to share what he said with others.)

It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington DC, but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night.When all had gathered around, he reverently began to speak. Here are his words from that night:

"My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I just wrote a book called 'Flags of Our Fathers' which is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right now. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me."

"Six boys raised that flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game. A game called ‘War.’ But it didn't turn out to be much of a game."

"Harlon, at the age of 21, died with his intestines in his hands. I don't say that to gross you out, I say that because there are people who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the American boys in Iwo Jima were just 17, 18, and 19 years old."

He pointed to the statue and said, "You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this photo was taken and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph... a photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there for protection because he was scared. He was 18 years old. Boys won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men."

"The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the ‘old man’ because he was so old. He was already 24. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn't say, 'Let's go kill some Japanese' or 'Let's die for our country.' He knew he was talking to young boys. Instead he would say, 'You do what I say, and I'll get you home to your mothers.' "

"The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes walked off Iwo Jima alive. He went to the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, 'You're a hero!' Ira told reporters, 'How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?' "

"So if you take your class at school as an example; 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only 27 of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes died dead drunk, face down at the age of 32… ten years after this picture was taken."

"Going around the statue, the next guy is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky. A fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, 'Yeah, you know, when we were kids, me and Franklin took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store and we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then we fed 'em Epsom Salts. Those cows crapped all night! Yes, he was a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of 19. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to that same Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother's farm. The neighbors could hear poor mom scream all night and into the morning. The neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.' "

"As we continue to go around the statue, the next guy is my dad, John Bradley from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite's producers, or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say 'No, I'm sorry, sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back.’ My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually, he was sitting right there at the table eating his Campbell's soup. But we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn't want to talk to the press."

"You see, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and on a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a caregiver. In Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And when boys died in Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed in pain."

"When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, 'I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. Did NOT come back.' "

"So that's the true story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back and were hailed as national heroes. Overall, 7,000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time."

Suddenly, that monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero for the reasons most people would believe, but a hero nonetheless.

Teach Your Children WHAT You Believe...
But Give Them reasons To Know
WHY You Believe As You Do!

Our children need to know about this vast and glorious country we, as Americans, freely live in.But, they also need to know that there was great sacrifice in building some of their world of freedom too. Let us never forget, from the Revolutionary War to the current War on Terrorism, and all the wars in-between, that sacrifice was made for our freedom!

Please, teach your children what YOU believe about this sacrifice that has been made on behalf of their freedom.

November 09, 2006

Temper Tantrums

Another in Series of Letters from Concerned Parents (If you would like to submit a question for Mac to answer, please feel free to post your question at the bottom of the page!)

Dealing with Children Who Throw Fits or Temper Tantrums

Dear Mac,

I am the mother of a 2 1/2 year-old who has all of a sudden decided to throw temper tantrums when she doesn't want to leave a place (a store or the library, for example). How can I reason with such a young child? My husband says, "Don't talk, take action" and I don't always agree with him. I like your methods of dealing with older children, Do you have any suggestions for me.


Mary North Carolina


Dear Mary,

Please understand that I am not choosing sides but… I do like what your husband says, to a point.

Do Not Try to Reason with Agitated People;
Especially Not Agitated Children

First, do not try to reason with any human being, of any age, when they are in an agitated state! Doesn’t matter, 2 1/2 or 50! So what do you do? Wait until things calm down and then do some practicing of the situation when both you and your daughter are both calm. Before going to the store or library practice the desired behavior.

Let Your ACTIONS Speak!

Then, follow your husband's advice and let your actions speak. Explain very clearly that the practiced behavior must be adhered to or we will have to leave. The minute that a tantrum starts, LEAVE! (I would rather tell you to just ignore it, but, you and your daughter might never get to go back to the library again after they revoke your library card.) Give no explanations at this point. Never give warnings. (“The next time we are leaving.”) That just teaches a child that your first statements don't ever have to be listened to. The minute the calm behavior returns, practice the desired behavior one more time.

Never Discuss the Undesirable Behavior

Do NOT discuss the undesirable behavior. Do not talk about her tantrum. Don't tell her how embarrassed you were. Act like it didn’t happen. Do not assume that leaving the library (or any other place) has taught your child anything about proper behavior. It has not. All it has taught is that there is a real consequence for inappropriate behavior. (Be sure to note that this consequence is far different from spanking the child or removing some other privilege. Leaving is directly related to the inappropriate behavior in the Library. Screaming, crying, and tantrums are not allowed in Libraries.)

NEVER Discuss the Tantrum!
Only Discuss the Behavior You Want Your Child To Use

Only instruction of proper behavior will teach proper behavior! That is what so many parents fail to understand… punishment says nothing to a child about what is correct or what is desired or expected! You, the parent, must do that. You must teach the positive behavior.

Personal Experience Taught Me a Great Lesson

As you may have heard me say many times, when I was a young boy, I was sent to my room a thousand times for teasing my sisters. I was never once able to conjure up a thought of the behavior my parents would have liked for me to use in relating to my sisters. What I thought about was what they tolod me NOT to do! That was all that they said to me! "Stop teasing your sisters!" Howcould they expect me to think about positive things like negotiating, complimenting, expressing love and admiration? They never talked about that!

I did come up with some ideas ofmy own but they were not what my parents wanted me to think about! I thought about how "I was going to get the little brats out behind the barn and hold their heads under water in the horse trough for tattling on me,” and how “I was going to stick gum in their hair.” I also thought about how “I was going to run away from home and how unfair my parents were.”

It would have been so much easier if Mom and Dad had taught me how to get along with my sisters. I had to learn how to do that on my own at 35! Don’t let your daughter wait until 15 to discover how to behave in a library. Teach her today!

Take Delight In Your Children!

One more thing, delight in this time with your daughter. See the humor in her action. She is discovering what works and what doesn’t. She is just trying out things. Be her guide. She tried out a tantrum! Teach her that a tantrum does not work! A tantrum results in leaving the library. Teach her that appropriate behavior works to get what she wants! Polite request preceeded by "Please," and followed by "thank you," really work well in getting what she wants; and then, watch in excitement as she delights people with her charming behavior that YOU taught her. Remember, when she is twenty-nine you will be recalling these antics with nostalgic delight.

The Parenting with Dignity Course Will Help You To Perfect Your Skills in Teaching Desired Behaviors

The strength of using our Parenting with Dignity videos is that many people can watch them together and discuss what they are learning! For this reason, I recommend that you get a set and watch them with some of the parents of the kids your child plays with. You will not believe how much more you will learn from the class sessions if you share thoughts with other parents from your community! Also, by watching them with the parents of your kid's friends, it will insure that your children will get some of the same instruction while away from home. So much easier to teach manners, study habits, drug free living, etc. if your kids hear the same thing in every home they visit! Fits and tantrums won’t work in other homes either! Other parents who have attended the course will understand that when you simply ignore inappropriate behavior, it may disappear, but if you offer a better and more appropriate behavior, it will drastically increase the chances of the child using that behavior in place of a tantrum!

It is far easier to raise a child to use appropriate behavior in a community that has similar expectations!


Mac Bledsoe

November 08, 2006

Conversations With Children

Five Great Lessons

Here are some stories I picked up in different places. I put them together here because I feel that they might help you to have some meaningful conversations with your children. There are some things in life that may not be taught in classes nor do we need a college professor to tell us they are are true, but your children still need to learn these great ideas! I hope that these stories will stimulate some meaningful discussions at your dinner table or on your next trip in the car with your kids:

Some Important Things Life Teaches Us ...


During a young lady's second month of nursing school, the professor gave the class a pop quiz. The young student was very conscientious and had breezed through the questions, until she read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was some kind of joke she thought. She had seen the cleaning woman several times. The lady was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how could the professor expect the students to know her name?

She handed in her test, leaving the last question blank. Before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.
"Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers you will meet many people. ALL are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say 'hello.' "

"I've never forgotten that lesson." remarked the nursing student! "I also learned her name was Dorothy."


One night, at 11:30 PM, an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Cars were whizzing by and nobody seemed to be willing to stop to help her. Soaking wet, she hadall but given up hope when a young white man stopped to help her in an act generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance, hailed a taxicab, paid her fare and sent her on her way.

The lady had seemed to be in a big hurry but she wrote down his address, thanked him, got in the cab, and drove away. Seven days had gone by when a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read: "Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain had drenched not only my clothes but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you and your act of kindness, I was able to make it to my dying husband's bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others."


Mrs. Nat King Cole


In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old Boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a Glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?" the boy asked.

"Fifty cents," replied the busy and impatient waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it.

"How much is a dish of plain ice cream?" he inquired. Some customers were now waiting for a table and the waitress grew a bit more impatient as she waited for the boy to make his decision.

"Thirty-five cents," she said brusquely. The little boy again counted the coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and departed. When the waitress came back, she began wiping down the table and then swallowed hard at what she saw.

There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies - her tip. The boy had enough money for the sundae but if he had the sundae he would not have had enough for the tip!


In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.

As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many others never understand.

Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve one's condition.


Many years ago, as a doctor was working at Stanford Hospital, he got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies, needed to combat the illness.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the boy if he would be willing to give blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes, I'll do it if it will save Liz."

As the transfusion progressed, the boy lay in a bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew serious and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "When will it happen?"

"When will what happen?" Asked the doctor.

"When will I start to die?" Asked the boy.

Being young, you see, the boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood.

Attitude, after all, is everything.

The ideas in your head do rule your world! Perhaps these stories might be some ideas that you could offer to your children!

November 07, 2006

Parenting with Dignity Works to Help Communities

Another in Series of Letters from Concerned Parents(If you would like to submit a question for Mac to answer please feel free to post your question at the bottom of the page!)

Does the Parenting with Dignity Curriculum Actually Work?

Dear Mac,

I browsed your website with great interest after I saw you on a local television show recently. I am interested in your comments as to how your approach has changed the way parenting is done, and why you believe this helps kids. As a social worker, I would also like to know how your parenting approach might help at risk families. I appreciate any comments you have on these questions.

Thank You - Mom in South Carolina


Dear Mom,

Parents Must Have a Plan

These are big questions and they deserve big answers… but to give you a simple reply about how our program has changed the way parenting is done, I would simply say that PWD has caused people to try to develop a plan.

Parenting by Crisis Management!

The biggest problem we have found all across America is NOT that people no longer care, (like so many people try to say) but rather, the probelm is that people are parenting by crisis management. There is not one single one of those parents who would get in their car and start driving without a plan for where they were going to go and what route they were going to take to get there; but, they have taken on the task of parenting in just that manner. “We are going to have this kid and take off. We will decide what to do when we get there. We will deal with problems as they come up.”

This is what we see all too often as we travel the country. Parents wonder why they are in the “pickle” they are in and when you ask them how they got there they can’t tell you. Then when you ask them where they were trying to go they can’t seem to tell you. And that is the key… they were trying to guide their children without a plan! They had arrived at a place they did not want to be but they also could not tell you where it is that they actually wanted to be!

PWD Works in Diverse Settings

Our program works in lots of diverse settings. First of all, we have plenty of tips for getting reluctant (at risk) parents into classes. Read our handout from Tape 10, the Facilitators tape.

PWD Works with ALL Types of People and ALL Types of Problems

Next, the skills in the tapes are just people skills. Kids at risk get tons of help out of watching them. We have been very active in prisons. Many of the inmates watch them to improve their relationship with their kids and the first thing that changes is their own behavior! As a matter of fact most prisons are noticing that as the program gets going, many inmates without kids register to take the course because their cellmates are telling them of the positive changes in their own outlook.

Communities Have a Responsibility to Teach Their Children

Our society has the responsibility to teach our young people how to effectively, peacefully, and happily live in the world we have created for them. Genetic parenthood is not total qualification for ongoing custody and mistreatment of offspring. Now this gets dicey. Who decides when a parent is unfit? What standard is used to establish competence in parenting and who takes over when the biological family fails? Not easy questions and the answers are equally difficult. I believe that some of the Native American Tribes are coming to grips with this issue and I think that they are on the track to discovering some meaningful solutions. Their solution is for the tribe to take over where the family fails. I like their idea but it is hard to translate to modern America where there is no community identity like a tribal organization. It would be nice to think that we could get modern America to follow the lead of the Indian Nations, but that seems to be unfathomable to a society who has for centuries viewed the advanced culture of the Indians as somehow barbaric.

It would be nice to be able to roll back the clock to the days of the early settlement of North America and to have had the two cultures meet peacefully and discover the ways of each other and to adopt the best of both worlds. Nice to dream but we are in the real world.

Churches Could Form the Structure of a Logical Solution

So the next closest things that we have to the tribal structure are the local churches. I believe that churches pose the next best alternative to solving the dilemma of where do the kids go when the family breaks down.

"Why not the government?" you ask.

Well, I simply am a believer that government is too big and too encumbered to handle a task of this nature. Raising children is not what our govenrment was created to do. Government will become too tied down by the problems of legislating morality. Raising children is not an issue of Government. Raising children is first the responsibility of the family and next, it is a responsibility of community. I think that if local churches can stay away from arguments of doctrine and stick to the welfare of the kids, some very reasonable answers could appear.

Parent Education is Key!

I know that parent education is a huge part of the puzzle because I believe that parental love is a very naturally occurring drive. All parents love their children. What happens is that through sloppy personal habits (drugs, alcohol, violence, hygiene, mean or ineffective interpersonal skills, promiscuous sexual practices, etc.) many families fail to guide their children and at some point the kids become a part of the growing dysfunctional lifestyle. It is not that the parents do not love their children and want to care for them. The parents have simply not learned how to be effective parents. They raise their children by "Crisis Management" and try to teach their children by immitating what they remember of what was done to themselves when they were growing up.

Parenting Skills Can Be Learned!

The skills for effectively guiding kids are learnable! We know that because we are actually doing just that; we are teaching parents to be much more effective. We need to get an army of volunteers to get people (parents) together to meet in small groups and share some effective skills for raising kids who are capable of making good decisions for themselves!

Our Parenting with Dignity program is on a mission to do this. Our curriculum lends itself well to this solution of “community involvement” because it is structured precisely that way! Parenting with Dignity teaches communities and individuals how to sit down in those small groups and consider some workable and concrete techniques for teaching what THEY believe to their own children!

Community Discussions Are Essential to Effective Parenting

The Parenting with Dignity course is built around the discussions of those techniques as they are applied in the community where they are being used. At the bottom of the Parent's Workbook Handout for each lesson there is an assignment for parents to complete in their own homes with their own children. Then, by the second class the discussions are about their children, their homes, their schools, and their own successes and failures. The discussions change the communities!

Parenting with Dignity builds strong communities who work effectively together to raise their own children!


Mac Bledsoe

November 06, 2006

Spanking and Other Punishments

Another in Series of Letters from Concerned Parents

(If you would like to submit a question for Mac to answer please feel free to post your question at the bottom of the page!)

Dear Mac,

I plan to order your tapes, but first I'd like to know if you are in favor of, or opposed to spanking.


Mom in Florida

Dear Mom,

The short answer to your question about "Spanking"; is: NO, I do not advocate spanking!

Now, please let me explain my answer before you stop reading!

First of all, I prefer the term "Hit" rather than the term "Spank" because I believe that it more accurately describes what is happening. So for the rest of my answer to your question, let me just use the word "hit" in place of "spank". I think it kind of changes one’s view of the action. Calling it spanking kind of makes it sound more justified.
Spanking Does Not Work!

I am opposed to hitting kids as a means of teaching, not because I am inherently opposed to hitting as a teaching technique, but rather, I am opposed to it because it simply does not work! Hitting does not teach! At least rarely teaches the lesson that you want it to teach. (I do believe that it teaches children that the biggest person gets to hit. I think that it teaches children that hitting is an approved way to solve problems. I believe that it teaches children that the oldest and most experienced person gets to hit. But it rarely if ever teaches the child the desired lesson.)

I will grant you that hitting a child may stop a behavior for the immediate present but it does not teach a child how to reach the decision to change their behavior in the future. They may stop to avoid the punishment but the minute that the punishment is no longer imminent, the behavior often returns. Often the child will just learn to be really "sneaky" about doing it so as to not get caught and thus avoid the punishment.
Punishment Has Been Proven to NOT Work

Punishment of all kinds has been proven to fail at all levels. Prisons are monuments to that very fact. 7 out of 10 men sent to prison will re-offend within a year of being released! I work in prisons with parents who are incarcerated and I see what happens when we lock people up and do not teach them how to be or act differently. (Please understand that I am NOT saying that we could just do away with prisons. They serve a purpose to protect our society; but, the only prisons that work to prevent crime, like the prisons in Bristol County, Massachusetts and the state of Idaho, are the ones that actually have programs that teach the offenders how to think and act differently!)
Spanked and Sent To My Room

My gosh, I was sent to my room at least 5000 times for teasing my sisters. Many of those times I was spanked before being sent to my room. I was told to "go to my room and think about how to treat my sisters!" I did. But the ideas that were running through my head following my spankings were never the ideas that my parents wanted to rule my world!

In my room, I thought about how I was going to grab my sisters as soon as I got out of my room and drag them out behind the barn and hold their heads under water in the horse through for tattling on me. Then I thought about how I would tie their braids in knots and how I would throw their toy horses in the creek and many other diabolical schemes. I also thought about how I hated my parents and how they were unfair to always take the side of my sisters and how I was going to run away from home. I doubt that any of those ideas were what my parents wanted or intended to teach me when the spanked me and sent me to my room!
Teaching the Desired Behavior Is Much More Effective

It would have been so much easier, more helpful, and much, much more effective if my parents had taught me how to get along with my sisters before I had offended them!
Punishment Is Failure Based!

Another reason that spanking fails to teach is that punishment is failure based. In order to use punishment as a strategy, by definition, you must wait for the child to fail first before you can use it! (Unless, you are going to spank your kids before they misbehave!)

For demonstration sake, let's just imagine that I am going to try to teach you how to use a computer. Imagine that you know nothing about operating a computer. I sit you down in front of the computer and set about teaching you to operate that complex machine via spanking. To do this I sit next to you and hit you with a leather strap right across the back of the hands every time you make a mistake or push a wrong button!
Now, after a week of spanking your hands, even until I made your hands bleed, but I doubt that you would ever have just discovered that pressing the Ctrl button simultaneously with the P button would make a printer print what is on the screen! Your hands would hurt. You would probably be mad at me. You would probably never voluntarily sit down at the computer. And... I'm quite sure that you would never have "self-discovered" that Ctrl, Alt, and Del pressed simultaneously would free you from any program you could not un-jam!
Punishment would bring about sore hands, a hatred of computers and resentment of my leather strap, and most likely a resentment of me; but I seriously doubt that the repeated spankings would ever teach you much of anything useful about operating a computer!
A Simple and Clear Explanation of the Desired Behavior Works Much More Effectively!

Wouldn't it be much smarter and much more effective for me to simply explain those simple key strokes to you before you began making mistakes?
Your Child's Life Is Like Learning to Operate a Computer!
Your child's life is very much like operating a computer. Certain actions bring about certain results. Why wait for them to make the wrong action and then spank them? Why not explain to them how to make good decisions and good actions ahead of time? "You know son, the 'Ctrl, Alt, Del' for life is a smile. If things are not going well, just give someone a smile! If you don't feel like smiling, fake it for a moment and rest assured that someone will give you a reason to smile!"

If you wish to hear more, watch Tape 9 of our Parenting with Dignity course. Just a note... the whole curriculum will be of ten times as much value to you if you watch them with other parents.


Mac Bledsoe