December 04, 2007

The Story of Parenting with Dignity

My inquiry of a couple of weeks ago surfaced some great questions that I will be answering over the next few days.

(I appologize for the recent lapse in writing but I am in the thick of writing my new book, Parenting Teens with Dignity. Look for it in the near future.)

How was the idea for Parenting with Dignity series born? What's the story behind it?

Over time, I found myself disillusioned by the culture in my classroom, and the increasing numbers of students who seemed to be morally and ethically rudderless. I was saddened to watch students making terrible decisions with life-altering and often life-ruining consequences. Born out of this frustration I wondered what would happen if my wife and I were to try teaching parents some of the simple techniques we used daily in our classrooms. Could we teach parents how to teach their values, morals, and ethics to their own children? We believed that if parents knew how to instruct their children in effective decision-making and how to set guidelines for making decisions, it could make a difference in our classrooms.

Profound Change

Permission was obtained from school principals and my wife Barbara and I held the first of what was to become a parent education curriculum that is now entitled Parenting with Dignity. Only a small group of parents attended that first class, but within weeks we began to notice a profound effect in our classrooms. Students were attending class more regularly, and someone at home had actually convinced them of the importance of doing homework! Noticeable changes in personal grooming and perceptible changes in the vocabulary of our students convinced us that we were onto something.

Parenting with Dignity Is Born!

Parenting with Dignity evolved into a nine-week course over the years as the program became more comprehensive and fine-tuned to today’s problems. We were teaching PWD at community colleges, hospitals and in PTAs of Northwestern States when our oldest son, Drew, approached us with an idea. Drew, a quarterback in the NFL at this time, explained that he wanted to build a foundation to support and promote our Parenting with Dignity program!

After considerable deliberation, I accepted the challenge and founded the Drew Bledsoe Foundation as a support mechanism to bring Parenting with Dignity to the entire nation. The rest is history. Parenting with Dignity now stands on its' own and is one of America’s most effective and highly acclaimed parent education curriculums.

For more information about Parenting with Dignity please go to:

October 12, 2007


Help me make this blog better - more effective for everyone.

Would you please do me a huge favor? From what I've read about blogging, it is a lot like direct mail in that only 1-2% of all readers will ever make a comment or suggestion. Well, that's not good enough for me because my objective is to help as many parents as humanly possible. I need to hear from more of you. I need to hear from ALL of you who read these articles.

Selecting Topics to Meet the Needs of All Readers

Usually, I direct the topics of my posts to addressing e-mails or blog comments from readers, but I can never know if that is what the majority of you want to read about… unless more of you give me your ideas.

The favor I'm asking of each of you is to take one minute and tell me what is important to you as it relates to parenting.

Please, take one minute and write an e-mail to me at .We have created this e-mail inbox for this one specific purpose. It has no spam blockers on it and your email will come directly to me. Even if you do not wish to make any comment, please send me an e-mail that just says, "I read your Blog." That way I will know that you are reading and that if you ever have a question or comment that you will contact me.

Feel free to ask me a question, share a tale of your own parenting experiences or tell me what is your greatest challenge as a parent? In other words, help me to help you - and others who face the same issues. From your simple action of sending an e-mail, we will all benefit. Experience has taught me that when one person writes to me with a question or to consult about a problem, their comment represents thousands. Your question may help many other families.

I can't express strongly enough how important this is to helping me determine the best direction for this blog. I REALLY need each and every one of you to put everything aside and take just one minute to help me.

You may use the comment option at the bottom of this post and reply anonymously, or write to me directly at But please, write just one short e-mail!

October 04, 2007

Help Your Children to be Effective at Studying (Part 2)

Time Management and Day Planning

"Time is the great equalizer of all mankind!" A rich man cannot buy more, a smart man cannot invent more and a fool cannot waste more… we are all given the same allotment of time each day; 24 hours! The people who learn to use their allotment of time wisely are the ones who get ahead.

A Good Book

Teach you children how to manage time effectively. There are some great books on the subject written by some of the world’s great thinkers. One of the best is Stephen Covey’s book titled “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. Get a copy and read it with your children. Covey lays out proven methods for effective managing time. You can give your children few greater gifts than the gift of effective time management.

Using Technology Wisely

In my last article on study habits I laid out a plan for using modern technology to take control of the television in your family. I laid out a plan so that you could effectively control the time that your family spends watching television. In this article I will suggest that you also use modern electronic technology in the process of teaching your children to manage time.

Computers are amazing tools for managing time… IF… they are effectively and purposefully used. Over 80% of American homes have computers and almost every computer has some kind of calendar/day planner program already on it. Teach your children how to use that program; teach how to enter assignments and upcoming deadlines on their computer calendar. Teach them how to set the program up to give warnings a week or two before big school projects are due so that they develop the habit of working on projects well ahead of deadlines.

Plan Activities and Events

Teach your children to put their activities and school events onto their calendar so that they can budget the time for those activities. I would also suggest that you have a “master calendar” on your computer for your whole family to use. That way the whole family can coordinate their activities, assignments, and duties effectively.

Next, I would advise parents to look into small handheld electronic day planners. They have lots of names like Palm Pilots and Pocket PCs, etc. Many cell phones have calendars and day planners built right into them. These devices sync with computer day planners and calendars so that your children can carry their schedule of assignments and activities right with them. My strong recommendation is to NOT run away from technology; rather, I strongly advise you to embrace technology and teach your children to use it effectively. They are born into the technological age. Teach them to live in that world and teach them to use the technology as effectively as possible.

Cell Phones

Cell phones are a real stumbling block for many parents. Kids want to have them and many parents balk at getting them for their children. I understand the hesitance of many parents in not wanting their children to have cell phones but to me the big issue is not whether children should have cell phones; the real issue seems to be teaching children to use the technology sanely, effectively, and ethically. Strict guidelines can be put in place and the technology of the cell phone can become a wonderful tool for teaching responsibility to your children.

It is my observation that most people who use cell phones in today’s world could use some guidance and help in knowing when and where to use cell phones! Your children are growing up in a world where everyone is going to have cell phones. About the only way to prevent your children from eventually having a cell phone might be to move to some third world country where there simply is no such technology.

A wiser tack seems to be to teach your children how to use the technology effectively. Now, do not misinterpret me here. I am not saying that every parent should run right out and get their children a cell phone. However it might be reasonable to get one for all of your children to share. Then teach them to turn the thing off in most situations. Teach them to use the many other features of the phone like the day planner and the calendar.

Teach them the dangers in use of text messaging and e-mail. Guide them to observe safety in the use of cell phones by modeling for them that it is unsafe to use them while driving and rude to use them in public places. Let them watch you turn your phone off before entering public places like theaters and restaurants.

The bottom line here is that it is your responsibility as a parent to teach your children to live effectively in the world that they are growing up in. Teaching effective study habits ought to embrace that concept. Teach children to become effective and responsible students who manage heir time with a purpose.

October 02, 2007

Help Your Children to be Effective at Studying

USE Modern Technology Effectively
– Don’t Just Complain about It!

As I work with families all across America I find that some topics and some statements seem to crop up almost everywhere. One of the most common questions is, “How do we overcome the terrible influence of Television on our children’s study habits?”

Well to begin with, my answer to this question usually takes a similar tack. Most of the time, I ask the parents if they somehow bought a defective TV set with no “off button”! However, that is a rather flippant answer to a real question so here I will attempt to provide a more complete and reasoned answer.

"Bloom Where You Are Planted!"

Our mother taught us a saying that is quite applicable to the situation of using modern technology. She always used to say, “Bloom where you are planted!” What she was telling us was to accept where we are and make the best of the situation. “If you are given lemons, make lemonade!” She used to say! (Now, I must also add that Mom also tried to teach us to try to improve the situation in which we found ourselves.) But, her advice to make the best of the situation was really sound advice.

I would offer that same advice to parents when it comes to modern technology… The technology is here to stay. The Television is an ingrained part of our modern culture. TV will not go away. And… it is not an inherently evil thing. There is much good that can be gleaned from intelligent use of television. It can be a great source of knowledge and information. The television can allow just about anyone to be informed on critical issues of our time. It can also be a wonderful source of entertainment that can be shared by the entire family.

That being said, the television can also be the enemy of a family attempting to raise children to be self-directed and successful. Modern television broadcasting presents a lot of misleading and potentially damaging stuff. The danger to children lies in indiscriminate use of the television. I believe that it is the job of parents to teach their children to be careful consumers of television broadcasting.

Ratings and Filters of Television Broadcasting are Extremely Ineffective

Many parents feel that their children are protected by using some kind of a filter that does not allow R or X rated material to be watched in their home. That might be good to a point but it falls terribly short of teaching children how to select the programming that they deem worthy of watching in your family.

Go One Step Further Than Ratings… Develop Your Own "Family Standards"

Hold family regular meetings to decide how much time the television will be allowed to be on during each week of the year. Have family discussions about how much time should be given to watching TV.

Than hold other family meetings to select what specific programs your family will watch. Most families who do this are amazed to find that their children have some pretty strong feelings about the types of programming that they honestly feel comfortable watching in their home.

Get a DVR!

Once the amount of time is selected and the specific programming is selected, it is my strongest recommendation that no concerned family should have a Television without a DVR! Like I said earlier, we live in an age of modern technology. That technology will not go away. However, we can make the best use of the technology available to us. Just the other day, I was visiting a store that sells electronic technology, and was shocked to find that it is now possible to purchase a quality DVR for under a hundred and fifty dollars.

What is a DVR?

For those who may not be aware of what a DVR is; it is simply a Digital Video Recorder. It is a machine that will record television programming onto a hard drive for later viewing on demand. With this type of a machine it becomes not only possible to make purposeful selections of what programming is watched in your home, but t also allows your family to take control of WHEN the programming is watched!

Use Technology to Manage Time in your Home!

With that technology available I feel that using it is just an example of “Blooming where you are planted!” I will even go one step further and say that I feel that it is bordering on irresponsible to own a television and cable or satellite access without a DVR! Almost every home in America has a television. To me the only danger that poses to children lies in not teaching those children how to choose to use the medium intelligently! A DVR allows your family to do just that. You can select the programming that you all deem to be worthwhile AND you can select the time when it will be watched!

The biggest gift you will be giving your children by getting a DVR and setting your own family guidelines for watching television broadcasting lies n teaching them to be purposeful participants in their world and not just victims of the world in which they live.

Study Habits

Now just imagine how much more effective your children will be in doing homework when they do not have to compete with an incessant bombardment from the television! Study hours can be set without interrupting their recreational use of the television for entertainment! The television can be off during study hours without missing their chosen programming!

September 19, 2007

Sleep Deprived Students and ADD

There is a common practice in many, and probably most American homes that is causing significant problems for children. Many people are suggesting a common solution to this overwhelming problem… they are proposing to change our schools. That proposed change will be slow, and I believe that the solution is bypassing the real problem and the real solution. The solution to this pervasive problem lies in the homes of America.

The Problem

The problem that I am speaking of is that many American teens (and many younger children for that matter) are attending school severely sleep deprived. These children suffer lower grades, lack of attention, discipline problems, and other difficulties. Sometimes these sleep deprived children are even diagnosed with learning disabilities like ADD, ADD/ADHD and then given drugs that further compound the problem.

“Sleep deprivation may be undermining teen health! Lack of sufficient sleep--a rampant problem among teens--appears to put adolescents at risk for cognitive and emotional difficulties, poor school performance, accidents and psychopathology, research suggests.”
Cornell University psychologist James B. Maas, PhD, one of the nation's leading sleep experts.

Here is what I see happening. When children are very young, most parents require their children to go to bed quite early. At the time that most children start school a common bedtime would be 8:00 p.m. However as the child gets older the parents start allowing the children to stay up a little later. With each year of maturity, the bedtime gets later and later.

Missing the Forest for the Trees
Here is How the Problem Has Come About

There is one key cause of this problem that most people trying to solve it are missing… while the bedtime for children keeps getting progressively later as they grow older; the “get up time” stays the same. The outcome of this time dynamic is that kids are not getting enough sleep! Almost all doctors and pediatricians will very firmly tell anyone who asks that children going through puberty absolutely need at least 9.5 hours of sleep a night. Most will even say that 10 hours is optimum. (If you don’t believe me do a “Google Search” typing in the words “sleep deprived students” and do some reading.) I am sure that you will be as shocked as I was. We had observed this problem on our own when we were public school teachers, but now, there are hundreds of research studies backing up our observations.

I taught high school and middle school for 30 years and my wife, Barbara, taught middle school for 19 years and we taught in five different school districts and in every one of those school districts the school day started at or before 8:00 A.M. Now, after traveling the nation and visiting schools all across America, I know that 8:00 is a very typical start time. Just a little common sense tells me that in order to get to school by 8:00 a student who rides a bus must get up by at least 6:45. A little arithmetic says that a child who has gone to bed at 10:00 P.M. has only had 8 ¾ hours of sleep. A child who goes to bed at 11:00 is operating on 7 ¾ hours of sleep!

Common Bedtimes

One thing that we knew as teachers was that even 11:00 P.M. was a very common bedtime for our students. We also knew that many were up even past that time simply because of the conversations they had about the television shows that seemed to be their favorites! Our students were often fans of shows that ended at 11:00 and many talked about what they saw on the 11:00 news!

Any student who watched the 11:00 news and then arrived on time at school for an 8:00 A.M. class was operating on a daily sleep deprivation of two to three hours! And then we wondered why so many of our students had a hard time concentrating and focusing on their school work!

Changing the Schools Should NOT Be the Solution

Now, let me go back to my original statement about the proposed solutions to this extremely common problem; many people are proposing that we solve this sleep deprivation problem by starting school at a much later time; like 9:00 or even 10:00 A.M. This will be a meaningless change if the families do not enforce bedtimes that insure 9 ½ to 10 hours of sleep for their children every night . The change in sleep habits must take place in the homes!

"Barking Up the Wrong Tree"

It always bothered me when I was teaching school to find that the very first proposal for solutions to so many problems was to make changes in the schools. Drug awareness and drug prevention have been improperly dumped on the schools. Schools are being held responsible for so many things that should be handled in the home.

Proper sleep habits are not the domain of schools. Schools should have little or no input in how much sleep their students are getting. That is the domain of parents and families. Parents must assure that their own children are getting enough sleep!

Now, I have some concrete suggestion for taking control of the sleep time in your home. If you would like to hear some of these, just check back for my next article in this spot. Or, you can go to this link: ( ) and listen to my proposal for taking control of time in your home and most importantly taking control of bedtime.

September 17, 2007

Bill Belichick, Cheating, Heroes, Role Models, and Teaching Children

What a Wonderful Opportunity to Teach!

Bill Belichick was caught red handed, cheating! There is no doubt about it. He was caught, has been fined and he even admitted it. The camera that was used illegally, was confiscated; along with the tape of what was being shot. Coach Belichick can stonewall questions all he wants, but he did what he was accused of.

The man knowingly broke the rules. Publicly he has tried to explain it away by saying that he did it under a "difference in interpretation" of the rules. That is even more despicable. Lying to cover cheating gives us all a double dose. Bill had even been warned about this very behavior last year and then, every team was informed of the rule gainst using video on the field in a memo from the commissioner again before the start of the season.

What Would Any Parent Do?

What would almost any self-respecting parent do if their child was caught breaking a rule after being warned TWICE to cease the rule-breaking activity? There would definitely need to be some moral and ethical teaching taking place. Some parents might resort to punishment. (But, to show how ineffective punishment is, just take a look at how the coach is reacting; the $500,000.00 fine has not changed his actions one bit, he still seems to indicate thathe was justified in cheating!) The important thing that any parent, wishing to make meaningful changes in the rule-breaking behavior, would need to do, is to do some serious teaching of morals, values, and ethics that should be used in making future decisions!

Role Model?

Right now I read so many writers and TV and radio commentators screaming about how terrible this is because Bill Belichick let so many people down who looked up to him as a role model. Well, therein lies the folly that I mentioned in a couple of recent articles on Heroes and Role Models a couple of weeks ago; parents must be very careful in guiding children how to select heroes and role models. Simple fame or success in some level of competition should never be allowed to be the sole criteria for picking role models! Bill is, without a doubt, a winning coach; but that does not make him a worthy role model for children.

Nobody is Worthless!

My grandfather was commonly repeating sayings that he felt expressed some truth about life. One that he repeated often was, “Nobody is worthless; anyone can serve as a bad example to someone!” Now, I believe that he often repeated that saying in a humorous manner but there is still some great truth in his saying. I believe that this saying applies in the case of Bill Belichick knowingly breaking NFL rules. While it is disappointing to see a grown man, who is held up by many as a great coach and role model; it is not necessarily a bad thing for parents whose children see his failure to live up to his lofty position or obligations. He can serve as an example of how much one risks when they betray trust and forfeit character.

What a Great Opportunity to Teach!

Bill Belichick’s terrible action should give any parent a great opportunity to teach their children a wonderful lesson in moral and ethical decision-making! Any parent who is attempting to teach their children to live in an orderly society of rules and laws and who is attempting to teach their children how to make decisions about right and wrong, now has a great example of what can happen when rules are broken to use in that teaching process.

Thanks to Bill Belichick, We Have a Great "Teaching Moment"

Thanks to Bill for giving parents a chance to graphically demonstrate to their children that all of the championships in this world really mean nothing if you compromise your character and forfeit trust in order to get them. Here is a man who might have gone down in history as one of the greatest coaching minds in the history of team sports. But, his terrible decision to break the rules and cheat will forever be his legacy. He compromised his character to attempt to gain a competitive advantage and now he will be forever known as a cheat.

LOSS OF TRUST is the Biggest Penalty!

"Of course," Bill said firmly when asked about the request from the Commissioner to turn over any additional notes, tapes, or materials that might have been used in a similar manner. What Bill may soon learn, and most importantly, what parents can teach their children is that once you are caught lying, few people will ever believe you again.

Trust is So Difficult to Earn and so Easy to Lose!

I will bet that when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell heard Belichick's reply, he heard what the man said, but because of the recent betrayal of trust, he probably will do some intense research to confirm the truth of the coach's statement. I doubt that Goodell will no longer be willing to take Bill Belichick’s word on much of anything anymore.

Teach !

Parents, teach your children that the consequences of lying, cheating, and breaking the rules is not the punishment that society meets out; the punishment for lying, cheating, and breaking the rules is the loss of the trust of others!

September 07, 2007

LISTEN to Parenting with Dignity Tips

Parenting with Dignity Information

You can listen to Parenting with Dignity tips and concepts for free on the Internet radio station called Big Fish Radio. Com! ( )There are lots of topics that I cover in these short ten to fifteen minute sessions so check them out.

New Segments Are Available Today!
Back to School Tips

In four new segments I outline some great ideas for starting back to school on an great note.

Take Control of Your Television!

Check out the segment on taking control of the television in your home to facilitate a great atmosphere for study.

Help Kids Manage Their Time Effectively

Then listen to a segment on helping kids to get organized and manage time! You can start today with the process of teaching your children to manage hectic schedules.

Get Better Grades with No More Time Spent on Homework!

Next, you can listen to a sure fire method for raising your children’s grades without them ever having to do one more minute f homework! This session ought to be listened to by your children. Schedule about 15 minutes in the next few nights to listen to that segment as a family. Every young person that has tried this fool proof system has significantly raised their grades!

Get them Involved in Activities!

Finally, learn how to insure that your children maximize their school experience with lessons about living successful lives.

If you like this information then please visit our website:

September 05, 2007

Child Molesters/Child Safety

The article below is an open letter to the mother of a young man who was molested by a fellow who is currently serving a life sentence for his crimes against children.

This mother found that this man had received a Certificate of Completion from Parenting with Dignity and she wrote to me asking that we ensure that no person convicted of child molestation be allowed to attend a Parenting with Dignity Class.

The basis of her concern was that at trial this child molester testified that he had used the Focus on the Family Curriculum created by Dr. James Dobson as a means of approaching children at his church where he taught Sunday School.

An Open Letter

Here is my answer to that lady an an open letter:

Dear "Mother of a Molested Son",

My sincerest sympathies go out to you and your son for the terrible thing that was perpetrated by the fellow who molested your son. I cannot imagine what it must be like to endure such a terrible thing. Believe me, our Parenting with Dignity Program works daily to attempt to prevent this type of thing from happening to other children.

That being said, this fellow and his ability to perpetrate further misery upon children seems to have been effectively and justly dealt with by our court system. He is serving a LIFETIME sentence! He will never be free to prey upon children ever again.

Continued Use of PWD in Prisons

I do wish to let you know that I have been personally working in prisons with inmates for over twenty-five years and I will continue to do so. One of the things that we know about the use of our Parenting with Dignity Curriculum is that we must allow the agencies and organizations to “take ownership” of the program. Once they have ownership, they will then put their maximum efforts forward to see that the program helps the maximum number of their clients. In doing this we must trust that they will assume the responsibility for insuring that the program not be used in any inappropriate manner. I do not see how Ken Bennett could ever use our program in any way to harm children because he will never be in the presence of children ever again.
Justification for PWD in Prisons

I would like to share one story that has taught me that the work that we are doing in prisons is not only worthwhile but must continue.

About three months ago took my grandchildren out to dinner. It was "Papa’s Night Out" with the kids. While we were at dinner, a fellow came in with his wife and three children. They sat down at a table next to us and as we were leaving the fellow stood up and offered his hand to me saying, “you are Mac Bledsoe, aren’t you?”

I replied, “Yes, I am. How would you know that?”

He said, “Well, I would like to shake your hand. I recognize you because I was in the State Prison in Idaho when you and your son came down to speak to us about Parenting with Dignity about ten years ago. I want you to know that I have been through your Parenting with Dignity class four times and let me tell you, I would not be standing here today if it had not been for your program!"
Husband, Father, and Employed, Taxpaying Citizen
"I am a loyal and dedicated husband to this wonderful woman.” He said gesturing to the lady seated at the table with him who now had tears openly flowing down her cheeks.

“I am a dedicated father to my three children seated here. I love them more than life itself and I tell them that in one of the ten ways your program suggests, every day!”

“I am employed at a meaningful job at a local agricultural chemical company and I bring home a paycheck every week to support my family. I am a responsible, law biding citizen, and I am proud to be a taxpayer in this great country!”

“I would not be any of those things had it not been for Parenting with Dignity and I just want to say thank you to you for creating such a great program and making it available to men like me. I had lived a life of crime and would have continued had I not learned that the ‘Ideas in your head rule your world’ from you through the Parenting with Dignity Program!”

Then he went on to ask, “Do you ever see your son?”

When I replied that I would be seeing him that evening when took his four children home he said, “Well, when you see him will you also convey my thanks to him also. When you guys were down speaking to us he gave me an idea that rules my world daily. I have it written on the mirror in my bathroom and I read it out loud to myself every morning while I shave. When Drew spoke to us he said, ‘Guys, respect yourself… because if you don’t respect yourself, how can you expect others to respect you?’ I read that idea to myself and I use to make most of the decisions that I make daily. If I feel that doing something will not allow me to respect myself, then I just don’t do it!”

“I teach my three children to use that same approach to life. Daily we talk about making decisions that will cause them to respect themselves. Thanks again, Mr. Bledsoe, for creating such a great program and for bringing it to prisons so that men like me can learn to be good husbands, fathers, and productive citizens!”

I could share stories like this with you until you grew tired of listening and I would have thousands more to tell you. That one fellow’s story is enough to let me know that our work with fathers in prison will continue. I will continue to work to help parents where ever they are.

The Ku Klux Klan claimed that the Bible was the justification for their hateful behavior. We do not ban the Bible because one group misinterpreted it… and I am not going to stop our work just because some fellow misinterpreted the work of James Dobson and may have used it in a manner that it was not intended. I have never before heard of anyone using a parenting class for the purpose of hurting children. I have never known of anyone using our curriculum to hurt anyone. I suppose that it could happen but I am not sure that I see how.

As a matter of fact, many of the child molesters use religion as their basis for gaining the trust of children (priests, ministers, youth leaders, etc.) If there is a culprit here, it might be more fruitful to challenge the process of selecting and supervising priests and ministers.

I will say that the best manner for parents to use in preventing this type of thing from happening to their children would lie in teaching effective decision-making skills to children at the earliest possible age. So many parents are deluded into thinking that they (the parents) can protect their children by what they, themselves, know as parents; and that is simply not true. Children must be taught to protect themselves because, by definition, they will make all of the big decisions in their lives for themselves. Drug pushers will make sure that parents are not present when they offer drugs. Kids will make that life-or-death decision for themselves.
Child molesters will make sure that parents are not present when they target children! I believe was the case with your son. (Unless you were there with him and did nothing, which I seriously doubt.) When Ken Bennett approached your son he most surely made sure that you were not present! He relied upon your son to make innocent but dangerous decisions that led to terrible consequences. Parenting with Dignity teaches parents how to teach their children to avoid bad situations with sound decision-making skills. Parenting with Dignity teaches parents to teach these effective skills BEFORE children are forced to make those decisions.

Contrary to what your letter implies, there are literally millions of families (thousands of which are prison inmates) who have been immeasurably helped by our curriculum. Rest assured that we will continue to do our great and beneficial work both inside and outside of prison walls.

Thanks for writing. I hope that things are going as well as possible for you and your son. Be sure to communicate your love to him in one of the “ten ways for expressing love to children” every day.

September 03, 2007

Help Kids to Select Worthy Heroes – Revisited due to Mike Vick

Michael Vick - Role Model?

In light of the recent case involving Mike Vick, it seems pertinent to revisit the article that I published in this column last year about helping children to select worthy heroes.

In Mike’s public address that he issued following his conviction of a felony he apologized to any children who might have looked up to him as a role model. That is a nice thought, but for parents I would just ask, “How would a parent allow their child to select Mike as a role model in the first place? What had he done to be selected? Would it be because he is famous? Was it because he was gifted with great talent as an athlete? Was it because he seemed defiant of most rules and authority? Why pick Mike Vick?”

Get Involved in the Process of Choosing Heroes with Your Kids!

I would again like to caution parents to guide children to set extremely high standards for selecting heroes. Be careful of allowing your children to fall into the trap of selecting heroes and role models based upon fame or talent. Teach your children to select role models based upon sound values, morals, ethics and standards that you have discussed openly and honestly with your children. If you discussthe standards for selecting their heroes with them, that they will learn as much or more from the process of choosing their heroes as they will from the heroes themselves!

Selecting Heroes

In today's society like in the past, kids have heroes. This is a good thing if they choose carefully! However, in modern society it seems the process of selecting heroes has become rather muddled or confused. Fame should not necessarily make a person a hero. We, in our family, have experienced this from both sides: first as parents of two sons who chose heroes while growing up, and now with two sons who have distinguished themselves as outstanding athletes, who are often the object of hero worship.

Please hang in here with me on this one so there is no misinterpretation of what I am attempting to say. We do believe that both our sons are worthy heroes. Both are moral, ethical, kind, honest, and admirable people with a strong sense of family. Both are civic minded and both give back to their respective communities.

What is alarming is to see how so many young people have selected them as heroes who know nothing about them. Many children have been taught to, or at least allowed to, select their heroes/role models based upon nothing more than skill at a game or fame. Few of these kids have been challenged to know much about their heroes beyond some perceived skill or fame. If children had been taught some criteria or standards for selecting role models, it would be different; and Michael Vick would not be needing to apologize to any children.

Diligence, Honesty, Loyalty, Integrity

Allow me to illustrate with a personal example. Barbara's Father, Dick Matthews, died suddenly a few years ago. His five grandchildren delivered the eulogy at the funeral. It was obvious to all in attendance that "Grandpa Dick" was a hero to all five. As they spoke of him through their tears, they all mentioned his hero status in their eyes and used words like loyal, dedicated to his wife, hard-working, honest, a man whose word was his bond, as well as describing a fun Grandpa who always had a smile a mile wide.

Dick Matthews was quite a fellow. Nobody could outwork him outside his home. He built houses for a living but he also ran a 120-acre farm and did odd jobs on the side as was needed for extra money for the family. If necessary, I'm certain he would have taken a night job to provide for his family and he did all of his work cheerfully, and with a bounce of purpose in his step.

Inside their home it was a different story. In his house, Dick was the "king" and Maxine, his loving wife of 56 years, waited upon him and hand foot. It was not a "modern" romance but rather one from a previous generation and it worked beautifully for them. Dick earned a living and Maxine kept up the home.

Then, ten years before Dick's death, tragedy struck that loving couple and Maxine was stricken by a severe stroke. Overnight she became in need of around-the-clock care rather than being the caregiver. Without the slightest blink, Dick became the 24-hour, 7 days a week caregiver; and on top of that, he began to do all of the housework! He did all of the laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping and everything else Maxine had done for all the years of their partnership of love. He even did her hair and put on her makeup!

A Real Hero Worthy of Imitation - A True Role Model

During Dick's last year of life, they came to visit with us up at our home in Montana. While out to breakfast alone with Dick one morning, I was struck by the enormity of the change he had made on behalf of his loving wife, Maxine, and I asked him how he made such an amazing change so suddenly and so cheerfully. His answer really affected me that day and it will always be in my memory. He looked back at me, got tears in his eyes, and then quietly said, "One day 56 years ago, I said 'I do'..."

Man, I think that everyone deserves to be loved like that just once!

At his funeral each of his grandkids said that one thing they had learned from Grandpa Dick was to honor commitments! They each got the message. He was not famous but; he was a hero to all.

Help Children to Pick Heroes; Carefully and Precisely

We, as parents and as adults, need to hold people like Dick Matthews up as heroes to our children! We all know people in our families and in our neighborhoods that are so worthy of being heroes to our kids. We must not be so careless as to think that kids will seek out these remarkable but often quiet people; we need to teach them what a real hero is and point out some in their immediate surroundings.

Sure an athlete makes a flashy hero and many are worthy of the status. Some musicians, actors, and public figures are worthy also, but let's be careful to teach our kids what makes a person worthy of “Hero” or “Role Model” status. (More on our website: Teaching Values to Children )

What are the criteria for picking your heroes in your family? Make tomorrow "Hero Day" in your family and talk about what makes a real hero! talk about it daily. Pick some heroes for your whole family. then challenge your children to pick some people who are worthy of being their onw role models. The process of choosing will work well to teach some pretty valuable lessons.

August 28, 2007

Dealing with Bullying

A Letter from a Distressed Mom

Dear Mr. Bledsoe,

I am the parent of a 3.5 year-old girl. I have worked hard to teach her the behaviors I value like being kind to others, sharing, showing empathy, being truthful. Unfortunately, I am falling down when it comes to a couple of areas and it is painful for me to watch. What can I teach my daughter to do when people (children her age or older) don't want to play, call her names, push, take things from her? We live on a military base overseas and I see this behavior again and again.

I try to remove her from it, but I do not know if that is the right thing to do in the end (sometimes I get rather angry but am at a loss over how to properly react). I generally make sure she tells the other children she does not like that, stop and then I don't know what to do...unless the behavior continues, then we retreat.

My daughter is usually so upset by these interludes that she cries. But she gets over it pretty quickly, I am having problems letting go and I don't know how to talk to her about it. Also, she has recently started making up tales when she has conflicts with kids she is playing with...running to mom for the answer. I cannot let that go on, but do not know how to handle it, I want her to be able to come to me but not with fibs or half-truths.

I was bullied and isolated as a child and do not intend for her to repeat history. She is so socially oriented though that I feel bad that she do not have many playmates (I am rather choosy for her and want parents/children with similar values) and she always wants to go play with other kids, even when an outcome has been negative. I am placing her in part-day care three days a week and realize that at some point she will have to learn good ways to solve her problems with peers and still feel good about herself and her peers without being bullied or otherwise victimized.

I do not feel I can adequately help her do this...any suggestions?


Clueless Mom

An Answer

Dear Mom,

Congratulations! You are more than half way to solving the problem with your daughter… because you recognize the problem and you are seeking help in finding a solution. That is usually the most difficult part of the battle. Please do not ever refer to yourself again as “Clueless Mom”, you are the farthest thing from being clueless… you are seeking answers and you will find them. Remember that the ideas in YOUR head will rule your world. Start this process by saying good things about youyrself!

Now for some help:

1. Remember that your daughter is only three and a half! It is wonderful that you are teaching such great values and behaviors to your daughter but remember you are teaching some very complex ideas to her. It will take time. It took you a lifetime to learn these same behaviors and by your own statements you are still learning. Keep teaching but just remember that it is going to take time!
My gosh, there are many people who reach old age who have never mastered empathy and sharing. Keep teaching. Do not assume that she has learned anything until she demonstrates her understanding by using what you have taught her but be reasonable. It will take time to teach much of what you are setting out to teach.

2. The next bit of advice that I am going to offer to you is a bit more complicated but, believe me, it will reap great rewards for you and your daughter if you accept what I am going to offer to you next. Stay with me on this and read to the end before rejecting or accepting the idea I am going to offer to you now. Start a parenting class. That is right, I said start a parenting class! It is easy to do if you use our proven method using the DVD Parenting with Dignity Curriculum ( ). On our website we lay out the entire plan for starting and running your class: ( ).
Now listen to the reasons that this will be a solution to your problems with your daughter. It is so much easier to teach your daughter concepts like compassion, empathy, respect, dignity, etc. if the children that your daughter plays with and goes to school with are taught similar concepts and behaviors! Please, do not get me wrong here, I am not suggesting that you start your class to point the finger of guilt at other people’s children or anything like that. What I am telling you is that teaching any concept to your child will be simpler if other children around her have been taught similar beliefs and actions! It is just that simple.

In order to start a Parenting with Dignity class, you do not need to be the teacher. For you, that is one great facet of our course; you do not have to be the teacher! The teacher is on the DVD’s. All you have to do is to get folks together to discuss the concepts presented in the course. You will find that the best thing you can do in your classes is to answer almost every question with the question, “I don’t know, what do the rest of you think?”

Now, think for a minute about your daughter’s situation in playing with other children. When she uses kindness, respect, dignity, empathy, and compassion with other children, the chances of her behavior being returned to her go up infinitely when the other children have been taught to recognize and exhibit similar behavior! It is really very simple.

Please consider this suggestion. If you are interested, please visit our website and take a look at the plan for starting a class. You will not have to do every one of the things suggested there but you will get lots of proven ideas that will help you to start a class. Believe me, you will learn right along with all of the others in the class that you start.

3. Next, I would suggest that you keep on teaching the sound values, morals, and ethics that you are teaching your daughter. Regardless of the surrounding behaviors she will grow to be able to make her own decisions about her own actions, independent of the other children’s sometimes, cruel and insensitive actions. Your daughter will affect change in many of those other children around her by her simple kind and empathetic actions. Teach your daughter to tell the other children what it is that she would like them to do. It is one thing for her to tell them what she does not like. It is an entirely different thing to teach her to explain some better actions to them.
Do not remove her from those situations unless you deem that she will be hurt, injured or damaged by what is happening. Start teaching her how to reasonably react to some of the cruel and insensitive actions of those other kids.

4. Use our Rule # 1 ( ) from our curriculum and make sure that you are very clear in your own mind what you expect your daughter to do in those situations and then teach those behaviors and actions to her. Remember that when teaching something like that to a young child, you are often best served by not trying to use words. Role play and demonstrate that desired actions to her. Have her practice with you where you role play the actions of the other children and your daughter uses the actions and concepts that you are teaching her.

5. Your daughter is still young but not too young for you to start teaching her how to choose friends for herself. ( Apply Rule #1 ) It is fine that you are playing a major role in the process of choosing friends now, at age three and a half; but gradually she should be making more and more of those decisions.
Believe me she has better input that you do and she will soon be better able to choose her own friends for herself than you will! She is there with those kids when adults are not present. Often children learn that when the adults are not present they sometimes can behave very differently, and if your daughter is properly taught, she will know the true character of other children better than you do! If she is being taught how to evaluate character she will choose amazing friends.

Gradually let her choose her own friends and enter into discussions with her about how she is choosing them. Offer her some ideas about things that you look for in friends. Ask her to identify things that she looks for in friends. Gradually she will become a great “friend chooser!”

6. With regard to teaching your daughter to tell the truth, I would suggest to you that she must sense that you disapprove of some of the truths she tells you so she is manufacturing tales to tell you what she thinks you want to hear. She is seeking your approval and positive attention by telling tales. The key is to make sure that you send her daily messages of love (Rule 5 in Parenting with Dignity ) so that she does not feel that she needs to tell you anything to be loved. Your love should, in no way, be connected to anything that your daughter does. She needs to know that you love her in spite of everything else going on around her. Your love is not conditional and she needs to know that absolutely.

Certainly your daughter needs to learn to solve problems with her peers on her own. That being said, I wish to reiterate that the best thing you can do to help her to do that would be to start your own class with the parents in that child care agency. If you are not fully willing to meet and interact with the parents of the children that your daughter interacts with on a daily basis, then you must accept what their children do to and do with your daughter!

In closing just let me say that I am not counseling you to try to change the world to match your daughter’s mood swings, personality, or her little personal quirks. Nor am I attempting to say that you try to help her solve her problems by trying to change all of the outside world. You are 100% correct in teaching your daughter to live in the world that confronts her. I am just saying that you can, at the same time, be working to build a better world for all kids in your community by helping other parents to teach similar and wonderful values, morals, and ethics to their children just like you are teaching your daughter!

Teach your daughter to bloom where she is planted… but in addition, you can do some work in the garden too!

Good luck and please let me know if I can be of further assistance to you.

August 23, 2007

Teen Drug Addiction - It CAN Happen to Your Family!

Parents, Pay Attention to this Book!

The biggest parenting fallacy in the world lies in thinking that we can somehow protect our children by living in nice houses, in nice neighborhoods, in quiet little towns: by thinking the walls of our houses will protect our children from making big decisions! They won’t! Our children will make ALL of the big decisions in their lives. I simply cannot say it any more forcefully! If you have not yet realized that the decision about using drugs poses a threat to every single child, wake up!

Over the past 10 years as I have taught parents HOW to teach their children to make good decisions via my Parenting with Dignity curriculum, I have told these parents the one thing I know to be the absolute truth: “Your children will make all the big decisions in their lives, not some, all. When they make the decision about whether they will use cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, alcohol, or any other drug, you will not be present and therefore you will be unable to protect them. The person offering the drug will make sure you are not there!”
If you need a wake up call, and most American parents do, please read Christy Crandell's book titled, "Lost and Found". It will open your eyes about what can happen to you if you do not teach your children to make good decisions.

What our children will use to make those decisions will hopefully be what we have taught them. However, our failure to teach them how to make those decisions does not mean they will not make them! It just means that they will use ideas someone else has taught them about using illegal substances! And believe me, what some of the other people will teach them, is not what you want them using to make that life or death decision.

I wish that I could get every parent to read this book. My wish is that every parent would read "Lost and Found" at the time their first child is born! Then, maybe they could see, first hand, how the tragedy of drug addiction can strike any child who is not completely and totally well prepared with good decision making skills. Christy's book is proof positive that parents cannot protect their children with what the parents know. It is only what your kids know and use that can protect them!
Parents Must TEACH Children HOW to Make Good Decisions!

Living in a home with loving parents who have strong morals and ethics is not the same as teaching a child how to use those ideas to make good decisions! As I tell parents over and over, “Talking is not teaching. Telling is not teaching. What you are doing does not become teaching until you see change as a result.”
A Wake Up Call!

This book should serve as a wake up call to every parent who is raising a child. Most of life’s good decisions are made in our heads BEFORE we are in the situation. Our children are no different and they cannot be allowed to wait until they are in a situation like this family, before they are taught how to make good decisions for themselves based upon sound morals, values, ethics, and principles.

Hopefully this book will help parents realize that, without proper awareness and a sound plan for teaching their children, drug addiction, and the pain and misery associated with it, is a very real possibility for their children and their family.

Please read this book and learn from the heartache and pain this family experienced.

Then, please share the book with every parent you know so that they can be aware of what may be waiting for them if they do not act now to teach their children how to make big decisions.

August 14, 2007

“Back When I Was a kid . . .”

Teaching Our Children with a Reasoned Approach

When we are making decisions about how we will be raising our children, we must eliminate from our minds some rather dysfunctional phrases. We simply must not allow ourselves to say things like: "Back when I was a kid..." and "If I had done that when I was a kid, my dad would have..." or "Back when we were in school they used to..."

There is an important distinction to make here. I am not saying that parents should not respect the past. Much can be learned from our past and much of our past experience can be very helpful to us in effectively raising our children.

That being said, as parents, we must never allow ourselves to fall into the trap of using "because it was done before," or "it has always been that way," or "that was the way my parents did it," as the sole justification for our actions with our kids.

Give Children Sound Reasons to Adjust Their Behavior

It is imperative that we have sound behavioral, moral, spiritual, ethical, or legal justifications for the actions we are teaching to, or demanding of our children. We must be able to explain to our young people why we are asking them to behave in a particular manner in a very logical way. In essence, we must not only decide: 1) WHAT it is that we want our kids to do, but we must also decide 2) WHY we want them to do it! "Because it was done to me," should never a good enough reason to repeat an action or expectation with our children.

Some History Should NOt Be Repeated

There have been a ton of mistakes made in the past and we are doomed to repeat them if we are not careful to think long and hard about the justification for duplicating those actions with our kids. Following are a couple examples to demonstrate what we are talking about.

Two historical events demonstrate the obvious problems with doing what has always been done before. Slavery was not only common but it was also legal in early America. We certainly would not advocate the continuation of that practice today simply because it was done before.

Neither would we teach our children that women should be second-class citizens in the United States even though they were not even legally recognized under the Constitution until the 19th Amendment was adopted in the early 20th century. Simply saying that women should not vote only because they never had in the past was a ludicrous idea.

Likewise, it is foolish for us to tell our children that they should wear certain types of clothing simply because that has been an appropriate style in the past. The same goes for hairstyles and many other standards and customs for behavior. Let's take look at establishing dress codes for kids.

Certainly, I am not proposing that parents abandon all standards of dress for young people! However, I am saying that we parents ought to make the standards logical and explainable in a reasoned sort of way and not just on the "If I had dressed that way my Dad would have killed me," sort of an explanation.

Parents ought to establish dress codes for their children... but “WHY do we have them?” should be the critical question. Nobody, in their right mind would say that we scrap any sense of awareness of how our children dress themselves. However, dressing in a certain way simply because a previous generation did is a rather silly code to impose upon our children (unless, of course, we would all like to go back and begin dressing like our forefathers who wrote that Constitution did, simply because "that's the way they used to do it in this country.") Hey, to put this in perspective, let's all get a few pictures of ourselves as teens and we can readily see that even we had some rather strange ways of dressing by today's standards.

The issue is "why?" Why are we asking our kids to dress in certain ways?

Here is a possible discussion:
"But Dad, why can't I dye my hair blue (wear spandex shorts to church, wear this provocative Jennifer Lopez top, use four letter words at the mall like the other kids, etc.)?"

"Well, my child, you probably could do that and in a perfect world it really wouldn't matter. But, we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world that has a few flaws: one of them being that most people in this world make a ton of snap judgments based upon some rather narrow preconceived ideas. It is a fact that most of the people you meet will not be able to see beyond the blue hair (or loud dress, etc.) to get to know you. It is critical that you know that many of those same people are in positions to control the circumstances of your life or make judgments about you that have a huge impact upon your life. For the same reason that it would be a bad idea to wear a ball cap to a funeral, it is a bad idea to dye your hair blue... most people would interpret it wrongly. A ball cap at a funeral would be viewed by most as being extremely disrespectful of the person being honored by the funeral. Blue hair would likewise be interpreted by most people as a sign of disrespect for others."

"But dad, that's just the point, I'm trying to show my individuality. I don't want to just be like everyone else."

"Great son, I am all in favor of you being a one-of-a-kind individual, but anyone can dye their hair. Dying your hair does not distinguish you in any meaningful way from much of anyone else. If you truly want to be an individual, why not distinguish yourself by being truly excellent at something? Or why not try to distinguish yourself by undoing some terrible wrong done by society? Why not distinguish yourself by making the world a better place? I'd love to help you. What is the cause that you would like to choose? If the only way that you can come up with to make yourself different is dying your hair, I would be disappointed in you because you are such a unique person with so much to offer."

Let us, as parents, become their teachers and give our children some good solid reasons to choose to adjust their behavior in positive and productive ways simply because the sound reasons that we present make sense to them.

August 10, 2007

Yelling at Kids!

Yelling at Kids Teaches!

Yelling at kids teaches kids that people do not mean what they say until they yell.
Yelling at kids teaches children to yell back.
Yelling at kids teaches kid to yell at others.
Yelling at kids teaches kids to ignore respectful and dignified requests when people speak to them in other tones of voice.
Yelling at kids teaches kids that they are not worthy of speaking to in civil tones.
Yelling at kids teaches them that a reasonable way to relieve stress is to yell at others.

Kids Learn More from our Actions than from our Words!

The point here is that yelling at kids teaches them lots of stuff, but it rarely, if ever, teaches them anything of much value. I do not think that yelling indelibly scars children unduly, nor does it do them irreparable psychological damage; but it certainly does not help them to learn productive ways of interacting with the world.

I guess that you could say that I am opposed to yelling at kids for the same reason that I am opposed to punishment; it simply does not work in any way that is even close to the way that it is intended. Yelling teaches lots of thing but rarely enhances the lesson in the words that are yelled.

A Personal Experience

I was sent to my room thousands of times for teasing my sisters. I was told to go in my room and think about how to treat my sisters. I did. I thought about how I was going to get them out behind the barn just as soon as I got out of my room and hold their heads under water in the horse trough for tattling on me. Sending me to my room did not teach me how to get along with my sisters. The desired or intended result was a far cry from the real outcome. My parents intention in sending me to my room was to teach me how to treat my sisters in a much nicer manner but what they got was far different from what they intended. Yelling at kids brings about a very similar kind of outcome.

A child who is yelled at on a regular basis simply learns that he doesn’t have to listen to instructions delivered in a quiet and dignified voice.

Teaching Does NOT Require Intent!

When we are with kids we are teaching every minute we are in their presence! Even though we may have no intention to teach nor any idea about what we want to teach… we are teaching just the same. Kids learn our language at their own pace and other than a little work on some specific vocabulary they learn it quite completely with little intent on our part. Kids rapidly learn the tense of verbs and they often learn it from parents who cannot intellectually define the tenses of the verbs that they taught to their kids! The point is that kids learn many things from us without us intending to teach them.

Kids in France speak French. Kids in Japan speak Japanese. However, take the French girl and raise her in the Japanese home and she would speak Japanese! Raise the Japanese kid in the French home and he will speak French. Raise them in my home and both will speak English. Language acquisition may be genetic. All normal human beings speak; but the specific language that they speak is learned! Kids learn the language that they are exposed to.

Children Learn What they Are Exposed To

Not only do kids learn the spoken language they are exposed to, but they also learn to interpret and use all of the non-verbal ways of communication. They learn what a civil tone of voice means. They learn what words like “please” and “thank you” mean.

Children raised in the presence of adults who rarely say things in a conversational tone and who never enforce anything said in that conversational tone learn that adults rarely mean what they say in a conversational tone! Kids who hear yelling all of the time, begin to feel that yelling is normal conversation. They will react to this language just as naturally as kids in France react to French. If yelled commands are the norm then kids begin to learn that yelled commands are normal so then they react to them in a like manner. Kids can, and do, even learn that yelled commands need not be listened to while civilly expressed commands can be ignored. I witness that dynamic in many homes.

In working with a family for the 20/20 program I found a couple with a son who didn’t seem to obey many commands or requests for action from his parents. I watched a week of tape from their home and discovered an amazing thing. Every time his mother or father said his middle name in a loud and yelling tone of voice, his head turned and he listened to what they said and he usually did it! A shouted, “Joe!” did not get his attention or action. An equally loud, “Joseph!” was just as ineffective. “Young man!” expressed in a conversational tone of voice did little to interrupt his play and did not even get the boy to look up.

But when his parents said “Joseph Alex!” in a loud, yelling kind of voice, he quite often listened and usually complied! Why? Their actions had taught him that when they said his middle name in a shouted voice, his time of ignoring was done! At this point, he knew that they would enforce the following command, so he complied.

Children Learn What Your Actions Teach

Joseph Alex had learned exactly what his mom and dad had unintentionally taught him. Even though they did not intend to teach him to ignore conversational tones of voice; their actions had taught him.

It was pretty simple to restructure effective communication in that family. All that the parents had to do was to duplicate their actions that they had previously used with their son when they shouted his middle name. Only in the restructured situation they had to do it with their first civil and polite request for “Joseph Alex” to perform some desired action.

Say It Civilly and Politely… but Enforce It!

It did not take long before Joseph was willingly obeying dignified and respectful commands. By using a little thought and planning, his parents had taught him a new language! The first step lay in restructuring their own plan of action and in taking control of what they were teaching their son. And man, let me tell you, they all felt much more calm and less stressed.


This brings us to another very important reason why yelling at kids is highly ineffective. Yelling destroys the dignity of both the parent and the child. Kids can learn to respond to calm demeanor just as easily as they can learn to respond to yelling. When parents yell at kids the stress level of everyone in the home goes up, but “yelling-related stress” increases for no one more than the parent. I learned this simple concept while teaching.

One day, while I was teaching at Walla Walla High School, I had had a particularly tough day of being angry and loud with students and was feeling really stressed out by my ineffective interaction with my students. (The kids were probably OK with it… they had learned the “language” of that guy who yells during third period!) My stress level was near the breaking point. In my frustration, I sought out the council of Lola Whitner, a master teacher who taught in the room next to mine. I said to her, “Lola, how do you do it. You are sixty-five years old, you are a perfect lady, you are barely five feet tall, you speak to kids in a respectful conversational, tone and yet the same students that I feel compelled to yell at are so quiet and respectful with you, and you never raise your voice. Help me. I must learn to do what you do!”

Very quietly she replied, “You have quite a temper, Mac. I can hear you through the walls. (She chuckled as she said that.) However, I have one question for you; can you ever control your temper? Can you ever speak quietly and respectfully to your students?”

“Well, yes, sometimes I can control my temper,” I replied. “But often I just blow up.”

“Well, Mac,” she replied very calmly, “If you control your temper some of the time then you can control it. Now that we have established that you are capable of controlling your temper may I point out to you that if you do not control your temper it is a choice! Why don’t you choose to control it all of the time?”

Her simple question changed my life forever! I finally realized that my actions were my choice! I never yelled in anger in a class ever again! I chose to be different and I was! The biggest thing that changed was my feeling of control and power over my life. I once and for all preserved my dignity and the dignity of my students by choosing to not yell; by choosing to speak in a civil, dignified, respectful, and polite manner. They rapidly learned that even though I was not yelling, I still meant what I was saying. My classroom became a respectful, dignified, and relaxed place; just like Lola’s.

I was recently asked what would be my short-term suggestion as a solution for parents who found themselves yelling at their kids, and I have none.

No "Short-Term Solutions" or "Quick-Fixes"

I do not put much stock in short-term solutions to life-long types of problems. Lola did not propose a short-term solution to my problem and and a short-term solution would have been of little value to me. Therefore, I would not suggest a "quick-fix" for anyone else.

The solution to the problem of yelling at kids lies in changing your manner of speaking to children forever. The long-term, life-changing solution does not involve going into a room and shouting, or hitting a punching bag. The solution does not lie in counting to ten or leaving the room. The solution lies in deciding to be different, today, tomorrow, and forever. The solution lies in letting the calm of self-control waft over you. The solution to yelling at your children lies in committing to a plan of action for how you will act before the yell-triggering situation arises; and then following your plan. This plan will bring dignity and peace to a family.

Now, to augment this new found self-control derived by deciding to be calm, dignified, and respectful, and committing to a plan of speaking in a conversational voice, it is necessary to anticipate the situations or circumstances where you are tempted to yell. The situations are always quite predictable. Identify those times and then develop a very specific plan of action for those situations. Actually practice the words that you will say and the manner in which you will say them.

The Situation!

For example, let’s say that one time when you have lost control and yelled in the past was when you would ask your kids to help with setting the table for dinner. At this time they would previously drive you crazy when they would just ignore your requests for help. So you would resort to yelling with little if any change in their behavior. Build a plan for this specific situation.

The Plan!

Rather than standing in the kitchen and yelling, as you have previously done with little results, go to where your kids are and say respectfully, “I need your help. Would you please get up now and come in and set the table? Look at me kids. I am smiling and I am speaking in a polite tone of voice. I even said ‘please’, but I really mean it.”

If they do not immediately start to move to set the table, move squarely in front of them and ask politely in a calm tone, “Excuse me, but what did I just ask you to do?” (You may have to point out to them that you just asked a question that you wish to have answered because they are now in their Ignore-Mom-or-Dad-mode.) Stay right in front of them and wait for their answer. As soon as they can repeat what you have said, say, “OK, so you know what you are to do and I am going to wait right here until you start, so please get started right now.” All of this is said in a respectful and pleasant tone of voice at a conversational volume.

Be Patient

It may even take weeks for this new dignified approach to begin to take hold because the kids have literally had years ignoring your conversational statements and years of hearing you yell at them. It will take time to “learn the new language” that you are speaking!

All too often I find that parents are looking for gimmicks or tricks to use with their kids, when what really works is to make simple and fundamental changes in their own ways of thinking and acting. Usually the people who yell at their kids are the same ones who will become the most upset if their kids were ever to yell back. It is pretty easy to get caught in a trap of holding higher standards for kids’ behavior than we hold for our own behavior.

Some Key Questions

Now, before we leave this topic of yelling at kids, I would like to throw out some questions for the consideration of anyone who is choosing to yell at a child.

“On what basis have you decided that you are justified in yelling at your kids?”

To follow up that question here are a few more to answer.

“Is it justifiable to yell at kids because you are older?”

“Do you deem it justifiable to yell at your kids because you are bigger?

“Do you view it to be reasonable to yell at your kids because you are the parent and have parental authority?”

“Do you feel justified in yelling at your children because you are older and have more life experience?”

It would seem to me that all of these would constitute reasons for you to NOT yell at your kids. “Is there any viable justification for yelling at a child?”

Yes, I will grant you that it might be justifiable to yell at a kid if he was running toward the street and a truck was coming, or if she was reaching for a boiling pan of water on the stove; but short of an emergency, is there any reasonable justification for yelling at children? If not, then why not adopt the ideas above and take the action to stop it?

In closing let me just say that there are millions of well-adjusted adults who were yelled at as kids. I would simply say that they arrived as well-adjusted adults in spite of the yelling and not because of the yelling.

Do not ever use the old fallacy of, “It was done to me, therefore is justifiable for me to do it to my kids!” as an excuse for your actions. Do what works. Yelling simply does not work very well. Having a plan for dignity and civility works. Use it!

August 07, 2007

Taking Control of the TV in Your Home

"The Television Is Destroying our Children… What Can We Do?"

Man, do I hear this all of the time! This summer, especially, I have received hundreds of e-mails and letters from distraught parents who are totally frustrated by the amount of television that heir children watch. They bemoan the fact that the programming is so violent and so morally corrupt. It seems that there is an article published daily extolling the evil influence of television on our children.

Just yesterday a mother contacted me saying that her son had learned to hit others from watching cartoons on TV! She wanted to know what to do about the hitting. “It’s all because of the TV!” she said. She was wondering what we could do about the terrible messages being delivered to us by the networks!

Get an "Off Button" and a "Channel-Changer"!

Well, I wanted to call the store that sold that lady that television and let them know that I feel it is immoral to sell television sets without channel changers or off buttons! This mother amazed me with her inability to see that the television set was hers and that it had controls on it that she could use to limit the amount and type of programming that her children watched!

The Critical Issue

There is an issue in this mother’s question that I believe to be even more important than this mom using the off-button and the channel-changer to limit viewing… and that is teaching the children to make intelligent choices of viewing for themselves.

What is the goal? Does this mother want to follow her children around for the rest of their lives making their viewing choices for them? Or… does she wish to teach her children how to make good choices of programs to watch? Does she want to be the one always placing limits on the time spent in front of a television when her children are forty, or does she wish to teach her children to place their own limits on how much time they devote to the television.

Children Can Learn To Make Great Choices

Children can be taught to make wonderful choices for themselves at a very early age. However, parents must make this a priority in their teaching!

I would suggest hat parents start out with this process of teaching at a very early age. I would suggest that children be allowed a certain number of hours per week that can be devoted to watching television. Then before any television is watched; and definitely before any television is turned on, the parents ought to engage in a discussion of what kind of programs are worthwhile. Now with two year-olds this discussion might center on which cartoons the child likes and why.

Select the Time

Next, parents ought to spend some time with their children selecting the most reasonable time to watch television.

Children Learn More from Doing than from Saying!

After selecting some programs that both parents and kids agree upon and selecting some times to watch some television, the parents should let the children know that the television will be off for the rest of the time. Very early children can learn that a television is not just a constant in the home. It is a machine that is controlled by the family and it is only on at times when the family makes a conscious choice to watch specific programming of their choice.

A Bold Recommendation:
"Do NOT have a Television Without a DVR!"

Now, I am going to go out on a limb here and make a recommendation to any parent that is quite unlike most of my recommendations. I rarely champion the purchase of any product, but here, I am going to suggest to parents that they not have a television in their home without a DVR (Digital Video Recorder). Now I am not pushing someone’s product. There are lots of brands and types of DVR’s. I am just saying that if you are going to have a television, you ought to have a DVR that allows your family to control the broadcasting that they watch!

A DVR is simply a new technology that has come into being in the past few years. They have been on the market for some time but only recently have become common. They used to only work with satellite television broadcasting but now are available for use with just about any form of television broadcasting.

For people who are not familiar with DVRs, they are simply very user friendly digital video recorders that allow you to record broadcasting so that you get to choose what you will watch and when you will watch it! A DVR allows a family to select certain programs that they would like to choose to watch. Then by selecting that programming from the schedule, the DVR will automatically record those programs and store them for watching at a time that the family chooses as a reasonable time to devote to television.

Take Control of Your TV!

By using a DVR, a family can take complete control of what programs are watched and when the programs are watched. The real danger of television to children is not the television itself. Watching some television is inherently bad for kids. There are lots of programs available that are very educational and worthwhile. The problem arises when the television is always on. The problem arises when nobody in the family is modeling selectivity in choosing the programming that the family watches.

Kids Learn by Doing!

Kids learn more from our backside than they do from our frontside. In other words children learn more from what we do than what we say. If children are raised in homes where the television is always on, they learn that television viewing really does not involve choice.

On the other hand, children raised in homes where the TV is only turned on at selected times and only selected programs are watched, they will learn to be very selective TV watchers!”

Children raised in homes with DVRs learn even more clearly that television is very selective in nature. They learn by participating in the process, that they are not victims of the television broadcast industry. Children raised in families where programming is selected very carefully, learn to to be very selective in their watching habits.

I would recommend that families make the process of choosing programming each week a family activity where the whole family sits down and selects the programming that they all agree to watch each week. Now, I do not mean that all members of the family must agree to watch the same stuff, nor do I suggest that all family members watch everything together. I would recommend that a family establish that each child gets to choose an hour or two of programming each week that is their exclusive right to pick.

Then I would suggest that the family together select one or two hours of television that all agree to watch together.

In families that I have seen do this, some very healthy behaviors emerge. Children begin to discuss the reasons why they select certain programs. In these discussions, values and morals always come into play. Religious and spiritual discussions always come up very naturally as the families discuss their choices of broadcasting. Parents can offer their own thoughts on program selection as they too select programs that they choose to watch.

Once the week’s selections have been made, the DVR can be programmed to record the chosen programs. Once this is done, another advantage of the DVR arises. When the programming is recorded, the viewers can fast forward through advertising and promotions for upcoming broadcasts, etc. and the actual chosen program takes much less time to watch.

By having the programming recorded and waiting for your family, the time given to watching becomes completely in your control. Television no longer competes with mealtime or bedtime. Television is watched at a time that the family chooses to watch it!

Take control of the television in your family. Teach your children to watch as a choice. Teach children to select carefully the ideas that they allow into their heads!

August 02, 2007

Teaching your Values to Your Children

Pick Ideas to Rule Your Child's World!

Values become the over-all ideas that rule the world of your children. Values are complex ideas like honesty, and integrity, respect, diligence, spirituality, and more. Values usually require extensive personal definition. Values should be the most important ideas that you share with your kids so they should be the most carefully taught. Remember that you have not taught something to a child until they use it in their own life as a guiding principle to govern their own behavior.

As you go about the process of teaching your values to your children keep Rule 4 in mind: “It doesn’t matter what you say, it is what they say for themselves that counts!”

To teach your values to your children you must use methods and techniques that get your children to “say it for themselves.” You can tell your children to be honest until you are blue in the face, but it will not bring about lasting change in their behavior until they choose to adopt honesty into their personal ideas about themselves. Keep in mind that you are trying to input these important ideas into their heads so that they will use them to make the big decisions in their own lives… so that they become the ideas that will rule their worlds.
A Real Life Example

At this point it might be enlightening to have a real life experience to relate to in order to understand the power of this process. When I was in junior high our YMCA leader, Alden Esping had us go through a process that had a profound effect upon my life. After much possibility thinking, he had each of us make a list that had twenty things that we would most like to DO, BE, or HAVE on it. (If you wouold like more details on guiding you children in this activity, please get one of my books or a set of our DVD curriculum.) Here is just one of the amazing results of this list of the “Top Twenty Things I Wanted to DO, BE, or HAVE” in my life. I still have my list I wrote way back then and I had accomplished 17 of the things on my list by the time I was twenty-three! And I had accomplished all twenty of the original twenty by the time I was thirty-three!

You need to encourage your kids to keep their list a secret and mine is a secret also, but for the sake of demonstration I will share just a couple of the things that I put on my list in the eighth grade and how having those on my list changed my life.

The number one thing on my list was to play football at the University of Washington for the Husky football team. I know, that is pretty shallow but it was where I was at that point in my life.

But, here is a critical point to consider; I had put being drug-free at number five on my list. Now, I met my first drug-pusher in the strangest of places… in the training room at the University of Washington! You see my list had helped me to make that team but all of a sudden I was confronted with a trainer offering me steroids as a way to get bigger. I turned him down because that morning I had just looked at my Top Twenty List and had just viewed my commitment to be drug-free. It was easy to make the decision that day because I had already made it long ago and reaffirmed the decision almost daily every time I looked at my list! When the trainer offered the drug I simply said, “Thanks anyway, but I will either make the team without drugs or I won’t make it; but drugs will not be a part of my training.”

My friend was in the room with me that day and he didn’t have a list to look at. He had not already made a decision about drugs. He went ahead and used the drugs. He got bigger with the steroids and we both made the team but he was probably sterile from about the third dose he took. And now he is dead and doctors are pretty sure that he was killed by complications associated with abuse of steroids back when he was in college!
Values Can Save Your Children's Lives

My list had saved me and allowed me to enjoy a full life. My list allowed me to make a very critical decision with lasting positive consequences for me and for my family.

Would you like your child to have a similar idea in his/her head to use in a similar situation when they meet a drug pusher? Remember that Drug Pushers come in many disguises. Mine was disguised as a trainer. Your kid’s pusher may come disguised as a friend, as a big brother, as a coach.

Start teaching values to your children today!