March 29, 2007

"Reasons to Ask Kids to Limit or Adjust Their Behavior Part #1"

"The Darn Kids Are Just Doing the Wrong Thing!"

So often when people ask us for help with their children’s behavior they include the phrase “What if my children don’t…. ? (And then, the often, very distressed parents fill in the blank with a detailed description of what the child is doing that is wrong or is not doing, that the parents want the child to do.) It seems to me that so many parents have simply learned jump to the negative behavior and the artificial consequences of failure, before even considering the concept of structuring a situation that will predict success! In a nutshell, they seem to be more worried about reacting to what their kids have done wrong rather than working in a preventative process of teaching the desired behavior, before their children are in crisis.

A Seven-Part Series

In the following series of seven articles I will attempt help you, as a parent. to focus on giving your children some solid reasons to adjust their behavior in a positive manner before (and the real key is to try to start before trouble arises) any problems arise. In this series of articles I will simply be applying Rule Number One of our Five Rules for Parents from the Parenting with Dignity Curriculum.

Proven Techniques

As I go through these tried and true Parenting with Dignity Techniques techniques with you, please keep in mind that the only way to elicit permanent and positive change in the behavior of your children lies in changing the way that they think! “The ideas in their heads will rule their world!” These techniques will give you tools for presenting ideas to your children that will allow them to make wonderful decisions for themselves! As a parent you will be guiding your children in making great decisions for themselves. They will progressively become able to make good solid decisions with wonderful outcomes for themselves. Also, you will see that the decisions your children make, will lead your children to choose to act in appropriate and socially acceptable ways.

I believe that these techniques are really nothing but some pretty sound thinking skills! So here we go with the first of “Seven Reasons for Children to Adjust their Behavior”. (Please note that if your children use these seven decision making skills effectively, you will not ever have to even think about using punishment or consequences for inappropriate behavior... because there simply not be any!)

1. RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY - "Do what we are asking you to do because society says so in formal ways."

Start Early

Start at the earliest of ages teaching your children that a civilized world will always have rules and laws. Teach them that these rules and laws are not an annoyance; they are an aid to us all and especially to them. Rules and laws protect our freedom; they protect rights, privileges, property, and even our lives.

Explain to them the chaos that would result from a society without stop signs, property laws, and rights to privacy, opportunity, expression, and freedom from injury. (NOTE: it is almost impossible to teach respect for laws, and rules if your children watch you violate those same rules and laws! You cannot speed and then demand that your children drive the speed limit.)

Very Young Children

Now let’s talk a little bit about how you might start this process of teaching this respect for and appreciation of rules and laws to very young children. Riding in a car with little children always presents a great opportunity for teaching rules and laws. Also, the time spent riding in a car is often a time when small children become bored and frustrated. While driving with toddlers in their safety seats, make a habit of having them fill time by pointing out stop signs. Show them how well traffic works out for all, when everyone obeys come to a stop at a stop sign. Teach them to be on the lookout for red stop lights, yellow caution lights, and green go lights. As they get older and of an age to understand more complex rules and laws of the road, teach them what those laws and rules are and of most importance, teach them how those laws work to make roads more safe and efficient.

Older Children

The next step is much easier if you started on this process at an early age but still works even if you did not start early. As children begin to approach driving age, point out to them every time that you pass a police car how driving at the proper speed and obeying the law makes it a certainty that you will receive no tickets and that you will not be stopped by those police!

As children get older, begin to teach them about the laws of our nation, your state, and your local community. Teach them, early on, about the laws governing littering and show them both the wonderful benefits to all when people obey those laws and point out the mess that is made by just a few people who violate those laws.

As I answer questions from both adults and kids from all across America, what I find is that many parents do not even know or understand the laws that govern our country! It is not too difficult to understand why their children are unable to make good decisions about obeying the laws if the parents do not even understand those laws!

Make it a priority to help children understand what the laws are governing rowdy and obnoxious behavior. Find out the statutes in your community that spell out what can and cannot be done legally. Read the statutes aloud together as a fairly regular activity at dinners and while traveling. Let your children discuss with you possible situations and scenarios where they might be tempted to violate those laws and statutes. Discuss with them possible ways to make good decisions about obeying those laws and rules.

Help Your Children to Have the Necessary Information for Making Sound Decisions

Get copies of the city, county, state, and federal laws. Read them out loud with your children. Read the laws about illegal drugs. Read the laws about minor alcohol possession and consumption. Read aloud with them the consequences that society will, very predictably, hand down if they are caught in violation of those laws.

It never ceases to amaze me as I visit prisons and talk to inmates. Most of them did not understand the laws that they broke which resulted in their incarceration! Please do not let this happen to your children.

Give your children the information necessary for making good decisions about obeying rules and laws. Please do not wait until they have violated one of those laws for them to gain this understanding! Explain the laws governing private property and the respect of the private property of others. Let your children understand, from a very early age, that a law requiring them to respect the property of others insures that their private property will be likewise protected.

School Rules are Good Practice for Life

When your children reach school age, get copies of the school rules and point out to them that obeying these rules brings trust and respect back to them from everyone at school. Teach them that the children who obey the rules almost always receive special privileges and opportunities. Let them know that obeying the rules insures that they will have the maximum freedom to control their own behavior. Let them see that children who constantly break rules are constantly being given lots more supervision and have much many limitations on their freedom.

So many parents seem to want to wait until it is too late to give the instruction to their children about the laws governing drugs, alcohol, or dating behavior until their children are already involved in the temptations of those illegal and inappropriate behaviors. I guess that parents believe that many kids are “too young” for those discussions, and then they wind up with a child who is in trouble with the law, pregnant, or addicted to an illegal drug!

Start as early as you feel that your children are capable of understanding the terms that you are using.

Just recently in our community there were two teenage boys who were charged with rape for something that they thought was just innocent dating behavior! They are now facing charges for one of the most serious felonies in all of our society, simply because they did not understand that what they were doing was even illegal! They had seen the behavior in the movies and heard their friends talk about it as if was just a fun thing to do! But they did not know the law nor the legal consequences of breaking that law! And now those boys are facing a real possibility of going to prison.

Children can be led to make great decisions for themselves by having their parents simply insure that they understand laws and rules!

March 27, 2007

A “Quick Fix for Misbehavin’ Kids” ?

The "Fiction" of a Quick Fix?

Ever since I began teaching parenting skills almost 30 years ago, one of the most common fallacies that I have encountered is the mistaken idea in the heads of so many parents that there is some great “Quick Fix” for raising kids that are well behaved, self-assured and well adjusted. There is no short cut! Raising kids who are self-assured, well adjusted, self-directed and well behaved requires that parents make permanent and reasoned changes in the way that parents relate to their children!

Just Like Fad Diets

In the same way that fad diets help people to lose weight, only to regain it immediately; “Quick-Fix” parenting techniques usually result in failure to bring about long-term and meaningful changes in the behaviors of children.

The key to making the Parenting with Dignity Program (or any other parenting program) work lies in permanently changing the manner in which parents communicate with and relate to their children! In our program there are assignment sheets that go with each lesson. To make the program work in your family and in your community, every parent in class must do the assignments with their own children during the week between classes. There is no short cut.

There Will Be Difficulties!

Then, after actually doing the assignment, in class the following week, the parents must begin class by discussing the results of their attempts at using the skills taught in the last lesson. It is obvious to me after years of working with parents that there will be some difficulties in these attempts at changing family interaction and family communication. Most often the parents in the class will find that they learn more from the things that they try and that don't work than they learn from the things that do work! In the process of correcting the things that don’t work they will be internalizing their own skills and thoughts.

Permanent Change Is the Real Time-Saver!

In addition, many classes find that as their class reaches the second week, the discussion takes so much time that they postpone some or all of class two in order to discuss the results from the first lesson. In doing this they may find that it takes longer to complete the course, but... in the long run the permanent changes that they make will ultimately save time as they move into using what they have learned in their lives with their children.

The key to changing the behavior of children lies in the ensuing weeks, months, and years. The changes that parents make in their thinking, actions, and behavior must become permanent. There is no short cut to permanent change. The new way of thinking and acting must become a way of life.

Now, over the months and years, parents will save lots of time for themselves if they take the time to permanently change their behavior early in their lives as parents but there is no short cut to that saving of time. A child who is taught to feed herself with regard to acceptable manners and a well balanced diet will be much easier to live with at seventeen. Ther will be a considerable saving of time over the years, but it si not a quick fix. Once the idea of appropriate manners and eating healthily is well established in both the mind of the parent and child, it will only take occasional reminders and reinforcement spaced over time to maintain the desired behavior in later stages of maturation and development.

Remember this simple adage: “It takes no more time to develop a good habit than it takes to develop a bad habit!” However, there is one thing to remember about bad habits… to erase a bad habit takes lots of time; and then… you still must spend more time to develop a new and desirable habit. If there is a “Quick Fix” to use in raising children it lies in making permanent changes and developing good habits as early a possible! Often, it takes more time to teach children the desired behavior at the very beginning; but if you start immediately developing good habits in your children those behaviors will last a lifetime!

Now, if you have waited until your kids are in their teens to begin to teach effective decision making skills, it may take more time to develop the good habits in your children; but, every day that you put off starting means that it will just take that much longer when you actually do begin!

In closing, what I am saying is that the only “Quick Fix” for effective parenting lies in starting right now, TODAY, to make permanent change!

The quick fix in parenting lies in not waiting to start making permanent change!

March 26, 2007

Listen! (Part Two)

Love is not just something you say; it is something you do… and listening is one of the most loving acts a parent can do for children!
It says that they are important to You!

Listening to children is absolute confirmation to children that they are important to us and important in the world. When a child wants to talk to us, we must make the time to stop and listen. Think about it, what message does the following send? “Please don’t interrupt me; can’t you see I’m reading the paper (doing the dishes, working at my desk, etc.)”
Stop what you are doing. Put down your pen-broom-mouse-phone, turn and make eye contact, and listen. It doesn’t take long. You can establish ground rules for certain tasks, which should not be interrupted, but the list ought to be short and limited to things which absolutely must be attended to. One of the methods that we found to be of the most help to us in teaching and then we transferred to home was to ask, “How much time do you need?” This question usually had little effect upon anything but our awareness of just how little the child was actually asking for. And, in fairness, you are then teaching your child that they too can ask, “How much of my time do you need?”
Let Them Say It!

When listening to kids it is imperative that we, as parents, let the kids say it for themselves! There is a very real and constant temptation to say it for them, especially when they are stuck in a search for the right words and seem stalled. Resist the urge to give them the word and wait for them to find the one they are looking for. It is hard at first but it becomes more natural with time. Just listen and maintain eye contact; this lets them know you are still with them.

If it is not clear what they are trying to express, ask for explanation or clarification but resist the urge to jump in and say what you think they are saying for them. Get them to say it again until you get it. Remember that they are speaking to you because they have something they want you to know and they know what it is but this is the first time they have actually tried to say it. Be patient; few people are good at something on the first try.
Resist the Urge To Give Advice

Resist the constant parental urge to jump in with your advice. Particularly at the middle school level and up, if you constantly add your advice to their sharing the sharing will stop very quickly. Ask, “Do you want my advice or do you just want me to listen?” You MUST NOT offer advice if they indicate the latter. Just bite those bloody holes in your tongue and keep quiet. The spin-off of keeping your advice to yourself is that, eventually, they will tell you when they want your advice.
Key "Listening words"

Here are six simple comments you can use to indicate that you are actively listening but are not being judgmental. Simply inject the following into pauses as your child is speaking: “Oh,” “really,” “wow,” ummm,” “I didn’t know you felt like that,” and “tell me more.” These will indicate active listening and will encourage further comment.
Getting Kids To Talk about Things During Crisis

One of the byproducts of listening to children is that they then build a vision of the world that says “My parents are a source of advice and knowledge and talking to them helps me to make sense of my world.” Then in times of crisis don’t be surprised if you are included in their struggles to make good decisions about the big stuff they encounter. It is not possible to close the door on kids small concerns and thoughts and then expect them to come to us with their big problems. We can either offer an open door or a closed door… not a door that is open at certain times and closed at others.

There is a great game called “The Ungame” which teaches us to listen to our kids and to each other. It is a very simple board game where you roll dice and move pieces around a board, and it gives prompts and questions to stimulate discussion. However, there is one rule making it unique; the only person who can speak is the one whose turn it is. Nobody else can say anything. The only way anyone else can make comment on another’s statement is to wait until their next turn and then forfeit their turn to make comment or ask for explanation of a previous player’s statement. It often brings about big changes in family dynamics.
Give Kids a "Secret Sign"

It bears mentioning that in this bit of advice about listening I am not saying that your children can interrupt you at any time, regardless of what you are doing. Establish guidelines for them. Probably the most important of which is the appropriate way to enter an adult conversation. It might be worthwhile to establish an emergency signal for your kids to use if they simply can’t wait for an appropriate entry. (Something like a strong tug on your ring finger, or saying a secret word.)

Parental listening is a gift of love that we can easily and constantly give to our children. At first it takes some discipline but soon it becomes a habit and for us there is a simple reward… our kids are talking to us! Besides that, when you listen, you hear some of the funniest stuff!

Remember that, like any other message of love, the time they most need to be listened to, is also the time when we feel least like listening. But if we, as parents, can listen at these times we will confirm their self worth.

March 24, 2007


Kids ill Always Have Heroes!

In today's society like in the past, kids have heroes. This is usually a good thing. 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.

Worthy Heroes

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. It is just alarming to see how so many 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 know much about their heroes beyond some perceived skill. If children had been taught some criteria or standards for selecting role models, it would be different.

A Real "Hometown" Hero

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 hand and 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 ago, 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 that 24-hour, 7 days a week caregiver and on top of it 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 year ago, while out to breakfast alone with Dick, I was struck by the enormity of the change he had made on behalf of his loving wife 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!

A Grandpa Was a Bigger Hero Than Anyone!

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 a hero to all. We 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 too are worthy, but let's be careful to teach our kids what makes a person worthy of “Hero” or “Role Model” status. What are your criteria for picking heroes? Fame alone should never define who should be picked as a hero. What are the values, morals, and ethics that make a person worthy of being a hero?

Hero Day

Make tomorrow "Hero Day" in your family and talk about what makes a real hero!

When our son Drew was drafted he was being interviewed by Chris Berman for ESPN. Chris had done some research and found that as Drew was growing up, he had met a number of professional football players at a football camp that I ran. Chris asked, “Drew you have been around some of the greats of the NFL. I see where you have worked with Jim Plunkett, Fred Billetnikoff, Warren Moon, Ronnie Lott, Ken Stabler, Clint Didier, and many others. Were those guys your heroes growing up?”

I think Drew’s reply kind of shocked Mr. Berman when he replied, “Well, kind of… but not really. Those men taught me that NFL players were just pretty regular folks; however, my real heroes were Shawn Woods, Blaine and Mark Bennett, and many of the other outstanding athletes that played for my dad and were the great players who preceded me at my high school!”

March 19, 2007

Parenting with Dignity - a Gift That Keeps On Giving

Every Gift Helps!
Some Gifts Are Very Special!

A few weeks ago I wrote an article on this site about a three climbers who were lost on Mount Hood up in the state of Oregon. Two of those men from Dallas had stepped up in a big way to offer support to Parenting with Dignity. First they held a gala open house at the Performance Playground, a Dallas area fitness center owned by Freddie Stephenson, a man committed to his community. Performance Playground is where Brian Hall, one of the lost climbers worked. At this gala, these generous and giving men raised over three thousand dollars in donations for PwD! They had invited many guests and members of their great workout facility to attend the evening event.

Artwork Used To Raise Money

Also, that evening, on the walls of the Performance Playhouse, they began to display the artwork created by a gifted artist named Karen James. I met her that evening along with her husband Kelly James, one of the men to later go missing on Mt. Hood. The "kicker" added to this beautiful display of artwork was that Karen's artwork was also offered for sale!

Anyone who purchased one of Karen’s paintings would do so knowing that the James family would donate a portion of the purchase price to Parenting with Dignity! On that evening I was also fortunate enough to get to know both Karen and her husband Kelly.

Tragedy Did Not Alter Family's Generous Commitment!

Now, when the tragedy took place on Mt. Hood and both Brian Hall and Kelly James, Karen’s husband, were lost, I was shocked to hear the news. Those men were so positive, so full of life and energy, so enthusiastic about mountain climbing, and so committed to their community! I was devastated to hear that these new acquaintances, these vital young men who had sought out Parenting with Dignity as a cause they believed in, were no longer with us.

A Touching Letter

Then, just this week, we received and amazing letter sent by the artist, Karen James, the wife of fallen climber Kelly James. She wrote that her family has been devastated at the loss of her husband and the father to their children. Their family is also devastated by the loss of dear friend Brian Hall. She shared that the loss of those men has been so difficult to accept, and I must say that having only met them recently, I cannot imagine what the loss would be like for her and the rest of her family.

Then in her wonderful letter she said, “We are determined to go on and to honor their memories! I am happy to send you a donation from the sale of a few of my paintings that recently sold during the art exhibit at the Performance Playhouse.” I was pretty overcome. In the memory of Brian and Kelly, the living members of their “extended family” were continuing the work those men had begun! What a tribute to those men and their memory.

Let me tell you this, when donations come from people in this manner. it certainly does make us mindful of making sure that those dollars work to build a better world for kids!

Thank you Karen and Kelly James, Brian Hall, and Freddie Stephenson and all of our friends at the Performance Playgorund! Your commitment to our cause will inspire us and the families who benefit from your gifts!

Why not join the James Family and donate a few dollars in the name of a friend or loved one. Many families will benefit from your generosity for generations to come. You gift will keep on giving!

Now, if you would like to join us by donating to Parenting with Dignity, we promise we will do our best to make your dollars count in building a better world for kids! Parenting with Dignity is a 501 ( c ) 3 Public Non-Profit so any donation is TAX DEDUCTABLE! Tax time is just around the corner and we can provide you with a tax deductable receipt! We would appreciate having you consider donating any amount. Every bit helps us to do our significant work. To set up a donation please just click on the link below:

Help us help
America's Kids

March 15, 2007

A Mom Steps Up

A Gift in Honor of a Son Serving In Iraq
For over two years we have been receiving a monthly check from an amazing mother named Pam. She is, as she puts it, “just a mom” who found us and liked the work we are doing. She has a son serving in Iraq. As a tribute to him and his service to America, she sends Parenting with Dignity a monthly check.

Pam said she cannot afford to send much but she can afford to donate each month to what she believes in. (Beleive me, her check is generous!) She asks nothing in return other than that we honor her son by doing our work in his name! She says that she wants to do something to insure that her son will return to an America that is stronger than the one he left when he shipped off to war. She feels that Parenting with Dignity will help to build a stronger America!

A Small Gift Become Huge Over Time!

Pam wishes that we not divulge her last name or where she lives. She donates in almost complete anonymity. However, over the past two years, her generous gifts donated in the name of her son have mounted up! Her generosity has been responsible for educating about 5-10 families each month. In two years she has brought joy, peace, love, and communication to a few hundred families. Pam is helping to build a stroger America!

Making Freedom Worth Fighting For!

Boy, that kind of commitment from people like this dedicated Mom certainly does create motivation in us to do the best that we can with her donations. Pam's son is fighting for Freedom overseas and her family is challenging us to make that freedom worth fighting for!

Saying a prayer for Pam's son and all his fellow service men and women is one way to repay those soldiers. Donating to a worthy cause is another tangible way to show our support for our troops! Wow! With people like Pam, a loving mother, supporting our efforts how can we fail?

Why not join Pam and put a few of your dollars to work for a strong America by donating to Parenting with Dignity.

Now, if you would like to join us by donating to Parenting with Dignity, we promise we will do our best to make your dollars count in building a better world for kids! Parenting with Dignity is a 501 ( c ) 3 Public Non-Profit so any donation is TAX DEDUCTABLE! Tax time is just around the corner and we can provide you with a tax deductable receipt! We would appreciate having you consider donating any amount. Every bit helps us to do our significant work. To set up a donation please just click on the link below:

Help us help
America's Kids

March 13, 2007

A Gift from Another Quarterback

Two weeks ago Barbara and I went to the Tampa Florida area to do a series of four presentations put together by Shawn and Colleen Woods, a special young couple with an energetic little son, Cameron. This young couple heard about Parenting with Dignity and began to think that they wanted to interact with parents in their community and at Cameron’s school to build a strong neighborhood in which to raise their son.

Now it just so happens that Shawn was at one time my quarterback on the Waterville, Washington, football team I coached. He called me one day and said, “Hey, coach, I want to invite you to come to Tampa to do some seminars to help us kick off Parenting with Dignity in our neighborhood.”

A Flattering Compliment from a Wonderful Young Family

After a few emotional moments over this compliment from a former student, athlete, and now successful business executive, I agreed. As we planned and then refined our plans for the speaking events, including my giving him a few ideas for fund raising to defray the costs of the trip, I began to again feel like his old coach again. On the football field I would send in a play and Shawn would usually already have called that play or would have audibled with a better one!

Another Audible!

His comment to my fund raising ideas was that he and Colleen had decided they wanted to donate a substantial amount to our Parenting with Dignity Program. Now here is where he really floored me!! You see Shawn is an executive for a business most are familiar with, the Home Shopping Network. Shawn told me his company is a pretty cool place to work because it is a company that is always doing something to “give back to the community!”

A Community Minded Company
One thing that community-minded company, HSN, will do is match any charitable donation that one of their employees makes! By making his family’s donation to PwD, he was putting Home Shopping Network to work for us as well. Just like when I coached him, Shawn had a better idea!

EMPLOYEES Direct the Charitable Giving of a Huge Corporation
What a wonderful policy for a corporation to have. HSN has set up a procedure to encourage and then enhance all their employees’ charitable giving. On top of that they give their employees the power to direct the charitable giving of the corporation itself!

It is both humbling and inspiring to us to receive the support and the go-ahead TO DO MORE OF OUR WORK from the people mentioned over the past few days! Commitment from people like that renews our dedication to changing families, changing communities, changing our country by building a better world for kids. By having people like Shawn and Colleen Woods donating to Parenting with Dignity, we are obligated to do our best! To see ahuge corporation like HSN join in is even more motivating!

Now, if you would like to join us by donating to Parenting with Dignity, we promise we will do our best to make your dollars count in building a better world for kids! Parenting with Dignity is a 501 ( c ) 3 Public Non-Profit so any donation is TAX DEDUCTABLE! Tax time is just around the corner and we can provide you with a tax deductable receipt! We would appreciate having you consider donating any amount. Every bit helps us to do our significant work. To set up a donation please just click on the link below:

March 09, 2007

Spanking Children

"Some Sound Reasons Why Spanking Does Not Work"

Let me begin this article by saying that I am not opposed to spanking just because I believe that it is a terrible or evil thing. I very simply do not think that it works to bring about lasting and positive changes in children!

As a matter of fact, I do not believe that Punishment, in general, works very well as a teaching tool.

A Working Definition of Punishment

First, let me define what I mean by punishment:
For the sake of this discussion let’s establish that Punishment refers to any artificially created consequence for a given behavior. (This definition would then include any spanking, grounding, sending to the bedroom, removal of privileges, slapping a hand,withholding of allowance, timeout, etc.)

Here are some of the reasons that punishment (spanking in particular) does not work when it is used in an attempt to teach children (or any humans for that matter!):

1. Punishment guarantees a "push-back" response in almost all situations! (A push-back response is simply the natural human resistance to change.) When we as parents push on our children they will push back. It is unavoidable. Sometimes the “push-back” will be more pronounced than at other times. But it will be there. When punishment is used, it almost guarantees the most powerful “push-back” response from a child! Then, when the punishment is a “spanking”, the “push-back response” is even more pronounced. Watch children react to spanking by throwing fits, swinging back, kicking, and in general lashing out at anyone and everything within reach following a spanking!

Now, let’s go to some of the other compelling reasons that punishment fails to teach the desired lessons.

2. Punishment removes the focus of both the "punisher" and the "punished" from the behavior in question. When a parent resorts to punishment, both the parent and the child begin to pay attention to the punishment, its’ fairness and its’ enforcement. This is especially true of spanking because it hurts. It is almost impossible for a child to ignore the invasiveness of a spanking. This causes the child to stop thinking about the decision process that brought about the negative behavior in the first place! The child is only thinking about the spanking!

Let’s say that a child has just grabbed a toy from a playmate or pulled a valued vase off of a table and broken it. The parent then gives the child a hit on the backside. At this moment the child is not thinking about the toy, the other child, or the broken vase. The child it thinking about the pain in their backside!

By inserting punishment into the equation the parent has removed the focus from the negative behavior and the correction of that behavior. Both parent and child are now thinking about the hit! Neither is thinking about the desired behavior. Both may have fleeting thoughts about the preceding negative behavior but they are both most definitely thinking about the associated hit. At this point the child is never thinking about any possibilities for a better behavior to use in place of the negative behavior. No progress is made. Rarely, if ever, is the parent even thinking of a positive alternative behavior to teach the child. Even the parent is still focused only on the negative behavior that brought on the punishment!

When the punishment is used the child is not engaged in creating a new thought process that will bring about better decisions and outcomes next time.

3. Punishment focuses anger on the "punisher." When parents resort to punishment it gives children someone to be mad at! When children are angry at someone, they do not have to face their own behavior and the natural consequences of that behavior. Anger interrupts responsible thought processes for both the child and parent.

Parents are often deluded into thinking that hitting the child has taught the child a lesson and it is simply not true. When a child is hit by a parent, the child is mad at the parent for the hit. It would be a rare child that would sustain a hit, and immediately start thinking about possibilities for a more positive action. It would be nice to think that would happen but it simply does not. Many parents mistakenly think that is what is going on in the child’s mind but it simply is not.

4. Punishment induced behavior "extinguishes" rapidly. In the absence of punishment, the negative behavior returns. Behavior that has been shaped by punishment will disappear soon after the punishment has disappeared simply because the child has not been included in the reasoning and personal profitability of the desired behavior.

When children are hit for doing something, they will usually become more secretive about the behavior to avoid future punishment. They will simply take the toy away from the other child when the parent is not looking or they will pull the vase off the shelf when the parent is in the other room.

Punishment rarely is followed with positive instruction and if positive instruction does follow the punishment, the child is usually too agitated to learn.

I like to explain this to parents by having them imagine that I were to come to their home and try to teach them to program their VCR. I ask them to imagine that I arrived at the house at the very moment when they were having a big argument about filling out the IRS tax forms. I ask them, “How well would you be able to learn the simple procedures with your VCR while you are in that agitated state of mind about taxes?”

Well, that is similar to the state of mind that a child is in when they are being punished. Multiply that agitation when the punishment of choice has just been a “spanking”! Children cannot learn at times like this.

5. Punishment traps the "punisher" into maintaining the punishment schedule. "You made the rules, now you must enforce them." The goal should be to let the natural negative consequences do the enforcing. When you introduce artificially created punishment, the child then may turn it into a game of seeing how much they can get away with without you catching them.

When the punishment is spanking, the parent is often cornered into justifying the hitting. Many parents find themselves being called "mean" or "unfair" by a child at this point. And, the whole scenario has completely lost all focus! Once a child learns that he/she can divert the discussion to one about how "unfair" or "mean" the parents are, the whole interaction begins to take a familiar circular pattern that does not include any discussion about the behavior the parent would like to be teaching!

6. Punishment and hitting (spanking) do not teach a child accountability. By using punishment the "punisher" is taking the responsibility to see that the child’s behavior changes. If you use punishment, by your actions, YOU have accepted responsibility for your child's behavior. If you accept the responsibility for your child's behavior then he/she will have to learn to be accountable outside your influence, and the outside world is a tough teacher!

7. Most of all, punishment denies a child the right to experience the real consequence of their actions. The reward for good performance is... good performance. Seldom is it necessary for us to provide the reward, and the same is true for punishment. As parents we need to point out the negative consequences inherent in their negative behavior; we do not need to create new ones. We can serve as a big help to our children if we help them foresee potential problems and natural consequences of some of their possible decisions.

There are a couple of situations where it is unreasonable to let children run into the natural consequences of poor performance. If it is illegal, immoral, or life threatening then we must act as the adult in their world and step in to prevent major injury, incarceration, or violation of society's rules of decency.

The Punishment for poor performance is... Poor Performance!
The reward for good performance is… Good Performance!

Here's a direct quote from our Parenting with Dignity, Parent’s Workbook, "It is not the duty of adults to create new punishments, but rather it is the job of the parent to point out the negative consequences inherent in the child's negative actions… and of the utmost importance; it is the obligation of the parent to suggest positive alternatives to negative or inappropriate actions."

The Golden Rule

Isn't this all really pretty simple when you think about it? Those simple truths that have stood the test of time still apply to our lives today and still have even more validity than ever. The "Golden Rule" might be the ultimate in effective parenting tools.

Treat your children in a manner that you would like to be treated! When I am asked about the issue of spanking, I always ask people why they choose to attempt to legitimize the behavior by calling it "spanking". Why do people not just call it what it is... hitting children? So I ask that instead of using the word SPANK, let's agree to use the word HIT during our discussions instead.

Then I usually ask, "On what basis do you advocate hitting your children? Is it because you are bigger? Because you are older? Because you are more experienced? Because you are more educated? Because you are stronger?"

It would seem to me that those would be reasons that would sort of disqualify anyone from being justified to hit a child. Then I usually ask them, "How would you respond if I came to your house and hit you because your garage is a mess?"

I am aware that there are people who still advocate "spanking", but... that does not sway me. I simply do not believe that spanking works! I will grant you that hitting a child may get the child’s attention but once a person resorts to hitting, there is very little teaching going on! Even the kind of attention that might be gained by hitting destroys any kind of a teaching atmosphere.

James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, and I disagree on the issue of "spanking". It is about the only thing that he and I disagree about but we respectfully disagree on "spanking". Dr. Dobson advocates that parents "spank" and I do not. He prefers the term “spank” and I prefer the more descriptive term of “hit”.

Parenting with Dignity simply advocates that parents find much more effective methods of working with and teaching their children! With many other effective techniques, a parent may never even have to consider "spanking" because they simply do not need it!

“The Five Rules for Parents" in the second lesson of our PWD course is a great place for parents to start developing anarsenal of skills that do not employ punishment or spanking. Armed with those tools most parents find little need to punish their children.

March 06, 2007

Giving Builds a Better World for Kids!

PWD Is a Gift That Never Quits Giving

Parenting with Dignity makes positive changes in the lives of many families! The program teaches families how to express love for each other and it teaches parents how to teach their values, morals, ethics, and spiritual beliefs to their children. The program teaches children and parents alike how to select the ideas they will choose to rule their world.
PWD Builds Strong Communities

The most significant contribution of Parenting with Dignity is that the program opens the doors to discussions among families about what kind of community they want for their children’s environment! It just makes sense that if families work together as an entire community, they wield amazing positive power in collectively raising their children.
PWD Needs Help!

We here at Parenting with Dignity are proud of our accomplishments in changing families and entire communities but our work simply would not be possible without lots of help. We have been able to do this community-changing work only because we have had some amazing support. We have been able to offer the curriculum to so many families because amazing and wonderfully generous people have stepped up and supported our mission and our vision for children by giving their time, effort, skills, and money.
An Amazingly Generous NFL Quarterback

First and foremost, we must recognize the support and help we have received from our son, Drew and his wife Maura. For those who do not know the background of our Foundation, the whole idea of making Parenting with Dignity a nationwide program that could offer our curriculum to anyone in America was a dream first conceived by Drew. He had been in the NFL for four years, giving his time, his money, his presence to innumerable charitable endeavors. His position as an NFL quarterback had presented him with some unique opportunities to be involved with many charities including the Children’s Miracle Network. But after giving his charitable work much thought, Drew decided that rather than give money to fix some of the ills that face children, he would like to try to solve some of their problems for good.

In giving that idea a lot of thought, he decided he would like to concentrate his efforts by creating a foundation to support the curriculum that his Mother, Barbara, and I had written over our last 19 years of teaching. He believes, as we do, that if parents have more effective parenting tools to use, their children will have fewer problems and many of the “ills” can be avoided.
Seed Money and Much More

Drew donated the seed money to take Parenting with Dignity nationwide and has followed that with generous financial support ever since. Not only has Drew given financial support, but he has given tremendous amounts of personal time and effort to the work we do.

With Drew’s NFL career drawing rapidly to a close, it would be a tragedy if this amazing work were to come to an end simply because a quarterback was no longer able to support it. Drew and Maura will continue to offer some financial support but they will obviously not be able to offer as much funding since Drew’s earning power will be significantly reduced.

While our program moves ever closer to supporting itself, we would be lost without the support of Drew and Maura! That being said, we would also be lost if we did not have the support of many other dedicated and caring people who have given generously to our cause of building a better world for kids! We need more people who are willing to support the work that we do. Please join Drew and Maura and donate to the Parenting with Dignity Program!
Now, if you would like to join us by donating to Parenting with Dignity, we promise we will do our best to make your dollars count in building a better world for kids! Parenting with Dignity is a 501 ( c ) 3 Public Non-Profit so any donation is TAX DEDUCTABLE! Tax time is just around the corner and we can provide you with a tax deductable receipt! We would appreciate having you consider donating any amount. Every bit helps us to do our significant work. To set up a donation please just click on the link below:

Deciding What You Want

The farther I go down this trail of attempting to help parents to raise self-reliant children who are capable of making great decisions, the more I find a common thread among parents who are experiencing difficulties. The common thread that I find is simply that most parents who are experiencing difficulties because they are attempting to raise children without a plan. Most of the time when I ask them, “what do you want your child to do? What is your long range goal for your child’s behavior?” that is when I discover the root of their problem.

Parents Can't MAKE Children Behave

As a parent, once you have accepted the fact that you have no direct control over your children's behavior, and once you have accepted your role as a guide to the decisions your child will make, then it is time to move on to the next step; deciding exactly what you want your children to do. Without that clear picture of the end result, it is really difficult to guide your children. When you have a clear idea of what it is you want, your strategy for helping them use their own abilities to select the desired behavior often becomes very obvious. Let's move on to an understanding of this simple concept.

Demanding Obedience Rarely Works!

So often our model of how to work with our children's behavior is to demand obedience. Obedience is, for a number of reasons, a very dangerous control mechanism to use to manipulate a child's actions.

First, obedience is very unreliable because, at any time, your child may choose to be disobedient… and then your “obedience strategy” will just fail. The parent must have a goal. Having a goal requires that the parent teach before the child is in the situation.

A Frustrated Father

Golly, just yesterday I had a conversation with a father who said that he felt that he was spending most of his time telling his children “No!” This father perceived his problem as being that he has a couple of defiant children. He was asking me how to fix his kids. But the person who needed fixing was the dad.

Granted, he may have strong-willed children, (and for that he should be thankful) but his problem was that he had lost sight of his ultimate goal of teaching his children to make good decisions for themselves. He had fallen into the trap of trying to make all of the decisions for his kids! Obedience was just not working for this dad!

“In addition,” the father continued, “it sure seems the chances of my kids being disobedient and defiant increase proportionately with number of people watching, the danger of the moment, and my fatigue and dwindling level of patience!” Then the father added, “If we are at the grocery store and I am tired, it seems a certainty that my kids will have to be told NO even more often.” The father offered all of this to me in his explanation/question about his kids. My answer was an attempt to make a change in the father’s approach. His “obedience strategy” was not working because his children were choosing to disobey.

Like I said, obedience does not work because it often does not have a clearly defined goal or end result. Most of the time it is simply just crisis management! Without a clearly defined goal the father in this case was simply reacting to his children’s actions.

Second, obedience teaches children to listen to an "outside voice" to make adjustments in their behavior. Rather than being self-directed, children wait for parents to direct them. In the case of this father, he was teaching his children to listen to his voice to make their decisions. The only lesson that his kids were getting about making their own decisions was whether to obey or disobey dad!! He did not set out with this as his goal, but it sure was the lesson that his children were learning! It sounded to me like his children had even learned when it worked best to choose to disobey!

Also, teaching kids to listen to your voice and your instructions only works when you are physically present. Most children raised in this “do-it-because-I-said-so” manner often have some real trouble when their parents are not right there with them. They will be lost without that constant "No!" hanging over their heads.
Obedience Cannot Work if the "Voice" Is Not There

And think about this for a minute; when children make most of their really big decisions you will not be there! You will not be able to make the big decisions for your children. Then in the absence of your voice, your child will listen to the next loudest voice. Often that next loudest voice is saying, "Come on, chicken, try this!"

Finally, obedience does not teach children how to make decisions. Let them learn to make decisions in the same manner you would teach them to ride a bike. Put them on the seat put the handlebars in their hands and give them a shove! Now, granted, it may not be that simple with the teaching of bike riding. Often you must run along side to steady them for awhile. Sometimes it may be necessary to put on some training wheels and then gradually raise them so that the child gets the feeling of balancing on two wheels. But, ultimately, the teacher must at some time let go.

The same is true when we teach decision-making. It may not be as simple as just giving some brief instructions and then letting go. We must give them some guidelines on how to make decisions and then let them make some. If they make mistakes, do just as you would with the bike: pick them up, dust them off, and put them back on the bike with some additional guidance on how to ride. But, let them try riding again!
It would be a rare child who could actually learn to ride a bike by watching their Mom or Dad ride one or listening to their parents talk about how to ride one.
I received a wonderful piece of instruction as I was learning to operate a computer a few years ago. People would try to teach me by having me watch them do things and watch them give commands to a computer. I could not learn that way. They had to let me sit down and put my hands on the keyboard and the buttons. Once I did that, I would learn quite rapidly. Children are the same. Most of the time they need to actually DO things in order to learn.

The same is true for making good decisions and choices; kid must be given chances to make choices and decisions. "Put them on the bike!" Let them learn from doing. Let them make a few small mistakes and learn from them. Give them instructions before they get into the situations and then let them act. If you are goingto the grocery store, practice appropriate behavior BEFORE you take them to the store. Then, when you get to the store, let them choose their actions. If they make good choices, thereward is that they made good choices and you all stay at the store doing as you planned. If they make bad choices let them experience theresults of their decisions. Just leave the store with no explanation. Your actions will teach more than any words could.

Caution: There are a few situations where you do not let kids learn from mistakes. If it is 1. illegal, 2. immoral or 3. life-threatening you must act as the adult in the situation and intervene. If a child makes these types of mistakes, the risk is too high and the stakes are too great, thus it may require a much more invasive technique of intervention and protection.
But do make the mistake of thinking that intervening or being invasive has taught anything!
The best policy is to stay in the prevention mode and help them to make good decisions before the fact, so that they don't get into illegal, immoral or life threatening situations in the first place.

So, as parents, let's approach the job of teaching children to make good decisions by crowding out obedience as our goal. By having other reasonable goals, you will teach your children to be increasingly self-directed and self-reliant. With a clear goal of teaching sound decision-making skills you, as a parent, will begin to experience success. You will have killed two birds with one stone. Your children will have reasonable limits on their behavior and of far more importance, they will be growing in their ability to make good decisions; good decisions they will continue to make even when they are out of your presence.

March 05, 2007

“Getting Kids To Do What You Want"

A Controling Thought

“Parenting with Dignity” operates from one basic principle, which is that the ideas in your head will rule your world. Therefore, we also believe the ideas in the heads of our children will rule their world. This is a pretty simple and straight forward concept for raising self-directed children. Effective parents must see themselves as the source of good ideas for their children.

Five Rules for Parents

Parenting with Dignity advocates the use of “the Five Simple Rules for Parents” to maximize parents’ effectiveness at embedding strong, positive ideas into the heads of their children.

The first of these rules will be the topic of this article. Rule Number One states very simply: “A parent must end any criticism with a simple, positive statement of expected behavior.” In other words, “tell your kids exactly what you want them to do.” These expectations must be stated in behavioral terms which the kid can understand; and it helps immeasurably if there is brief sales pitch explaining why it is to the kid’s advantage to behave in the expected manner!

There Is a Trap Out There for Parents

Personal experience from years of teaching school taught me that not giving careful consideration here can lead to trouble because we, like many adults, became caught in the trap of always telling kids what they had done wrong or giving students warnings of what not to do. It absolutely shocked me when I finally realized that explaining exactly what was expected drastically increased the chances of my students choosing to do it.

To establish expectations for children's behavior it is first necessary to understand that parents do not control children's behavior directly. Kids control their own behavior. As parents, all can do is enable them to use their own amazing abilities to make good choices for themselves. (If you doubt the fact that kids have a will of their own, just try to put a three week old child back to bed after it has decided it is time to get up!) In the process of teaching your children exactly what behavior you wish for them to choose in any given situation there is a hidden expectation for us as parents… we must decide exactly what we want our children to do. (That will be a topic for a future article.)

March 02, 2007

A New Family Resource

News Flash: An Internet Radio Station Meets Family Needs!

How would you like to listen to some Parenting with Dignity tips over a radio station while you are working at your computer? (They are broadcast every day at 10:40 M.S.T.)

How would you like to listen to an upbeat radio station that plays music and programming that the whole family can enjoy?

How would you like to listen to a radio station with programming about lots of interesting topics.

Well, if your aswer was"Yes!" to any or all of those questions, you are in luck!

A New Radio Station!

There is just such a Radio Station with all of that and much more! Please go to: and you will find a great family radio station. Believe me, internet radio is the wave of the future.

The "Big Fish" Radio Station

This radio station is called the Big Fish because it originates in Beautiful Whitefish, Montana; but... it is not just a station for that wonderful small western town. Their appeal is worldwide!

Now I know that if there is a technology that has reached me in our home, it has most likely reached most of you. I have now entered the age of digital music. My computer is now my "Juke Box" and we paly all of our music over our stereo by linking our computer to our stereo. Man, it has brought a whole new enjoyment to our music. Via palylists, online purchasing of digital music, and the new computer-assisted ease of selecting music, we have lots of new music at our fingertips.

Internet Radio
This is where "The Big Fish" radio station comes in. We can now play this great station on our stereo! The broadcast comes in true High Fidelity and Stereo! Wow, what a great thing. We can feel fully confident in having the station on when our grandchildren are visiting because we know Ross and Sue Strauser the owners of the station. They are our neighbors up here in this beautifful part of America and we know that they personnally select all fo the music, news, and programming. It is family radio with a beat!
The "The Big Fish" radio station comes from one of the most beautiful and romantic parts of America up in the wilds of Western Montana! The music is broadcast from one of the last remaining wilderness areas of our nation.
And you can have it in your home!
They have a great Blog as well... subscribe on your browser home page.
Try it you will like it!