June 29, 2007

Start a Parenting with Dignity Class in Your Community

Letters from Parents

Daily, I am receiving lots of letters from thousands of parents, from all across the country, seeking help with specific parenting problems and obviously, I will continue to offer specific advice via this column because it fills a need for so many parents and so many families. However, the point that I will be attempting to make here today is that in spite of receiving valuable help from these regular articles, the advice with the most lasting value that you can receive from Parenting with Dignity lies in allowing yourself to go through the entire course! Going through each lesson and doing all of the assignments will bring the most value to your family!

Get the Maximum Value from Parenting with Dignity

As a matter of fact, the maximum value that families can receive from Parenting with Dignity comes from not only going through the class themselves; some of the greatest value comes from forming a class and going through the curriculum with other parents in your neighborhood or community!

Benefit from the Experiences of Others!

When families go through the complete course together, they all benefit much more than they would by just going through the curriculum on their own.

Just like in this column, many others may benefit from a question from one parent. Most people tell us that they benefit as much from the discussions with other parents as they do from the curriculum itself! But even more than benefiting from the questions of others, there is an even greater benefit that families receive from going through the curriculum together!

A Very Simple Concept

This is not a difficult concept to understand. I know that this might be a repetition for some who have read many of my other columns but hopefully a little repetition might also help. Regardless of whether you have heard me say this before or not, please understand this: It is so much easier to teach your own children something if every other home that they visit is teaching the same thing!

It is so much easier to teach something as simple as saying "please" and "thank-you" at your own dinner table, if every home your child visits is teaching the same thing! It is so much easier to teach your children the advantages of drug-free living if your children are in constant contact with other children who have been taught a similar approach to that way of life. Like I said in a recent article, peer pressure is only negative if it pushes in a negative direction! Positive peer pressure can be your biggest ally!

Build Positive Peer Pressure

It is simply much more natural to expect your children to behave in a desired manner if their friends are doing so too! It is just so much more reasonable to expect your child to behave in an appropriate manner while on a date to the Prom if he/she is dating a young person who has been taught similar dating behavior! If they are on a double date with others who have also been taught similar dating behavior the peer pressure is pushing them all toward doing the right thing!

Create a Positive Community for Raising Your Children

Put very simply, Parenting with Dignity will help you to build the community to raise your children! Please join the many other families who have started a Parenting with Dignity Course ( http://parentingwithdignity.com/PWD/video_series/tape10f.htm )in their neighborhood. Order a copy of our DVD Curriculum and start a class today!

June 27, 2007

An Open Letter about Children of Divorce

Dear Mac,

I've sent you several emails with no response.

Your advertisement on my daily Inspire list is a constant reminder of how divorced dads in the United States would love to parent with dignity, but can't because they are denied access to their children by hateful individuals.

In my emails, I had hoped to have an exchange with you to see if you could help in the epedemic in the US.

I know your father was a former legislator in Washington State. Our current legislature refuses to address the issue that 95% of all marriages end with the non-custodial parent (mostly dads) only getting 4 days a week of parenting time. 4 days! Can you imagine having lost custody of Drew and been relegated to a visitor in his life, where you got to see him 4 days of the month.

I believe you are in a unique position to speak to this issue, and I hope we can compell you to at least respond to my emails and tell us no thanks if it doesn't interest you.

Kind Regards,

Disappointed Dad

A Direct Answer

Dear Disappointed Dad,

Good to hear from you.

(I apologize for the fact that you feel that I have been unresponsive to the e-mails you have sent, but I answer hundreds of e-mails each week and I have a personal policy of answering every single incoming e-mail within two days of receipt. I am faithful to this policy. I check my e-mail daily, and I have never received an e-mail from you.

We use a spam blocker called SpamArrest that requires first-time e-mailers to identify a graphic upon sending first time e-mails. Upon sending a first-time e-mail to me, you should have received an immediate return e-mail asking you to identify a graphic and then hitting "send" again and I would have gotten your e-mail. I have never known this system to not work.

If you e-mailed me through our website, as you did this time, I guarantee that I would have gotten it, just as I did this one. Next time that you send me an e-mail watch to see if you receive an immediate answer asking you to do the "identification and resend" proceedure. If not, then please give me a call and we will check it out. You will only have to do this once and then you will be able to send me e-mail unencumbered for life!)

Now for your comments about divorced Fathers:

I will try to comment on your questions/statements in the order that you offer them to me.

1. "Your advertisement on my daily Inspire list is a constant reminder of how divorced dads in the United States would love to parent with dignity, but can't because they are denied access to their children by hateful individuals.''

I am sorry that you have become divorced (but remember, that was your doing not mine, not the court's, and not the legislature's). I am sorry for the fact that our advertisement for Parenting with Dignity somehow annoys you as it reminds you of how you might like to parent your children. However, there are a couple of thoughts expressed in this statement that will make it difficult for me to respond to you. I am not willing to make comment about generalized statements that "whitewash" a whole group of people because of he actions of a few. I deal with thousands upon thousands of divorced dads and moms who parent their children with dignity, love, and respect; in spite of the fact that they are divorced.

If my e-mail volume is, in any way, indicative of reality, there are more dads who choose to simply disappear from their responsibilities as a father than there are dads like you who want to be more involved with their children. Just as I would not label you as a "deadbeat dad" because of the actions of other dads, I feel compelled to ask you to not label others parents based upon the actions of a few hateful mothers. It is always a mistake to ask a group to pay for the actions of a few.

If you are having difficulties in working out an agreement that allows you to do be as active in the lives of your children as you might like, then let's deal with that on a specific basis. I cannot speak in general statements about all divorced parents, because every case is so different. I am sure that there are cases where the settlement is not equitable or fair but it is simply impossible for me to speak about them without specifics.

I will say that no case of divorce is ever going to seem completely equitable to both parents because, by the very nature of divorce, neither parent is going to be completely able to be the full time parent that they were while they were together as a family! Like it or not, that is the reality of divorce. That is why it is called divorce. By mutually agreeing to no longer live as husband and wife, a couple also must give up some other rights and privileges as parents. The most obvious is that right to be with your children full time! Your children cannot be divided equally between you.

Now please listen carefully to me here, and try to not react with anger to my statement, the biggest injustice that I see in divorce is not done to either parent! The biggest injustice brought on by divorce is the injustice to the children! Those children are denied the right to live with dignity with both parents in a harmonious home with a mom and a dad.

I must tell you that, from my point of view, I am much more willing to work with people to establish reasonable and dignified relationships with children in a divorced family setting if the parents are willing to consider the whole discussion from the point of view of their children!

If there is one party in most divorced relationships whose voice is almost never heard, IT IS THE VOICE OF THE CHILDREN! If I am going to be an advocate of any one group in this argument, my voice will be heard on behalf of the children!

2. "In my emails, I had hoped to have an exchange with you to see if you could help in the epidemic in the US."

The epidemic in the U.S., again, from my point of view, is DIVORCE. I hate to be blunt about this, but that is my point of view as I sit on the outside and listen to the problem and try to identify a reasonable solution that brings about the best outcome for children.

To me, the solution to this epidemic lies in trying to reduce the divorce rate! Kids are the ones being damaged and the cause of the damage is divorce. The problem is not that the courts are unfair. The problem is not that the laws or the legislature are unfair; the problem is that parents are divorcing at an alarming rate and are then asking the courts to fix their problem. Children are being forced to grow up as the pawns in a game that they did not create.

To me the solution to this problem lies in preventing divorce in the first place! Blaming the courts for this problem seems to me to be rather much like blaming rehab counselors for the fact that drug addicts do not get well immediately after seeking treatment! The solution lies in preventing people from using drugs in the first place!

I am sure that your response to my comments will be to get angry at me for being insensitive to your problem. If so, that is your CHOICE. However, as the creator of a program dedicated to the mission statement that says: "We will improve the lives of CHILDREN by teaching effective parenting skills to as many parents as possible," I must hold true to our mission and be the advocate of the children! I must work to improve the lives of the children.

Now, if you want to start a conversation about how other parents can avoid winding up in your situation of having a battle over their children with the person with whom you decided to create those children, then I will be your strongest advocate. If you would like to work on a program that advises other parents about how to sit down and work together to build a reasonable relationship with their mutual children, I am your guy.

I simply am not very interested in further appealing to the court system to fix a problem that they are not bonded with fixing. The problem is not the courts! The problem rests squarely on the shoulders of the parents. I have met hundreds of thousands of parents who have divorced and in the process they have chosen to "bury the hatchet" and sit down and work out a mutual relationship where both parties agree to do what is reasonable, workable, and dignified on behalf of their children. If this is what you are interested in doing I am with you one hundred per cent.

I am always ready to discuss this issue with anyone. My telephone number is publicly displayed on our website right along with my e-mail. If you would like to open a dialog with me, feel free to give me a call at any time. I will tell you that starting your conversation with me by implying that I am unresponsive will get you nowhere. I am as responsive as I know how to be. I publish my phone number, e-mail address, I write a Blog almost daily, and I respond to every single call, letter or comment that comes in. I answer my own phone and if I am not there to answer it, I answer all messages in a very timely manner. This does not guarantee that I will take your side in any argument, but I will respond honestly and completely, just as I am doing here.

3. "I know your father was a former legislator in Washington State. Our current legislature refuses to address the issue that 95% of all marriages end with the non-custodial parent (mostly dads) only getting 4 days a week of parenting time."

I have no idea how you feel our father's position as a legislator over 30 years ago has any bearing on the issue of divorce in today's world but suffice it to say, our father's position buys me no special access to the legislative process of today. His position brought me no special favor even when he was alive and in office!

As for the next part of your statement I must point out to you that more than half of the marriages in this state and in this nation result in totally equal parenting rights for both father and mother, because more than half of all marriages do NOT end in divorce! You are totally inaccurate in your statement the "our current legislature refuses to address the issue that 95% of all marriages end with the non-custodial parent (mostly dads) only getting 4 days a week of parenting time." The legislature is not in any way responsible for the fact that many marriages end in divorce. Nor are they responsible for "95%" ending in some way that you deem to inequitable to one group or another.

Now, I believe that I understand what you are trying to say. What you are trying to say is that, currently, many divorce settlements result in one or the other of the parents being left feeling that the other parent is getting too much time with the children. That may be so, but my concern is for the children! For me to take that point of view, I feel compelled to look at each case individually. I do not believe that law is capable of doing that and thus trying to turn to the legislature for a solution is always going to wind up with someone feeling as you do! This is not a problem of law.

I am sure that you did not mean to say "four days a week" because that represents more than half of the time that the children would spend with the father. I believe that you meant 4 days a month. Now, if you meant four days a month that still does not mean that this is an unreasonable agreement. So many other factors need to be weighed to establish what is reasonable for the children. If the parents live in separate towns, or states... that agreement seems like it might be reasonable for the children. Perhaps even that agreement might be unfair to the children. Four days a month would mean that two weekends a month the children are being asked to sleep in a strange bed, in a different town, away from their personal belongings and away from their neighborhood, and away from their friends, their schools, and their activities. Like I said, even that arrangement might be unfair to the children! I'm sure that if the court said that you had to leave your home for two weekends a month and go live somewhere else, you might find that to be unfair to you.

4. "Can you imagine having lost custody of Drew and been relegated to a visitor in his life, where you got to see him 4 days of the month."

In direct answer to your question, NO, I cannot imagine that! You are attempting to personalize this issue for me, and I can appreciate your efforts, but when I personalize this issue, I simply cannot imagine any situation where I would let my personal disagreements with my wife escalate to the point that I would need to throw myself at the mercy of the courts in order to establish my right to be a father to my children! Herein lies the solution to your problem and the problem of establishing equitable parental rights. Parents must make whatever concessions and compromises that are necessary in order to allow both parents the opportunity to be active in the lives of their children.

In order to do that, the parents must put down their differences and sit down to work things out. In order to do this they cannot rely on the courts! To me that is the problem. Parents are looking to the courts and the legislature to solve a problem that the parents must take responsibility to solve for themselves.

By personalizing this issue and bringing my son (and might I point out to you that we have two sons, so as I view this I look at both of our sons, not just the famous one) into this, then I must think about my personal desire and drive to be a parent to my children. When I think about that, I cannot perceive of a problem great enough that could have arisen between Barbara and me that would have allowed me to even consider divorce!

If you wish to speak directly about me, then I will too. In my life, if a problem were to arise between my wife and me, we would work it out! We had many such problems and we worked them all out! We simply would not let our problems become more important than our family! No problem could ever have become big enough to cause us to choose to live apart from our children. No court was ever going to become that powerful in our lives, nor the lives of our children.

You may think that I am being "holier than thou" with my statement, but remember, you were the one that brought our children into this and you are the one who asked me to imagine! Divorce would never happen to me. I meant it when I said, "I do!" and "Until Death do us part!"

5. " I believe you are in a unique position to speak to this issue"

My position is no more unique than yours! I have no more authority than you do. As a matter of fact, you most likely have more authority to speak about this than I do, because I am assuming that you are divorced... I am not.

I have chosen as my life's work to be an advocate for children. It became increasingly more evident to both my wife and me that the source of many problems for the children we were working with was their families and their parents! What we saw was that parents were increasingly more willing to ignore their responsibility to their children and pursue their own personal gratifications at the expense of their children. What we saw was that increasing numbers of the children, with whom we were working, had become the rope in a senseless tug-of-war between their parents. What we saw were increasing numbers of children who were pawns in a game created by their parents.

We decided to become advocates for those children!

We decided to get parents to actually sit down and consider what it is that they wanted to teach their children. We saw the solution to the problems being experienced by the children to be helping parents to develop a plan of raising their children by some moral and ethical codes that the parents had chosen. We decided to try to get parents to consider that their own actions were teaching their children far more than their words. If parents wanted to teach their children to treat people with respect and dignity, then they would have to model that in their actions. We decided to teach parents that their children would learn more "from their back sides than their front sides"... in other words their children would learn more from their actions than from their words.

We decided to attack the problem of divorce by teaching parents the necessity of teaching their children about how to pick a mate for life. We are on a mission to attempt to have parents actually make some deep decisions about what THEY WOULD CHOOSE to teach their children about dating, courtship, and marriage.

We decided to try to get parents to make some decisions about what it is that they teach their children about the responsibilities of parenthood. We have found that when parents actually sit down together and make some decisions about what they want to teach their children about being parents, their perspective on their own responsibilities as parents often changed quite drastically.

I remain quite convinced that we are making some major inroads on what I consider to be the real problem of which you are speaking... and that is rampant divorce! The root of the problem, as I see it, is that in modern American society, parents are not teaching their children what it means to be married, nor what it means to be parents. We are hoping to do that by teaching parents HOW to teach their children!

6. " I hope we can compell you to at least respond to my emails and tell us no thanks if it doesn't interest you."

You have made the point loud and clear that you feel I am responsible for not responding to you, but honestly, this is the first contact that I have received from you. Your confrontational style of approaching me is not particularly effective but believe me I AM interested! I have committed my life to working with the problem of children being mistreated by the parents who brought them into the world! I work most days for the entire day at teaching parents to treat their children in a dignified and loving manner. If you want to take someone to task for not caring, you better find another person to go after. I believe that my actions speak far louder than my words.

If you are truly interested in pursuing a solution to the problem I am all ears.

A great place for you to start might be by reading both of my books and getting a set of our DVD Parenting with Dignity Curriculum and watching the lessons together with the mother of your children. After watching each lesson, do the assignment together on behalf of your children. After doing the assignments discuss what the results have been and how you might change your actions to improve the outcome for your children.

Or you could choose to give me a call and we can discuss this most pressing problem.


Mac Bledsoe

June 26, 2007

Starting a Parenting with Dignity Class

Create Positive Peer Pressure

In my last article (and in many previous articles) I suggested that parents start a Parenting with Dignity class as a means of working with their own children. Combating peer pressure is really a pretty simple concept when you stop and think about it. All it takes is to create a strong community to raise your children!

A Logical Step In Becoming the Most Effective Parent You Can Be

It is much simpler, easier, more logical, and much more successful for parents to teach something to their own children, if the other children in their world have been taught similar behaviors. Like I said, peer pressure is only a negative force if it is putting pressure on children to misbehave. Peer pressure can be one of the most powerful forces for encouraging children to behave in an approved manner if that peer pressure is pushing in a positive direction.

If a peer group has been collectively taught to use proper table manners, then the peer pressure in your community can be expected to push on your children to use proper table manners!

Likewise, if a peer group has been collectively taught to avoid the use of illegal drugs, then the peer pressure can be expected to drive your children to make a good decision regarding the use of illegal drugs!

How Can You Create “Positive Peer Pressure?”

Creating positive peer pressure can be done quite easily… all that it requires is that parents meet together and establish some of the easily taught decision-making processes that lead to those good decisions.

One of the most effective means of meeting with parents top discuss some of these guidelines for children is to start a Parenting with Dignity Class!
For a plan for starting a Parenting with Dignity class please just go to our website via this link: (http://parentingwithdignity.com/PWD/video_series/tape10f.htm ) We have recently updated this Facilitator's Guide to provide a very complete, step-by-step plan for setting up a PWD Class.
Please print a copy and use it to get a Parenting with Dignity Class started today! It might be the best thing that you can do to help safe guard your children's decision making processes.

June 20, 2007

A Question about Peer Pressure and Punishment

A Letter from a Great Mom

Dear Mac,

Your book Parenting with Dignity is my bible!! Thank you for sharing this loving, warm way of parenting children. I have a question I was hoping you could answer.

My son is 5. He is very sensitive and sweet but is also in the "testing" phase of childhood. There is a 7 year old boy across the street who my son interacts with often (I do my best to discourage play time, however he is right across the street and comes over a lot seeking to play). The boy is extremely disrespectful to his parents and talks in a manner that sounds very fresh and rude.

My son seems to have adopted this manner of speaking and has tried out some of the disrespectful acts. He has always ended up losing a privilege, but I am searching for ways to help him and stop him from speaking and acting this way. It is quite frankly embarrassing at times, and I feel like I am spending so much time focusing on this. Please help me!!

Thank you,


An Answer from Mac

Dear Mom,

Thanks for the nice words about the book. I am extremely pleased that you find it helpful.

Well, first of all in my answer to you, and to every other parent who reads this I want to say congratulations! By writing with your question and by reading this Blog, you are seeking sound answers about effective parenting skills! You will find help!

Your child is lucky to have you as a parent because you care deeply enough to find answers rather than resorting to frustration or simply ignoring the inappropriate behavior of your child. (Sounds like that might be what your neighbors are doing.)

Permissiveness? Hardly!

My experience tells me that when many people first read Parenting with Dignity or go through our Parenting with Dignity classes, they get a first impression that the program teaches permissiveness or an attitude of just letting kids go and do whatever they want. Teaching kids to make their own good decisions and to select their own great behavior is the farthest you can get from permissiveness. It pleases me that in your question you don’t seem to have that mistaken impression! Parenting with Dignity is not a program that teaches permissiveness.

Like just said, Parenting with Dignity is the farthest thing from a program of permissiveness. You are absolutely correct in seeking parenting skills from us that demand the very highest standards of behavior from your son!

Now Let's Solve the Problem

Here's some logical and common sense advice for you.

First of all, in the wording of your question you only confirm what I have written in Chapter 12 of my book and what we cover in Lesson 9 of our DVD Course... Punishment does not work!

You say, “He has always ended up losing a privilege.” Then you go on to say that the behavior continues. Your action of withholding privilege

To this I reply, “Well, that didn’t work!” Artificial consequences rarely result in lasting change in behavior. Often what happens is the child learns that you don not like that behavior so the child just starts hiding it from you.

What your child needs is for you to TEACH him some of the desired behaviors that you would like him to use. Nowhere in your letter do you tell me what you want your son to do either when this neighbor boy uses his disrespectful, fresh, or rude behavior nor what the behavior is that you want your son to use in place of the inappropriate behavior.

You must use Rule # 1 from the Parenting with Dignity Curriculum and “End any criticism with a positive statement of the desired behavior. You must tell your son precisely what it s that you want him to do!” You must describe that desired action in behavioral terms that your son understands. You must teach him that his world will improve because of his choice to use the behavior that you have spelled out for him!

Then you must use Rule #3 from the Parenting with Dignity Curriculum and you must “not assume that he has heard it simply because you have said it!” hen you must apply the corollary to that rule which states that if you have repeated your instructions three times and your son is still not doing what you have attempted to teach him… you need to find another way to say it to him!

Now, remember that when you are working with a very young child most often the worst way to teach anything is with words. You need to role play. You need to demonstrate. You need to have him role play. Then you need to practice the desired behavior with him so that he has the idea of the appropriate action firmly in his head before he goes out to play with the seven year old across the street.

You need to apply Rule #4... you need to get your son to say it for himself!

Using Peer Pressure to Help

Now I would like to address one other thing in your letter to me. You say that the other boy is acting in an inappropriate manner. I would imagine that the parents of that child do not approve of his inappropriate behavior any more than you do! As a matter of fact, I would imagine that if you were to talk to them they may be just as frustrated by the rudeness and the disrespectful behavior as you are! There is one difference between you and those parents. You are seeking outside help! You will teach your son some more desirable ways of interacting with you and others and most likely you will succeed in teaching your son in spite of the negative behavior he may see the other boy use. (He will resist negative peer pressure.)

Start a Parenting with Dignity Class

Now here is my suggestion to you that is pretty far reaching but really quite simple. I would like help you to greatly improve the chances of teaching appropriate behavior to your son. Peer pressure can be your greatest ally if it pushes in a positive direction. It is so much easier to teach appropriate behavior to your son if most of the other kids he interacts with have been taught to act in a similar manner. If the boy across the street was acting in an appropriate manner it would now be a good thing for your son to play with him!

This is pretty simple to achieve… get a set of our DVD Parenting with Dignity Curriculum and start a class for parents in your neighborhood! By doing this you will insure that you have all talked together about the things that you, as a neighborhood, want to teach your children! Working together will increase the effectiveness of each of your families. You don’t all have to agree to make this work either.

To learn how to start and effective class, please check back here in the next few days and I will do another article on starting and running a class.

Good luck with your son… he is lucky to have you for his mom!



June 19, 2007

Effective Step Parenting

Help for Children

Yesterday, I received an outstanding and very common question from Shawn and Colleen Woods. The Woods are a wonderful young couple who are working to build a better community for children in their neighborhood down in the Tampa, Florida area by facilitating Parenting with Dignity classes both in their neighborhood and in their workplace. Shawn is a former student and athlete that I worked with in the wonderful town of Waterville, Washington. Their simple question was, “Do you have any advice for step-parents on effective ways for them to combine efforts with the divorced mother/father; and in ways to deal with the “you’re not my father/mother” conversations with children?”

Some Shocking Advice

My advice here may shock some parents who feel that their situation is unique and different from that of what they feel are “normal” parents (meaning, I guess, that both parents are the natural father and mother of the children residing with them.) In other words, these step parents, who have chosen to divorce and then remarry and now have children living with them that are not their natural children, are wondering what special parenting skills I can offer to them.

My advice might shock some because it is pretty simple; “be the best parent that you can be using the SAME techniques that you would use if you had not been divorced!”

Now, stick with me and please do not become angered or put off by this advice which may seem insensitive, tactless, blunt, and over-simplified. Please listen to what I am saying to you if you are one of these parents. (Or listen carefully if you are like Shawn and Colleen and are facilitating a Parenting with Dignity class with parents who are now step parents.) Please do not think that I have gone off my rocker. I really cannot put his any other way. I simply cannot come up with some magic tools for parents of divorce. Effective parenting is effective parenting! It does not matter what the situation might be.

Now, let me acknowledge that being a divorced father of three children who do not live with you offers some special challenges; but the skills of being an effective parent do not change. It is still just as critical for you to make solid decisions about what your goal is in any action that you take with those children. It really does not matter whether you are a single parent or are a step parent. In those situations the concepts presented in Lessons #3 in our Parenting with Dignity are perhaps even more necessary to master. It might be even more important to be extremely clear about the precise goals for your actions.

If you apply our Rule #1 with step children it still works. “Tell them precisely what you want them to do! You must describe that desired conduct in behavioral terms that the child can understand. You must be able to explain clearly to the child precisely how their world will be better if they do as you ask.”

If you apply our Rule #2 with step children it still works. “Criticize the performance and not the person!” That is equally valuable with any children regardless of the relationship! That rule will work with employees at work and with spouses at home. T is a valid way to teach anyone.

If you apply our Rule #3 with step children it also works! “Repeat desired actions and beliefs to children!” If the children are not using what you have asked them to do after three requests, changing the words and the manner of delivery will increase the chances of getting he child to choose to act in the desired manner.

If you apply our Rule #4 in a “blended family” it will work! “It still does not matter what you say, it is what the children say to themselves that changes or controls their behavior!” As a person acting as a parent, whether you are the natural parent or not, you still must orchestrate situations where the child actually says the desired actions or decisions for themselves. Effective decision making skills must be internalized to work for any child.

Finally, if a parent applies our Rule #5 it will work! “Sending a child a constant and continual message of unconditional love will always give that child a sense of personal value that will allow the child to make amazingly great decisions about their own lives.”

The Critical Difference for Step Parents

After years of studying parenting skills I have come to the conclusion that the only thing that makes parenting different in the case of divorce is that the parents somehow view their task as different or they think that they should treat the child in a different manner. That is a terrible error.

The Problems for Children of Divorce

The problems for children of divorce come when parents start to use the child as a tool in their fight with their former spouse!

If there is any special skill needed by parents of the children of divorce it lies in being able to be a true adult about the situation and not using the children in their fight with their former spouse! The only special skill for step parents comes in treating the former spouse with the respect and dignity that is due the other parent of their child!

A step parent should never claim to be the parent of a step child; simply because they do not need to. That child already has two parents. Having said that, the step parent can still be an extremely effective teacher of sound, moral and ethical decisions to be used by the child. A step parent can be an extremely loving, caring, and dignified guide to the children sharing a home.

Parenting with True Dignity

Let me close with one very solid example. Parenting with real dignity and effectiveness can be done by any loving person with the desire to be an effective teacher. This was taught to me by a group of felons in the state penitentiary in Connecticut.

On a visit to that prison, I was privileged to eat dinner with a whole cellblock of men, most of whom had recently completed the Parenting with Dignity Curriculum. My visit came about a month and a half before Christmas and immediately following dinner many of the men in the cafeteria went over and sat on the floor along the wall of the room. When I went over to see what they were doing, I saw that they were all holding white pieces of cloth and they seemed to be sewing on those squares of cloth with needles and thread.

When I asked what they were doing some of them showed me their pieces of cloth. Those were not just any pieces of cloth; they were the men’s pillow slips. What those guys were doing was pretty simple. They were embroidering sayings, scripture verses, and other ideas into those pillow slips to give to their children at Christmas. That way their children could sleep on Dad’s ideas! Those men had selected ideas that they wanted their children to use to rule their worlds. They had found a way to communicate those critical and useful ideas to their children in a very unique, loving, and wonderful way.

It is my firm belief that those men were being much more effective parents to their children than many natural parents on the outside of the prison walls. It was really interesting to me to find out that many of those dads were sending the pillow slips to step children! Effective parenting was being done right through the concrete walls and bars of a prison!

Those men did not need special parenting skills… they just applied the simple and effective tools that they learned from Parenting with Dignity to their own situation!

June 13, 2007

Tantrums and “Acting-Out” Behaviors

Another Very Common Question

Today I will deal with another very common question that I receive at least three times a week. These great questions have to do with the very common problems presented by children throwing tantrums and “acting-out” in other very inappropriate ways.

These very common parenting problems can involve a wide variety of situations; a very young child just throwing a tantrum at bedtime or nap time, a toddler throwing a fit over a toy, a grade-school-age child running around and grabbing things at the grocery store, or a teenager cussing at a parent over some disagreement. My mail tells me that parents experience the whole spectrum of difficulties with these and many more kinds of “acting-out” behaviors. Kids find many ways to “act-out” and create annoyances.

So many parents ask me about what to do when children are doing these kinds of things and my answer to all of them is usually pretty much the same. “If you wait until the annoying behavior has begun, you will most likely never have success in dealing with the problem!”

The Big Problem: Crisis Management

The big problem that I see most parents encounter is that they try to deal with “acting-out” behaviors by crisis management! They wait until the behavior has begun to try to deal with it, and believe me, that technique almost always fails! To deal with tantrums, and the like, effectively, parents must be proactive and preventative. It just does not work to wait until the child is “acting-out” to deal with the behavior.

"What should I do When..."

Today I went back and reread about fifty or sixty of those frantic e-mails from parents dealing with those types of problems. In the wording of their questions, I can see the problem quite clearly. Almost every single question begins with these words: “What should I do when my child…” Waiting until the child has begun the undesirable behavior is totally reactive in nature… and, by definition, it puts the child “in the driver’s seat!” The Ideas in their heads will rule their world... so put a positive idea in their head BEFORE they are in the situation.

Teaching During Turmoil Is Futile!

Waiting until the child is throwing a tantrum to try to teach a more desirable behavior would be much like me coming to your house and waiting until you and your spouse (or some other person) are having a big fight and then, picking that very moment to step between you and try to teach you how to download some kind of software onto your computer! Teaching at times of turmoil is almost totally futile!

Be Proactive

So here is my suggestion for dealing with tantrums and “acting-out” behaviors. Be proactive. Choose a time when both you and the child are calm and then teach the child the desired behavior (Rule #1). If the child is throwing a tantrum at bedtime every night, don’t wait until bedtime to deal with the problem. It is very predictable that the child will be in turmoil at that time. Start early in the day and teach the child how the evening will progress.

Take a clock and show the child when bedtime is on the clock. (They really do not have to be able to tell time. Just show them that when the little hand is on eight and the big hand is on twelve it will be bedtime.) Then let the child go with you into their bedroom and pick out the books that you will read at bedtime and lay them out on the bed. This can be done early in the day. Later in the day, at another calm time, go back into the child’s bedroom and pick out the toys that he/she will take to bed that evening.

Every time that you talk about bedtime, talk about the actions that both the child and you will use at bedtime. Teach the child the desired behavior in small increments. Repeat this brief process a number of times during the day. It can be fit around a parent’s work schedule. The key is to get some repetitions at calm times.

Finally get a timer; one of those little things that you can set to time baking. Show your child how the timer works and then, an hour before bedtime, have the child help you to set the timer for one hour. Every fifteen minutes have the child check the timer with you to see how long it is until bedtime. At each of those intervals, remind the child about the books and toys that are in the bed waiting and how much fun it will be to go to bed.

Then when it is fifteen minutes until bedtime, go and get the child dressed for bed and brush the teeth. When the timer rings for bedtime, celebrate with your child the excitement of getting to go to bed and read the books that are waiting there for you.

Let Your Actions Do Your Teaching

With some very positive ideas about bedtime in their head, the child will most likely not even choose to start a tantrum. If a tantrum does arise, be calm and repeat the desired behavior... but be firm and put the child in bed with the books and toys. Do not let the child leave the bed. Sit quietly with the child on the bed. If the ruckus quiets just a little bit, calmly start reading one of the books in a calm and quiet tone of voice.

Now, the key is to repeat this behavior over a few weeks. (Rule #3) Every night make this the routine. As time passes let the child do more and more of the planning for the bedtime. Let them choose books and toys on their own, etc. Let them set the timer and check the timer from time to time.

Over time the undesirable behavior will be replaced by the very calm “bedtime routine” that you have taught the child.

I must add one closing thought here. Many parents tell me that they just don’t have that much time to give to this problem. Then I always ask them, “How much time are you spending with the totally ineffective technique of fighting at bedtime right now?” There is always a long silence. Then I point out that with the technique I am suggesting, the amount of time required from the parent will decrease with time but with the technique they are using, the time given to bedtime will most likely escalate. Make a choice; give me time now or time later. But ask yourself, which one results in a calm and appropriate behavior from your child?”

Check back in my next article and I will share some specific techniques for dealing with other acting out behaviors with older children.

June 12, 2007

Is It Ever Too Late to Become an Effective Parent?

An Extremely Common Question

Today’s topic is a question that comes to us almost daily, so I will offer an article on the subject. Here is one version of the common question that I received just yesterday:
“Many parents with preteens and teens are just now getting this information on how to parent effectively. For those of us having significant problems with an older child, is it too late to start with some new parenting skills?”

An Answer to a Great Question!

This is a real dilemma for many parents who go through the Parenting with Dignity Curriculum at a time when their children are a little older. Many parents who were raised by very controlling or ineffective parents, have only their parents as a model for raising their own children. So... they have futilely tried to control their child’s every action or immitate their parents ineffewctive strategies. Then, after experiencing some difficulties, they attend the first class and hear the common sense advice given to us by Dr. Cobb as he was delivering our first son. Dr. Cobb’s advice was to view the life of a child as a mortgage being paid off a day at a time. He advised us to look at our son at age nine as a half owner of his own life who must then be making half of his own big decisions!
That analogy makes real sense to these newly aware parents and throws them into a dilemma in raising their own child. They now have a child who is 8, 11, 13, or even as old as 17 or 18, and they suddenly realize that they have really not taught this child how to make decisions, especially not big ones. At this point they come to us wondering how, at this late date, they should go about the process of giving the child skills for making decisions for themselves.

It Is Never Too Late!

I always love receiving these insightful questions because it tells me that the parents are really internalizing and attempting to use the advice we are offering.

The Past Cannot Be Changed!

For me the answer to this question is usually pretty simple… “You can never change the past! Try as you might, you can never go back and undo any past actions! The only logical answer is to “draw a line in the dirt” that indicates an end to your prior parenting practices which may have been only to crisis manage rather than to teach! Start today and apply the parenting tools you have learned from this class with your child from this moment forward.”
“If you have made mistakes with your children in the past and you feel that you need to apologize, then do it! But… once you have apologized, stop looking backwards! Focus only on the teaching you will do today and on into the future!”
Then I try to empower these newly enlightened parents to start making some intelligent decisions for themselves! “You know your children better than anyone. You love them like nobody else could. Only you can answer the question of the best strategy at this point. Ask yourself if your child is mature enough to begin to learn right along with you as you begin your new and more effective methods of Parenting with Dignity!

Start Gradually!

Certainly it does not make sense to suddenly dump a whole bunch of decisions upon a child who has never been taught how to make good decisions! You would never put someone who had never seen a car behind the wheel and send them out onto the freeway for their first experience behind the wheel. To effectively handle a car they will certainly need instruction and practice. However, if the child is older, it may not take as much time to teach them because they may have other similar experiences to draw upon in the process of learning to drive. The same is true for teaching children to make good, sound decisions!”

Start Today!

The key is to start TODAY! Start teaching now! Every day that you put it off makes the job more difficult. Start teaching your children to make great decisions immediately. Start with smaller decisions: What time shall I be home? How can I get my chores done in time to get to the game? How can I save for my new cell phone? Then work toward bigger and bigger ones: What will I do about becoming sexually active? How do I avoid using drugs? Because of your late start, you may need to accelerate the teaching process. But the fact that the process was started at a later date might make it possible to proceed at a faster pace.
Certainly, it much easier to teach the process of good decision making if parents start when their children are born and teach the skills as a gradual process, but that should never mean that parents who did not start early should feel guilty or discouraged. All that is necessary is to start immediately and teach, teach, teach!

The only time you fail with a child is the last time that you try! Keep trying!

June 06, 2007

Is it ADD/ADHD or Just Bad Behavior - Part 3

ADD/ADHD: What is Treatment?

“What do parents do when they find that their child might be diagnosed?”

Please allow me to take you back to what Dr. Ned Hallowell said in his article that I quoted a few days ago:

“What is the treatment all about? Treatment is anything that turns down the noise.”


Treatment of ADD/ADHD must be something that will “turn down the noise” for your child. In other words, using the comparison of driving a car in a bad rainstorm with bad windshield wipers; treatment is anything that will clear the windshield!

An Addition to Dr. Hallowell's Wisdom

For some, Dr. Hallowell says that diagnosis will turn down the noise. To this I wish to add that the manner in which the diagnosis is used MAY turn down the noise; but... in many of the cases I have seen the diagnosis that the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD is not properly handled. In those cases I have actually seen the diagnosis "increase the noise" simply because of the reactions of the parents and educational professionals!

An Increase in the Noise!

Many parents (and many others) use the diagnosis to inadvertently “turn up the noise” because they react in such an irrational fashion. As I saw it, far too many parents compounded the child’s difficulties because their approach was to try to make the child like every other child! Kids with ADD are wired differently!

They can focus on more than one thing at a time. They have increased awareness and ability to concentrate… But, for a shorter time. They need skills to use their unique ability.

Getting new windshield wipers makes it easier to see, but it does not teach anyone how to drive a car. “Getting rid of the noise” may make life easier for your child if it is handled properly, but it still does not teach them to accomplish tasks effectively. You must find ways to teach them to accomplish tasks that work for them once you make he diagnosis.