August 28, 2007

Dealing with Bullying

A Letter from a Distressed Mom

Dear Mr. Bledsoe,

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

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

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

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

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


Clueless Mom

An Answer

Dear Mom,

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

Now for some help:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 23, 2007

Teen Drug Addiction - It CAN Happen to Your Family!

Parents, Pay Attention to this Book!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 14, 2007

“Back When I Was a kid . . .”

Teaching Our Children with a Reasoned Approach

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

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

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

Give Children Sound Reasons to Adjust Their Behavior

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

Some History Should NOt Be Repeated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 10, 2007

Yelling at Kids!

Yelling at Kids Teaches!

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

Kids Learn More from our Actions than from our Words!

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

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

A Personal Experience

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

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

Teaching Does NOT Require Intent!

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

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

Children Learn What they Are Exposed To

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

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

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

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

Children Learn What Your Actions Teach

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

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

Say It Civilly and Politely… but Enforce It!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Situation!

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

The Plan!

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

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

Be Patient

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

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

Some Key Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 07, 2007

Taking Control of the TV in Your Home

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

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

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

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

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

The Critical Issue

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

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

Children Can Learn To Make Great Choices

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

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

Select the Time

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

Children Learn More from Doing than from Saying!

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

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

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

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

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

Take Control of Your TV!

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

Kids Learn by Doing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 02, 2007

Teaching your Values to Your Children

Pick Ideas to Rule Your Child's World!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start teaching values to your children today!

August 01, 2007

More Radio!

For those seeking more audio versions of the Parenting with Dignity skills and concepts, you are in luck... now has posted five new programs featuring "yours truly" Mac Bledsoe discussing some new information.

In our Parenting with Dignity curriculum, we propose Five Rules for Parents and the new sessions give some new information on the application of those five rules.If you would like to have the handouts to go with those five rules they are free on our website at:

While you are on the website take a look around. They have some great music on demand that will make great family listening. It is a family oriented station with lots of programming that your family will enjoy listening to. Turn on, get out a game and turn off the TV and enjoy a family evening!