September 19, 2007

Sleep Deprived Students and ADD

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

The Problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common Bedtimes

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

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

Changing the Schools Should NOT Be the Solution

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

"Barking Up the Wrong Tree"

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

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

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

September 17, 2007

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

What a Wonderful Opportunity to Teach!

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

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

What Would Any Parent Do?

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

Role Model?

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

Nobody is Worthless!

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

What a Great Opportunity to Teach!

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

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

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

LOSS OF TRUST is the Biggest Penalty!

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

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

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

Teach !

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

September 07, 2007

LISTEN to Parenting with Dignity Tips

Parenting with Dignity Information

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

New Segments Are Available Today!
Back to School Tips

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

Take Control of Your Television!

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

Help Kids Manage Their Time Effectively

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

Get Better Grades with No More Time Spent on Homework!

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

Get them Involved in Activities!

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

If you like this information then please visit our website:

September 05, 2007

Child Molesters/Child Safety

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

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

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

An Open Letter

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

Dear "Mother of a Molested Son",

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

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

Continued Use of PWD in Prisons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 03, 2007

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

Michael Vick - Role Model?

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

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

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

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

Selecting Heroes

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

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

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

Diligence, Honesty, Loyalty, Integrity

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

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

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

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

A Real Hero Worthy of Imitation - A True Role Model

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

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

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

Help Children to Pick Heroes; Carefully and Precisely

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

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

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