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November
2002

Parenting With Dignity

 

Effective Parenting Skills


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Dear Parents and Supporters:

It has been a while since our last newsletter. The explanation is part strategic planning, and part victim of circumstances... We don't usually send out a newsletter over the summer because Internet usage drops considerably and families have so much to do (that's the strategic part).

The other part, our unplanned circumstances, were a combination of moving our offices from Boston to Montana at the same time that Mac was finishing his new book (more about that coming later this month). Add to all this a grueling travel schedule with Mac speaking at events from Seattle to Boston, and we've had a busy couple of months.

This is really a special newsletter this month as we have an article from both Mac and Barbara Bledsoe. We hope you enjoy this edition and be looking for our special alert later this month.

Thank you, and stay safe,

The Editor

PS: Please do us a BIG favor? While it is fresh in your mind, will you please forward this newsletter to every parent in your address book and encourage them to subscribe to our free newsletter. Thanks, we really appreciate your help!


   

In This
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Ask Mac Bledsoe your parenting question.

Ask Mac is a new feature of our newsletter. Send your questions to: Ask Mac

 

 

Ask Mac?

Dear Mac,

The reason I've written you is because tonight my 14 year old son took our others son's car for a joy ride with a few of his friends, one of whom has a drivers license.  Our son was driving when they rear-ended another car causing very minor damage to the other car, but about $800 damage to our car. Rather than see their friend get busted, the kid with the license told the cop he was driving and he got a citation for leaving the seen of an accident. I think they all should tell the truth perhaps relieving the kid of his ticket and forcing my son to face the natural consequences of his decisions. What do you think? I await your response.

Concerned Mom
(from Canada)

 


Dear Mom,

My answer to your question begins with a question. These are your children and you must ask yourself, "What do I wish to teach my children?" The answer to that question will most likely answer your question for you! If you wish to teach your children that honesty is always the best policy, then there is little choice to be made. If you wish to teach your children that when they are in a fix that the best policy is to try to alter the outcome of poor decisions by distorting the truth or lying outright about what has happened, then you have other choices available to you!

You know your values and you know what you want your kids to do, be, or have. If these were my children and this was my decision to make this would be a very easy decision. I would have my child go to the authorities and tell them exactly what happened, including the falsification of the facts in having another kid falsely claim to be the driver. The consequences of this mistake that the "system" dealt out would be taken and supported by me. If the court decided that a suspension of driving privileges was in order, I would support it. If the court mandated a fine, I would see to it that my son had to come up with the money to pay the fine. If the courts mandated restitution to the damaged party I would see to it that my son worked to pay them back.

Now, let's get to some of my advice for you if you are still with me on the message about honesty and accepting the consequences of our actions. The most common failure in cases like this is to assume that the societal consequences (punishment, sentencing, and fines) have taught a lesson. Those things do not teach! Often, they simply define the "game" and make kids more careful to not get caught but they rarely teach a child how to make a better
decision the next time. That is your job!

If this were my child I would simply view this event as a wonderful opportunity to teach decision-making skills and values! Be sure to understand, teaching of this nature would be much more difficult and time consuming, but teaching would actually wind up changing the child for the better... forever! If you are interested in teaching it will involve a whole
different set of tactics and here are some suggestions.

1. I would start with a discussion of why we are a society of rules and laws. Freedom does not mean that there are no rules. Freedom means more rules... more rules that can be handled by individuals. The more rules we can handle without requiring the interference of government or police... the more freedom we have! This means that we must be honest if we make a mistake. That way the authorities do not have to get involved. Honesty by citizens insures a minimum of interference from government and maximum freedom for us all. Respect for private property means that our own property will be respected. Respect for rules and laws means that we can count on others to respect rules and laws. A stop sign is not an annoyance... it is an aid. A stop sign makes the behavior of others very predictable and safe. Driving with a license makes the roads safe for all. We must respect this law also.

2. Next, I would jump on this as an opportunity to teach my child that our home is a place where we all bring our mistakes and learn from them. I would show my child by my actions that mistakes in judgment are common among us all but the key is to learn from our mistakes and to be sure to not repeat the mistakes. To let my actions speak I would have to refrain from anger or outbursts of emotion. I would have to be reasoned and calm in my answers and
discussion.

3. Next, I would try to teach my child that intelligence is a valuable commodity but that it is almost worthless in the heat of battle. Most of the really critical and big decisions in life must be made before you are in the situation. I would begin to enter into discussions with my kids about some of the anticipated situations they might encounter in the near future and begin to go through with them some of the wise decisions that they can make ahead of time.

4. Next, I would try to engage my sons regularly in various kinds of games and sports to establish a relationship of trust between them and me so that in the future they would not see me as someone to deceive or someone to get away with things. I would try to establish that if they ever were in doubt about something they could ask me and I would listen and not blow up but rather I would be a source of sound advice.

5. Next, I would try to establish some general rules of conduct for my child to use if they found themselves in a tough spot with a tough decision before them. Simple rules like: "is this the right thing to do?" "Is this fair to all concerned?" "Will this build better relationships?" "Is this legal?" "Is this healthy?" etc.

6. Finally, I would make sure that my kids had a sure fire way to get out of the situation. In our family, we had a "secret word." I told my kids that if they were ever in a tough situation they could call me and say the secret word and somehow give the address (fake like you are ordering pizza or something) and I would show up and get them out of the situation, no questions asked.

Good luck with your actions with your boys. Please let me know how things go for you.
Sincerely,

Sincerely,

Mac Bledsoe
Mac and Barbara Bledsoe

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Mac & Barbara Bledsoe

 

Tricked into Excellence
By Mac Bledsoe

 

"Tricking" Kids into Self-Discovery

My best friend, John Matau, was an amazing teacher! He was a master at "tricking" kids into self-discovering positive ideas about themselves. Here is just one example of his amazing skill as a teacher that you may be able to imitate as you work with your own kids.

Almost every year, John would have what he called his "Cheater's Test" in his U.S. history classes. He would announce to his classes that, on the upcoming chapter test, he was going to challenge everyone to figure out a way to cheat and not get caught.

He laid out the rules very carefully. "You can cheat on this test, and if you get away with it, you get the score you get. However, if you get caught, it will be no different from other tests: you will receive a zero. But, unlike other tests, if you get caught cheating, you will be able to take the test again the next day. You'll have to live with whatever score you get on the second test! I will not call you a cheater and you will not go to the office or receive any negative consequences for cheating other than having to take the test a second time.

"You will have exactly 55 minutes to complete the test. During the test, I will leave the room one time. I will be gone for exactly 30 seconds. The rest of the time, I will sit at my desk and read a book, except for three times when I will get up and walk around the room. Get creative! On the 'Cheater's Test,' if you don't get caught, you get to keep your score!"

On test day, it was amazing to watch what the creativity of the kids. Excitement would be at a fever pitch throughout the school as the kids tried to match wits with John and outdo each other with their schemes. What was interesting was that the kids who hooked in on this opportunity the most were usually kids who were failing or close to it! Some would have friends in the gym reading the answers on a walkie-talkie, with three students sitting in class listening on earphones hidden behind long hair. Others would have the answers written on the bottom of their shoes. Others would have elaborate mechanisms that would retract the cheat sheet into their sleeve when they straightened their arm. Groups would get together and hide answers around the room on the backs of lights and on bulletin boards. Some would put the answers on the front of John's desk. Their creative minds were hard at work!

The day after the "Cheater's Test," John would give the test again, as planned, for any kids who had been caught cheating. He asked everyone else to please take the test because he just wanted to see what happened. Everyone would take the test a second time, not just the ones who had been caught cheating. He even told them that if they scored higher today they could keep the higher score. When John gave the test the second day, the scores would almost universally average in the 80's and 90's ! Even kids who had never passed a test in their lives would get 94's and 88's.

The self-discovery would begin when John would point out something to his classes. "Kids, you learned something today. Many of you scored higher than you've ever scored on a test in your life, and today you did it without cheating. Do you know how you did that? Well, for yesterday's test, you had to make up your elaborate cheat sheets. In order to do that, you had to actually look up the answers to what you thought would be on the test and write them down! Many of you even wrote the answers two or three times as you perfected your cheating schemes."

"Now look at what you did today! You scored very highly on today's test with nothing but what you stored in your head by looking up the answers and writing them down. What you did while preparing to cheat is what many people call STUDYING! You did what many students who get good grades do before a test. It wasn't very hard was it? It also didn't take much time, either, did it?"
"Now recall what it felt like to take this test today and score highly. Pretty cool huh? Why don't you do that all the time, since you just demonstrated to yourself that you can do it"?

John had just tricked many kids into saying some pretty positive things to themselves about their own performance capabilities. The key is that he got them to "say it for themselves" after giving them a graphic experience with their own performance.

There are many ways that you could creatively "trick" your children into doing something around the home that will demonstrate to them what they are capable of doing on their own. For example you might let one of your kids plan and cook a dinner. Give them some money and let them plan the meal totally on their own. Give them only limited guidance or restrictions other than telling the child that the meal must have a selection from each of three food groups to insure that it is healthy. Include the fact that they can keep any money not spent on the groceries for dinner! When they plan and cook the meal point out to them that they have just budgeted and saved money by careful shopping and planning!

Let a child plan an entire trip from start to finish. When the trip is in progress make comments about the successful planning that has been done and how fun it is to be in charge of travel plans. (During that trip you most likely will not have to answer the question of, "When are we going to get there?"  By letting kids feel like they are somehow getting away with something they can learn a ton about their own capabilities.

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Homework
Hassles

Advice from the Middle School Teacher!
by Barbara Bledsoe

Well, parents, you are well into your fall schedules now and for many of you the calendar is overcrowded with music lessons, soccer, football, birthday parties, etc. A friend has suggested that any parent of a middle school student should be able to declare their vehicle as a second residence! In the midst of this frequently comes the battle over homework. Mac and I hear this frustration over and over. Students have too much homework; they do not do their homework; they say they have none when they do; they complete it at home and do not turn it in. If you have none of these problems with your middle school student, please give them a big hug and a huge compliment for taking on that responsibility. Because, if you know our five rules, you know the most important compliment is the one your child gives her/himself, ask them how they feel about doing their homework on their own and turning it in. Help them see that being prepared each day helps them begin the day relaxed with a sense of confidence.

On the other hand, if you are struggling with the homework hassle, here are a few suggestions.

  • First, if what you have been doing is not working, STOP IT!!! Quit nagging, threatening, punishing. Why do we as parents keep doing the same thing and expecting different results?
  • Convince your child that you are on their team and you want to find a solution together so that there will be peace in your home; so your child can feel pride, calm, completion; so school is not a threatening place each time the teacher asks for homework; so there are no calls home. This will involve much time, talk, patience and a big sell job about why it will be to your child's benefit to change. Keep the anger out; habits take time to change, both your habits and your child's.
  • If in the course of the time you spend talking with your child the two of you determine that finishing and handing in homework will be the product, then plan with them how it will be done. What method will they use to keep track of their homework-a daytimer, an assignment sheet? As a seventh grade teacher I know students have too many things to remember without an aide. Where will they do their homework? What time will they begin? Remembering that children learn much more from what you do than from what what you say, I will propose that if you believe the studies of scholarship winners who say studying with music works but with the TV does not, that you convince your child that you believe study time is important by turning off the TV for the whole family. Turn off the computer. Spend some time reading yourself so your child can see that you believe reading is a worthwhile activity. Sit at the table where they do their homework and read the paper. Be available but remember that this is their homework, not yours. That means offer advice if they ask for it.
  • You will encounter some difficult questions: why do I have to do all these problems when I already know how to do them? Why can't I just enjoy the story without having to answer all these questions? Why do I have to do spelling words when I can use sSpell Check? I wish I could offer some great answers but I found many of these difficult to answer even as a teacher. Keeping an open line of communication with the teachers can assist you and there is the fact that following and completing instructions will always be part of education and part of the working world.
  • I encourage you to keep your home a place of peace for your middle school student. The world of middle school is full of stress for your students and most of that comes from the social and athletic world rather than the academic. A friend of mine taught me to have a "coming together" routine each day. Whenever she got home from work and both her children were home, they had a cup of tea (could be juice, hot chocolate) sitting at the table. Sometimes they had 5 minutes, sometimes they had a longer time but it became a calm, welcoming ritual they all could count on. It was not a time to talk about problems but the "best part of your day". She shared and sometimes they did; sometimes they didn't; sometimes they just drank tea!

-A good source, Ending the Homework Hassle, by John Rosemond.
Good luck! Seventh graders are the best!! Barbara Bledsoe

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