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Mac Bledsoe's Parenting With Dignity program.
Speaking of Kids…
By Mac Bledsoe
Far too many people in the world today speak of children as if they
had nothing to do with them!
Just last week we went to watch some young neighbor kids play in a youth
football game at our beautiful athletic park here in Kalispell, Montana.
It was a glorious morning! Six football fields and six soccer fields
filled with hundreds of kids competing in some very healthy physical
activity and learning some great lessons in teamwork and sportsmanship.
It was such a delightful experience for us because the conduct of the
coaches, parents and kids alike was so positive, supportive and
appropriate. The parents and other spectators sat on the side of the
fields opposite the benches and coaches. The kids play the game.
Because we were having such a great time, we stayed to watch another
young friend of ours participate. His game was very much like the other
game we had just watched and was equally enjoyable.
We witnessed so many positive things going on during these games. The
focus was not just on winning. There was a whole lot of teaching going
on with coaches sometimes right on the playing field behind their
athletes. Parents were knowingly or unknowingly modeling positive
behavior for their children and what we saw was that the kids imitated
the behavior of the adults! Simple concept. Young people will act the
way they see adults act. Children will live up to the expectations set
for them by the adults in their world.
Kids between the ages of 8-12 were playing these games and were fully
capable of competing within the boundaries of the rules of the game.
They were also totally capable of playing the games within the unwritten
rules of sportsmanship. We saw many instances of players helping
opponents up off of the ground and applauding outstanding plays by their
teammates. We did not witness any instances of players yelling at
officials, teammates or coaches.
As we watched this day of competition, we witnessed numerous teams
getting ready to compete at both soccer and football and at every
warm-up we witnessed coaches giving instructions about sportsmanship.
Sure the coaches were also giving instructions about playing hard and
hustling but it was all couched in the context of sportsmanship! Is it
any surprise that as we watched the games we saw that very behavior from
the young athletes? The kids had been taught how to act and they were
As we walked around among the parents, grandparents, and friends
watching the games we did not hear one person yell at an official but we
did hear many people talking about the code of conduct for parents. The
parents were positive in their yells and cheers for the players. Is it a
surprise that the players were yelling similar encouragement for their
teams? The young people were imitating the conduct of the adults! The
adults had taken on the responsibility of controlling their own behavior
and the kids were imitating that behavior. This is not hard to
Then just to point out how easily it can go the other way, a couple
sitting right in front of us had two young daughters come to them and
ask for money to go to the snack shack for a candy bar. Each girl was
given a dollar to go and pick out candy for herself. When they got back
with their candy, the girls proceeded to take off their Hershey bar
wrappers and throw them on the ground right in front of their parents. A
garbage can was no more than30 feet away. The parents did nothing and
the wrappers just lay there to be blown away and litter the beautiful
grounds. I only bring this up to point out the difference between this
behavior and what we had previously witnessed. On one hand we saw kids
exhibiting the best of behavior as they had been taught and then we
watched the contrast when the adults chose to not teach. What a
Now this may have been just be a day of football and soccer games and
two little girls with candy bars but it is so instructive of the way our
society is going. Everyone seems to bemoan the fact that our younger
generation is out of control like somehow the problem is the kids'.
Clearly the problem is not the kids… the problem is the parents who
taught, or more likely, failed to teach them.
We must teach our children. We must teach them that we in America are a
society of rules and laws. Freedom does not mean that we have no rules
or laws. Freedom means we are gifted with the privilege of selecting and
writing the rules and laws that we will live by. When we have the right
to choose, right along with that right to choose comes the obligation to
teach the rules and laws of conduct to our children.
We cannot talk about the younger generation as if we have nothing to do
with them. We must accept our obligation to teach them how to live in
our world. We must teach them how to act. We must teach them to choose
to act in the manner that fits the standards of our society.
Kids will become what we teach them to be and they will give us just
about what we are willing to accept! Let's teach well and hold up high
standards for our youth.
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