sponsors of The Drew Bledsoe Foundation
and Parenting With Dignity™
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
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
PS: Please do us a
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
is a new feature of our newsletter. Send your questions to:
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.
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
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.
Mac and Barbara 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
"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
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
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
- 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
Don't buy ANYTHING online...
until you visit
You can help
support Parenting With Dignity™ by shopping online via our links.
We are affiliates of the companies listed on these pages and receive a
commission on any sales generated from our links. Whether you need a new
computer or a tennis ball, a good book or to book a trip, click from our
page and donate to our foundation.
Make A Difference
Will you please help?
The secret to the popularity and success of this program has been
based in grass roots involvement by people like you. We don't
advertise on national TV or buy ads in magazines. We can't afford it
and we would not advertise that way if we could afford it. We believe
that there is a better way to increase our effectiveness and to build
a solid financial base of support for our mission.
We count on the people we are trying to help to contribute to our
efforts. We have proven that our mission can be fulfilled because
Americans are a people who will help each other in time of need. We
really need your support. Won't you please donate a few tax-free
dollars to our foundation's efforts? Just click on the icon below.
Every little bit helps! With your help we can and will build a better
world for kids!
We can change the world by making sure that our
children know how to make good decisions. To do this, we must teach
parents effective parenting skills that work. This takes money
and commitment. We at the Drew Bledsoe Foundation are more committed
than ever, but we need your help. Won't you please
consider making a cash donation to our cause?
Help us help America's Kids
Virus Alert: There are a number of new
viruses being circulated that are supposed to be a greater threat than the
Code Red Worm. If you are not protecting your PC, please do
Scan your PC for viruses now!
our Newsletter to
God bless America and her kids!
JOIN US IN BUILDING A BETTER
WORLD FOR KIDS...
the "Parenting with Dignity"