Parenting Newsletter

April 2006

Effective Parenting Skills - PWD






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Dear parents and supporters:

Hello and welcome to our April 2006 newsletter.  The "Ask Mac" Q&A this month is a good one about punishment, consequences, and respect for others and Mac's article this issue is an inspiration to all parents.

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Like every family and business in America, we are feeling the squeeze of inflation.  Due to the rising cost of doing business, we are being forced to increase revenue to cover our bills.  For the first time in our history, we are being forced to enact a price increase in our videos.  Next week we will announce a price increase from $79.95 to $99.95.

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Ask Mac?

Punishment, Consequences, and Respect
(This is another of Mac Bledsoe's answers to a letter of a reader)

Dear Mac:

I can't find a way to teach my 13-year-old son Ben (name changed for privacy) how to respect others' property. He will not leave his brothers' and sister's things alone. He uses their clothes, he eats their candy, he goes into their rooms and plays with their toys and does not put them back, he rummages through his father's drawers and leaves a mess, he wears their mittens to go out and play, and he simply will not respect others property. His friends complain that he does this when he visits their houses too. Yesterday he even used his sister's toothbrush! I know that your Parenting with Dignity course teaches natural consequences rather than artificially created consequences. I think I agree with you, but so far with this issue everyone else is receiving the consequences except Ben. We tried using punishment and that failed miserably. It seemed that when we punished him all it did was to make him more secretive when he got into others things. Can you help?

Distressed Mother


Dear Distressed Mom:

It is true that we, in our "Parenting with Dignity" program, do not rely on punishment (defined here as an artificial consequence created by parents in response to the inappropriate behavior of children.). It is not because we are opposed to punishment, per se, but rather we are opposed to it because we simply don't believe it works very well in producing long-term appropriate change in behavior.

Granted, punishment is quick and easy for parents to use. It is usually mindless for most parents. They don't even have to think. All they need to do is just react! Therein lies one of the biggest problems; it is only reactive in nature. To use it you must wait for the child to do something negative or wrong in order to use it. (Unless you are silly enough to suggest that you would punish a child BEFORE he does something wrong or inappropriate!)

Now, I will grant you, if the punishment is harsh enough and sudden enough, it may result in short lived behavior change… but rarely will it create lasting, life-long change. You even said it quite accurately in your letter; it often just makes kids sneakier in an effort to not get caught. Many just seem to make it into a game and when they do that they usually win!

I am making the assumption that lasting change in your son's behavior is what you are seeking so I will try to explain what our thoughts are about your son's seeming lack of respect for the personal property of others.

First, a couple of general comments as a place to start--our basic belief about all human behavior is: "The ideas in your head will rule your world!" And, we believe the exact same principle is true for kids... "The ideas in kids' heads will rule their world!" It does not matter whether the ideas are right or wrong, good or bad, happy or sad, legal or illegal, moral or immoral, and it does not matter where the ideas come from. An idea can originate from the pastor at church or some kid on the street; it can come from you, the TV, or the Internet. But, once the idea gets into a kid's head it will rule his/her world. So the only question of significance in shaping a child's lasting behavior is, "What idea would you like to have rule the world of your child in this situation?"

When you answer this question, the strategy immediately begins to take shape. And, once you have effectively TAUGHT that new idea, you will have changed your child's behavior forever! Since you now have given the child a new idea to rule his/her world, the change is permanent. (It took me about six years of classroom experience to learn that my actions did not qualify as teaching until the behavior of my students changed. Until that critical discovery took place, what I had done in my classroom did not qualify as teaching! It could be categorized as saying, explaining, showing, demonstrating, yelling, nagging, etc., but it did not become teaching until the behavior of my students changed!) Remember this difference between saying and teaching as you work with your son. Your goal is permanent change in behavior; and until you get the desired behavior change, you must keep trying.

In the case of your son I would like to ask you, "What is it you want him to do?" Notice that I did not ask "What do you want him to stop doing?" but rather I asked, "What do you want him to do?" There is a huge and critical difference between those two questions. The second one gives guidance about choosing appropriate behavior and the first just takes away one behavior without giving the child any idea of what to do to replace the negative action. Telling a child to stop doing something is like telling him to jump. If you don't tell the poor kid where to land, most often he will land right where they took off. This sounds exactly like what you are experiencing with Ben. Your son's insistence upon repeating the exact behavior that you have told him not to do, should demonstrate to you that without a replacement behavior, he will continue to take, use, and abuse other's people's stuff!

"WHAT SHOULD HE DO IN THOSE SITUATIONS?" (Answer that question in detail and you are well on your way to creating a change in his behavior!) "WHAT IDEA OR IDEAS DO YOU WANT HIM TO USE TO GOVERN HIS BEHAVIOR IN THOSE SITUATIONS?" (If you cannot state these ideas precisely and in behavioral terms, which he can understand, how can you expect him to use any of these new ideas to rule his world?) Do you want him handle only things belonging to him? Do you want him to replace items he uses? Do you want him to ask before he touches anything not belonging to him? I cannot answer these questions for you because it is not clear to me exactly what you want him to do, but in order to teach him what you want him to do, you must be precisely articulate your expectations to your son! If he is like most creative and intelligent kids I have taught, you must also be able to answer "Why?" Being unarmed to answer that question, you will leave yourself open for argument and further inappropriate behavior.

Next, "What strategies will you use to teach this new idea to him?"
First of all, let's avoid even talking about consequences for inappropriate behavior for a while because it is much more important to discuss what strategies you will use to structure appropriate behavior. Then, once we are done with that I will briefly discuss some of the reasons that consequences often fail. (It seems appropriate at this point to make the observation that it is extremely common to hear parents worry about the consequences of inappropriate behavior before even considering an attempt at teaching appropriate behavior!) My first eight years of teaching I was caught in this exact trap. One day it dawned upon me that if I could identify for kids exactly what was the desired behavior in a given situation, and if I could express that behavior in language that they could understand, I could drastically increase the chances of getting them to do it! In most cases we parents have an idea in our heads that the first thing we must do when kids misbehave is to jump immediately to consequences. Consequences ought to be our last thought and our last action! It seems to me that when we resort to consequences, we are admitting our attempts at teaching have failed!

This is the problem: ever since Ben was old enough to pick up things, he has taken other people's things without asking.

Did you ever teach him how to make that decision? Did you ever even attempt to word a description of what you would like him to do? Did you tell him what to do in the presence of others' belongings? Or did you just tell him what not to do without any suggestion of what to do? It is never too late to teach a new idea.

He either uses it all up if it's a consumable product, or he doesn't put it away. Then he forgets he has had it so when we ask where it is, he says he never had it. (I believe that he actually doesn't remember because about 1/3 of the time he knows where he left it and will get it for us).

I have grounded him, taken the TV away, taken his property away; hurt him, talked to him about how it makes me feel, scolded him, and had him agree to ask before he takes things. Nothing has worked for long. Usually when I run into a problem with Ben, if he can feel what it is like to be on the other end, he gets it. However, when I took his stuff and hid it, it didn't faze him because he loses his own stuff so much that he didn't even realize that I had taken it.

Well, this simply proves my point that consequences, (especially ones that you create) don't work very well to change behavior nor do they work for very long when they do! So, at this point I would again ask, "What do you want him to do?" When you have answered this question in detail, stating exactly what it is you desire for him to do at the very moment he is about to use someone else's property; I would ask the critical question. "Now, how can you best TEACH him to do that which you have described?"

Remember the worst time to teach is during the act. It would be impossible for me to teach you how to run a video camera in the middle of your son's first baseball game or his first birthday party. You couldn't focus on the camera or the task of operating it. Kids can't focus at stressful times either. Yet, that seems to be the time when we most often try to teach a lesson to a kid... right in the middle of misbehavior. Don't let yourself get caught in that trap.

Pick a time when you both are calm and there are no distractions and then proceed to TEACH him what he should do when he is contemplating "borrowing" another's property. Usually the worst way to teach anything is through words. Think about how you learned to ride a bike... by getting on a seat and grabbing the handlebars. Nobody learns to ride a bike by reading a manual or by listening to parents talk about it! Do the same here as you teach respect for others' personal property. "Put him on the seat and give him the handlebars!" Tell him, "When you see some M&M's sitting on the table, it is appropriate to find the owner and ask if you may have some. As a matter of fact when you ask, you should also find out how many you may have. So, here are the M&M's. Now, you show me exactly what you will do the next time" and then let him do it! Let him actually ask you if he may have some and have him ask you how many he may have.

Wait and watch while he does just as you suggested. Do not leave the teaching situation until he does exactly as you have requested. If he does not do it exactly as you wish, make corrections and have him try it again. Wait a day and do the exact same exercise, only this time, do it with one of Dad's tools. Then, a day later, do the same thing with another item that he might be tempted to "borrow."

Remember, it took you a couple of repetitions to learn to run a video camera or to ride a bike so it will naturally take him a few repetitions to learn to ask before using another's property. Keep repeating your detailed expectations until he does it without any coaching or reminding from you. All the while it is important to get him to self-reward for his newly developed behavior. By this I mean you continually point out to him how good it feels to do what is right and how good it feels to respect others' property and how much others appreciate his thoughtful efforts and how proud you are of his new behavior!

Here are some examples. Last night my husband was looking for his black hammer.

Does this hammer have a specific place it belongs? Does your husband ever leave it out without returning it to its' proper place? It is harder to ask a kid to do something if you don't do it yourself.

He asked the kids and I if we had seen it. No one had seen it but Dad found it in Ben's closet. I never have any tape even though I bought Ben 4 rolls of tape for Christmas and 4 rolls for his birthday. I have even written "MINE, HANDS OFF!" on my tape, but it is gone the next time I want it.

Again, telling him what not to do resulted in his failure to do what you wanted. What should he have done in that situation? What should he do the next time he needs tape and he can't find any? He seems to need help in putting his stuff where he can find it. Do you want him to be better organized? Do you want him to ask permission? Do you want him to scrap the project he is on? You will have to answer these and other questions if you are going to have him make a positive change in his behavior.

The remote controls are always missing because he has carried them wherever he is going - the kitchen, bathroom, refrigerator, under his bed, under the couch.

Man, I used to do the same thing all the time. I would get up with the darn thing in my hand and then later I would find it on the stove or in the refrigerator, or on the counter in the bathroom. It was not until I finally developed a habit of putting it in one spot that I could ever find it. Man, I would get angry and frustrated and accuse everyone else of losing it then I asked myself, "What do I want?" I wanted to be able to find it and I could drastically increase the chances of that if I always put it in the same place. I identified what to do! It changed my behavior.

I had two umbrellas - one I carried in my briefcase and one in my trunk. I took them out and let the kids take them to school one day. I haven't seen them since even though Ben swears he never took it, and Sarah swears she brought hers home.

When you give him the umbrella tell him exactly where it goes when he is finished using it and then before you give it to him have him model for you exactly what he will do with it when he returns it. Don't make the mistake of thinking he has heard you simply because you have explained... make him show you. If you tell him what you will do to him if he doesn't return it, the idea you have just planted in his brain is a very clear picture of failure! Don't go there! Simply tell him the desired behavior.

Last summer when we were building the back fence, I found Steve's miter saw that had been missing for a year. It was bent and rusted and stuck between the steps of the playhouse, but when asked, Ben claimed he hadn't used it.

Take him to the shop and show him where things belong and how to put them there. If he says he knows where they go, tell him you are going to show him just to make sure he knows. I had the same problem with one of our sons and when I showed him where I kept tools in my shop a surprising thing happened... he proceeded to point out to me a much more logical way to organize and together we really put things in order! You might create a powerful idea in his head by asking for his help in creating order in the shop.

Now, for a brief comment about consequences: I believe they should be a last resort and only used when all else fails. This does not mean that I, in any way, am advocating leniency. Be firm, direct, and demanding with regard to your son's behavior. Always let him know exactly what you expect. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and always do what you say you are going to do! No exceptions! If you do create consequences be certain to make them fit the offense logically. If he takes his sister's things without asking, then her room becomes off limits to him. If your tape disappears then he can't use your tape, ever. If necessary, put it in a locked drawer. Keep the anger out. Do not lecture him or "brow beat" him, just do what you say you are going to do. Always explain the ground rules of this last resort before hand: it is not reasonable to dish out artificial consequences without spelling them out in advance.

If you do decide to resort to consequences, please remember what happened to me as I was growing up. I was sent to my room at least 1000 times for teasing my sisters. While suffering the consequences of my inappropriate behavior, I never one time held an idea in my head that my parents wanted to rule my world. When I went to my room the ideas that filled my head were that I hated my sisters, and that my parents weren't fair. I vowed over and over that as soon as I got out of my room, I would get my sisters out behind the barn and hold their heads in the watering trough for tattling on me. And as I sat in my room fuming with anger about how much I hated my folks, never did I think about how I would treat my sisters in a reasonable manner because nobody ever gave me a suggestion of what I should do in place of my inappropriate behavior.

This is driving my husband and me nuts. It makes our daughter scream when her stuff is found out of its place used, empty, abused, and tossed wherever Ben was when he started on the next idea/project. He is extremely creative, and usually takes others' property when he is making something.

Being creative is praiseworthy but it is no excuse for abusing other family members' stuff. Have your daughter teach him where her things belong and have her express to Ben how important it is to her to have her things in their place. Absolutely do not let her wait until he has taken her stuff to give him this instruction. Remember to do this at some time other than when he has just violated her personal property! I might even suggest a family meeting to discuss the ground rules of respect for personal property in your home. Do not make this a "family vs. Ben meeting but rather make it a meeting where all are discussing the "family rules" and allow Ben as much input as everyone else.
One final thought. The problem is really not one of stealing or even of dishonesty. Rather it seems to be only a problem of a son viewing things in the home as sort of a big pool of common property. Teach him in that context... that you are simply defining the limits and boundaries to personal property inside your home.

Now, here is a sobering thought for you to ponder for a moment: don't worry too much about further disturbance of your own private stuff because most likely you are only looking at about 4 - 5 more years and he will be gone from your home! Then you will have your tape and saws all to yourself! Make sure you delight in his random creativity while it is in your home because soon enough it will be gone.

Good luck and I will be interested in your reply,

Mac Bledsoe
Mac and Barbara Bledsoe




Mac & Barbara Bledsoe

Teen Suicide, Teen Pregnancy, Gangs, Drugs, School Violence and more… What Can We Do?

By Mac and Barbara Bledsoe

An Alarm is sounding; these are our kids and we must answer the alarm!

Please be warned that, in this article, we may seem to be alarmed or worried. Well, I am alarmed and worried and it is because I am scared! I am scared for the children of America, and some of the kids I am scared for belong to you!

About 23 years ago I had a very shocking experience… we were awakened from our sleep by our neighbor banging on the wall of our trailer house. He was screaming, "Our house is on fire! Our house is on fire! Call for help!"

This was before 911 had become universal, so we dialed the number of the volunteer fire department and then ran across the road to see if we could help. Luckily, our landlord was on the fire crew so he was immediately on the scene and able to take charge. The fire hall was only a mile down the road so the rest of the crew was there almost immediately. Our neighbor had gotten his wife and two older children out of the house but was yelling frantically that their baby was still in the house. The trained firemen told him there was nothing they could do because entering that burning building now was suicide. At that moment the father grabbed a blanket from the ground, dunked it in the kids wading pool in the back yard, pulled it over his head, kicked in the back door and crawled into the roaring house. None of the firemen saw this perilous act by the father coming and because they were so caught by surprise none of them could act to stop the frantic father. Moments later he crawled out of the burning house with the two-year-old wrapped in the wet blanket. He had found her huddled in the corner of the closet, unharmed except for the effects of smoke inhalation. He had wrapped the little girl in the wet blanket and then crawled back out with her and saving her life. The father himself was now badly burned with little hair remaining on his head and blisters forming on his face, arms, and torso. The father was now in dire need of first aid and medical treatment.

The firemen were tending to him when one of them asked how he could take that courageous action when they, the firemen with all their training, had been able to do nothing. The father's answer was very enlightening. He looked calmly at the firemen and replied, "She's not your baby!"

Man, that father had just said a mouthful! How true it is that parents can take some very courageous action when it is on behalf of their own children! The time is now for parents to become courageous.

Let me say it again, Parental Love can allow us to do some amazing things on behalf of our children and the time has come for some courageous parental action. The alarm is sounding. It is not the fire alarm at the volunteer fire department but this alarm is sounding with equal urgency. Just listen. Teen suicide is at an all time high; gang violence is out of control; teen pregnancy is more common every day; childhood drug abuse is stealing children's ability to make decisions and clouding their thinking everywhere you look; and this alarm is getting louder each day. The tragedy is that any one of the above situations could claim the life of one of our children just as surely as a burning house! We as parents must act and act now because they are our kids. It is no longer acceptable to wait until our children are in crisis to teach them how to make the tough decisions about drugs, sex, friends, violence, and the treatment of others, honesty, compassion, and the rest. Would you run into a burning building to save your child? Yes! Just like our neighbor; but wouldn't he have been better off teaching that two-year-old how to get out of the house before the place was on fire? Wouldn't kids be better served if parents gave more guidance before they were in crisis rather than waiting until things get hot?

Just last week we received a frantic letter from the distraught mother of a 13-year-old girl who is making some poor decisions. To quote the mother's letter, "We're having Big Troubles with our daughter's decision making! We have sent her to her Dad's for the time being to get her away from a no good, loser boyfriend!" The mother is in a second marriage and the daughter is the product of her first failed marriage. At the time when her daughter most needs her mother's guidance she is shipping her off to her Dad's with the thought that a change of location will bring about better choices. What the daughter really needs right now is guidance in picking mates of the opposite sex. She does not need a new environment. A new environment may be necessary if things have become illegal or life threatening, but the mother's role should be that of giving guidance and leadership, hopefully before the daughter has became involved. Now that she is involved the mother must become a source of information and guidance at this tough and challenging time. It is not right to "leave her in a burning building." This scenario is being repeated all across America. Parents are deserting their children at the very time when the kids need them most.

Have you begun in the process of teaching your children how to pick friends? Have your children received usable guidance, from you, about appropriate behavior with the opposite sex? Have you given your children instruction in how to act at their first exposure to a drug pusher? Have you instructed your children in how to make the decision about entering a fight or walking away? If your answer to any of these is, "No!" then you may be in the situation of the mother in the letter and you may be in that situation sooner than you think.

Many parents are deluded into thinking that negative consequences and punishment will solve the problem; and they will not! Punishment is reactive in nature. Consequences and punishment can only be used after the child has made the mistake! (Unless you are foolish enough to suggest using it before the kid makes a mistake!) With most of the problems being faced by kids in today's world they may never get a second chance! Parents simply cannot wait for the kid to try street drugs because the drugs are so strong and addictive that the kid is hooked on the first exposure! The violence is often final and fatal. Parents cannot wait until the second fight or the second pregnancy or the second addiction to try to teach via punishment and consequences!

You can make threats of future punishment but those are useless simply because when kids hear the threats, they just figure that they will be sneaky enough to not get caught. It just becomes big game to see if they can get away with their actions.

My apologies for seeming spend this entire article speaking of alarming and shocking thoughts but the current situation simply has proven to us that increasing numbers of parents are leaving kids in burning houses or are waiting until the house is on fire before giving needed instruction to their kids. Please don't be one of those who wait until it is too late. The alarm is sounding and they are your kids! They need your guidance now; before there is a crisis!

Take a quick look around you. Your children are not immune to the problems being faced by other families and other children. Their only immunity will only come when you effectively teach them what to do in each situation!





Time out . . .

Is it my
or do buffalo
wings taste
like chicken?

You don't stop laughing because you grow old.
You grow old because you stop laughing!


The owner of a small deli was being questioned by the IRS about his tax return. He had reported a net profit of $80,000 for the year.

"Why don't you people leave me alone?" the deli owner said. "I work like a dog, everyone in my family helps out, and the place is closed only three days a year. And you want to know how I made $80,000?"

"It's not your income that bothers us," the agent said. "It's these deductions. You listed six trips to Bermuda for you and your wife."

"Oh, that," the owner said, smiling. "I forgot to tell you - we also deliver."




If you get an envelope from a company called the "Internal Revenue Service," or "IRS," DO NOT OPEN IT! This group operates a scam around this time every year.

Their letter claims that you owe them money, which they will take and use to pay for the operation of essential functions of the United States government.  This is untrue! The money the IRS collects is used to fund various inefficient and pointless social engineering projects.

This organization has ties to another shady outfit called the Social Security Administration, who claim to take money from your regular paychecks and save it for your retirement. In truth, the SSA uses the money to pay for the same misguided make-work projects the IRS helps mastermind.

These scam artists have bilked honest, hard working Americans out of hundreds of billions of dollars. Don't fall for this scam!


(Hopefully everyone knows this is just a joke.... I think)




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