One suspects he has been
ruffling feathers for a long time. He recently spent
the day in Bellingham, visiting each of the schools in town, speaking to
the students, and then met with parents the same evening. Tall, rangy,
with a quick smile and a big heart, Bledsoe spoke about what he has been
working on for the last 29 years--parenting.
He and his wife Barbara, both school teachers, would
come home feeling frustrated that so much of the
trouble they had with kids in their classes stemmed
from the children's parent's lack of parenting skills.
Out of sheer frustration, the Bledsoes invited the parents of their
students to meet with them, taught them some very basic skills, and
watched to see what would happen.
The difference they saw convinced them that they could
make a difference in other's lives, and so, 24 years
ago, they began teaching parenting workshops and
classes. Now, having been challenged by their son, Drew
Bledsoe, of the New England Patriots, they have set up the Drew Bledsoe
Foundation (www.drewbledsoe.com) with the commission to "make a
difference in the lives of children by teaching their parents."
As their son, Drew says on their web site, "My parents
helped me the most to be what I am today." Thus, he
offered to use his money, as well as the "insane
amount of attention given to professional football," to get their
message of "Parenting with Dignity" out there. Mac noted, "I'm not
teaching anything different than 24 years ago." He also reasoned, "It's
much easier to teach respect if it's being taught everywhere (in your
community,) not just one place. We would love to partner with your
community to have our 9 week parenting course."
Bledsoe presented several succinct ideas to the parents
who met at the New Bellingham High School. First, "No
one can put an idea in your head without your
permission." He then challenged parents to be pro-active,
not just wait until there is a crisis in their children's lives. "I'm
finding hardly any adults are giving their children ideas to use. Just
say "no" is worthless against drugs--name the penalties, give them
suggestions of other things to do, and always provide them with a way to
get out of a bad situation."
He declared, "Your child will make all the big decisions
in his life, because you will not be present when the
decisions are made. Whether the child chooses well or
not, he is the one who makes the decisions, not you,
the parent." He continued, "If you don't give them ideas, they'll
find their own. What they will use are the ideas in their heads. If
you've given them good ones, they'll use them."
A comfortable storyteller, Bledsoe filled the evening with examples of
his own discoveries of "what works," such as epiphanies as a substitute
teacher, realizations of ways in which he unwittingly helped kids get all
sorts of ideas for being disruptive in class.
He also explained clearly some basic principles that can
be applied to any interaction between humans, and then
made the point, "Kids are people!"
Some important principles for positive interaction are;
- Tell them what you want--then Bledsoe explained,
"Ask, 'What do you want?' Simple, but harder to
apply than one might think."
- When I talk, you listen. He noted, "Then you have to
define 'I,' meaning, whoever is doing the talking,
not just the teacher, not just the parent--this
applies to the child as well. When the child is talking,
they are the 'I,' and deserve to be listened to." He continued, "you
also have to define 'listen,' meaning, if you're not
looking at me, you miss the message. Then you
demonstrate the reward, (which is) when you listen
to people, they listen to you."
- When I say "get to work," get to work. Bledsoe
pointed out, "Don't give a child a command at home
that you don't intend to enforce."
- Be respectful. He noted, "you have to give the sales
pitch, show kids how they will benefit."
And perhaps the most important point Bledsoe could have
made during the evening, "Send a constant message of
love, not just in what you say, but in what you do."
He stressed, "Most of the bad decisions being made by
kids are made seeking the unconditional love that they do not get."
Local parent groups are forming, using the curriculum
from the Parenting with Dignity program. Interested
parents should call Deanna Pender at 508-966-3929 or
Edie Naylor at 508-966-2117. Mac Bledsoe's visit to
Bellingham was sponsored by the PTO's in Bellingham.