Bellingham Bulletin

Article Last Updated:
Saturday, November 17, 2001
By Marjorie Turner

Mac Bledsoe is unafraid to challenge ideas
or ruffle feathers.

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 ( 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;

  1. Tell them what you want--then Bledsoe explained, "Ask, 'What do you want?' Simple, but harder to apply than one might think."
  2. 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."
  3. 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."
  4. 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.

Marjorie Turner


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