Bledsoe gives community members lesson on parenting

<p>Mac Bledsoe speaks with area community members about his five rules on parenting Monday night at the New Hope Church in Hermiston.</p>

Mac Bledsoe, father of former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe, came to Hermiston Monday night to talk about the role of parents in their children’s lives and their influence over their children when they make large decisions.

Mac Bledsoe is the author of two different parenting books, “Parenting with Dignity” and “Parenting with Dignity: The Early Years,” where he describes his basic principles of parenting for all ages.

Bledsoe outlined his basic rules for parenting Monday night at the New Hope Church in Hermiston. He said, using these rules, he has seen positive success with in his own children, with his students when he was a teacher and as a coach.

He said the best piece of advice he has heard to this day came from his child’s doctor at birth.

“This child is not yours,” Bledsoe recalled his doctor saying him. “He never has been. He will never will be. He has a will of his own. He is just on loan to you for the next 18 years.”

Bledsoe told audience members he wanted them to think of their child’s life as a mortgage because, by the age of 18 they will be the sole owners of their lives.

“By age 9, he better be making half his own big decisions,” he said. “When he is 9, he is the half owner of his life.”

Bledsoe said by age 5, children spend more time with other people’s children than they do with their own parents, and some of those same friends are going to be the ones who will introduce them to the world of drugs as they get older.

“Those kids will make all of the big decisions in their (own) life,” he said. “Drugs, I still think, is the biggest decision that young people face today. They are going to make that decision. The drug pusher isn’t going to come over to the house. Your kids will make that decision.”

Bledsoe said when the time comes to make that decision, children are going to use what their parents taught them, which he connected to his first rule of parenting.

“End any criticism with a positive statement of expected behavior,” he said. “Tell your kids what you want.”

When a child is asked if they want to use drugs, for example, parents should educate them on what to say in advance, Bledsoe said.

“Are you aware that that is a saleable amount? That is a felony,” he said of what children could say to their friends when offered drugs. “That is at least one year or more in a federal penitentiary.”

Bledsoe said the majority of the people who are incarcerated don’t know what they were charged and are serving time for, which is a major problem in today’s society.

“They need to know the laws and consequences of those laws in order to make the decision,” he said.

Bledsoe said his second rule is that parents should criticize the behavior of the child, not the child him or herself.

“Most of the time, it is possible to give the person a compliment while the behavior is being corrected,” he said.

Bledsoe’s third rule, he said, is not assuming a child has heard something just because the parent has said it, and parents should repeat what they say. He said that doesn’t mean parents should aimlessly repeat things until the child completes the action. Instead, he said, parents should try to say things in different ways.

An example he gave is when his wife was having problems with their sons picking up their wet towels after they took a shower in the morning. To address the problem, she bought each of them two of their own colored towels for which they were each responsible. When it came down to day three of taking a shower, they no longer had a towel to use if they left it on the floor. Soon enough, they were hanging their towels up where they belonged, Bledsoe said.

“She didn’t have to nag, or really say anything,” he said. “She taught them what they were doing wrong with their own actions.”

Bledsoe said his fourth rule is, “It does not matter what you say; it is what they say to themselves that counts.”

He said self-motivation is the only kind of motivation. An example of that is when he was helping come up with ideas for a parental-control computer program. He said most children rejected the software that predetermined what they were allowed and prohibited from viewing on the computer. When they asked the child’s opinions in deciding what should be blocked, often their feedback was far stricter than that of the generic software.

“It is because their opinion was taken into account,” Bledsoe said. “They got to have a say.”

Bledsoe’s fifth and final rule surrounds the idea of love.

“Parents should send a constant and continual message of love,” he said. “Love is not just something you say. It is also something you do.”

Bledsoe said parents should actively show and express their love for their children or else they might not receive the message. He said when he coached football, he would discuss weekly topics stemming from powerful words. One week, he chose the topic of family. What he found is that a group of the players didn’t value family because they hadn’t thought of their parent’s strictness and high standards as love.

“There are many ways to say I love you, but you should actually say the words,” Bledsoe said. “I didn’t hear my dad say those three words until I was 36 years old.”

Additionally, Bledsoe said the time children most need to hear the words “I love you” is when parents feel they are least able to say it. He said when children leave home is when they need to hear the words the most.

“That is probably the time when their heart is most open to receive the message,” he said.

Hermiston resident Lacey Cleveland said she thought Bledsoe’s presentation was eye-opening.

“I thought it was quite an amazing experience,” she said. “It makes a lot of sense. I like what he says. It makes you think.”

Cleveland said she has two boys, and she will be utilizing all of the rules he presented, as well as the things he has written about in his books.

“It is very informative,” she said.

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