Parents must teach good decisions

Published 8:50 am Thursday, February 13, 2003

By By BILL CRIST - Publisher
National signing day came and went last Wednesday. High school football playing seniors across the nation held coaches and fans in suspense as they decided where they would spend the next four to five years playing football and sometimes even earning a degree.
Depending on your alma mater, or favorite school, the day was a boom, bust or just one more among so many other mediocre days. It was hard to avoid the wall-to-wall coverage of the signings, forecasts on how the players would fare in college and bragging between fans about which school landed the most prized recruits.
Amid all the posturing and speculation, the Pensacola sports radio station aired a broadcast with Mac Bledsoe, father of NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe. The elder Bledsoe has recently written a book titled "Parenting With Dignity." The basic concept behind the book, Mac Bledsoe says on his website, is that, "Our children don't need to be 'fixed,' parents need to become better at what they do."
During the interview, he said that the idea was to help parents teach their children how to make better decisions.
He used the example of experimenting with drugs, and said that most likely a child is not going to be exposed to marijuana, and have the opportunity to use it, when his or her parents are around. A more likely scenario is that he will be with friends, at a party or somewhere else away from parental supervision. Too often, Mac Bledsoe said, we simply tell our children not to do something, without fully explaining what can happen if they participate in illegal activities and without giving our children any ways to get out of the situation.
He used the example of telling the show's host "don't go around kicking elephants." In most of our minds, when we heard that, we instantly pictures ourselves kicking an elephant, the exact opposite of what was said. When we tell our children, or even other adults, not to do something, they usually do not hear the word "don't."
Instead, he recommends that parents tell their children what they do want them to do. Rather than waiting for a child to misbehave in the store, and constantly chasing him around telling him not to touch things, Bledsoe recommends that before entering the store we should tell the child how we expect them to behave. It's at that point that we can say to keep his or her hands in their pockets, to stay close by us, that type of thing. By explaining what we want, as parents, we are more likely to get the outcome we're looking for.
Another example Bledsoe gave was a "way out" for his children. If they found themselves in a situation they did not know how to handle, they'd break away saying they were ordering pizza or calling a friend. In the message was the understanding that the child wanted their father to come get them. Bledsoe said he didn't mind barging into a party and taking one of his sons home, playing the bad guy. That allowed the child to "save face" with his friends, but gave them the opportunity to avoid having to say "no" in the face of peer pressure.
By building this pattern of desired behavior, and then giving our kids the information they need to make informed decisions, we have the opportunity to become better parents. Bledsoe seems to be saying that we need to take a more proactive approach, leading rather than punishing. In nearly every case, that applies in the home, the workplace and anywhere else we interact with others.
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