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Updated on March 25, 2013


This is the fourth in a series of blogs addressing the topic, What Happened to Respect and Appreciation. These blogs correspond to six foster parent training classes that I am facilitating at San Bernardino Valley College on Tuesday and Friday mornings from 9 a. m. to Noon, starting January 11 and ending January 28, 2011. If you live nearby and want to attend the classes, email me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 What happened to Good Ol’ Authority?

Friday, January 14, 2011 What Are Our Needs For Respect and Appreciation About?

Tuesday, January 18 The Relationship Between Foster Parent and Foster Child.

Friday, January 21 Firmly Holding The Child Responsible and Accountable

Tuesday, January 25 So what About Discipline?

Friday, January 28 What Do I Want For Their Children?

PLEASE NOTE. Although the target population, so to speak, are foster parents, the wisdom here is for all of us who are parents and or caregivers of any kind.

To review the previous blogs or classes of this series, check out the following blogs


If you have not attended the previous three classes or read the previous three blogs, just for fun, as well as good information, check them out. The links are listed above.

In the last class, we talked about holding a child as a way of providing him or her balance. We also talked about containment and a variety of ways of holding children both directly and environmentally. So small children, when they are out of control, we can actually pick them up and hold them and soothe them until they calm down and get themselves back in control. With bigger children we can also vicariously hold them by sitting next to them, by wrapping a blanket around them, by sitting with them in a small enclosed space, like a car on the way to get a burger or a starbucks! Or in the dining area in contrast to a large open family room.

Today, we will also use the word HOLD, and I purposely use the word HOLD. We want to learn how to HOLD our children responsible and accountable. As we are holding them responsible and accountable, we want to have that image going on inside our brain, the image of HOLDING them.

In the good old days, we were told that it was a must to have children RESPECT us. But let’s face it, the child will not miss out on anything if they never respect us. But they will miss out on a great deal if we do not hold them responsible and accountable. You do not need their respect to hold them responsible and accountable. Please let this sink in. It is so very very important. And the more you learn how to hold them responsible and accountable in a firm but warm and respectful way, they will come to automatically respect themselves, respect you and respect others.

The bottom line in HOLDING a child responsible and accountable is supporting them looking at, confronting, dealing with THEIR CHOICES, THEIR BEHAVIOR and the CONSEQUENCES of their choices and behavior. The purpose is NOT to have them look at, confront, or deal with YOU. Either you confronting them or having them confront you provides them a cop out because then they can just focus on how crazy, how unreasonable, how unfair, how stupid, how dumb you are. They don’t even have to look at their choices, their behavior, and the consequences of their choices and behavior.

Do you get that? Read it as many times as necessary to get it. It is so so important.

So having them confront, look at, deal with their choices, their behavior, and the consequences of their choices and behavior will determine how and where you physically stand or sit in relationship to the child or teen, what you say to the child or teen, as well as your tone of voice and all of your non verbal language. At the point of holding them responsible and accountable, we do not want to give them ANYTHING that will distract their focus from their choices, their behavior, and the consequences of their choices and behavior. At this moment, the point is not how powerful or convincing we are, but getting them to look at, deal with, and confront their choices, their behavior, and the consequences of their choices and behavior. Anything less than complete focus on their choices, their behavior, and the consequences of their choices and behavior opens the door for them to be irresponsible and unaccountable.

This class is really a matter of choreography. We will take each situation you present and choreograph the “dance” between you and the child or teen. We will demonstrate where to stand, where to sit, how to point to their choices, behavior, and the consequences of their choices and behavior. We will cookbook what to say and exactly how to say it.

The easiest and most fun example is the telephone call you get from the school. So the school calls and leaves a voice mail message. “Sara was absent from first, second, and sixth period today. Please call the attendance office to verify her absences.”

Of course, you know nothing of Sara’s absences and you immediately suspect “foul play.” Maybe she didn’t have her homework assignments done, maybe she wasn’t prepared to recite her poem, or maybe she got a better invitation to hang out with friends! The bottom line. you know of no reason why Sara should be absent.

Okay, so here is our scenario. Here is what you do and what you do NOT do,


For some strange reason, we all have a secret desire to be Sherlock Holmes. We get almost a sadistic pleasure in catching a child in a lie, SO WE SET THEM UP TO LIE.

Stop setting the child up to lie. What does it prove to you when the child lies about something you already know about? You think it tells you whether or not the child is honest or trust worthy? NO it does not tell you that. It only tells you how human and normal your child is. A lie is not about honesty, but about avoidance. We all mishape the truth of an event as a way to save our behind. Yes, we all do. Don’t lie!! We all have a natural instinct to avoid pain, and one of the ways to avoid pain is to deny you did something that if you confess to it, you will get into a heap of trouble. It actually shows a level of normalcy and intelligence. Think about the moment you are pulled over by the Highway Patrol! So now, tell me how honest you are. Think about the moment before you get pulled over. You lie to yourself and make up some story that justifies your speeding! I have pictures of you, so let’s not even go there. We all lie. It is just who we are, animals with instincts to save our butts and avoid pain. So you might even want to worry a bit about a child who is so totally honest.

So DO NOT ask the child if they attended school or if they attended all their classes. DO NOT.

So when Sara comes home from school, you say to her, “Hey, Sara. There is the most interesting and intriguing message I have ever heard on the voice mail. I think it message number three. Check it out, dear, and put the speaker phone on so we can both hear it.”

The point of the speaker phone is not to cause embarrassment or shame, but for Sara to confront the message. Have this moment of confrontation private, between you and Sara or if you have a coparent, between the three of you.

More than likely, Sara is going to deny the message. She might even say something like, “I was there....I was a little late, they probably turned role in just before I got there.....that teacher never gets anything right......”

You do not argue with Sara about her rebuttal. You just say, “Okay, well, I better get another call from the school tomorrow saying exactly what you just told me. And if not, then I will go to the attendance office the next day.” OVER, END.

Of course you follow through.

You know a child stole money from your purse. You sit next to the child. Do not ask them if they took the money from your purse. If you know they did, then you know. Sit next to them. Point to a spot in front of the child as if the money were there. Point to the stolen money. Say, “So, Sara, what do you think about the twenty dollars you stole from my purse?”

Let’s say Sara denies. You simply say, “So, Sara, what do you think about the twenty dollars you stole from my purse?”

Again, you are sitting next to the child, pointing to the behavior as if the behavior itself is right there in front of the child. “Sara, I know you...... So what do you think?”

When Sara wants to engage in an argument, DO NOT SAY, Sara, tell me the truth.....don’t lie....make this easy on yourself.....DO NOT SAY anything like this. Simply repeat the question. “Sara, I know you....So tell me what do you think? So tell me what’s going on? So tell me how are you going to take care of this?”

If you get nowhere, simply end the conversation with “Well, we’ll talk later.” And make sure you go back to the issue later AND in the same manner. Do not stand in front of the child. Do not tower over the child. Do not point your finger. Do not raise your voice. Do not ask questions, like “What were you thinking about?” Simply again, point to the behavior as if it is right there in front of the child, and say, “What do you think? So tell me what’s going on here....I’m a little confused, what’s this about....So what do you think?”

INSIDE YOUR BRAIN, you have to be thinking that the child or teen is going to cooperate. If you think they will, most of the time, they will. You have to exude confidence. You will never bat a thousand here. And that is okay. Some kids are tough and the goal is not to break them, but simply to have them confront their choices, their behavior, and the consequences of their choices and behavior.

Once they begin to confront their behavior, keep it simple. When they begin rattling on and on with kinds of excuses why they did what they did, simply interrupt. “Sara, it is okay, really. I appreciate you confronting your choices and your behaviors. Just tell me, right now, what you plan to do about this, what do you plan to do to fix this?” Allow the child considerable room at this point. The first time you have this kind of conversation, take almost anything you can get back from the child, so you get the child into the pattern of confronting their behavior and becoming aware that they do not have to be afraid you are going to inflict some kind of awful painful forever and forever consequence.

In fact, let them set the consequence and make sure the consequence they set is not too harsh. Kids tend to do that, you know.

Even when you do not know what to say or how to respond, your silence, your calmness can be the means of having the child confront his choices, his behavior and the consequences of his choices and behavior.


Hopefully, we can stop taking children’s and teen’s behavior personally even when it seems clear that it is a personal afront to us. Everything a child does is a message.

When a child lies, he is telling us that no one wants to hear the truth of his or her life.

When a child steals, he or she is telling us that they feel ripped off by life.

When a child poops in their pants or poops in inappropriate places, they may be telling us just how crappy life is for them. Or if they are urinating in the same manner, they may be telling us that they are pissed off!

If they are hoarding food, they may be telling us that they cannot be sure they will ever have enough–enough of whatever they need. It could be love, it could be food. If we have the child always confronting us or we are confronting the child, we will never get to these metaphores.

So, if you have a behavior that is driving you nuts and you do not know how to respond to it, tell us in the comments section, and I will then leave you my response, using the methodology described above. If you are here in class, present us your situation, and we will cookbook a response on the boor, again using the above methodology.


Next week, we look at the topic of discipline. So get your belts off!! See you on Tuesday.


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    • vrbmft profile imageAUTHOR

      Vernon Bradley 

      7 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Tom. I enjoy working on my own parenting skills, altho everyone is an adult now, but I still work with lots of kids, both little and teens, in my work and some days are more challenging than others. But I have trained myself to practice what I "preach" and I get to laugh at myself sometimes when I am tempted to do some pretty off the wall stuff that goes totally contrary to everything I know in terms of how we "tick" as both adults and kids. But those moments keep me humble! I love this stuff and kids are people just like us and they really want so little. We tend to think they want more than they do and so we often offer them way more than they are looking for and then we really confuse the mix, so to speak, set ourselves up for more grief than necessary.

      Typically, kids just want TIME with us.

      Respect is an interesting experience and not something that can be demanded or legislated!! It happens when you combine the right ingredients!

      Again, thanks for reading and commenting. I am way behind in reading my followers' blogs. It has been a very busy two weeks. So if there is something new there by you and I missed it, I will catch up. I have a list of everyone's latest posts.

      Peace (I like that you say that) and love, Tom


    • justom profile image


      7 years ago from 41042

      Another great lesson Vern, when I was a kid I was kind of an ahole. I was always told to respect my elders and I said I'll respect them if they respect me. Getting older I think I have more respect for everybody because life ain't easy. I wish more folks would take note of your words, they just make so much sense. Peace and Love bro!! Tom


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