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The Response-Able Parenting Newsletter 25
February 5, 2004


Welcome! This is a free newsletter on becoming a Response-Able parent, raising Response-Able children.



My mission is to strengthen families and improve parent communication skills (including my own), by helping parents learn practical, useable verbal strategies for raising responsible, caring, confident children.





1. Quote [back to top]


"The family is the cornerstone of our society. More than any other force it shapes the attitude, the hopes, the ambitions, and the values of the child. And when the family collapses, it is the children that are usually damaged. When it happens on a massive scale, the community itself is crippled. So, unless we work to strengthen the family, to create conditions under which most parents will stay together, all the rest - schools, playgrounds, and public assistance and private concern - will never be enough."

----Lyndon Baines Johnson (U.S. President)


2. Definition [back to top]


TOP BUNK: Where you should never place a child wearing Superman pajamas.


3. Spirit Whisperer Contemplation [back to top]


What if paying attention to something causes it to increase? In what ways would that alter what you pay attention to in your parenting?


Subscriber comments, ideas, and concerns are valued. Email your

comment to


4. Bumper Sticker [back to top]


Seen on U.S. 23 near the Saline, MI exit:

Happily Married with Beautiful Children


5. Report Cards [back to top]


Report cards containing semester grades are probably already in the mail. If you haven't already, you will be getting them shortly. Following are some suggestions to help you respond effectively to your child concerning report cards.

Prepare. Ask your child what he or she expects. Your child won't know exactly what grades he or she is going to get but should have some overall impressions. Learning your child's expectations will enable you to determine if the report card contains any surprises. It will also let your child know you anticipate the report card and look forward to talking about it.

Remember that a report card is only one small slice of who your child is. It is a snapshot in time that measures a thin academic view of your child. It does not take into account all of your child's strengths and abilities. For instance, most report cards do not measure critical thinking, creativity, the desire to read for pleasure, interpersonal skills, ability to question, respect for materials, tolerance of diversity, solution seeking, self-responsible language, persistence, and emotional intelligence. Nor do report cards give any indication of the quality of what is learned.

Use praise that is descriptive and appreciative. Stay away from giving global, evaluative praise. Instead of "What a great report card," say, "You improved your grades in four out of five classes." Replace "Excellent" with "It's clear to me that you made school a priority this semester."

If your child's report card is not all that you hoped, focus on solution seeking. Help your child create a plan that will bring grades up in the future. Your child may need to talk to a teacher or two, and/or structure at home may need to be tightened. Some opportunities, such as television and Internet access, may be temporarily lost or reduced until school responsibilities are taken more seriously.


6. Fact [back to top]


Every 4 minutes in America a child is arrested for drug abuse.


Privacy Statement: Under no circumstances do we sell, trade, or exchange your email address, ever. It is safe with us. Always!


7. Article: "And Seven Pencils" [back to top]


by Chick Moorman

At a recent parent/teacher conference I learned that Austin, age 12, had several school assignments unaccounted for. Reasons given by my grandson for the missing assignments included:

"It's in my locker."

"I know I did it. I don't know what happened to it. I remember doing it."

"My teammate must not have turned it in."

"I didn't know we were supposed to turn that in."

"I didn't have a pencil. No one would loan me one."

In discussion with several teachers, I learned that Austin frequently showed up in class without a pencil. When he didn't have one, he borrowed one. After he had borrowed several pencils without returning them, his classmates eventually declined to continue the free pencil policy. So on occasion Austin would sit in class with no pencil. Since most school assignments are difficult to complete without one, he didn't complete some of them.

Talking with Austin after I returned home from the conferences, I mentioned the pencil problem and wondered why he hadn't asked to go to the store to get pencils.

"I got tired of asking you," he replied, "so I gave up."

Searching my memory for recent times when Austin had asked for pencils, I recalled none. His recollection differed from mine; he remembered asking at least a dozen times. After a brief and fruitless discussion of how many times Austin had asked to get pencils, it became clear that the difference of opinion was not going to be resolved easily. We moved on to solution seeking.

We set out to create a plan to see that Austin would have materials for class and get assignments in on time. The first thing we did was buy a box of pencils. What evolved next was the One-Step, Two-Step, Three-Step, and Seven-Pencils Plan. As soon as Austin arrived home from school each day, his responsibility was to implement steps One, Two, and Three:

One: Empty your backpack and show me your planner.

Two: Make a list of all homework assignments and prioritize them.

Three: Begin on homework, starting with your top priority.

Austin needs structure. He also needs a mental model of what is expected. And he needs to have that model reinforced with consistency. Steps One, Two, and Three were done every day with no exceptions. I checked to make certain of that.

In addition to doing steps One, Two, and Three, Austin was required to keep seven pencils with him at all times. If he didn't come home from school with seven pencils, or if he failed to do steps One, Two, or Three, he forfeited some of his favorite activities. In short, if he didn't honor his responsibilities, he lost some opportunities (Gameboy, TV, and Internet access).

"Seven pencils is stupid," he said to me one day.

"What do you mean?" I inquired.

"I only need one, or maybe two if one gets lost. Having to keep seven is silly."

"You might be right," I allowed. "And it seems to be working."

Later that week Austin asked, "If I come home with only six pencils, do I lose an opportunity?"

"Yep," I replied.

"That's dumb."

"You think so?"

"Yeah. I can do my work with six or five or four pencils."

"Except that our plan requires seven pencils."

"My friends think seven pencils is dumb too."

"How do they know you need seven pencils?"

"I told them."

"How come?"

"Justin wanted to borrow a pencil, and I told him he couldn't, because if I didn't have seven pencils when I got home, I would lose TV time."


"He thinks it's stupid. None of my other friends have to have seven pencils. They think you're mean."

"What do you think?"

"I just think it's silly."

"I see. Do you have seven pencils now?"


"Let's see."

Austin produced the seven pencils and counted them out for me.

Over the next few weeks Austin found much support from his friends that having to have seven pencils was stupid. He even inferred that some of his teachers thought having seven pencils was a bit much, although I was not able to substantiate that claim.

So why seven pencils? What is so magic about that number?

Seven pencils is an outrageous number, just the kind of number a kid like Austin needs to keep in his consciousness in order to remember how many pencils he needs. Austin had no trouble remembering he needed seven pencils. The number seemed so silly to him that he burned it indelibly into his brain.

Two pencils would not have done the trick. Two pencils are too easy to lose, too easy to figure you can borrow before you get home, too easy to forget, too easy to dismiss as unimportant. Seven is too hard to ignore.

Five pencils didn't seem quite enough. Seven was bound to generate more complaints, more attention, more thinking, more controversy.

As it turned out, Austin kept seven pencils on his person or in his backpack for three months without one incident of coming up short. A couple of times the pencils were less than two inches long, but there were seven in all.

"You're kind of strange," Austin told me recently.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"That seven pencil thing is really dumb."

"How many pencils do you have right now?"


I wanted to point out that the "seven pencil thing" was working. I wanted to defend myself and state my case. And sometimes the best Parent Talk is to say nothing at all. So I kept my mouth shut except for counting to seven as I checked his pencils.

(Please use the following trailer if you reproduce this article: Chick Moorman is the author of "Parent Talk: How to Talk to Your Child in Language That Builds Self-Esteem and Encourages Responsibility" and "Spirit Whisperers: Teachers Who Nourish a Child's Spirit." (available from Personal Power Press at (toll-free) 877-360-1477 or


8. We Get Email [back to top]



I was at one of your recent seminars in Pennsylvania. I really enjoyed your talk! You made me laugh and you made me cry. Most importantly, you made me take a look at myself and my parenting style. I thank you for that.

I have been reading your "Parent Talk" book and find it practical and usable.

I do have one question. My seven-year-old son is extremely conscientious and sensitive. He also gets anxious and upset quickly. He has been blessed with good intelligence. Unfortunately, at times he is also righteous and feels he knows more than others. So on occasion, he comes across as a know-it-all and always having to one-up someone. Although people tell me he's not nasty when he does it, he still hurts children's feelings or makes them feel inadequate.

We've tried working with him on this, but it's been difficult to break. I'm not sure how to really resolve this positively so that he maintains his own self-esteem without damaging other children's. I would appreciate any guidance you can give me.

I look forward to hearing from you, and thanks for your insight,

Hello, Pennsylvaniamomma,

Here is one possibility. Every time you hear oneupsmanship, tell him, "Billy, that is oneupsmanship. It encourages others to feel small and causes resentment. In this family we support others' ideas by telling what we liked about the ideas and then asking if they would like to hear our thoughts on them. It sounds like this: ' . . . '"

Use this sentence every time your hear oneupsmanship. No exceptions. This will teach your son the new behavior you want him to use in place of oneupsmanship. You will be teaching him the new words you want him to say and an interpersonal skill that he can put to good use throughout his life.


Chick Moorman


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To find out more about workshops, seminars, and keynote addresses presented by Chick Moorman contact him at toll free, 877/360-1477 or email


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