February 23, 2005
A smile, a deep breath: While there are times in parenting that Susan Bosell may not feel like it, this simple technique has helped the Mesa mom and her 10-year-old Nick forge a closer, more understanding relationship.
It’s just one technique Bosell learned from classes offered by the Mesa Unified School District’s Parent University that are meant to teach parents "conscious discipline" through communicating directly with their children.
Parent University is again offering the classes between Monday and April 27, and will kick off this next series with a two-night conference today and Thursday on "Brains, Behavior and Increasing Potential."
At today’s session, Carla Hannaford, an international instructor and author, will teach parents skills to take advantage of a child’s brain — from emotion to sensory experiences — to enhance their learning.
On Thursday, author and instructor Becky Bailey will teach parents what conscious discipline is — a skill of using positive reinforcement and empowerment to redirect everyday situations that can get out of control.
Bosell said it’s important for parents to understand these classes aren’t for "bad" parents — but for parents who want a keen insight on how to interact with children, whose brains are still developing and whose responses may be puzzling to an adult’s mind.
"I think that there is a huge problem with parents practicing responsible parenting," Bosell said. "They always want to blame someone else for the problems they have, or expect the school system to correct their children’s behavior."
An important aspect is preparing children emotionally for how to resolve problems as they grow older and begin to interact with more than just their parents. It’s key in preventing bullying, by teaching children how to ask for what they want and stand up for themselves, said Peggy Senn, who coordinates parenting programs for the Mesa district.
Senn said the program teaches parents and teachers to stop responding to behavior with punishment, and instead work with their children through a relationship-based approach.
Marlene and Keith DeJongh said they have noticed a difference in how their grandson Eli, 4, responds to them since they began lowering themselves to his level, giving him eye contact and repeating his concerns to assure him they were listening.
When Eli wants something he can’t have, instead of focusing on that, they redirect him to do what they need him to do. And to focus him on making his own decisions but still do what his grandparents need, they can offer him choices such as walk up the stairs or "go hippity hop."
The new communication they have with their grandson has made their lives a joy, they said.
"It is so critical to see how our interactions with children can be so much more constructive and fun," Marlene said.
"This will sure change an awful lot of situations with children and in the home life," Keith said.
Check it out
What: "Brains, Behavior and Increasing Potential" When: 7 to 9 p.m. today and Thursday Where: Poston Junior High School, 2433 E. Adobe, Mesa Information: To register or learn more, call (480) 472-7278 or visit
Parents can learn more about conscious discipline April 2 during the Tribune Education Expo. The free event — from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the East Valley Institute of Technology, 1601 W. Main St. in Mesa — will feature educational speakers and informative booths and displays from East Valley public, private and parochial schools. For more information, contact Tribune marketing coordinator Kristina Munoz at (480) 898-6370 or