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A teacher turns her students' surprising advice into a book

Story by Mary Lane Gallagher

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Mary Simmons ('02), teaches English at Bothell High School.

Sidebar: Mary Simmon's students' list of "Ten Commandments" for parents

Mary Simmon's students' list of "Ten Commandments" for parents

When Mary Simmons (’02) began asking her

Bothell High School English students to write “Ten Commandments” for good parenting, she thought she knew

what to expect.

“I was expecting them to say the warm and fuzzy things like ‘love me’ and ‘support me,’” Simmons says.

After all, love is what Simmons’ own classmates at Woodring College of Education ranked highest when asked to make their own list of parenting commandments.

But “Love me” didn’t even make the top five when Simmons gave the assignment to her own students as they discussed the parenting dilemmas in the novel “Ordinary People.” The majority of the responses over five years, Simmons says, had to do with discipline.

“I was so flabbergasted,” says Simmons, 54. But it got her thinking about the challenges of parenting – and some of her first lessons as a teacher.

“I wanted everyone to be nice and to love each other,”

she says. Her mentor teacher told her what she really needed to do was find her backbone, she says, and to “stand up for yourself and what’s right for the kids.”

Teens “understand how much discipline is needed and how much they don’t get it,” Simmons says, “or the type they get is negative and hostile as opposed to proactive, assertive and in charge.”

Meanwhile, Simmons’ father, Bert Simmons, is a longtime student discipline consultant who works with school districts around the country. She realized combining the insights of her students and the work of her father might be a help to parents of teens.

The result is “Discipline Me Right: Tips from Teens for

Parents,” published in 2009 by Cedar Fort Inc. The book encourages parents to hold tight to their role as parents, not friends, to their children.

“We live in a society where everyone is supposedly equal,” Simmons says. “Teenagers are equal in the eyes of God and as human beings, but they aren’t entitled to rule the ship.”