As an attorney, teacher, and parent I have had a life journey that has enabled me to see clearly how to improve the education and success of all children. We focus so much money and attention on the schools and teachers, which is important, but it is only one piece of the puzzle and actually not the most important in my view. There are three components necessary for a child to grow up successfully. We need parents who are encouraged and taught how to have better parenting skills, school staff that are compassionate and dedicated and communities that are supportive and safe.
The first and most important piece of the puzzle of successful children is parents at their best. Without a doubt parents are the most influential and important people in a child’s life. Sometimes they are the only role models in a child’s life the first five years and those first five years are critical years in a child’s development. But there is no handbook or schooling on how to be the best parents. Many new parents repeat the same parenting that their parents bestowed on them. This is fine if they came from an emotionally supportive family but what about all those dysfunctional families? They are continuing the cycle of dysfunction over and over again. These aren’t bad people, they just don’t know any better. Quite frankly even those people from functional families, could use new and innovative skills to be the best parents they can be for their child. The discovery about what makes good parenting skills led me years ago to interview parents of successful children to see what they had done as parents. What I found was a common thread of ideas and advice that I felt compelled to put in a book. I wish I had known these things when I was starting out as a new parent. Many of the things I learned from these parents I knew because I was raised in a very loving and supportive home, but I still would have loved to have been educated in this early on to be just a little bit better parent for my children. I would love to see a “Revolution” of such that focuses more on better parents then just school systems.
The next important piece of the puzzle is the school systems, which get the lion share of the attention today. School is a necessary and critical institution that definitely plays an important role in a child’s life. But again I would reiterate that the schools need the encouragement and support of parents throughout the education years. Parents once again play a critical role at this time in such ways as making sure children go to school everyday well rested and on time as well as making sure they complete homework and study at home. It is a joint effort and parents need to support the educational process. Teachers need to be trained not only in the curriculum but also in how to motivate students to be their best. They need to be caring and compassionate people that inspire a child to be the best they can be. It is not enough to love the subject matter; they must love the child, all of them. Teaching is a talent that needs to be respected and compensated. Not everyone who loves the subject matter is cut out to be a teacher. We must be willing to reward those teachers who have the talent and ask the others to leave the profession and find another career. Also we have to make sure the staff at the administration building is in proportion to the staff in the classrooms. We can’t let the administration buildings get so big that they take away from the resources in the schools and classrooms. Parents can play a critical role in making sure the schools are meeting the needs of all students and demand the best from them in respectful and supportive ways.
Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is the community at large. The communities where the schools and children are located need to take an active role in making sure the schools are located within safe environments and that there are additional resources for parents who need it. The communities in a school district should be responsible for making sure all children are able to get to school safely and feel free from danger in their school. The residents within the school district must be willing to pay for whatever resources are necessary to make that happen. Whether it is police officers in the schools or neighborhood watch groups on the streets, the community must come together and create a safe atmosphere. Also the community needs to provide resources in the way of mental health facilities, drug rehabilitation or other resources to give additional assistance to parents who are struggling with challenging children. This is not just the parent’s problem, it is a problem for all of us and we must demand that our communities through taxes or services help out. We all benefit when children grow up to their full potential and are productive law abiding citizens. When we turn our backs on these issues and say it is not our problem, we pay in the end in expensive and overcrowded jails and prisons. According to a CBS article “The Cost of A Nation of Incarceration”, the average cost of an inmate per year “among 40 states surveyed by Vera Institute of Justice is $31, 307”. Why not invest in children when they are young and help them to meet their full potential.
All three areas are critical to the puzzle to create successful children. As a nation, we need to focus on all three of these aspects and not just the schools. The schools can’t do it alone. They need the help and support of the parents and communities.