early parenting education is long overdue in our schools and the
need becomes more compelling each year. While the nation's overall
crime rate fell 22 percent from 1993 to 1997, reports of child abuse
and neglect grew by 8 percent and confirmed cases by 4 percent.
America's child abuse and neglect statistics published by the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, in Third National Incidence
Study of Child Abuse and Neglect and Child Maltreatment 1997: Reports
from the States, and by Prevent Child Abuse America, continue to
indicate a tragically escalating situation:
million cases of abuse and neglect were reported in 1997, representing
42 of every 1,000 American children, more than double the reports
in 1986; 1 million of these charges were "substantiated."
thousand children are estimated to be killed by maltreatment each
year by the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, with
18,000 children permanently disabled and 570,000 seriously injured.
three children died each day in the U.S. from abuse or neglect
in 1997. Since 1985, the rate of child abuse fatalities has increased
by 34 percent.
proven cases only, for every 1,000 American children, 8 were neglected;
4 were physically abused; and 2 were sexually abused.
actual incidence is estimated to be three times the numbers reported.
75 percent of 1997 child victims were abused or neglected by their
parents, and 10 percent by other relatives.
helplessness and the intensity of their required care and its inherent
stresses to make our youngest the most vulnerable to maltreatment:
under one year continue to have the highest incidence of abuse
ages 3 and under accounted for more than a fourth of 1997 abuse
and neglect victims, and for more than three-fourths of all fatalities.
majority of all abuse and neglect victims are ages 7 and younger.
children under age four, deaths from abuse and neglect now outnumber
those from accidents.
Current Trends in Child Abuse Reporting and Fatalities, the National
Committee to Prevent Child Abuse (NCPCA) Annual Fifty State Survey
has continued through 1998 to find "issues of parental capacity
and skills" second only to substance abuse as the most reported
contributor to "likelihood for engaging in abusive behavior."
State liaisons indicated that families reported for child maltreatment
"frequently lack specific parenting skills due either to various
mental health problems, poor understanding of a child's normal developmental
path or young maternal age." NCPCA holds that "identifying
these problems is a first step toward prevention."
is a clear relationship between lack of knowledge of child health
and development, unrealistic expectations of young children and
harsh discipline methods. Why not begin to address the need for
Parenting Education earlier, when all young people can be reached
in school at an age when their attitudes and expectations are in
formation? Schools already identify 59% of the cases of child maltreatment
in the U.S. They, and other youth-serving entities, can also be
powerful proactive agents in widescale intergenerational prevention.
Education Addresses Cycles of Violence
The generational pattern of child maltreatment and violence is quite
clear: violence begets violence. Seventy-five percent of child victims
are abused or neglected by their parents and ten percent by other
relatives. Although the much publicized FBI Crime Reports continue
to show declining violent crimes, by a significant margin, U.S.
youth commit more violent crime than their peers in any comparable
industrialized nation. , it still reports one-third more violent
youth crimes in 1996 than in 1987. Children and youth continue to
account for tragically high proportions of both perpetrators (and
victims) of all violent crimes, the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention reports. This situation holds alarming
potential for a more violent society as these youth become the adults
and parents of the next generation.
- Youth under
18 are involved in a fourth of serious violent crimes in the U.S.,
but represent only 14 percent of the population.
- In the 1990s,
youth were involved in 42% of murders with more than one perpetrator.
arrests for murder more than tripled from 1985 to 1995.
- Between 1985
and 1994, violent crimes committed by juveniles increased by 70%,
almost entirely in gun crimes. Juvenile weapons violations rose
103% in that period.
- The violent
crimes arrest rate for females nearly doubled from 1981 to 1998.
- In the most
recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 17 percent of high school students
(including 29% of male students) indicated carrying a weapon on
more than one day in the 30 days prior to being surveyed; 5 percent
(9 percent of males) reported carrying a gun.
- 36 percent
of high school students (44 percent of males) had been in a physical
fight more than once during the 12 months preceding the survey.
- 13 percent
of female students had been forced to have sexual intercourse
in the 12 months prior to the survey.
States are now
wrestling with the problem of finding appropriate incarceration
and treatment for preteens and even younger children convicted of
murder and other violent crimes. They are among tomorrow's parents.
The very recent decreases in juvenile violent crimes must be viewed
as impetus to increase programs such as parenting education that
can make a difference, rather than an excuse to avoid services.
and neglect increase the odds of future delinquency and criminality
by 40 percent in findings by the National Institute of Justice.
Abuse and neglect has many other severe short and long-term effects
including drops in IQ and learning disabilities, depression and
suicide, and alcohol and drug use, according to The National Clearinghouse
on Child Abuse and Neglect Information. The U.S. Advisory Board
on Child Abuse and Neglect has concluded that, since family histories
of incarcerated juveniles revealed that seventy-five percent of
those who had committed the most violent offenses had suffered serious
abuse by a family member, reducing crime and other social pathologies
depends on creating and maintaining safe, healthy early-life environments.
offers a vital means of addressing these tragic and rapidly escalating
problems. Too few of our children are being prepared to care for
themselves or to effectively care for the next generation. Many
abusive and neglectful parents are unaware of normal child development.
Because they do not recognize age-appropriate behavior, they often
punish inappropriately. Most people parent the way they were parented,
causing child abuse, neglect and violent behavior to be passed from
one generation to the next in a "cycle of violence."
the cycle of violence, the typical U.S. child witnesses 8,000 murders
on television by the time he or she leaves eighth grade. In prime
time, there are 5 to 6 violent acts per hour; there are 20 to 25
per hour on Saturday morning children's programs. The rate of violence
on videocassettes far exceeds that on commercial television. Both
short and long-term effects of violence in the media on susceptible
children, particularly boys, are well documented with regard to
increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and increased aggressive
behaviors. Parenting education provides role models and builds empathy
and critical thinking and relationship skills that can counter this
Education Addresses Teen Pregnancy
pregnancy, despite the slightly reduced rates of recent years, continues
to represent another national epidemic. Its severe developmental
and economic costs to young mothers, their children and future generations
of their family, and to society as a whole are well documented.
half a million U.S. teens give birth each year; 83% are poor or
year, 11% of all U.S. teens aged 15-19 and 20% of those who are
sexually active become pregnant.
country leads the developed world with twice the teen pregnancies
of England and Canada, and nine times those of The Netherlands
of births to teens occur outside of marriage.
of teenage mothers have a second child within two years of their
childbearing is widely regarded as a root cause of some of our country's
most difficult problems - poverty and welfare dependency, child
abuse and other crime, physical and developmental disabilities,
drug abuse and homelessness. Untold personal and family suffering,
and $29 billion per year in public spending on direct and social
costs of teen pregnancy might potentially be avoided.
of teen mothers will live in poverty and rely on welfare, many
for their children's critically important developmental years;
few get any support from their babies' fathers.
mothers are 50% less likely to graduate from high school.
fathers are also less likely to finish high school, and also earn
significantly less later in life.
mothers eventually have 24% more children but are 50% less likely
with women who delayed first births only until 20 or 21, teen
mothers have 50% more low birth weight babies, dramatically raising
infant deaths, blindness and deafness, chronic respiratory problems
and cerebral palsy, retardation and mental illness, and later
dyslexia, hyperactivity, other learning disabilities.
of teen mothers have poorer health yet receive only half the level
of medical care of other children.
of teen mothers are more than twice as likely to be victims of
abuse or neglect and to go into foster care.
of teen mothers are 83% more likely to have a baby before age
of teen mothers are almost 3 times as likely to land in prison.
of teen mothers are more likely to grow up without critically
needed emotional support and cognitive stimulation, resulting
in lasting disadvantages.
of teen mothers have lower cognitive development, repeat twice
as many grades, and drop out of high school far more often.
(sources: Alan Guttmacher Institute and Robin Hood Foundation)
parenting education, girls and boys can begin to look at having
and caring for a child as one of the most important and demanding
responsibilities a person can have. They can understand the emotional
maturity and financial readiness that are required, and the advantages
of postponing parenthood. By teaching the rigors and responsibilities
as well as the joys of parenting, and by building critical thinking
and problem solving skills, parenting education gives young people
the tools to make informed, realistic life decisions.
Education Addresses the Critical Need for Empathy
The emphasis parenting education places on developing and practicing
empathy for other human beings, teaching non-violent communication,
caregiving, problem-solving and other relationship skills provides
a unique "hands-on" opportunity to break into cycles of
child abuse, neglect and collective societal violence.
the Director of the Texas Office Delinquency Prevention put it,
". . . we understand that a child who is not nurtured is a
child who never learns to trust, never develops empathy, never accepts
responsibility for his behavior, and hurts others with impunity."
Prepare Tomorrows Parents' founding board member Dr.
Myriam Miedzian explores fully in her book, Boys Will Be Boys; Breaking
the Link Between Masculinity and Violence, recent psychological
research from different theoretical perspectives implicates empathy
as a most essential element both in promoting altruistic behavior
and in decreasing violence. The lack of empathy for other human
beings characteristic of the increasing numbers of juveniles who
commit violent and sometimes heinous crimes compels Prepare Tomorrows
Miedzian concluded that "human beings, male and female, have
a significant potential for empathy and altruism. . . ." and
that "... we can, if we want to, decrease violence," by
applying the findings of social science research to prevention programs.
Recent studies have shown that shortly after one year of age, virtually
all children begin to have some level of understanding of other
people's experiences and attempt to help or comfort someone in distress.
As children age, their empathic and altruistic behavior varies;
the strength and endurance of these characteristics is linked to
the levels of active nurturing and direct sensitization and training
they experience from their fathers and mothers.
the moment a child is born, parents and caregivers must respond
quickly to an infant's cries and consistently satisfy its needs
to foster the development of empathy. This responsiveness enabling
the baby to return to a sense of calm well-being consistently, allows
for the development of love, trust and a conscience through attachment
to the caregiver. Later, caregivers and teachers can further the
development of empathy through helping a child label his or her
own emotions and talk about ways to learn from and handle them,
as well as sensitizing a child to the emotions of others.
boys and girls will benefit from being taught to be nurturing, helpful
and sensitive to the feelings of others, but boys must be particularly
encouraged to think of themselves as capable future parents. Boys
are tragically vulnerable to failing to acquire the capacity for
empathy, at the great personal and societal costs of their increased
violent behavior. Most obviously, in many homes sensitivity is covertly
if not overtly discouraged among sons, with a concomitant rise in
aggressive conduct; this is strongly reinforced in the media and
other public domains of boys' lives.
addition, lack of access to empathic male caregiving has shown to
be particularly associated with greater violent behavior among boys.
In an alarmingly increasing number of families, a male parent is
absent, much less a sensitive and nurturing childrearing presence.
Because boys who engage in childcare activities are known to exhibit
less aggressive and more pro-social behavior, the early experiential
education advocated by Prepare Tomorrows Parents can interrupt
developing empathy is a key component of parenting education programs
for young people, the critical role of schools in building empathy
is highlighted by the title of the "Roots
of Empathy," program, which begins even before kindergarten.
Founded in the Toronto District School Board, this program is expanding
to school sites throughout Canada and internationally. The program
is rooted in the understanding that when levels of empathy increase,
levels of aggression decrease.
Education Addresses the Need for Early Sensitive Care
The importance of parents providing for very early cognitive stimulation
and physical activity to enable their children to reach their intellectual
potential may seem well-publicized in recent times, but not everyone
has access to this critical information, yet. Because of the power
of learning and development that take place in the critical infancy
period, this information must become available to and accepted by
all. Children who are seldom touched or who don't play much develop
brains 20 to 30% smaller than normal for children their age. More
neural connections are created in the baby's brain as a result of
sensory experiences in the first year than at any other time in
the human lifespan.
to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families
sees educating young people as a key strategy in disseminating this
information, "All students in elementary, middle and high school
should learn about the stages of infant development and the effects
on infants of differing kinds of caregiver behavior... Conveying
those messages in elementary, secondary and high schools has the
added benefit that future fathers as well as mothers will be exposed
and stimulation are not all that are needed. Research, according
to Zero to Three and others, has also determined that essential
relationships, particularly with parents, in the first years of
children's lives have the greatest influence on their emotional
development and, as a result, on their later success.
early sensitive care provides the critical foundation for development
of empathy, persistence and self-motivation, and the ability to
cope with stress and strong feelings that have been found to greatly
determine success in adolescent and adult life. It also serves
to temper the results of later childhood traumas and upheavals.
These key early experiences have dramatic and unique impact children's
psychological and actual neurological development. In addition,
children learn to initiate and maintain relationships through aggressive
or cooperative behaviors from their early family interactions. Expectations
of and ways of relating to people, both positive and negative, formed
during early life greatly determine the responses children elicit
and underlie their future relationships, becoming increasingly difficult
to change over time.
parents generally know they are an important influence on their
children's development, surveys have shown that they do not necessarily
understand how their ongoing interactions affect the development
and learning of their babies and toddlers. Of particular concern,
although parents believe their greatest influence is on emotional
development, they also feel they have the least information and
confidence in the critical emotional and social areas. Some parents
have difficulty in providing emotionally sensitive care because
of their own early experiences.
has shown that as many as 30% of children from all social groups,
and even more among those living in poverty, are at risk for later
problems because of emotionally inadequate care. Much evidence about
the specific poor developmental outcomes resulting from lack of
early sensitive care results from a Mother-Child Study (Egeland
and Sroufe) that has tracked children primarily of single, frequently
adolescent, uneducated mothers for 19 years from prenatal period
to early adulthood. Children who have not received sensitive care
in their earliest years have been found to be at significantly higher
risk for: difficulties forming peer relationships as preschoolers
and young teens; lower school achievement, especially in adolescence;
requiring special education (72% were placed by 3rd grade); increased
behavior problems; and teen drug and alcohol use.
Education for school age children and teens addresses these concerns
in several ways before young people become parents by working to
interrupt the cycle of poor parenting. Parenting Education not only
teaches information and skills needed for effective parenting, but
also provides impetus for critical self-reflection. Parenting Education
in the classroom or youth program also fosters a supportive environment
and builds sensitivity and skills among teachers to enable children
to develop empathy, responsiveness, positive expectations and relationship
skills that can offset less than optimal home situations. The parent
involvement components of recommended curricula can educate and
sensitize students' parents, as well.
Education Addresses Mental Health
Mental health is also strongly impacted by parenting practices,
and the rates of mental health problems in young people have been
rising alarmingly. The National Institute of Mental Health indicates
one in seven children experiences mental illness, and many adult
mental health problems are rooted in poor parenting. Psychosocial
problems were found in 6.8 percent of children visiting pediatricians
or family doctors in 1979, jumping to 18.7 percent in 1996, according
to a study published in Pediatrics in 2000. Suicide is now the second
leading cause of death among 5 to 19 year olds; the rate has tripled
since 1960. The most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that
more than a fourth of high school students (and more than a third
of female students) indicated symptoms of depression, nearly a fifth
(including one fourth of females) had considered attempting suicide,
and 8 percent (11 percent of females) had attempted suicide in the
12 months prior to the survey. Widescale parenting education
for young people can enable more mentally healthy future generations
by interrupting family cycles to PREVENT poor parenting practices
BEFORE they begin.
all of the programs endorsed on Prepare Tomorrows Parents'
page address mental health needs, Childbuilders and the Houston
Independent School District created their widely implemented PreK-12
Under Construction specifically toward this
goal. Much of this section draws from their literature.
more prevalent than the glaring examples of child abuse and neglect,
teen pregnancies, and paternal uninvolvement are the subtler versions
of poor parenting. Characterized by the lacks of nurturing, respect,
guidance, appropriate discipline, and failure to meet the needs
of children as individuals, these common family situations also
have negative effects on lifetime mental health.
some serious mental illnesses now appear to be biological in nature,
many clearly are not. The lack of healthy parenting practices is
implicated in mental health problems that may become manifest in
low self-esteem, depression, addictions, violence to self and others,
teen pregnancies, school problems and gang involvement. Healthy
parenting also has particularly critical impact for the mental health
of children who are biologically predisposed to mental illness or
who have other special needs or difficult family situations such
as divorce, death, poverty, etc.
children who are nurtured and guided properly and who are disciplined
positively develop a healthy identity, self-esteem, knowledge of
and respect for limits, a moral code to live by, and the ability
to make wise choices. They become well prepared to be productive
in their adult roles as workers, community members and parents.
As Childbuilders puts it, "The bottom line: People who feel
good about themselves do not have a need to hurt themselves or others."
too often, children do not receive the critical combination of healthy
parenting elements. They may be loved but given no limits, emotionally
abused or neglected, spanked for "misdeeds" within expectations
beyond their developmental capacity, disciplined harshly or not
at all, routinely shamed or belittled for ordinary childhood behavior,
many deprived of nurturing and positive guidance will be able to
struggle to achieve and maintain mental health as young people and
as adults, too frequently they try to numb their hurt and feelings
of rejection and low self-worth with alcohol or drugs. Others seek
the affection and approval they have missed through sexual behavior,
having a baby who will love them, or becoming involved in gangs.
Still others temporarily alleviate their feelings of rage by inflicting
their pain on others through violence or abuse; some have not had
adequate opportunities to develop empathy to temper their actions
against others, and are unable to accept responsibility for these
behaviors. And others use self-abuse like cutting for temporary
relief. Finally, some (including a tragically growing number of
teens and younger children) feel they must end their pain permanently,
attempting and often succeeding in committing suicide.
concludes, "Whatever the choice, these individuals hurt not
only themselves but also their loved ones, society at large, and,
most unfortunately, their children." As each generation learns
to parent from their own observation and experience, these children
go on to unintentionally hurt their own children, perpetuating family
cycles of inadequate childrearing knowledge, skills and nurturing
that lead to avoidable mental health problems.
some parents do find their way to a parenting class or counselor
for help, our overwhelming societal ramifications of poor parenting
practices require large scale prevention programming. In addition,
it is essential to develop awareness, knowledge and skills in young
people early enough to shape attitudes, expectations and behaviors
in formation. Parents Under Construction has found that the younger
the child, the more extensive are the changes that result from their
Education Addresses the Need for Paternal Involvement
The strong links between the growing absence of fathers in children's
lives to all of the social, family and personal problems noted on
this page, including child abuse, youth violence, teen pregnancy,
latchkey children and mental health, highlight the critical need
for nurturing, parenting and relationship skills education for all
our young people.
the words of Cornell professor Urie Bronfenbrenner, one of the most
eminent developmental psychologists of our time, "Controlling
for factors such as low income, children growing up in [father absent]
households are at a greater risk for experiencing a variety of behavioral
and educational problems, including extremes of hyperactivity and
withdrawal; lack of attentiveness in the classroom; difficulty in
deferring gratification; impaired academic achievement; school misbehavior;
absenteeism; dropping out; involvement in socially alienated peer
groups, and the so-called 'teenage syndrome' of behaviors that tend
to hang together -- smoking, drinking, early and frequent sexual
experience, and in the more extreme cases, drugs, suicide, vandalism,
violence, and criminal acts."
to over 72% of a U.S. sample polled by Gallup in 1999, fatherlessness
is the most significant family or social problem facing America.
The number of very recently highly publicized out-of wedlock-births
fathered, by professional athlete "heroes" but frequently
not cared for or only reluctantly acknowledged or financially supported,
has brought the situation to "icon" status.
many studies confirm that the more fathers are involved with
their children, the better the children do psychologically, socially,
and intellectually. Increased paternal involvement and warmth
have been positively associated with a child's: cognitive and intellectual
development; academic achievement; ability to empathize; mental
health; self esteem; self control; and competency at problem-solving
tasks. Lack of paternal involvement, on the other hand, is associated
with increased rates of: child abuse and neglect; delinquency, future
violent and criminal behaviors, and incarceration; teen pregnancy;
failing in or dropping out of school; illnesses, accidents, injuries
and poisonings; emotional problems; teen drug, alcohol and tobacco
use, and suicides.
the 1990s engendered a prominent national increase in fatherhood
interest in many sectors, Prepare Tomorrows Parents
recognizes this as a sensitive issue. We do not discount that single
mothers and families with other adults in parental and other supportive
roles can and do succeed in raising fine children. Nor do we discount
the pervasive and tragic overriding effects of unemployment and
poverty on father involvement -- or of the inequities of income
for women and minorities on the overall lives of children and families.
Further, we do not imply that men in general do not wish to be key
contributors to their children's healthy, satisfying current lives
and futures, or that "real" father involvement is limited
to or guaranteed by presence in the home. We know from research
that most fathers who live with or without their children really
do care even if it is not always shown in conventional ways.
the magnitude of the situation and the potential of primary prevention
to make inroads in ameliorating it make paternal involvement a key
issue for Prepare Tomorrows Parents to address.
Our goal is to see that education for parenting and nurturing is
recognized and implemented as one of the emerging strategies to:
young men to postpone fatherhood until they are ready for its responsibilities;
(young men are highly significant in initiating sexual activity
and in deciding if protection will be used)
raise the expectation among young men and women that their children
will have an engaged father; (this process is best begun early in
life, before the societal implications of being male or female often
override the powerful human drive to
nurture that is equally present in boys and girls as toddlers) prepare
young men to be present, bonded, nurturing, active, emotionally
connected and effective from the beginning of the lives of their
children, and help facilitate their smooth developmental transition
from biological father to committed parent when the time comes;
and to be positive influences in the lives of children, in general
inspire young men and women to create more "father friendly"
and "family friendly" institutions and culture when they
come of age and enter civic life.
In Texas, the Paternity/Parenthood Program is being distributed
to reach every 6th to 12th grade student. It has found that public
school personnel, given the right tools, are eager to help prepare
students for fatherhood. Both PAPA and Minnesota's Dads
Make a Difference program have found that middle
and high school students, especially boys, are very eager to learn
about fatherhood, and that schools are well-situated to deliver
a systematic curriculum.
children and youth must have parenting education. Schools should
have a role in educating boys to be parents.... Additional curricula
could be created by churches. . . and other institutions within
the community," was one recommendation of the 1994 Family Re-Union
III, in which nearly 1,000 people gathered from around the U.S.
to explore "The Role of Men in Children's Lives."
Education Addresses Latchkey Children
The problem of "latchkey children" who must care for themselves
and their younger siblings after school has resulted from the dramatic
rises in single parent families and in households in which both
parents work outside the home. Many children are forced into caregiving
situations at early ages:
in five children ages 6 to 12 are regularly left without adult
supervision after school, according to a recent (2000) survey
of working parents.
in ten 6 to 9 year olds are regularly left unsupervised after
one-third of 10 to 12 year olds whose parents work are regularly
supervised after school. Many of these children are also responsible
to care for younger siblings.
of all complaints to child welfare agencies involve latchkey children.
Children in self-care are about three times more likely than those
supervised by adults to be involved in accidents.
care is tragically unavailable or too costly for many families.
Extended family support networks have broken down. Families have
become increasingly mobile, reducing the opportunities for grandparents
and aunts to serve as caretakers. This has also reduced the opportunities
for children to observe and learn caregiving behaviors in their
children need to learn about child development and to develop caregiving
skills immediately. While no replacement for after-school care,
Parenting Education in the schools provides these children with
knowledge and skills that they must put to use immediately. Simultaneously,
Parenting Education offers models of empathic, nurturing and caregiving
behaviors to children whose time with their parents is limited,
and counters the harmful influences of television and peers that
have taken over the socialization of large numbers of children while
parents are working. Where available, after-school programs provide
excellent alternative settings to provide Parenting Education to
children who may be among those who need it most.
Education and Our Schools and Youth Programs
Mandatory child-rearing classes in elementary and high schools can
be among the most effective widescale interventions to promote caring,
responsible parenting, reduce "absent fathers", help raise
nonviolent children, and cut teen pregnancy rates. The changes to
America's families of recent decades have made the influence of
schools even more critical to children and teens. Children have
lost many opportunities for caring, support and guidance from their
communities and families.
half of Americans change addresses every four years, disrupting
traditional extended family and neighborhood support networks. 75%
of women with children under 18 work outside the home, including
54% of those with children under age five. 30% of all families are
now headed by single parents, most of whom hold jobs. Many parents
find themselves needing to work longer and longer hours at their
jobs. 50% of marriages end in divorce, and many children have little
access to noncustodial fathers. These factors have severely limited
parenting time and resources available to children, promoting growing
up without sufficient resources for guidance and supervision at
this time of crowded curricula and increasing mandatory inclusions,
it is important to note that benefits of Parenting Education for
children and teens are reaped long before the students become parents,
themselves. Young people are able to put their new relationship
and caregiving knowledge and skills to immediate use in their classrooms,
families and other areas of their lives. Through evaluations, we
know that parenting education programs that are available in schools
nurturing, caring and responsibility early enough to have real
impact on development of both male and female children's and teens'
beliefs, attitudes and behaviors;
present family relationships and discourage early pregnancy by
instilling respect for the enormous responsibilities of parenthood;
non-violent communication, relationship, childcare and problem-solving
knowledge and skills that both boys and girls put to use immediately
in their families and classrooms;
empathy in students and enable more caring, cooperative learning
environments that promote learning, through both direct teaching
on the universal attraction to babies and interest in family life,
linking school to "real life" to create high-interest,
motivating learning activities in all subject areas;
social and emotional competence and classroom atmospheres, helping
students to better focus on their academic tasks and resulting
in increased learning;
cognitive skills such critical thinking, planning, observing,
listening, communicating, emphasizing, brainstorming options,
assessing consequences of choices, and reflecting on one's actions,
which promote learning in core academic areas as well as improve
Young children in some existing programs display more appropriate
responses to conflict and more empathic, nurturing behaviors in
their classrooms and at home. Three commissioned studies of the
program impact of the model research-based curriculum for kindergarten
through eighth grade, Educating Children for Parenting®, found
that children exposed to the program are effectively taught and
choose "significantly more positive caregiving and nurturing
strategies," both in the school environment and in caregiving
situations. Older youth in some existing programs report that they
have become better babysitters and sibling caregivers, understand
and relate to their families more effectively, and are motivated
to avoid pregnancy until they are ready.
education must be included in the current School Reform agenda.
Our young people must be prepared not only for "school to work,"
but also for the one occupation most of them will have: parenthood.
With diminished funds, rising class sizes and crowded curriculum,
it is important to stress that parenting education does not have
to be costly or take up a lot of classroom time. The use of existing
school structure, staff and volunteers makes it cost-effective.
Integrating parenting education into existing subject areas as a
thematic curriculum takes no extra time, while reinforcing the standing
curricula. For example, budgeting and height/weight graphs may be
covered in math class; child development and nutrition in science;
journal writing and storytelling in language arts, and so forth.
Education components can also be an attractive and accommodating
vehicle for integrating related state or district mandates or recommendations
into the school curriculum. Some, in Health and Family and Consumer
Sciences, mention Parenting Education explicitly, and all involve
teaching topics included in Parenting Education for children and
teens. In addition, Prepare Tomorrows Parents' recommended
topics cover many areas of the education component of the Comprehensive/Coordinated
School Health Program Model, now promoted by The Centers for Disease
Control and American School Health Association toward optimal national
resolution education has become entrenched after only fifteen years;
this attests to how quickly life skills curricula can be embraced
by educators and how easily and inexpensively they can be incorporated
into existing elementary and secondary school subjects. Character
education provides another example of a recent successful innovation
that recognizes the critical changing relationship of America's
schools to families and society, a trend supported by seventy-five
percent of parents.
schools hold the best opportunity to teach parenting and nurturing
to all our young people, a wide variety of youth programs such as
Scouts, 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, after-school programs, religious
youth groups, etc., can serve as excellent vehicles for reaching
young people in the out of school hours. Some will be able to reach
youth at particular risk for cycles of abuse and neglect, violence
and crime, and teen pregnancy. Parenting Education topics can overlap
material to be covered in earning badges and patches, as well as
in parent involvement programming.
education for our youth is a missing link in intercepting the well-documented
and growing generational cycles of child abuse, neglect, and abandonment;
senseless societal violence; and children having children. Schools
are the only institutions capable of the widespread implementation
that can enable parenting education to achieve its great potential
to help ensure a safer and more humane society.
children need parenting education now, while their values are still
forming, and we must convince our schools, other youth serving programs,
and government officials to see that they get it. When we succeed,
we will assure that the next generation will suffer less neglect,
abuse, and abandonment and that more of tomorrow's children will
have two confident, involved, and effective parents.
more information, to share your ideas, or to learn how to become
involved, please contact Prepare