Published on Urban Child Institute (http://www.urbanchildinstitute.org)
September 10, 2014 Posted By Eugene Cashman
In the wake of 20 teenagers’ attack on three people outside an East Memphis grocery store, we heard the questions we hear often from the news media, elected officials, school leaders, and citizens: Why do so many parents seem to be failing in their responsibilities to their children?
And while we don’t have much specific information about the people who committed this crime, we do know this: there is no substitute for loving, engaged parents who become their children’s competitive advantage in life.
We all know the real estate mantra: location, location, location. For those of us who care about children, our mantra is parents, parents, parents.
The Gift That Keeps On Giving: Effective Parenting
We’ve been writing for several months about the social and emotional development of young children and the qualities that give them their best chances for success in life. The common thread that runs through all of these commentaries is that the emotional bond an infant forms with his parents endures throughout childhood and is a strong influence on his future.
The fact that so many children in Memphis live in poverty complicates the efforts of even the most dedicated, determined parent. But it is still true that effective parenting can be a protective factor that buffers children from the effects of the toxic stress associated with poverty.
With more than half of Shelby County’s children facing economic hardship – living in poverty, extreme poverty, or in low-income families – there has never been a greater premium for mothers and fathers who understand that simple activities such as feeding, diapering, bathing, and dressing can be special moments if they include lots of eye contact, warm words, and affection.
That’s why we are partnering with organizations working hard to end the devastating cycle of poverty, to help translate and transmit the message of Touch, Talk, Read, Play to our community. These are the four corners of a strong foundation for a child’s bright future, because a positive home environment in the early years is linked to long-term positive outcomes, such as high school graduation, college attendance, and adult employment and earnings.
Interventions Can Close The Gap
More than half of the children in Memphis are in single parent households, and the hard work of so many single parents in fighting for their children’s future is nothing short of heroic. A recent research paper by the Center on Children and Families at Brookings concluded that targeted interventions could close more than 70 percent of the gap between more and less advantaged youths. The benefits to society provided by these interventions could equal 10 times the cost of the programs themselves. The key to success: the interventions had to involve children and parents; targeting children alone did not produce the same results.
To that end, we need a No Parent Left Behind campaign in Memphis, one that tells parents that they are not alone and increases awareness of organizations, faith-based institutions, and programs (such as Bridges, Neighborhood Christian Center, Memphis Athletic Ministries, Streets Ministries, Boys and Girls Clubs) that are here to help them.
Most of all, we send the message that we live in a community that takes responsibility for the healthy growth and development of every child – and supports the effective parenting that makes it possible.
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