Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Improving Jamaica in 2015: Better parenting

Published:Sunday | January 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Melody Cammock-Gayle, GUEST COLUMNIST

After reflecting on the past year, and contemplating the year ahead, I began to set my personal goals for 2015. Then I thought about the kind of Jamaica I would like to see this year.

Many things came to mind: grandiose ideas for fixing our country's ills, a little sadness because of how far we have descended into social decay and continue to struggle with our lacklustre economy, topped with some resentment about much wasted potential. And alas, hope. Hope in our resilience as a people and for the future.

But it wasn't until a planning meeting for Phase 2 of The Re-Birth Project - an intervention initiative for at-risk youth and their parents - that it dawned on me.

The single most important step towards Jamaica's amelioration in 2015 could quite possibly be improving parenting.

According to Dr Patrece Charles-Freeman, counselling psychologist and CEO of the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC), parenting has always been accepted as an important ingredient to social stability and national development. Having reached this epiphany almost two years ago, the Government established the NPSC to strengthen families' capacity and parenting skills. This is achieved by providing parents with the resources and support required to produce a society where all children are exposed to, and experience positive parenting.

Like building blocks that join together to form a masterpiece, the family unit is the core institution upon which every society/nation is built. Within the hands of parents and guardians lie the power to mould, guide and coach our children.

Thus, if we could empower parents to take their role seriously and to carry out their responsibility effectively, this would be a winning investment for Jamaica now - and for years to come. It is as we bolster our homes that we dually buttress the foundation on which our nation stands.

"Parenting is among those personal actions, which, when aggregated, have far-reaching national development consequences. While parents cannot prevent all the detrimental conditions, it is undeniable that parents and families have a profound influence on children and their development. The family is a child's first source of knowledge and the prototype for how a child learns about relationships and social norms and behaviour.

"The challenge is that inappropriate parenting practices continue to increase indiscipline and poor social skills as the child gets older. When parents are not involved with their children, don't respond warmly to them, don't supervise them properly, and use harsh and inconsistent discipline, children may react with defiant, aggressive, impulsive behaviours," Dr Charles explained.

The recent murder of 79-year-old retired nurse, Hyacinth Hayden allegedly by two 16-year-old boys is heart-wrenching to say the least. Children who should be buckling down for examinations after enjoying Christmas break are in jail, and from the media reports, this is not their first stay. Nor is this the first of such occurrence.

Sadly, violence, disregard for life and property, as well as disinterest in engaging in meaningful activities that bring later benefit, are behaviours seen in our society and mirrored in schools everyday.

"In our school context, greater emphasis is placed by parents on the petty and peripheral issues rather than on the child's future," Roncell Brooks, participant in The Re-Birth Project and dean of discipline at Norman Manley High School, shared with me.

Having served seven years in the education system and 13 in national security, he, too, has come to the conclusion that "once parents employ good parenting skills and are actively involved in their children's school life, this is likely to reduce the number of at-risk students in our schools.

PARENTING - A 24/7 EXPERIENCE

"This is what I like about the Re-Birth Project and why I am glad my school is a part of its second staging. It gets the parents involved and shows them how and why they are accountable. Our schools, and by extension, the society can only be better when parents practise good parenting skills and when they start to see parenting as a 24/7 experience."

This is the clarion call for 2015: bettering parenting!

Let us employ the keys to effective parenting; nurturance, structure, recognition and empowerment. These may very well be the key to saving our own children, our families and our country.

Parenting Tips:

1. Resolve to love, honour and protect children!

2. Develop a loving, open and trusting relationship with your children.

3. Listen to your children; allow them to talk about their feelings and express their views.

4. Teach your children right from wrong: discuss and enforce family rules.

5. Do not delay in making decisions that affect your children.

6. Get involved in your children's school life.

7. Learn how children develop; know and cherish your children's individuality.

8. Let children know that their responsibilities are as equally important as their rights.

9. Teach your children that problems can be solved without violence.

10. Discipline consistently, but do not overdo punishment.

11. Be your child's first source of information.

12. Teach and model respect for people and property.

13. Be a good role model: Parents who teach their children respect, honesty, humility and responsibility pave the way for positive development

14. Spend time with your children: Parents who get involved in their children's daily lives make a real difference in their success.

15. Respect your child's mother. Fathers and mothers who show respect for each other provide a stable and secure environment for their children.

- Parenting tips courtesy of the Child Development Agency (CDA).

For more information and support towards becoming a better parent, please contact the NPSC at 967-1758, the CDA at 948-2841-2, JAMPAS or Fathers Inc.

Melody Cammock-Gayle is the director of MC&A, a marketing and communications firm. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and info@mcassociates.com.jm.