Dr. STEVE COKER: It’s never over

MUG Steve Coker 2

I can’t help but notice that when we have programs for our Lower Elementary children what great attendance we have from the parents.
These little ones are cute and cuddly and certainly need our care and guidance. But what happens as these precious children begin to go forward in their growth?
As children move into the Upper Elementary, we still stay pretty close as they are now at that great time when they still express their love to us and provide us joy in activities such as T-ball, dance contests, birthday partie, and family outings.
Then, strange things begin to happen to our little darlings.
About sixth grade for girls and seventh grade for boys, hormones, chemistry and puberty erupt in such a way as for us to profess total stupor and frustration as to what is happening to our children. It starts with the musi, and the closing of the door to their rooms
From there everything seems to go to “Hades in a hand basket.”
Suddenly, clothes, hair and make-up are issues. Cell phones ring all hours of the day and night and school grades plummet giving way to uncharted moodiness and angry outburst.
Welcome to middle school!
This is the point where many parents give up. The confrontations and effort it takes to maintain control and supervision is totally exhausting to parents who have spent a hard day at work. Do not give up the ship, hold on to the rope, demand accountability for their actions. This storm will pass. But not for a while. Your supervision is needed now more than ever.
Then we move into the high school years. Here parents do need to provide their young adolescent children some space but they are not grown yet!
If their feet are under your table, they owe you accountability. Many times this is when parents totally give up their supervisory roles. Often we hear that parents can’t control or manage these semi-adult children, yet they provide cars, gas, cell phones, clothes, food and shelter.
That’s leverage and should be utilized.
As kids get into high school, they have “be all, do all, know all syndrome.” The boys are all going to be famous athletes or music superstars and girls are all going to be Whitney Houston and Britney Spears.
And as they turn sixteen, we see drop out numbers soar, teen pregnancy and drug issues.
Where are the parents?
Are those not the same special children from six, eight, and ten years ago? Hold on, we’re still not done.
As they move into college, the world of work, marriage and parenting, they still need you. Parenting is a life-long commitment.
Some of us are perplexed at why it seems to take so long for our children to mature and move from one development stage to another these days. They are bombarded with so many complex choices and influences.
Consider that thirty years ago most of us had one radio station and two television channels compared to 230 radio and 185 satellite television and Internet selections.
Probably, the only real voices we heard growing up were Mother, Dad, teacher and preacher and maybe Granny and Papa. Now there are voices from all over the world, in various dialects with numerous social agendas.
And of course, there’s transportation and communication which has quadrupled in the last thirty years.
Yes, it’s going to take our children longer to develop coping skills in such a fast paced complex world, and we need to be there to guide them.

A few things that you as a caring parent can do:
1. Read to your children and let them see you read.
2. Provide safe, comfortable places in which students can study and grow.
3. Embrace technology, but monitor it.
4. Remind them always that education is very important and that they will finish school and go further.
5. Help them learn to manage money, save it, invest it, and give it.
6. See that they attend a faith-based organization and participate with them.
7. Provide structure, rules and consequences. After all, this is the way the world works.
8. Above all, give them yourself. They don’t care what you know until they know you care.

Our community is a great place to raise a family. Teachers can know their children’s parents and friends. Most of our children start at a young age with other children that they will grow up with until school graduation. This provides them with a great sense of security and love as well as a family view of school and community. Parents need to embrace their roles as models, providers and caregivers for children and young adolescents, regardless of whether children like it or not.
As a wise old friend used to remind me, “The die is not fully cast yet as there are always opportunities to make adjustments.”
My momma was always in the “adjustment” mode.

Dr. Steve Coker is Superintendent of the Houston School District. He can be reached at 456-3332.

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