Parenting Matters: A new life begins

Almost everyone is excited when a baby is born. Maybe it is because of all that waits for this cute little one.

You rather have this sense that all you have to do is feed and change the baby and everything will be perfect. Not exactly.

A new baby comes into the world ready to tackle it head on. But the world she comes into isn’t always ready for her.

Sometimes the world has some surprises for her.

Think about the children whose parents aren’t ready. Think about the infant who cries during the night and whose parents yell at her to be quiet. She learns a strong message and begins to distrust those around her.

Think about the baby who sleeps in his crib and inhales the cancer producing smoke that fills the air around him. It isn’t long and his body reacts with illness and respiratory problems.

Think about the toddler who hears her parents lie on the phone to friends and to each other. This child learns to lie because of those who teach her.

Think about the child who with an outburst of anger is corrected for his behavior. The lesson he learns is fear not how to correct his behavior.

Think about the child who learns that if she gets angry enough, her parents will leave her alone and she can do whatever she wants. The lesson about anger is clear.

Think about the toddler or any age child who sits in front of a screen all day long as a substitute for parenting, play, interaction and learning. The lessons for this child are more about sex and violence.

Think about a child whose parents are too busy to read to him, play with him, hug him and love him and you have learned about how to neglect a child.

We know more today about raising children than ever before. We know the importance to your child of feeling loved by you. Most people say they love their baby but showing it is of critical importance.

You show love by talking to your baby and reading with your baby. We know the more words your child hears, the smarter he becomes. The same is true of more books.

Imagine the difference it is for a child entering kindergarten to have read 1,000 books versus no books. It isn’t tough to figure out the advantage the 1,000 book child has.

You show love by having appropriate expectations. In order to have expectations that are appropriate, you need to learn what is appropriate.

Don’t stop learning

Actually, there is a lot to learn about being a good parent. Even learning about what determines if a child is delayed, what is nutritious, and even about immunizations are all of great importance in raising a child.

It isn’t easy raising a child in today’s world. Maybe it never has been. But we know that today, more than ever, we need to reach out to parents to help them do a better job.

We all have a stake in having healthy happy children. Just look at newspapers and you see the impact on our community when children are out of control, have had inadequate parenting and are isolated in our community.

The research on early learning is alarming (Loeber, Farrington, and Petecheits, “Child Delinquency: Early Intervention and Prevention,” 2003; Scharget &Smenk, “Strategies to Help Solve Our School Dropout Problem,” 2001). It shows the impact from the earliest years of a child’s life on his later behavior. It is clear that we all need to help make childhood a successful experience.

• We know that juvenile delinquency is determined before the age of 3.

• We know that children who are successful in school have parents who are involved.

• We know that school dropouts are determined before the child enters kindergarten.

• We know that schools cannot solve all the problems that some children bring when they enter kindergarten.

• We know that poverty effects how children learn.

• We know that parenting does not end when you send your child to school.

• We know that what parents do to their infants, toddlers and teenagers makes a huge difference in how well a child will succeed in school and in life.

• We know that parents really matter.

We know that all of us in our community can help. Raising children — even our very youngest children — is a community issue as well as an individual parenting issue.

We all feel the impact when a child doesn’t have a strong foundation.

We all need to help in whatever way possible.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at