The Missing Ingredient
A Call to Parents and Everyone Who Knows a Child
Jacqueline Escalante Deas, M.A., M.Ed.
Scenario 1: Marcus is a 1st grader who spins out of control frequently. He gets angry, squeals and fights teachers daily if they ask him to do a task that he doesn’t want to do. When he is angry, the entire school can his screams. One day, he was so angry, he pushed his teacher do the floor, causing her to fall lat on her back. I have also been physically assaulted by Marcus .
Scenario 2: Angry parents arrived at the school one morning and insisted on meeting with us. Terry had stabbed their daughter, Kelli in the neck with a pencil on the bus because he didn’t like her. When I looked at her neck, I could see the small puncture. At that point, the school police became involved and we spent an hour meeting with Terry and his mother to discuss the legalities. Terry did not express any remorse for his actions.
Scenario 3: Sixth grader Ricardo can be pleasant at times. . On many days, he comes to school angry. When he is angry, he bangs his head against the wall with intentions of harming himself. He has threatened to kill himself. Mom can’t seem to figure out how to help Ricardo.
Scenario 4: Fifth grade Lavette left school in the ambulance. She had a detailed plan on how she was going to hang herself when she arrived home that afternoon. It is very obvious that she does not enjoy life.
Scenario 5: The teacher called me and asked me to visit her class. When I arrived, it was in a terrible state of demolition. Tony had overturned several desks. Loose papers, books, crayons and pens were scattered across the floor. Another student was hit in the head as a result of Tony throwing a desk. He was removed and placed in my office, where he attempted to push everything on my desk onto the floor. He then tried to throw a chair at us.
Scenario 6: First-grader Nelson, was sent to alternative school. For what? He brought a toy gun to school (that looked very real). He turned the chairs over in the classroom and then pointed the gun to his classmates. He told them that the gun was loaded and he was going to shoot them. As expected, the first graders were shook up. He said that he just wants to visit his mother (who lives in the same city.) Mom wants nothing to do with him because he reminds her of his Dad.
Scenario 7: I had a heart-to-heart with the new student, Chloe because she was being disrespectful to her teachers. She was obviously unhappy.. I looked her in her eyes and asked, “What are you really mad about?” She answered, “My dad. I haven’t talked to him in months. Since he didn’t call me for my birthday I called him. He didn’t answer. He sent me a text message 5 days later.”
These are all true stories about kids that I have personally worked with as a School Counselor. There are probably a hundred more stories that I could write, but in the interest of your time, I won’t. I have met with these students many times and I know their history. There is a common theme or reality that touches each of these students --- there is a missing ingredient in their lives --- a MOTHER OR FATHER.
I have had the opportunity to work with thousands of students of all ages. I’ve worked at an Elementary School, Middle School, High School, Alternative School, and University. There are so many days when my heart aches for students. The reality is this – we can put interventions in place for their behavior. We can even find them tutors to help with their academics. We can send them to the Principal’s office. We can meet with the student’s family. Yet, there is another reality – there is a void that we can’t fill at the school house. There is a missing ingredient that we can’t imitate or create – again, that MISSING INGREDIENT – the parent. In most cases, it is DAD.
This report is not intended to tell you off. It is created to inform you about the rich impact that you have on your child. Many parents underestimate their power. Quite frankly, there was a time when I underestimated the power of parents. However, when I started working with kids, I realized that students are more successful and adjusted when their parents are involved. I also realize the struggle and demise of students when their parents are not involved. When a parent is not involved, there is a greater chance that a child will be: angry, join a gang, have academic challenges, and be more prone to violence.
The PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) has done years of research which shows that when parents are involved, students have:
Higher grades, test scores and graduation rates
Lower suspension rates
Fewer instances of violent behavior
Decreased use of drugs and alcohol
Parent, if you have been absent from your child’s life, you can begin again. Here’s what you can do to get on track:
1. Call your child. Don’t expect them to call you and hunt you down. You are the adult.
2. Tell your child that you love him / her. Children need to hear that you love them.
3. Be a man or woman of your word. If you tell your child that you are going to do something, do it. When you make promises and don’t follow through, they come to school and cry ALL DAY, cuss kids out, and get angry. We see the behavior at school that you don’t see or even imagine. They come to school and make it a bad day for their peers, teachers and administrators, because someone has failed them at home.
4. Spend time with them. Your child needs your time. If you are not spending quality time with your child and modeling for them, you are setting them up to be angry.
5. Pay child support. Taking care of children is not free. They need clothing, medical attention, food, shelter, tutoring and social activities. Your child is not the government’s responsibility. Your child is your responsibility. Just because one parent gets food stamps, modified housing and Medicaid (it doesn’t relieve you). If you don’t have a job, find one or find a way to support your child. Is your child supposed to stop living until you figure life out?
6. Visit your child’s school. Show up and act like you are interested.
7. Don’t punish your child because you are mad at Mom or Dad. Suppose someone punished you because they didn’t like your Moma or Dad?
What You Can do to Help
Adults: You might say, I am a good Dad / good Mom. That is great. There may be child in your circle (perhaps a niece, nephew, little cousin) not too far from you, who is hurting or feeling the effect of the Missing Ingredient. There is something that you can do:
1. Ask the parent if you can mentor Him / Her
2. While you can’t replace Mom / Dad, you can certainly be the light and love that God uses to spread joy, hope, and love to the child.
3. Remind the child that s/he has been created for greatness. Tell her that God has an awesome plan for her life and remind her that she is not limited by circumstances. Tell her that she is beautiful and that she can be whatever she aspires to be or do. Encourage her to see and have vision.
4. During the holiday season, (in addition to gifts that children will outgrow) why not do something that will impact them forever? Teach them something they will never forget, give them wisdom that will carry them, encourage them, help them to believe in themselves by reminding them who they are.
5. Buy them a book or bio about someone who has overcome odds or the pain of their childhood. Ben Carson’s book: Gifted Hands, for instance, is an awesome book for children who have an absentee parent. This book shows Ben’s determination, success, hope, and faith despite a father who abandoned him.
A Call to Grandparents
If you have a son or daughter who is not taking care of his / her children properly, don’t enable him or her, or look the other way. Tell your child(ren) the truth. Hold them accountable for their behavior and tell him or her that there is a life at stake. I see many grandparents who make excuses for their children’s behavior. Many of them parent out of guilt – because they missed a beat, they are too afraid to confront their child. If you feel that you are not in a position to talk to them because of your own bad choices, tell them that you are talking to them because you don’t want them to make the mistake you made. No matter how old you get, you are still a parent and you still have an opportunity to teach and reach. For the sake of your grandchildren, STEP UP!!!!!
There is a child somewhere who needs someone like you. Choose to make a positive difference some way in the life of a child who has a MISSING INGREDIENT.