"A significant number of parents expressed to me their frustration over not knowing how to handle their child's incorrigible behavior," recalled Principal Becky Ford. "By the time a child reaches the fifth and sixth grade, the behavior is becoming a habit. The parents and the children have begun to believe -- or have become resigned to the fact -- that this is just the way they are."
Ford knew that something had to be done for these children before it was too late. She worked with the district parent liaison to design parent support workshops for the parents of students at Palmetto Elementary/Middle School who were having behavior problems. Strategies to help children become better students and stay in school were presented during these sessions, including tip for using reward systems at home.
"We invited the parents of children who were getting dangerously close to being referred to an alternative school program," Ford explained. "The biggest hurdle was in getting the parents to attend. When we approached them about the workshops, they all said that they were very interested; however, not all attended."
In some cases, the parent liaison provided transportation for parents, and the school offered lunch or breakfast at the support sessions to further entice parents to take part. Ultimately, 13 of the 15 students with parents participating in the program improved their behavior and remained in the Mullins, South Carolina, school.
"During one session, we had a parent who was sharing an experience about her son, and before I or the parent liaison could respond, another parent began sharing a similar experience and what she had done to solve it," said Ford. "That was actually a wow moment. It was very encouraging to not only see parents sharing but to also see the other parents being very receptive to the advice."
That was possibly the greatest success for the school and the parents. When the parents realized that they were not the only ones who were experiencing challenges, they became more involved in the program and were more likely to return for another session. Ford didn't anticipate the level of desperation some of the parents had reached with their children's behavior and how it should be managed. The parents were very appreciative of any and all assistance.
"Parents need to trust the person leading the workshops, and they also need to be reminded a lot that the child's behavior will not change overnight," Ford advised. "The process is ongoing."
Ford currently leads McCormick Elementary School, which is also part of the Marion School District 2. Today Palmetto Elementary/Middle School no longer exists, and the district operates a parenting program for all parents, with classes in the day and evening.