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Speaker: Wealth no guarantee of good parenting

Motivational speech addresses Palo Alto parents, educators about 'developmental assets'

Families with high levels of wealth are not necessarily superior at raising resilient kids, a motivational speaker warned Palo Alto parents and teachers Wednesday (Oct. 19).

Washington-based Clay Roberts, an expert on the "Developmental Assets" -- a youth-wellness framework adopted by Palo Alto following a string of teen suicides here from 2009 to early 2011 -- spent a day talking with community leaders, teachers and students.

"Don't confuse economic assets with developmental assets, especially in this community," Roberts said to a gathering of 100 community leaders at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Wednesday morning.

"Don't assume that because families have some wealth they have high levels of assets, and don't assume that kids who come from families struggling economically have low levels of assets."

Research suggests that strengths-based models, such as the Developmental Assets, are more effective at changing youth behavior than "deficit models," Roberts said.

"Instead of looking at troubled kids and asking what went wrong, you need to look at kids who are doing well and ask what went right," he said.

A developmental assets survey of Palo Alto students last October measured each child's level of assets, defined as "values, relationships and experiences that youth need to thrive."

It indicated many kids here don't feel valued by adults in their lives -- and the older they are, the less valued they feel.

Results showed that elementary children have more positive attitudes than older students, and that kids feel less supported and less hopeful as they move into their teen years.

Nearly half of Palo Alto's high school students were measured as "vulnerable and at risk," according to the survey, while only one in 10 were categorized as "thriving."

Roberts, who has worked with more than 100 communities across the country that have adopted the Developmental Assets, said it's up to every adult to be an "asset-builder" by making a point of knowing the names and interests of kids in their neighborhood and engaging them in conversations.

Kids respond when an adult makes them feel trusted and believed in, he said.

"People who do this well reach out to kids using basic, positive social interaction," Roberts said.

"People will say, 'They can talk to me any time, I'm really approachable, my door is always open,' but kids don't have the social skills to do that."

Roberts passed out a wall chart titled "150 Ways to Show Kids You Care," listing suggestions such as: Notice them, smile a lot, acknowledge them, learn their names, seek them out, remember their birthdays, ask them about themselves, look into their eyes when you talk to them, listen to them and be nice.

Roberts' talk to parents Wednesday night was cablecast live on Comcast Channel 28, and will be rebroadcast through the Midpeninsula Community Media Center.

His visit to Palo Alto was sponsored by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, the Palo Alto Unified School District and Project Safety Net, a multi-agency coalition that was organized in response to the suicides.

Related story:

Nurturing happier, healthier youth

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2011 at 10:53 am

Good article, with many excellent points.

Speaking with the mother of a family with teenagers visiting from overseas recently. This family joined in many social activities with their host and met many local adults (and some young people). The teens in this family were shocked that all the adults they met here could only ask them about school and their college plans. This would never happen in their home country as these plans are considered personal information. They were never asked about their hobbies or interests, music, foods or anything from their home country. They left feeling that teenagers here were viewed as nothing but sausage factory fodder (from Pink Floyd's "The Wall").

In Palo Alto, youth are judged by their grades, their sports or performing arts achievements and their college goals. Very sad.


Like this comment
Posted by Tracey Chen
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 20, 2011 at 11:08 am

Good list too. Posting it on FB.


Like this comment
Posted by Asian in Stereo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2011 at 11:19 am

Resident,

Among Asian communities (yes, I'm generalizing and I'm Asian), the child is the sum of their grades, achievements and college/career track. In fact, I think most "home grown" Americans emphasize this much less than Asian families do. In poorer parts of the world, subsistence is a much more important factor in career choice than innate curiosity or personal goals. So that's a contributing factor. In wealthier economies, one can afford to pursue one's dreams far more than in poorer countries.

Given the significant number of immigrant families in Palo Alto, this is not a big surprise.

The 150 ideas list is fabulous!


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 20, 2011 at 11:21 am

Great article, I remember first reading the DA survey and being somewhat horrified at how disconnected many/most of our high school students feel from adults.

Resident - you are right that college is the main conversation topic of choice between adults and students in Palo Alto. High school is all about building a resume for college. College is the only important topic. Its a tough place to be a "regular" kid. I have actually heard very well meaning parents call kids who are attending Foothill "slackers".

One thing I find interesting is the discrepancy between the number of students that PAUSD reports as attending Foothill/DeAnza vs. those who actually attend. Many more attend than are reported at the end of the school year. Are the kids too embarrassed?


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 20, 2011 at 11:39 am

This is explained well in the book on the Bush family, "The Family". There is a pattern of problems with children of wealthy families that were always doing something and never had time for the children. They were raised by proxies, nannies, babysitters, teachers, private schools, never had their parent's attention or care, and grew up with an abusive entitled attitude hating the world. Many got involved with drugs or other crime and if caught were let go or received less than the punishment a regular citizen would get which of course only adds to their dysfunction, and then when they get older and want to find something to do their past is painted over or vanished and they are made to look like high-acheiving models of society when they are uncivilized monsters without humanity or a conscience. (not all of them or course)

They go to drug-rehab and have people sneaking in drugs to them and if they get caught the person who dares to report them is the one who gets fired.

We have a class system now in America, and it is a large part of our dysfunction ... how can we have a merit based system when the places at the top are given out to what are basically anti-social criminals perferentially?


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I make it a point to ask friends' kids about their lives, not necessarily their goals. It's been a great window into who they are, who they want to be, their values & their stresses. I was taught to do this by the educators in my family because they said that in the long run, students can surprise you & if you keep the door open, many of them visit & share their lives. This has been very enriching for these educators. Paying attention has nothing to do w/income level, either.

Years ago, I babysat the kids of a local politician of means. They clearly felt neglected in their huge, gorgeous house. Dad tried to make up for mom's absence and self-absorption, but one can only make up so much when it's obvious that a parent is lacking. I saw this repeatedly & it always made me sad.


Like this comment
Posted by Vicki Dee
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Thank you very much to the Midpeninsula Community Media Center for filming the event. It was SO nice to watch from home! I would have missed this wonderful lecture otherwise.
Is there some way to get a copy of the slides that were used in the presentation?


Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Well obviously. Just look at Meg Whitman's kids.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Anonymous, her kids definitely came to mind when I read this article. Even if I can't stand a politician, if their offspring aren't troublemakers, that's something to respect. It's very unfortunate, in her case.


Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 20, 2011 at 5:24 pm

My daughter hangs out in her room alone too much. I have started going in there, sitting down, and playing a video game or watching a movie or something. At least we are in the same room, and we are "hanging out" together.

She will also poke me, with her finger, at odd times, on the arm or shoulder. I gently poke her back, no hurry, more of just a touch, and then a little later she will poke me again. It's quiet, it's silly, and it is us acknowledging each other non-verbally. She thinks it is silly, I think it is more important than that.


Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 20, 2011 at 5:26 pm

"Anonymous, her kids definitely came to mind when I read this article. Even if I can't stand a politician, if their offspring aren't troublemakers, that's something to respect. It's very unfortunate, in her case."

How about Sarah Palin's kids? <shudder>


Like this comment
Posted by Rebecca
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 20, 2011 at 7:19 pm

My experience has been that the wealthier the family, the less likely their adult children will ever get a real job. Yes, they graduate from college, but they never hold a job after they graduate. The trust fund babies become "writers." Code for "no job."


Like this comment
Posted by Love this!
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm

I think this is wonderful.
Good for this Mom!
Great for the daughter.

"My daughter hangs out in her room alone too much. I have started going in there, sitting down, and playing a video game or watching a movie or something. At least we are in the same room, and we are "hanging out" together.

She will also poke me, with her finger, at odd times, on the arm or shoulder. I gently poke her back, no hurry, more of just a touch, and then a little later she will poke me again. It's quiet, it's silly, and it is us acknowledging each other non-verbally. She thinks it is silly, I think it is more important than that."


Like this comment
Posted by RussianMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Hate generalizations. Wealth and child niglect are not necessary synonyms. When a mom/dad can afford to stays home, it's a fortunate situation. When both parents work, there are still time left for kids. But only IF parents choose to spend that time with kids. Doesn't matter doing what. Love the mom/daughter pocking game. Great example. You need to take a hike. Child don't have all the toys, he will open up and talk.
I don't see anything bad about asking a child about his/her goals either. Unless you are judjemental or competitive. Having a goal is great, doesn't matter if it's being a high tech professional or gardener. Show an interest and incourage a kid. help him feel valuable and sure enough - he will be back.


Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2011 at 12:11 am

But,... but,.... <checks pants>,.... I'm a dad.

And I get in trouble for the poking game, mom does not like it, it is too disruptive(?). We don't stop though, the naughiness of it makes it all that much more delicious. Underclass rebellion.


Like this comment
Posted by JordanDad
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2011 at 6:46 am

Great article and discussion. Having lived many places before PA, I can attest to that parents - and often kids - seem to be overwhelmingly concerned with college. What's your GPA? What activities are you doing outside of school? Why are these things more important than "Are you happy?" and "Do you understand the world around you?"

Many parents - not just in PA - seem to think that if they can provide their kids with the "best" education and pay for plenty of extracurricular activities that reflect positively on their college applications, they must be doing a good job. I understand the need to "get away" sometimes. But it seems like many of these parents spend more time away from their kids than they should. At parties, it seems like I'm the only parent interacting with the kids. The other moms and dads all mingle with each other the whole time, while the kids are left to play with each other the whole time. Yes, kids and parents each need their alone time. But some parents seem to avoid acting like parents.

On the other hand, I have seen quite a few examples of parents & kids getting along great, playing games together, talking about things outside of their classes...

We can all do a better job as parents, and as people. Let's focus on being the best we can be. And that doesn't just mean going to the best college or having the highest-paying job...


Like this comment
Posted by Stay-at-home Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 21, 2011 at 8:39 am

Kids always want to please their parents, even as adults. It is surprising how many parents do not really care to talk with their children. I wonder why they had them if they don't care. So the children can care for them when they age? Won't work; you get back what you put in.

To know if you have a good relationship with your children, ask yourself if you can talk about sex with them. If you can comfortably do so, then the lines of communication are open.

It's never too late to begin talking with your children. If you respect them, they'll respect you. Too many parents disrespect their children and don't let them make their own decisions. Let your children make their own decisions if it is not an important decision. It helps them grow independent and rebellion will be avoided (as long as they still have boundaries and it's not laissez-faire parenting).

Me Too's poking game is very sweet.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2011 at 10:28 am

This song should explain it best.

vWeb Link

Cat's in the Cradle, Harry Chapin.


Like this comment
Posted by Chris Gaither
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2011 at 11:05 am

Great article! Just goes to show you, the importance of choosing the right parents, and the right family!


Like this comment
Posted by Asian too
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 21, 2011 at 11:37 am

@Asian in Stereo.
I'm Asian too, but in my household my children are not the sum total of their grades. I have many Asian friends who put a high emphasis on social and emotional health. Please stop perpetuating a ridiculous stereotype.


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Asian too - Too many parents in Palo Alto view their kids as the sum total of their grades, AP classes, academic achievements and sport accomplishments (particularly in non-team sports). This is not limited at all to Asian households, there are an abundance of "tiger moms" of every race. Some fellow parents started asking my daughter where she wanted to attend college when she was in 6th grade.

There are some wonderfully academically talented students in Palo Alto. But there are also kids who are musicians, writers, chefs, sculpture, photographers and counselors to their fellow students. We don't value the arts and interpersonal skills enough.


Like this comment
Posted by terryg
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm

If you missed the presentation, it will be rebroadcast will be rebroadcast on Channel 28 - Sat 10/23, Wed 10/26 and Thur 10/27. Many thanks to the PTA Council organizing this event and for sponsoring the videotaping of this presentation. See here for the schedule: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by ParentFurther
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2011 at 10:27 am

Great article! We couldn't agree more. Visit www.parentfurther.com for everyday parenting tips and ideas based on the Developmental Assets research from Search Institute.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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