Nurturing Law Abiders

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

How do you stop crime and teach people to be good neighbors?

Start at the beginning. Raise honest kids that care about their neighbors. Obvious, right? But sometimes we parents get distracted. Or, at least, wish we had some help.

In Washington, this week, nearly 2,000 leading thinkers - police, politicians, youths, educators, and church leaders - are pondering ways to prevent crime.

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Prevention, of course, means addressing root causes, not symptom solving. So, many programs and ideas go back to helping parents. Afterschool programs. Mentors. Advisers for young mothers. Assisting abused children (see Page B4). One study, started 22 years ago, shows that when "at-risk" toddlers (children of drug abusers and/or poor, single parent families) in Michigan got quality preschool care, and their parents got weekly in-home coaching, they were five times less likely than their peers to become chronic lawbreakers.

What about that, Judith Rich Harris? ("The Nurture Assumption - Parents Matter Less Than You Think and Peers Matter More").

And if there's a common thread among single mothers and working parents, it's that nurturing and providing often seem to be at odds.

In our cover story to the right, fathers in Japan Inc. are now being admonished for working long hours. Discipline at home is suffering, and juvenile delinquency is up. The Ministry of Education says parents need to reexamine their priorities. Find some balance, advises a Japanese high-schooler.

Half a world a way, in Lebanon, N.H., Jeanne Childs has her answer to the work/home dilemma (see Page B8). She's building stronger "choice muscles" by exercising focus and discipline.

Far more could be said but dinner and family are waiting. It's time to flex my choice quads and gluts.

* We're home. Let us know how we're doing. Write to the Homefront Editor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail home@csps.com

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