Parents Taking Control of Discipline Conference empowers parents to work with their kids

At first, the parents seated around the tables didn’t how to react when Dee J. Anderson, executive director/founder of Abba House Outreach Ministries, told everyone to group themselves into pairs … and arm-wrestle. Once they got over the giggling, the female-dominated room paired up, and when Anderson shouted, “Go!” they all started wrestling, with only a few clear-cut winners.

“And what happened?” she asked them. “Not many of you won, because each of you were working against the other. Anderson smiled. “That’s because you have conflict.” Anderson used this example to illustrate how parents need to work with their children and not against them in a workshop for the fourth annual Parents Taking Control of Discipline Conference, held Friday — two days before Mother’s Day — sponsored by the Atlanta Council of PTAs and held at the Salvation Army’s Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

The conference brings community workers and organizations together with parents to offer real-life and usefuly tools to help prevent or deal with children with challenging behavior issues. Pared down somewhat due to the economy, the conference nevertheless focused its efforts. “We wanted to narrow our concentration on three key issues: gangs and drugs, bullying, and attendance,” said Thelma Malone, chairperson of the Atlanta Council of PTAs and interviewed in the video above. “When students aren’t in schools, there’s a reason, and a lack of discipline plays into that. We want to address those issues.”

While previous conferences have featured a combination of parents and APS staff in the audience, this year focused solely on parents; there were 200 in attendance. (See video above with one parent’s perspective.) More on this story after the jump …

“We really want to hep support the parents, to help them help their kids be successful in school,” said Dr. Carolyn Hart, special assistant in the Office of the Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. “And for them to be successful in school, they have to be in school, and they’ve got to be attentive in school.”

As intimidating as the notion of disciplining the child can be, the workshops broke the notion down into simple terms for the attendees to grasp and use. They were also given real-life examples, including some from Dr. James Winfrey, founder of the Bridges Center and a former gang member of South Central’s infamous Bloods before moving to Atlanta and turning his life around. Winfrey talked about leading by example. “When I see those young men walking around with their pants all hanging low, I’m not going to be just another person to criticize them and tell them not to do it,” Dr. Winfrey said. “I’m just going to be. That is, I’m just going to wear my clothes, and after awhile, I’ll have some of them asking me if they can wear one of my suits.”

Mainly, Malone says, parents don’t need to be overwhelmed when dealing with kids: “They don’t have to be bewildered, and they don’t have to feel helpless because there is support for them and their children. We want to give them useful resources they can take away from this to deal with their situation.”

Representatives from various community groups were on hand in the vendor room, including the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness, MARTA, Right from the Start Medicaid Outreach Project, New Beginning Today, Amerigroup Community Care, Iron Two Iron Ministries, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

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