Mass shootings are shocking, and they should be! Together with other everyday killings, they are happening more often all the time; and that needs to stop. Changes have to be made and soon, or gun violence will be here to stay. New protective precautions have been taken in schools and at other public places, but those measures are not broad or basic enough to stop the problem.
The solution begins with gun restrictions but does not end there. In reality the answer is hiding in plain sight—education and support for new and young parents. Birth to age three are the true formative years. Study after study have given the same results—early positive input in the first three years correlates with success in school and later in life.
Violence is not new to us. Back in 1994 the Carnegie Commission conducted a multi-million dollar research study to find out why there was so much crime and violence in our country at that time. While they thought they were going to find that it was because of what happens to teens, young adults, and in the prison system, they did not. After examinations of all kinds the evidence showed that the cause was solely related to what happens to children during their first three years. Abuse and neglect were glaring factors, and more specifically, attention to these five areas were limited or lacking–nurturing love, guidance, support, protection and educational stimulation.
Brain scans took the search to the next level. Betty Hart and Todd Risley made a huge contribution in this area. They studied the problem from a different point of view—early brain development. Their results published in the landmark book Meaningful Differences were astounding. Using brain scans of two-year-olds they found that the ones that were from children who were talked to kindly and nicely on a daily basis had brains that were large and well-developed, while those that were from children who heard language with short choppy sentences like “Stop that. Come here” and “Leave me alone” had brains that were smaller and less well-developed. Here is the worst part. These results are irreversible.
Success in Hampton, VA was another striking example that led the way! It was a city in 1989 that was ridden with crime and violence, and it turned itself around. They decided to solve their problem by helping new and young parents in every way possible–distribution of large amounts of baby supplies, plentiful childcare and other support services and parenting classes. Who would have thought that something as simple as time, money and energy invested in supporting parents of young children could make such a big difference, and yet it did!
Providing preschool is one thing afterwards, but setting up “universal parent education and support” for the first three years holds the real power. We must do what we can to help all parents as they go through these very exciting yet equally difficult times. Confident parenting saves lives.