Last week here in Washington, researchers and policy analysts from around the nation met at a government-sponsored conference to discuss ways of promoting positive behaviors by youths and minimizing risky ones. Some of the presentations were painfully abstract and abstruse, nearly to the point of irrelevance, while others were direct, to the point, insightful, and genuinely interesting and relevant.
In short, the presentations reflected the changes taking place as new data and research expose the flawed foundation and failed results of the old radical theories and policies.
In the first session, a presenter summarized research findings that show overwhelmingly the numerous protective benefits to children who grow up in a home with married biological parents. Several participants immediately challenged the findings. Marriage as normative for child rearing? Never. The old guard was not about to let stand the idea that a healthy marriage provides a superior child rearing environment. No matter what the data show, some of the crowd insisted that other family arrangements could produce just as beneficial an environment. They even stooped to argue that if other alternatives had the same characteristics as a healthy marriage — a very big “if” — the results would be the same. Moreover, the radical left participants argued that not all marriages are healthy ones, a fact that was not in dispute. In this setting, no one dared breathe a word about the fact that marriage is the God-ordained means for providing for the needs of children.
Another presenter discussed an innovative preschool program that addresses the inability of problem children to control their social, emotional and cognitive behaviors. Particularly striking is the fact that current research shows that self-control has a stronger association with academic achievement than IQ or entry-level reading or math skills. The audience in general was captivated by the innovative techniques that demonstrated how children can successfully become “masters of their own behavior.” Rather than merely being guided or coerced into good behavior by a directive authority figure, the participating children engage in a variety of specifically designed, developmentally appropriate “self-regulation” activities that teach children how to focus and co-operate in order to achieve.