Scales Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney
128 North 2nd Street, Room 329
Yakima, Washington 98901
509-574-1210


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Yakima County

Parents' Corner

We thank the Lexington Kentucky Prosecutor's Office for permission to reprint the information below.

School Success Begins At Home
An excerpt from a USA Weekend feature by Tom Loveless, Ph.D., a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., where he serves as director of the Brown Center on Education Policy.

Learning takes time. People are more likely to learn the things they spend time on than those they donít. This common sense rule is known by anyone who has tried to master a difficult skill, from playing piano to swinging a golf club. Itís true for school subjects, too, as has been confirmed by a massive body of research. Still, children in the United States donít devote much time to learning outside the classroom. The average American high schooler spends five hours on homework per week.

Families need to re-examine how their children spend their time -- and re-evaluate their priorities. Here are five activities parents can focus on to ensure their childrenís success at school:

The issue:  Homework.

The problem:  The popular misconception that kids have too much.

The fix:  Accept homework. It is essential.

Research shows homework boosts achievement in grades 6-12. Harris Cooper, an expert on homework, recommends a sensible target for the average student: Ten minutes per day per grade level (e.g., 30 minutes for third-graders, 60 for sixth-graders, 90 for ninth-graders).

The issue:  Socializing with friends.

The problem:  School performance falls as time spent with friends increases.

The fix:  Influence of adults must outweigh that of friends when it comes to school.

Nearly one-fifth of students say they donít try as hard as they could because they worry about what their friends might think. Only one in three say their friends believe good grades are important.

The answer is not to lock kids in their bedrooms. Rather, schools and parents need to convey consistently high expectations. Peer values are strong, but adult values are stronger. Even teens realize that; a 1997 survey showed they feel adults donít demand enough of them. "The students seem to be crying out for the adults in their lives to take a stand and inspire them to do more," says Deborah Wadsworth, the president of Public Agenda, a non-partisan polling group that focuses on educational issues.

The issue:  Extracurricular activities.

The problem:  Sports are all-important.

The fix:  Cut back on sports if they interfere with schoolwork.

The average high school student spends 10 to 15 hours per week on extracurricular activities.

Do sports affect student learning? In moderation, participation is healthy. For academically weak students, sports can make school more attractive and reinforce the importance of being a good student. Achievement falls off sharply, however, for students who devote more than 20 hours weekly to extracurricular activities. Varsity squads easily can spend that much time on practice, conditioning, travel and competition.

Kids who spend more than 20 hours per week on sports probably borrow time from other activities. Sacrificing study time means sacrificing the future.

The issue:  Television.

The problem:  Television usually is not the problem; people just think it is.

The fix:  Limit, don't turn off, the TV.

Television often is blamed for depressing student achievement. Some of that is a bum rap. Students who are casual viewers -- no more than an hour a day -- tend to do better academically than do students who watch no television at all.

Why are occasional viewers better students? They probably are discriminating with their time, using TV to stay informed of current events or to enjoy cultural shows. But heavy viewing definitely takes a toll. Half of eighth-graders report watching three or more hours of TV daily. In both reading and math, those students perform at significantly lower levels than occasional viewers.

The issue:  Part-time jobs.

The problem:  Students work too much.

The fix:  Curtail weekday jobs during the school year.

Who is better prepared for the real world: someone skilled in math and science or in flipping hamburgers and making change at a register?

As with sports, 20 hours of work per week seems to be the limit; studies indicate that working more impedes learning. Some kids work late at night, and although there are laws against it, enforcement is spotty. High school teachers will tell you students fall asleep in class. Unless absolutely necessary, high schoolersí jobs should be limited to weekends and summer.

14 "Rules Kids Won't Learn In School"

Written by Charles J. Sykes, a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, who has written a number of books, including "Dumbing Down Our Kids:  Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves, But Can't read, Write or Add."

RULE 1:   Life is not fair -- get used to it.

RULE 2:   The world won't care about your self-esteem.  The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

RULE 3:   You will not make $50,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with a car phone, until you earn both.

RULE 4:   If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss who doesn't have tenure.

RULE 5:   Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity.  Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping -- they called it opportunity.

RULE 6:   If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

RULE 7:   Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your room.

RULE 8:   Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

RULE 9:   Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

RULE 10:   Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

RULE 11:   Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

RULE 12:   Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic.

RULE 13:   You are not immortal. (See RULE 12).

RULE 14:   Enjoy this while you can.

Family Safety Tips, What Should We Do To Protect Ourselves And Our Families From Crime?

The crime rate has been dropping during the 90's, but that appears to be changing. In the first six months of 2000 there were increases in auto-theft, rape and aggravated assault, according to the FBI. Internet-related crimes, identity theft and credit card fraud are also on the rise.

The situation may soon worsen. The number of young people entering their late teens and early 20's -- the most crime-prone years -- is the largest since the baby boomers. With that and the possible slowdown of the economy, crime may be heading back up.

We canít expect law enforcement to be everywhere all the time. We must assume roles in making our communities and ourselves safe. So what should we do to protect ourselves and families from crime?

  1. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. A call from an unknown creditor may be your first clue that your identity may have been stolen. To minimize your risk, donít divulge personal information online or over the telephone. Shred bills and other documents before throwing them away. Review your credit reports at least once per year. For more info about identity theft visit: www.consumer.gov/idtheft.org.

  2. Response to rape threats . Research has shown that some responses to attempted rape are better than others. There is strong evidence that fighting, screaming and trying to get away are effective, according to Sarah Ullman, Ph.D., at the University of Illinois, at Chicago. Experts advise being aware of oneís surroundings and staying in well-lit and public places whenever possible to avoid the situation in the first place.

  3. Try to burglar proof your house. Your first line of defense is to lock your doors and windows. Almost 50% of burglaries are accomplished through unlocked doors or windows. Studies have shown that barking dogs deter lots of burglars. For more tips, call the Yakima County Sheriff's Office, 509-574-2600, or your own police department.

  4. If you see a car thief trying to steal your car, get a good look at the thief. A description of the crook is important to police. Donít run and confront the thief. You risk injury. If you must confront such a person, do it from a distance. For more theft prevention tips visit: www.nicb.com.

Source: "Crime Alert: Protect Your Family," by Sharlene K. Johnson, June, 2001 edition, Ladiesí Home Journal.

Eight Steps To Making A Seamless Transition From Adolescence To Adulthood

Some people believe that adolescence is a difficult time in a child's development. But, this is not necessarily true. Many teenagers pass through their adolescent years smoothly and victoriously, passing into adulthood relatively unscathed. Still, there are many steps you can take to help your teenager and yourself make a seamless transition. The eight steps that follow are some of the most helpful:

  • Keep communication lines open. Listen when your child talks and try to understand his/her position. Be supportive rather than critical. When it's your turn to talk, be assertive, but don't lecture.

  • Maintain a good relationship. Chances are, your child will choose to obey you more often than not if the two of you have a good relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

  • Avoid treating your adolescent as if he/she were a young child. Give him/her the respect your child needs to learn how to make their own decisions and form their own opinions. Allow them to make mistakes. Adjust their role in the family so that it is more appropriate to their changing needs. Making them dependent upon you will not help them.

  • Give them space. Try not to smother him/her or force them to do everything the family does. Independence is necessary to your child's development. Be understanding.

  • Honor and respect your child's uniqueness. Encourage him/her to be themselves. Accept their differences. Time spent trying to make your child a model child will only end in frustration and resentment.

  • Be a strong leader, not just a good parent. Be positive. Express confidence in your child's abilities. Teach values. Set a good example. Conduct your life the way you would like to see your child conduct theirs. Be careful not to say, "Do as I say, not as I do." Kids will remember what you did more than what you said. Remember that being a parent is hard work. Effective parenting requires self control and responsible behavior on your part, whether you are parenting an infant, child or adolescent.

  • No matter what happens, a sense of humor can help! Be willing to laugh at yourself. Laugh along with your child. Have fun. Kids love it when adults lighten up!

  • Whenever you would like to see an improvement in your child's attitude or behavior, take a look at your own first. You may be the one who needs to make an adjustment. Your child might be following in your footsteps.

The Internet, Your Child And You -- What Every Parent Should Know

The Internet is an extraordinary resource that links our children to a world of information, experiences and ideas that might otherwise be unavailable to them. However, the Internet can also expose our children to numerous risks, and it is crucial to remember that when a child is online, his or her safety may also be on the line. Just as you have taught your child basic safety rules for the physical world, you should also teach your child basic safety rules for the computer world.

The following basic safety rules pertain to all types of Internet applications.

  • Place your child's computer in an area where you are best able to monitor his or her online activities.

  • Take an active interest in your child's online activities.

  • Warn your child never to reveal any identifying information such as: ethnicity, age, address, phone number, school name, parents' names, parents' employers or work addresses. Caution your child that predators and con-artists are experts at accumulating incremental amounts of personal data until they eventually obtain enough information to locate a user.

  • Warn your child that identity is easily concealed online and that people may not be who they claim to be. Explain to your child that, for example, an online "friend" who claims to be the same age as your child may in fact be an adult in search of a child victim.

  • Warn your child never to arrange an in-person meeting with someone met online.

  • Warn your child never to accept anything sent to him or her by a person met online.

  • Warn your child never to post online a photo of any family member without your permission. Explain that online images may be altered or "morphed" and used on, for example, pornographic sites.

  • Consider using filtering or blocking software. There is an extensive array of filtering or blocking software available. Some of it is free of charge. However, you should be aware that the software may not be completely effective, children may be able to bypass the restrictions, or your child may use a computer that is not equipped with these protective devices.

"Parental Power Is The Most Underutilized Tool In Combating Substance Abuse", According To Joseph Califano, President Of The National Center On Addiction And Substance Abuse

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, (CASA), a national organization that studies substance abuse, recently reported:

"Parents who are parents rather than pals can greatly reduce the risk of their children smoking, drinking and using drugs."

"Teenagers with parents who enforce curfews and monitor their childrenís TV and music habits are less likely to use drugs."

"Teens with parents who are Ďhands-offí and impose no restrictions on them are at four times the risk to smoke, drink or use drugs than teens living in a house with rules ."

"The more times a week teens eat dinner with their parents -- without the TV on -- the less the child's risk of becoming a substance abuser. Youths who do not eat with their parents have double the risk of using drugs than those who eat dinner as a family every night."

"For the 6th straight year, teens reported drugs as the greatest concern facing people their age."

"Chances of teens using drugs more than doubles when they attend a school with drugs in its halls and lockers."

Being the parent of a teen is hard. It means having clear expectations and boundaries, so the kids know where you are coming from and why.

Source: Washington Times, Feb. 22, 2001, edition,"Parental control curbs teen drug use," by Regina Holtman and Cheryl Wetzstein.




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Updated November 19, 2010