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Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, is urging parents to be conscious of the critical role they play in molding the lives of their children.

He said not only is good parenting important to the academic advancement of children, but also in enhancing their social development and improving their life expectancy.

Mr. Thwaites was speaking during the official launch of Parents’ Month 2012 on Thursday (November 1) at the Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Library under the theme: ‘Parent the right way: Start listening to your child today’.

Citing the results of a study recently conducted in the United States, the Education Minister said children, who have a stable family background, were three times more likely to graduate from high school than those from unstable circumstances.

“Those, who had a weak background, were four times (more) likely to be sent to prison," he remarked, noting that the study further showed that children in unstable families had a life expectancy 10 to 12 years less than their counterparts in stable homes.

He argued that parents, therefore, must understand that their role is extremely important, not only to their children, but also to society, as they are molding the lives of the men and women of the future.

“It is very important that we understand that the most important thing that any human person can do is to be a good father or a good mother,” he stated. “It’s bigger than being Prime Minister or Minister; it’s bigger than being Shelly-Ann (Fraser-Pryce) or Usain (Bolt)."

For her part, Chairman, Coalition for Better Parenting, Janet Davis, said the theme of Parents’ Month 2012 is quite important, as listening is one of the fundamental skills that parents need to learn.

"The behaviour of listening to your child should begin in the very earliest of stages in their development,” she stated.

She noted that a listening parent is an informed parent, as “by listening to your child you can gather information about what they know, how they feel about some things, the things they like, the things they fear and what they think about you as a parent”.

Mrs. Davis also noted that this year’s theme is a clear indication that society is moving away from the authoritarian child rearing attitudes of the past, to a more flexible approach, where parents can give attention to the unique personality of each child and the child can be treated as a person with dignity and rights.

In her remarks, General Manager, Spanish-Jamaican Foundation, Dr. Rebecca Tortello, said good parenting is critical not only to the development of strong families and schools, but also to the progress of the nation.

Parents’ Month 2012 is organised by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Coalition for Better Parenting. Jamaica recognised the first Parents’ Month in 1991.

Activities for the month will include: a National Church Service at the Ocho Rios Baptist Church in St. Ann on Sunday, November 11; and a Parenting Awards Presentation at RIU, Montego Bay, on November 30. There will also be a number of parenting workshops held across the island during the month.