In “The Wizard of Oz,” the main characters went to Emerald City seeking qualities they really had all along. They just needed a little guidance to find them within.
Fresno-based Family Leadership, run by the husband-and-wife team of David and Patty Bunker, operates on a similar principle. The Bunkers subscribe to a theory developed at Northwestern University known as ABCD, for Asset Based Community Development. The words may sound confusing, but their meaning is simple. The right leaders to solve a community’s problems, the assets, are already in place. The Bunkers don’t just subscribe to this theory. They have put it into practice over the past 23 years, touching over 200,000 parents along the way.
David explains that in one of Fresno’s poorest communities reside many parents with considerable medical experience and skills gained in their native countries. Because these parents are unable to get licensed here, they aren’t able to offer their talents through traditional channels. But tapping into their knowledge makes a huge difference in their neighborhoods. The bottom line: parents want to get involved, and good things happen when they do.
Family Leadership brings teams of trainers to schools with poverty rates of at least 90%. It takes parents chosen by the principals and other school leaders and puts them through an intensive two-day leadership workshop, teaching them behaviors and principles they can immediately both put to work in their own households and teach to other parents
The Family That Eats Together
Graduates of the two-day workshop then can teach other parents in weekly programs, including the cornerstone six-week course “Parenting Partners.” Other courses are available, including one being run by sponsoring schools that anyone can take online. That course, the “Family Meals Challenge,” can be found at myfamilymeals.org. It usually takes two to three hours to complete but can be done in pieces as small as five minutes at a time. The ideas behind the challenge are simple but powerful: families that have meals together eat healthier food, and their children are likelier to perform well in school and avoid developing addictions.
The concepts Family Leadership teaches are, again, simple but powerful. They involve encouragement instead of scolding, presence instead of distraction, maintaining boundaries instead of permitting arguments, and above all, the idea of positive discipline. What is that? Well, consider the typical seventh-grader and his or her new freedom, going to a number of different classes instead of a single room. Sometimes these kids think it’s ok to cut class. Instead of punishing the kids when they get caught, David suggests the following remedy: have a parent tell the child, “if you don’t make it to class, your teacher will call me and I’ll come to sit in your seat.” It works. Principals, administrators, and teachers all acknowledge that they too benefit from learning these parenting techniques.
You may wonder why you haven’t heard of Family Leadership. That’s how David and Patty want it. They don’t want to overshadow the efforts of the parents, the real heroes. They also don’t need the publicity. In the early 2000’s they connected with Minneapolis’ Search Institute, one of the leading social-science think tanks focused on teenagers. The Search Institute helped develop manuals for Family Leadership and invited David and Patty to speak at events. Soon schools were calling, asking if Family Leadership could help.
Having started with 10 schools in the Central Valley, Family Leadership is now present on over 500 campuses. The good news: they’re hiring.
From time to time FOCUS 360 will include profiles of people and organizations making a difference in our community. It is not known whether that profiled approve or disapprove of Regency Investment Advisors or its advisory services provided. This article reflects the opinions of those interviewed, and should not be taken as a request for you to donate to any particular organization