I spent 30 years behind bars as a prison doctor and found that the trajectory of individuals ending up in prison for the most part started in their childhood. That’s one of the reasons my husband, Clifton, and I started mentoring children at risk. Here are some tips that 12 year old Dante, who we started mentoring at 3, gave me last week when I took him to his basketball practice. I asked him what my husband, who passed away in February, taught him that would keep him from going down the path to prison like his father and many of his relatives.
1. He taught me how to deal with my anger and not lash out.
2. He taught me the difference between needs and wants.
3. He taught me that education was the way I could get money for what I needed in life.
4. He taught me about consequences.
5. He taught me to get my pleasure and source of accomplishment thru sports.
6. He taught me to be leader and how to be an example to my two little brothers.
7. He taught me that the police were just doing a job and weren’t all bad.
Research shows that the more adverse childhood experiences a child suffers the greater at risk they are for ending up in the criminal justice system. One of the things that can help them with resilience is having a caring adult mentor (especially a male in the case of boys) who takes the time to build a relationship based on trust and good communication.