By Nichole Baker
My full name is Nichole Marie Baker. I am 26 years old. I work full-time now, but plan to go back to school. I am from Morristown, New Jersey. I want to own a farm. I love kids, laughing, and meeting new people. I hate the news, social media, and violence. And… I recently had an Awakening. The girl I once was made decisions that didn’t match my potential. She was liberal. She didn’t yet know the value of discipline and structure. She was ignorant to the lifelong effects of making good decisions. She thought she was too smart to have to be careful. She had little appreciation for truly listening because she thought she had heard it all.
A decade and two kids later, I woke up in the ACT Parenting Program. It was a mandated workshop held at THP (Homeless Solutions Transitional Housing Program), where I lived. A program designed to offer support to those who (at one point in time or another) likely lacked the very same use of structure that I had. A place that catered to the people who had fallen upon hard times, maybe made a bad decision or two, and provided them with the tools and rules that would lead them to a self-sufficient, positive, healthy lifestyle. The Transitional Housing program itself had a goal of transitioning and structuring its participants to independence in a short 18-month timeframe, maximum. At first it seemed like forever, but in hindsight, 18 months was a short period of time to change behaviors I’d been displaying for years.
The 8-week ACT Parenting Program mixed with my growth from THP taught me that changing your life, your views, your values, your behaviors, can be almost instantaneous. Impact is not reliant on time.
The day that life woke me up was only June 25th, 2014. It was the day the ACT Parenting Program concluded. It was the day I could confidently say I was equipped with the tools to teach my beautiful, crazy, über-smart children everything I wasn’t willing to learn. It was the day I went from being a mom to a Mother. That day, most importantly, I took full responsibility for my influence on their future. I know now that my words, my time, my attention, my dedication, my struggles, my reactions, my responses, my behaviors… will be imperative to who they become. That was my Awakening.
Below is a poem I wrote reflecting the lessons I’ve learned from the ACT program.
ODE to ACT
Our Paths from Then to Now
Then, we Reacted. Now, we Respond.
Then, we had Relationships with our children. Now, we have Bonds.
Then, we Punished. Now, we Discipline.
Then, we heard them. Now, we’re Listening.
Then, we Dictated. Now, we Direct.
Then, we knew they were the Cause. Now, we know our Effects.
Then, we were People. Now, we’re Role Models.
Now, we are Leaders… that we want our kids to Follow.
Then, we were stuck. Now, we see our children’s perspectives.
Then, we were just Moms & Dads. Now, we’re “Good Behavior Detectives”.
It seems like Then was only yesterday… but here we are Now.
Then, we were only Parents. Now, we know HOW.
Over 8 short weeks, which felt like an eternity when it began, the ACT Parenting Workshop made an impact on my life. It wasn’t another “Mandatory Meeting” at the inconvenient hour of 7 PM. It was a journey. It wasn’t only educational, it was an experience. The presenters could have talked for hours on end and given us the most influential information there is to give. None of that information would have mattered if we, as parents, didn’t interact together. If we, as parents, didn’t listen to each other and respect each other, take on each other’s points of view and respond without judgment to one another… none of us would have grown. The ACT Parenting Workshop was a comfort zone for each other while it taught us to be better individually at the very same time. While we all may be vastly different, and no, we didn’t always agree, the one thing we all have in common: we are ALL better parents because of ACT.
Response from Julia Silva (ACT National Developer and Director & Director, APA’s Violence Prevention Office)
Reading Nichole’s poem and her telling us about her life and the impact of our ACT Raising Safe Kids Program on her was very emotional for me and really brought me to tears. Seeing that the program we at APA created 12 years ago has had such a powerful impact is not only gratifying but also motivating and energizing. It sends the message: “Keep going, we are spreading good in the world!”
Nichole profoundly understood what the ACT Program is about: helping parents and caregivers look at themselves, have the courage to see what kind of parents they are, their challenges, what kind of parents they want and need to be, and to be inspired, challenged, and encouraged to change. And finally, to be the best parents for their kids’ present and future.
The ACT Program partners with hundreds of organizations, agencies, and institutions in communities all over the US, Puerto Rico and six other countries (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Greece, Japan, Peru). ACT has trained thousands of highly qualified, dedicated, committed professionals who conduct the program classes and help thousands of parents and caregivers like Nichole. They help them learn research-based knowledge and practice positive parenting skills that will help create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments that protect children from violence and abuse and its long-term tragic consequences. More than ever, our kids deserve and need informed and nurturing parents and caregivers and safe families to thrive!
The program is affordable, cost-effective and well evaluated by independent research teams funded by the CDC and other sources.