As most parent know, finding common ground with adolescents can be difficult, at best.

However, “real” adults – parents, teachers, community members – may provide better examples for youth than the much-revered movie star or professional athlete.

Debbie Richardson, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension parenting assistant specialist, told the Associated Press that parents and other key adults close to a child are the most important role models, and reduce the risk of students dropping out of school.

“Children who are given encouragement by their role models to follow their dreams and reach for success will build confidence,” Richardson told the AP.

According to Dropout Risk Factors and Exemplary Programs, a study analyzing youth, the process of dropping out is usually the result of a long process of disengagement by a child.

Talking Leaves Job Corps Independent Living Coordinator Joyce Rose has seen a number of youth near the edge of failure in her long career.

“I’ve seen it all too often,” said Rose. “Kids come in here and have never been told they’ve done anything good. We work with them and the most rewarding part is to watch them grow and gain confidence in themselves.”

Claire Smith is the mother of two grown sons, and she and her husband went to great measures to give their children a solid foundation.

“I think the role model for our sons is their father,” said Smith.

“He has always treated them with respect, listened to them, was fair and firm and taught them by example what it means to be a good man and a giving part of their world. He has given them his quiet strength to carry them through manhood and to teach that to their own children.”

The Smiths tried to have at least one meal together at the table, as well as being home when their children came home from school.

“If we were, we heard all about their day, but if we weren’t we could ask what their day was like and get ‘OK,’ as an answer later one,” she said.

“We also tried to set aside special times with each son, alone with my husband and me – a dinner out, some activity they enjoyed – just something that said to them that they were unique and important to us.”

Smith and her husband believe it’s important to present a united front when dealing with their children.

“The boys knew they could not get around one of us by going to the other,” she said. “Even if one of us was wrong, the other waited until we were alone to talk about it. Then, if forgiveness needed to be asked of our sons, we did it. We admitted our fault which hopefully taught them to admit their faults, too.”

Cheryl Nobles and her husband are raising a 12-year-old daughter and take time to let her know she has a solid foundation right at home.

“One thing right now is my daughter and I are walking in the evening,” said Nobles.

“We are both trying to lose some weight, but other benefits are wonderful because we talk as we walk and it’s definitely wonderful one-on-one time. Also, it’s great getting out in the neighborhood.”

Nobles’ daughter attends Woodall school, which give her face time with both parents in the morning and afternoon.

“Her dad is taking her in the mornings, and I’m picking her up in the afternoon,” she said.

“Being in the car alone, we are able to talk about anything. We really try to be sure she or any of her friends know they can come to us to talk about anything.”

Both Nobles and Smith believe attending church together, as a family, has strengthened the bond of parents and children.

“We are also pretty active in our church and we have a great youth program at First United Methodist Church,” said Nobles.

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