Education has been the vehicle that has made democracy work in the United States.

Educating every person in our communities is the bedrock that makes communities. An educated society is what we as parents and teachers should work diligently to achieve. Every adult and child should be literate in a democratic society.

What are the responsibilities of a parent to achieve this end? There are many aspects, but I will attempt to touch on a few.

Most importantly parents are the first teachers of children. Children learn what they are taught those critical first five years of life at home. The parent's decision to have children is not a temporary responsibility. It does not end. Children learn from the parent's morals, values, responsibility, decision-making and other valuable lessons that will help them in life and in school.

How does this happen? Raising children begins immediately from the first cry, the first steps, and the first words. It is a building process and it takes a lifetime to establish. The childhood experiences and home environment are vital to the daily development of the brain.

The learning at home is expanded by experiences the child encounters as he or she expands his or her relationships with others in the nuclear family, the extended family, the neighbors and the community. The child brings to these relationships what he or she learned at home.

The parent is the reinforcement, the teacher, the "backstop" that guides children. Parents are what children depend on when things work and don't work in life. But if the parent is absent, there is no "backstop" to help cushion the fall, correct the mistake, to guide, to help or simply to encourage. Then we as a society ask ourselves why this child is behaving this way.

Maybe that is not the right question to ask? Possibly the question should be where was the "backstop," the parent? Parents often tell you: "I never went to school to learn to be a parent. I am learning parenting as I go." Let me assure you that this is why we have grandparents, religious leaders and other professional that can help.

The worst thing to do is say: "I give up." This is only the beginning of a longer journey of trials and tribulations with your children. My grandfather would tell my father "if the tree is leaning, straighten it out when it is young or you will not be able to do so when it is grown."

This relates to raising children the proper way when they are young. This is when children can be guided and they will learn what is acceptable and what is not in society. Parents are the ones responsible to instill these values in their children.

Raising children is a lifetime commitment and parenting that is nurturing is vital in helping children develop expectations which will ultimately impact a child's future decisions and life. If we fail as parents, then our children fail and another generation is left wandering aimlessly. Give your children your time; it is invaluable.

Parents must ensure that the child is loved and raised in a religious environment to help reinforce the values, morals and responsibilities learned at home. No one said it is easy raising children, but how often do we place children second at home and our personal interests first? Place your children first; they need you.

Next week I will write about the educator's responsibility in educating children.

Roberto Garcia is the superintendent for the Robstown Independent School District. Readers may contact him via telephone at 767-6600, ext. 2223.