BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
When he felt other community efforts to promote positive parenting were foundering, David Dooley turned to windows.
Dooley, a Bakersfield elementary school teacher, wants to stamp out child abuse one helpful hint at a time by plastering parenting tips on bakeries, boutiques and other businesses around Bakersfield.
Visit www.advancingparenting.org to read the full list of parenting tips and find out which businesses are participating.
"Our intention is to bombard people with quality parenting information," Dooley said. "It's not that there's a lack of quality parenting information out there, it's that it's not getting communicated the way it needs to be."
Dooley started putting vinyl tips on windows several years ago but earned nonprofit status last year for his efforts, which he named Advancing Parenting. This spring, the nonprofit was awarded its first grants, $1,000 from Kern Community Foundation and $2,500 from Wal-Mart, Dooley wrote in an email.
Even before he began spreading messages around town, Dooley said he has always been aware of parenting and how it affects children.
"I'm a mandated reporter," he said. "I've had to do that sort of thing, and that affected me deeply."
The teacher said children raised in an abusive home don't learn positive parenting from other sources and may repeat the bad behavior. He reached out to local pastors hoping to encourage them to promote parenting education in their churches, but got nowhere.
Dooley said he knew if he was "really going to make child abuse a thing of the past," he would have to try a new avenue.
One day while shopping for furniture with his wife at a local store, Dooley was struck with the idea of posting parenting tips on businesses' windows. The store owner agreed, other proprietors followed and the campaign eventually spread to vehicle windows as well.
Dooley compiled a list of 50 tips that encourage parents to read to their children, get involved in their kids' activities and promote the value of hard work to their offspring.
A tip posted on the glass of Divaz Desirez Boutique reads, "Love your child, and express that love frequently in little ways. Hugs, caresses, a smile, a hand on the shoulder can often communicate feelings more effectively than words."
Roseanne Nette, the shop owner, loved Dooley's idea and that particular piece of advice. Coming from big Italian family, Nette said she passed on that kind of warm affection to her children, but she also encountered many youngsters hungry for affirmation.
The unsolicited window advice has gotten positive feedback from customers as well.
"People have come to my store and said, 'I really like that,'" Nette said.
About 50 businesses and vehicles bear the parenting tips to date. Advancing Parenting is still a one-man show, but Dooley said he would welcome volunteers, including more folks who will let him post the tips on their vehicle windows. He plans to disseminate tips via bumper stickers and yard signs in the future.
"I'm writing grants just as fast as I can. When we get more money, we're going to start putting (the tips) on electronic billboards," Dooley said.
The ambitious educator hopes that his method of sharing "media-based and community-based" parenting lessons spreads throughout Kern County and eventually the nation.
Dooley does his part to get the word out as well. The back of his Jeep sports the message, "Let kids experience the logical consequences of their actions, if it's safe." Dooley said he sees people taking pictures of the message, giving him the thumbs up or starting a conversation about the advice. Some even signal him to roll down his window at the next stop light and give him kudos.
"I think (the tips) could be a very, very powerful tool for good," Dooley said.