New Program To Help Parents Cope With Problems


Lucy Meza offers help when being a parent gets tough. She works to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect, and she now heads a new program in Payson called Parents Anonymous.

"People don't care about what you know," she said. "They respond because they understand that you care about them. It's not how much you know -- it's how much you care."

Meza has faced some challenges in her role as a counselor, teacher and nurturer. She's worked with the poor and the downtrodden, has seen children with broken arms and spirits, parents who go to prison for abuse. She's worked with a woman who stayed with her physically abusive husband until she could take it no more. And another whose low self-esteem caused her to inflict pain on her children.

"Sometimes it's the adults who need the nurturing," Meza said. "They've never heard a positive thing said to them. If you grew up in one of those families, you don't have an example to go by.

You don't know how to treat another human being."

And sometimes, you just think that yelling and demeaning and hitting is normal behavior.

Meza said that growing up, she thought her parents were doing a great job with her.

"But when I look back at the spankings, the yelling, the demeaning -- I think there is a better way," she said.

Even with her own five children, Meza said she learned a better way. She and her husband spanked their first three children. After the fourth and fifth children were born, they began to look at other methods of discipline.

"I spanked my children when they were young," she said, "because I did not know a better way."

She took a year off from work to practice what she preaches on her own three grandchildren.

Meza worked as a parent aide for Friendly House in Phoenix for three years before she went to work for Healthy Families as a family support specialist. She was hired for the position in 1994 and worked up until December 1999. But she and her husband were commuting to the Valley to work from Payson, where they had moved in October.

Now she has a job in Payson as coordinator for a support group that began in 1970 in California and is now part of a national movement to prevent child abuse and neglect.

"This came about as a godsend, really," Meza said. "We moved here to Payson Oct. 1 and were commuting. Everyone thought we were crazy and, now that I think about it, we were. The commuting

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commuting back and forth gets harder -- it doesn't get easier."

By the end of October, Meza's husband, Luis, had a job working at La-Z-Boy Furniture in Payson. Meza read a social services weekly newsletter one day in late October and discovered that a new program was starting in Payson.

"I read that three times and put my fingers over the letters to make sure it said Payson," Meza said.

Meza was on the phone in an instant, saying that she now lived in Payson and wanted the job. She was interviewed twice.

"And here I am," she said. "My position is coordinator. I'll coordinate classes and care giving. We get volunteers and teach the children as well."

Meza said the children are taught about nurturing on their level while their parents also take nurturing classes. The classes are different than others that concentrate on the parent only, and the classes are offered to everyone, not just parents who are having problems.

Meza said there are problems understanding how to discipline and deal with children today because there are so few role models.

"We did it before by watching our parents," she said, "but we live in a different age now. We also live in an age where spanking your child can get you into trouble -- and there are a lot of teen parents."

Meza said she worked with one young mother who was only 15, and her mother was just 30. "Where are the role models for these young parents?"

Meza said she doesn't believe that children should go without discipline. She just thinks there's another way to do it without spanking.

Meza has worked with parents who could not seem to get through to their children. One woman spanked her 10-year-old son often, but the boy just kept getting worse and worse.

"Nothing was getting better," Meza said. "I gave the mother information on time-outs, removing things from him that he really cared about, no TV, no going out, no friends."

Meza said it takes about 28 days to break any bad habit, and she tells the parents she works with to try her suggestions for one month.

Meza currently has an office in her home and plans to hold the free classes at United Methodist Church at 414 North Easy Street every Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. starting Feb. 16.

Like other groups using the word "anonymous," Parents Anonymous is just that.

"No one needs to know anything about you," Meza said. "We fill out paperwork, but it stays with us.

"Taking a parenting class and the nurturing program doesn't mean you're a bad parent," she said.

"Taking the nurturing program means you are a very good parent, that you want to be a better parent."

For more information, contact Meza at 474-3591.

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