Teen Mom

Teen Mom

Shantell Thomas, 18-year-old mother of two, gets parenting help to leave her violent upbringing behind at a crucial point in her children's lives. (Chicago Tribune)

The philosophy that parents are a child’s best teacher is the major lesson teen mother Shantell Thomas has learned from Parents Too Soon, a Chicago-area program that teaches young moms about the social, emotional and brain development of children, in the hope they can develop better parenting skills.

Thomas, who was pregnant with her first child at age 11, and now also has a one-year-old son, is trying leave her violent childhood behind and be a better parent than her own were. “My father taught me to be a hustler. My mama taught me how to talk people out of stuff I want,” she said. Both of her parents are currently in prison for drug dealing, as is her son Jabari’s father. With such a background, it’s surprising how much progress the young woman is making turning her life around.

This Chicago Tribune video captures the tough-talking, buzzcut-wearing Thomas in tender moments with her son, working on her schoolwork, and throwing a children’s birthday party — circumstances in which she would have been unlikely to be found just 18 months ago. Thomas credits the program for giving her new goals — a high school diploma and a job — and she’s learning new anger management techniques to help with a violent streak she attributes to her drug-filled upbringing. “I’m doing what I was supposed to be doing a long time ago,” Thomas says.

CHANNEL: Chicago Tribune

Length: 4:11

Video by Heather Charles