“You are pristine, you are what every man fears and what every man desires to be.” This was the mantra our three young men were told daily. This statement had a very distinct meaning that in my opinion helped shape their character and understanding of what was expected of them and how others viewed them. Let me expound on the meaning of the aforementioned statement…
“You are pristine” – It was important to let the boys know they were perfectly and wonderfully made. This was to ensure they were comfortable in their skin.“You are what every man fears”- The hue of your skin draws attention and has a history of inciting fear. For these reasons you will need to walk softly, have a pleasant countenance, and consider your audience and surroundings; speak with confidence and above all, be kind.
“You are what every man desires to be”- Oh to be a black man! The most loved and hated in tandem, so walk with humility and not arrogance.
Raising our black sons was extremely challenging! We found that we needed to be prepared for everything and we needed to learn how to not overreact to anything. This proved to be difficult because there was always a publication, rumor, or news headline that required a sit down conversation with the boys. There was always a lesson to be learned from simple interaction with peers or a snide look or comment that required an explanation. I never talked with my parents in the manner in which we talked with the boys but it was necessary.
Here are a few tips from my circle on raising African American sons:
1. Love- Love above everything else! Love, just because… Forehead kisses and strong deep embraces is what we need to give to our sons. Yes, it is ok to give your son a strong embrace followed by a forehead kiss. They need to know and feel your affection for them. Help them get used to what unconditional love feels like so they can appreciate it as well as offer it.
2. Words of affirmation- I can recall a time where the only thing that came out of my mouth was some sort of criticism towards the boys. I was having a difficult time with work and it showed in my communication with my sons. I yelled about chores and grades and for a moment it seemed that was all they heard. I had to stop for a moment because I remembered how it felt to only hear the negative. I watched their faces and saw the discontentment. I had to change the perception of failure that I was instilling in my sons. I needed to tell them what they were doing correctly and praise them for everything (big or small). They deserved pats on the back and positive acknowledgement, which they continue to receive even in adulthood.
3. Let them be children- Adulting can be very difficult and in due time everyone has to do it. Don’t make them grow up before their time. Let them enjoy childhood and the freeness that will soon dissipate as they mature. Lazy summer days are a rite of passage and should be enjoyed as long as possible before having to tackle the woes of growing up.
4. Lastly, this tip is crucial and in my opinion the most important, your parental relationship. Children watch everything, especially the relationship between their mother and father. Whether you are still married or co-parenting it is important for them to see positive interaction and mutual respect. You can get it right in every other area but if they can’t witness healthy interaction between the parents everything else will be for naught.
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