Advocate for Your Child

I am going to give you some alarming statistics. Brace yourself. From the National Education Association’s report, Race Against Time: Educating Black Boys:

  • Forty-two percent of Black students attend schools that are under-resourced and performing poorly.
  • Black and Hispanic males constitute almost 80 percent of youth in special education programs.
  • Black boys are 2.5 times less likely to be enrolled in gifted and talented programs, even if their prior achievement reflects the ability to succeed.

And from the U.S. Department of Education Office on Civil Rights, Data Snapshot: School Discipline (March 2014):

  • Black girls are suspended at higher rates (12%) than girls of any other race or ethnicity

If you’re a parent of a Black child and this doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. At some point during my college years, I read about the deplorable educational outcomes for Black males once they enter third grade (outcomes shift for Black girls, too, but not as noticeably as for boys), which in large part was the impetus to over-educate our children from the toddler years to third grade. I made sure they performed at least two ages/grade levels ahead. While I am not suggesting that you be that intense, I do recommend that you develop a sense of urgency about advocating for your child, especially your African American son.

There has been a lot written in recent years about the feminization of the classroom and the negative impact on boys’ education. Around third grade, teaching styles shift and social behavior (playful, talking out of turn) becomes less preferable to a polite “be still and listen” demeanor more in line with how girls are socialized. Add racism to the equation and the classroom becomes a miserable place for Black boys, particularly low-income boys who may not have the opportunity to expend energy outside the classroom (because of unsafe living conditions, etc.), unlike boys who have the advantage of participating in organized sports or have access to yards and green spaces in their communities where they can run, play, etc.

Our son went to an all-boys school from fourth to twelfth grade. In the primary grades, teachers would end class whenever the “boy energy” reached its height; the teacher would simply stop teaching and send them outside. After they played and ran around for a while, the teacher would call them back in to either resume class or move on to the next class. The school recognized and accommodated the need to work out the energy so the boys could focus and learn.

Also, be mindful that children who are extremely bright often get bored and disengage. Instead of considering the possibility of boredom, a teacher may immediately assume that the child isn’t intelligent or lacks appropriate home supports (adequate food, sleep, etc.) that facilitate learning. This happened to our daughter in first grade. However, when the teacher started administering quizzes and tests, she realized that our daughter was at the top of the class. We chose to switch schools so that she could benefit from a challenging curriculum.

I’m assuming you’ve already read the Education – three E’s postings and that you are working with your son or daughter to ensure he/she is excelling in the classroom, or at least on the path. I’m also confident that you have established a good rapport with teacher(s) and are actively participating in your child’s school to the extent your schedule will allow.  Beyond that, you should question any and all occurrences that you feel may potentially undermine your child. For example, if your son is a top performer and a teacher puts a derogatory comment on his report card that suggests he has a behavior problem, you should challenge it immediately and insist that the comment be expunged from his record and a new report card issued (true story). As a rule, you should not allow any biased action towards your child to go unchecked. It is the parents’ job to remedy any and all problems with teachers and administrators so that your child doesn’t suffer in the long term. If an issue arises, document the alleged offense and request an immediate meeting to resolve it. Experience has taught me that the squeaky wheel gets oiled. Once individuals know that you absolutely will not permit them to mistreat or malign your child, they’ll stop doing it, if for no other reason than not wanting to answer to you.

Also, if you feel your child is not being adequately challenged or that he/she requires supportive services, request the teacher’s or school’s assistance in securing the necessary resources. If you believe that your child belongs in an accelerated course or program, ask about the protocol (e.g., testing, teacher recommendations) and follow through to ensure that the required process is underway and progressing towards a positive end. I encourage you to allow your child to witness your advocacy efforts on her behalf. Seeing you in action gives her a model to follow when she must advocate for herself. It also bolsters a child’s sense of self-worth when he knows that you will go to bat for him.

Next month’s topic is Sacrifice.

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Education – Part 3

Now we will discuss the last, but not least, of the three E’s – Education. (Note: If you haven’t read the previous two posts, I recommend that you do in order to put the three E’s into context.) This post, Education, encompasses the traditional basics of education comprised of the three R’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Have you heard the adage, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”? Well, as it relates to parenting, I like to swap the word “planning” for “preparation”. But do know this, if you neglect to prepare your child educationally it will constitute an emergency later on in life – for your family, the community, and society. So the adage becomes. “Lack of preparation on your part will constitute an emergency on my part.” Here are some statistics from the PBS School to Prison Pipeline series to help bring the point home:

  • 68% of all males in state and federal prison do not have a high school diploma
  • 40% of students expelled from U.S. schools each year are Black
  • 70% of students involved in “in-school” arrests or referred to law enforcement each year are Black or Latino
  • Black students are three and a half times more likely to be expelled from school than Whites
  • Black and Latino students are twice as likely to not graduate high school as Whites

And this one from The New York Times article about a study on the high rate of imprisonment among drop outs (October 8, 2009)

“About one in every 10 young male high school dropouts is in jail or juvenile detention, compared with one in 35 young male high school graduates.”

Here’s where I’m going with this – if your child is a good or top student, he is far less likely to be involved in activities that lead to prison and other destructive paths.

Children who are good students get all kinds of positive reinforcement from school (from teachers, administrators, coaches) community, and family which is an incentive to continue to do well. (Caveat – For those parents whose children are being ridiculed by their peers for being top students, you need to teach them how to stand up for themselves or better yet, if you can, move them to a school where achieving is held in high regard by faculty and students. In other words, put them in a school where there are other high achievers.)

A key component for educational success is a desire to be in the school environment. If your child hates school, she probably isn’t going to operate at a high level. There are various reasons why children dislike school. One reason is based on the epigenetic principle of development – if your child doesn’t master a basic concept, he/she is not going to be able to advance to the next level. Who wants to continue to go to school if it reminds them that they are inadequate or unsuccessful in the environment? The PARENTS’ JOB – Make sure that your child is adequately prepared to excel in school.

Below is a timeline of sorts that gives basic rubrics for how to achieve success from grades K-12. Before we get to that, there are two pieces that will facilitate your child’s success that we need to touch upon.

Establish a Routine. Children’s brains become “wired” for learning in infancy. What we do early on in their development impacts how the brain synapses will develop and whether they’ll make more (successful learning) or fewer connections. Establishing a routine or habit of teaching and developing your child from the start makes the process easier for you and easier for the child. If you read to your child at certain times of the day, he/she will come to expect and accept that reading is part of the routine. Also, having scheduled meal times, bed time, etc. helps the child understand and accept (particularly later on when school work and extracurricular activity are required) that there are times for play and times for work. Having a routine facilitates the learning process.

Establish a partnership with teachers. Get to know your child’s teacher well and establish a good rapport from the outset. Make sure that the teacher knows that you are committed to your child’s education and that you can be counted on to hold your child to the highest standards for academic achievement. If problems arise, try to resolve them promptly and in concert with the teacher, counselor, and/or administrator. Be proactive with your child’s education, not reactive. Get involved in the life of the school (PTSA, fundraisers, etc.). If work or other demands make it impossible for you to be involved, it is critical that you maintain communication with the teacher through regularly scheduled visits, phone calls, or email/other written communication.

If your child is in an underperforming school, request a meeting with the principal with the goal of learning about plans and efforts towards improving the school and a timeline for implementing changes. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, talk to other parents and invite them to join with you in advocating for school improvement. Talk to your child’s teachers and let them know that you and other concerned parents are taking steps to improve the school (curriculum, facilities, etc.). Teachers can give you valuable insight and information that may help further your cause as you seek to inform and enlist influential allies (community leaders, school board members, and other elected officials) who can help accomplish your goal.

Facilitating learning at different stages (make adjustments based on your child’s development)

Infancy            Hold, love, and talk to your child (lifelong). It’s never too early to begin reading to him/her.

Ages 1-3          In addition to age-appropriate play/learning games (blocks) etc., read to her/him; sing alphabet songs; introduce letters, numbers and colors.

Ages 4-5          Teach reading/writing using phonics and site words.

Ages 5-7          Mastery of addition and subtraction (ones, tens, and hundreds)

The summer before third grade, introduce multiplication (explain that it’s simply fast addition) and help your child memorize multiplication facts.

Mastery of all the above by third grade means your child is well on her/his way to academic success. Basic reading, writing, and math are the foundation for all higher level academic pursuits. If your child does not have a solid foundation (i.e., mastery), he/she will likely struggle. Conversely, if he has a solid foundation all subsequent learning will be relatively easy.

Every summer throughout their K-12 education, your child should read at least three books. Let her choose the reading selections with your guidance and approval. Summer enrichment programs are great opportunities for academic reinforcement and to meet friends and families who are on the same academic path.

To help your child transition from the summer lull and back into the routine of homework and study, a month before school opens he should spend an hour a day (you can divide the time depending on age) reviewing the core subject lessons from the previous year. Search for websites that offer subject matter workbooks and worksheets for downloading, printing, and online learning activities. A few are below.

Next month we’ll delve into why and how you should Advocate for Your Child.

http://www.mathsisfun.com/worksheets/

http://www.education.com/workbooks/

http://www.ck12.org/student/

Education – Part 2

This is a three-part post about re-envisioning the basis for education where we add to the foundation basics of the three R’s a more comprehensive model of education encompassed in the three E’s: expectations, exposure, and education. In last month’s post, we addressed the importance of having high expectations. Now we will look at how exposure contributes to the educational and overall development of our children.

When our experiences and consequently our child’s experiences don’t go beyond the familiar, we limit ourselves. This includes our ability to think critically which impacts our capacity to receive and interpret information. Overwhelmingly, our shared experiences are with people who are like us (family, friends, colleagues). We live lives that don’t allow intimate experiences with people and environments that are dissimilar to ours (culturally, socially, economically, educationally). Consequently, we don’t have an understanding of the dynamics that result in situations and circumstances that are different from ours. Lack of understanding creates misunderstanding, misjudgment, and results in ignorance. Therefore, we MUST be intentional about broadening our children’s exposure – and our own for that matter. Essentially, we must go beyond the familiar.

Think of exposure in two veins – 1) what can I teach my child? and 2) what can my child and I learn together?

Exposing children to new ideas doesn’t have to be burdensome. When going through your everyday routine, share with your child the meaning of daily activities; that’s a form of exposure. For the young child, let him help prepare meals and assist in household chores. As you ask your son/daughter to hand you a spoon and show him/her how to fold a napkin, discuss the uses for both. Tell them why you’re using a spoon as opposed to a fork or knife. Tell them why we place the napkin in our laps when we eat. All the while, you’re introducing new knowledge. Pretty simple, right? When you’re walking to and fro (including to the car or bus stop), talk about the trees, flowers, bees, rain, and sun. Talk about their colors, their function, their beauty, and why getting stung by a bee hurts. This kind of interaction introduces new concepts, vocabulary, and thinking skills because they’re making connections and beginning to understand their environment. When you get on the bus or in the car, talk about different modes of transportation and different reasons why we may use public transportation as opposed to a private vehicle. On the way to a doctor’s visit or the grocery store, talk about the job functions (what doctors, cashiers, customer service personnel do) and how these people help us live and make our lives easier. Similarly, when you encounter an emergency vehicle discuss the role of firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians etc. You get where I’m going, right? You’re introducing new information, encouraging your child to be inquisitive (i.e., to seek out new information) and observant of his/her environment, and helping him/her understand connections and make meaning of relationships within the environment which is a foundation for critical thinking.

There are also opportunities for you and your child to expand your sphere of knowledge together, particularly as it relates to cultural exploration. If you live in an area where museums are free (e.g., Washington, DC or St. Louis area), you should take advantage of these learning opportunities. Additionally, when you take vacations or local trips outside of your neighborhood (to the next town, city, or state), look up facts about the destination beforehand in order to learn about the cultural significance of the area. Always be mindful to look up facts and history about African American culture, as this is a chance to learn more about the important roles that we had/have in the development of our society.

In the spirit of the three E’s, never tell your child that you don’t know the answer to a question. Instead, say, “let me look that up” or “I’ll have to do some research to find out”. Here’s the thing, just about everyone has a smart phone which means you have information at your fingertips. Therefore, there is no excuse for not knowing. Be resourceful and model behavior that will help your child be successful in life. If there’s something she needs to know, she should seek out the information by asking someone who knows or doing research to find the answer. Lastly, take your child to a public library every so often if for no other reason than to surround them with books (i.e., information, knowledge). Make sure he/she has a library card and teach him/her that the public library is a source of free information.

We’ll talk more about the importance of reading in next month’s post when we cover the last of the three E’s, Education.

Education

Several years ago, I attended an event honoring phenomenal women in the DC region. Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis was one of the awardees. As she brought her remarks to a close, she challenged those in the audience to reconsider the basics of education, also referred to as the three R’s: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Instead, she urged audience members to expand their idea of education to a more comprehensive model, explained in the three E’s: expectations, exposure, and education (comprised of the three R’s). As soon as she said it I nodded my head in agreement because I share her philosophy. Though if you had asked me to describe our parenting process when we were in the thick of it, I wouldn’t have used that vocabulary. Nevertheless, we were in fact using the three E’s model to educate our children. And I can tell you that it works. The three E’s are a lot to consider, so we’ll deal with one at a time. This month, it’s expectations.

Always have high expectations.

My apologies in advance if I step on toes, but too often we settle for less than the best from others and expect too little of ourselves. While there are plausible reasons and theories to explain and excuse patterns of thinking and ways of being that keep us from realizing our highest potential, settling for a subjective “good enough” in our education and other aspects of life does not bode well for our children, our families, or our communities.

I truly believe that we, as a community, desire greatness. Unfortunately, too many of us do not have a reliable road map to get us there. Instead, we depend on and beckon to sources of information that keep us in psychological, emotional, and physical bondage (e.g., broken school systems; parenting practices built on deficit-model thinking; popular culture that implores overconsumption of material goods). For the sake of clarity, please understand that I am not suggesting that we eschew any- and everything that doesn’t promote the uplift of African American families and communities. However, I do advocate that we be intentional about desiring, supporting, and presenting the very best of ourselves and holding our children and our families to the same high standard.

The old adage “nothing worth having comes easy” is truth. Desiring and having the best takes work, and in some cases it takes hard work. To reach the pinnacle, we have to develop a mindset that dictates that we think, speak, and behave in a manner that begets our best and the best from others. If you are constrained by a contrary mindset – small thoughts, language that tears down instead of builds up, and unhealthy, unproductive behavior – then you have a lot of work to do. And I beg that you be up to the task because you will not be disappointed with the results.

Our thoughts about our children should be of the highest substance. We should see and imagine them exhibiting and possessing solid character traits and putting forth their best effort in academics, athletics, music, art, etc. In order to gauge our child’s best effort, we have to spend quality time with her. When we are with our children, our focus should be on them – not our phones, not what’s going on at work, not other relationships. In general, we should be informed about their education and what’s going in their lives, including friendships. This level of engagement requires that we have relationships with their teachers, their friends, and their friends’ parents.

We must hold our children accountable for doing their homework, studying, and practicing. And just in case you don’t already know, homework and studying are not the same.

The purpose of homework is to reinforce the subject lesson and it allows the teacher to assess the student’s understanding of the material. If your child has trouble completing a homework assignment, he may not quite understand a concept, or the entire lesson. Either way, it’s an indication that further explanation or attention (tutoring, etc.) is needed. It’s our responsibility as parents to make sure our children seek and get further explanation and/or additional help when it’s needed.

Studying results in mastery of the subject. Studying requires dedicated focus on the subject material to ensure comprehension. Once the subject is mastered, the child should be able to explain the material in detail. Mastery occurs when the student becomes the teacher. If she can’t explain it to herself, to us, or others (practicing with a classmate), she hasn’t mastered it.

Practice (athletics, music, art) develops proficiency through repetition. Some people are born with exceptional gifts and talent, but without practice, they don’t reach peak performance. Practice, like homework and studying, requires time and effort. Nothing worth having comes easy. The best and the strongest put in the most time and effort.

Having high expectations is part of active parenting. An active parent is proactive and intervenes when necessary. Most children take their cue from their parents. If you have high expectations, they will also. If you take their education seriously and hold them accountable, they will take their education seriously. What we do, in large part, dictates what they do. Put in the time, put in the effort, and hold them accountable for their success. At times it’s going to seem daunting but remember, “nothing worth having comes easy”. Do the work. Be an active parent, have high expectations and you won’t be disappointed with the results.

Next month we’ll look at the second of the three E’s – Exposure.

Cultural Self

Diversity and the understanding of systematic oppression and its impact on oppressed and marginalized populations were constant themes throughout my master’s program. I recall a professor saying, “You cannot appreciate another’s culture until you appreciate your own.” I greatly attribute our son’s and daughter’s success and their capacity to love all people to their love and appreciation of their own culture. Because they know and love who they are, they do not denigrate or overvalue people of other races/ethnicities.

My favorite theorist is D.W. Winnicott. I especially like his concepts as explanatory models for optimal parenting. I believe his true-self, false-self concepts appropriately elucidate the psychological toll of racism on African Americans. Basically, the true self is who we are if allowed to grow and thrive in environments that wholly affirm who we are. The result would be a loving, creative individual who lives to his fullest capability. The entrenched false self is the result of what Winnicott calls “impingements”, occurrences that infringe upon your right to be wholly affirmed. Racism is a major impingement. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that African Americans will not be wholly affirmed in this society.

The PARENTS’ JOB is to make sure that the child is wholly affirmed – emotionally, psychologically, physically, intellectually, and culturally.

Let’s examine academic underachievement and colorism in the African American community as explained through the true self/false self concepts. These two phenomena are prevalent in the African American community and whether you believe it or not they can delay or worse, prohibit a child’s ability to experience their full capabilities. Through messages that have been passed down for generations and emanate from slavery, we have adopted ways of thinking that are detrimental to the true self.

Within the African American community exists an idealization of standards that are highly regarded by the dominant culture (the same is true for other communities of color because of imperialism, colonialism).  One that is most damaging is the standard of physical beauty. This idealization places a premium on features that resemble European heritage. It is not uncommon for black mothers and family members to express disdain for a child’s darker hue. The autobiographical literary work, Don’t Play in the Sun, by Marita Golden documents the psychological pain and resulting damage to a child’s self-esteem that comes from a lack of acceptance and affirmation of the child’s physical attributes.  Even worse, the disdain for anything other than European features can result in self-loathing.

“Knowledge about and pride in one’s culture can be a source of psychological resilience, group identification and support. Conversely, the need to deny, distance or experience shame about one’s ethnic or racial identity is often associated with less than optimal psychological outcomes, and can negatively affect identity and self-esteem.” (Greene, 1997, p. 305)

The message from the dominant culture that is the most deleterious to the African American is the belief in the stereotype of intellectual inferiority. This message permeates American culture and has been internalized in the African American community, especially among males.  “Stereotypes portraying young Black males as delinquent have dominated Western folklore and educational literature to the point of being a valid assumption” (Hall, 2009, p. 535).  Similarly, portrayals of white people as the ideal – intelligent, kind, benevolent – are ubiquitous and have been adopted for generations as a valid assumption.

The belief in intellectual inferiority (i.e., belief that whites are innately smarter than blacks) and adherence to colorism are the result of internalized racism. “Internalized racism may result when, unconsciously and without censor, both the negative stereotypes about African Americans and the idealized stereotypes of White Americans are internalized and negatively affect the sense of self.” (Green, 1997, p. 305).

By perpetuating these heinous remnants of slavery, we keep our minds enslaved and our communities disjointed.

If you or anyone in your child’s immediate circle of influence are making remarks or comments that suggest natural physical features (skin color (of any hue), hair texture, nose, lips, butt, etc.) are somehow inadequate, please stop. And do not allow your son or daughter to believe that he/she is not intelligent or cannot achieve at the highest academic level. Educate your child about their cultural background/history. If you are not knowledgeable, make this an opportunity for you and your child to learn together.

I’ll say it again, The PARENTS’ JOB is to make sure that the child is wholly affirmed – emotionally, psychologically, physically, intellectually, and culturally.

Next month we begin to delve into Education.

A short list of my favorite books about African American culture:

The Miseducation of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

All novels by: Toni Morrison, California J. Cooper, and Marita Golden

References:

Greene, B. (1997). Psychotherapy with African American women: Integrating feminist and psychodynamic models. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 67(3), 299-322.

Hall, R. E. (2009). Cool pose, black manhood, and juvenile delinquency. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 19, 531-539.

Response to reader’s comment about Confidence

My response to a reader’s comment on the July post about Confidence was too long, so it’s now a post.

Here’s the comment:

When I read “It is that level of confidence that has garnered her a reputation as someone who will question right and wrong and standup for others and to others” I couldn’t help but think of Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland was also a woman, a Black woman, who was confident enough to question and stand up to a police officer in a situation where he was clearly wrong. Did you ever think confidence was a double edged sword for your children? On the one hand, it made them successful; on the other hand, that confidence could cause others to harm them.

Let me begin by thanking DEM, the reader, for sharing his/her thoughts and giving me an opportunity to further expound on the notion of instilling confidence in children. But before I do that, I want to uncouple the tragic incidents that lead to Sandra Bland’s death and the notion of confidence. Here’s why – when a mentally compromised person – I’m referring to the officer – with a weapon is out to get you, and the balance of power is woefully uneven (unarmed, black, civilian woman vs. armed, white, male police officer) I don’t know if there is anything one can do or say (or not say i.e., silence) to deescalate the situation.

Let me share my personal account of being targeted by an overly aggressive police officer. The officer, who approached my car from behind, was screaming at the top of her lungs about how I ran a red light (I absolutely did not), and threatened to call child protective services for my two year-old, seated behind me in car seat, because she was going to lock me up. I sat in the car in silence. As far as I could tell she was crazy and I didn’t want to say a word, make a move, or display emotion for fear that it would give her an excuse to make good on her threat. After sitting in silence for what seemed like forever, she finally snarled, “You better be lucky I have a heart for children” and ordered me to go. She gave me no ticket and no warning. My decision to be silent was purely instinctive. I didn’t give any thought to it because I didn’t have time to. When someone with a gun who is mad-angry is approaching and you aren’t in a position to run or fight back (fight or flight), you do the next best thing. For me, that was sitting still and being silent.

Now I’ll address the complement to instilling confidence in children – humility. It is imperative to teach children humility. While my husband and I were very intentional about instilling confidence, humility was more organic. From a very early age, our son and daughter learned to appreciate everything that was given to them, including life. We even taught them to be thankful for their intelligence. I remember my husband telling our son (he couldn’t have been more than 10 at that time) that his quick comprehension and memorization were gifts that he needed to cherish. We also demanded that they respect our authority. Confidence is an honorable characteristic, but absent humility it’s less than honorable; it’s arrogance. Our children are confident, not arrogant. They are thankful and respectful. As for keeping them from harm, we pray for their safety and protection everyday. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Confidence

There’s been a lot written about confidence as a key ingredient for success. I would definitely say there’s a positive relationship. My husband and I have always showered our children with affirmation. When we were expecting our first child, I regularly rubbed my belly and talked to our unborn baby. My mantra was, “You are going to be so smart.” With our second, I (not my husband) wanted to know the sex and was ecstatic to learn we were having a girl. In the search for names we settled on one of Ethiopian origin meaning Beautiful Flower. You see, we began slathering confidence-building language on our children even before they were born. And the confidence-building continued throughout their childhood and into the present. For years I thought my husband was borrowing Hakeem Olajuwon’s moniker when he called our son “Dream”. One day I said something about it and he corrected me saying, “No. I call him Dream because he’s a dream child. I couldn’t have dreamt him up.” Wow, right! We love our children and believe they are God’s greatest gift; therefore, our words and actions reflect that truth.

Positive self-worth (i.e., high self-confidence, high self-esteem) is called a protective factor in children. It mitigates the chances of poor outcomes when challenges and obstacles are an affront to their sense of self. This is extremely important for African American children because we live in a world that tells them they are less than. So when these ubiquitous messages begin to permeate a child’s world, a positive sense of self-worth can ameliorate or altogether negate the subliminal effects. For example, if you watch the news you know it’s rife with reports depicting African Americans in a negative light. If you get your news that way, your child is seeing and hearing negative reports of people who look like him. Over time, all the unsavory depictions, statistics, etc. can have a negative impact on how our children see themselves, their capabilities, and their trajectory. As a rule, my husband and I never had the news on while we were raising our children and we still don’t get our information that way. Instead, we rely on written sources (newspapers, online news) which allow us to somewhat regulate and choose what comes into our home and psyche.

The PARENTS’ JOB – make sure your child knows they are loved and affirm them!

We revel in our children’s attributes – intellect, beauty (outward and inward), kindness, thoughtfulness, athletic prowess, and artistic ability. We really are in awe of them and as such, constantly tell them how great they are. I am certain their belief in their greatness, which came at an early age (from constantly hearing it), is a major factor in their success. When our son was three we went to a colleague’s housewarming. We played a game where we had to take tissue off a toilet paper roll without any instructions as to why. It turned out that for every piece of tissue taken we had to say something about ourselves. Our 3 year-old played the game, as did everyone else. When it was his turn he asserted, “I am smart. I am handsome” so on for every piece of tissue. Everyone’s mouth was agape, except mine. They asked how he could express such confidence at a young age. He was the only person in the room whose descriptors were entirely self-affirming. I have a similar story about our daughter. One day, when she was in fifth grade we were in the car and something she said prompted me to caution her about personal attributes. As we came to a stoplight my words were something like, “No matter how smart, talented, pretty we are, there will always be someone smarter, more talented, and prettier, and that’s okay. It doesn’t take anything away from us” – something like that. I will never forget her response. We were at 18th and Park Road going north on 18th. When I finished speaking, she turned her head, looked me squarely in the eye and tersely replied, “I haven’t met that person yet.” I was at a loss for words and thought. I couldn’t do or say anything. I just waited for the light to turn green, proceeded to drive, and we moved on to another topic.  It is that level of confidence that has garnered her a reputation as someone who will question right and wrong and standup for others and to others even when her peers can’t or won’t. And the same is true for my son. Both children are considered leaders by their peers. Their firm belief in self has a lot do with that.

Until next month, I leave you with my favorite quote, Our Deepest Fear, from A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.  

Next month we’ll consider the Cultural Self.