I applaud single mothers of the world, especially those that do a phenomenal job of raising their children. These mothers must be commended for their hard work, their devotion to their families, and their determination to do whatever it takes to keep their children in line and on the right path to being productive law abiding citizens.
Unfortunately this is not the case for all single mothers, single fathers, married couples and cohabitating parents. As parents fail to understand their parental roles, our children continue to indulge in many of the trend setting events that dictate today’s headlines. Crime, teenage pregnancy, drug use, street violence, and the uncontrollable high dropout rate amongst high school students are some of the issues that can be linked to a parent’s inability to master the parental role.
During my life I have lived among African-American single mothers who, regardless of their circumstances, were able to meet life’s demands and raise their children to become productive and respectful adults. The magical question here is, how are they doing it and what can we learn from them? Is there a blue print, a template, or a rubric that can be used so that we can perhaps cookie cut our kids into productive law abiding citizens?
My interview with six African-American single mothers was a starting point for answers to some of these questions. I believe that their knowledge and skill, along with the techniques that they have implemented within their own families can be used as a roadmap to successful parenting. Though many of the methods that these mothers use vary in comparison, I focused on the agreed upon techniques that can be universally applied to all families regardless of status. For example, each mother confirmed that they did not waste time trying to be their child’s father. They all believed that the role of a father cannot be replaced, that each role, mother and father, are developmentally important to the child. However, the fact that the father’s role was substantially reduced, each woman agreed that their soft edges of diplomacy were hardened by the reality of their respective families. In short, there is no room for a democracy where the supreme power is vested and exercised by the people (in this case the mother and child). These mothers became autocratic rulers of their domains. They have a full understanding with respect to their parental roles and they have no problem exercising authoritative control over their children.
These strong words are missing from many of the self-help parenting books. I believe that this style of parenting is desperately needed. Today’s children are on team Jordan, aggressively playing offense, doing as they will, while playing against a feeble, fragile, pathetic, parental defense that believes in playing with the team instead of leading the team. With respect to the dynamics of family, these six women agreed that parents must stop acting like teammates and start acting like owners of the team.
Children cannot be blamed for every mishap and misstep. Parents must always be active and involved in the comings and goings, education, and welfare of their children. That means, attending open school night and parent-teacher conferences, partnering with teachers and advocating for the children’s education, addressing the smell of cigarettes or marijuana on clothing or the tantrum thrown in Aisle 7 of Walmart. Simply put, parents need to get off their butts and stop being scared to fight for their children. Bill Cosby is not a crazy old man.
When you become a parent, you become the leader. As long as they live under your roof, it is your show. So grow a back bone and lead, so that your child can follow.
David Asbery is a doctoral student at St John Fisher College. For more information visit him at www.davidleeshow.net. Also look for David’s new book, My Wife, My Kids, My God in October of 2011.
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