“Children respond to the expectations of their environment,” states Price Cobb, a black psychiatrist. It’s a powerful statement and extremely true. If you think about our youth – that is exactly what they do, but there are always exceptions to that rule.
Many children from poor households in which the parents have low expectations don’t perform well in school – hence they end up in the same cycle of poverty as their parents. Then, there is the opposite side of this social coin. Some youth use their environment to motivate them to excel academically and in life.
The percentage of people who are self motivated is extremely small – especially compared to those who can’t break the cycle of poverty and low achievement.
In the past, I have talked about various components of the African American family and how it is the key to the revival of black communities. Perhaps the most important factor is how we raise our children. What types of morals and values are we instilling in them as they grow intoadulthood?
And, I am also a realist as well – some families do an excellent job raising their children and young people still make mistakes and bad decisions. That’s also an unavoidable fact.
Whether you know it our not, our youth often mimic their surroundings. We have too many children being raised by teenage mothers who have yet to mature enough to fully understand their role as a caregiver and guardian.
James Baldwin said it best, “Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” In other words we have to lead by example.
Kay Hymowitz, the author of The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies says, “The truth is that we are now a two-family nation, separate and unequal—one thriving and intact, and the other struggling, broken, and far too often African-American.”
It also goes back to that James Baldwin quote about how our youth learn from adults without realizing that they are learning certain characteristics and behaviors. Jesse Jackson once said, “Youth are looking for something; it’s up to adults to show them what’s worth emulating.”
Better parenting and prevention of teen pregnancy have to be at the very top of the list of priorities for the “blackagenda.” The bible says, “A good tree can not bear badfruit.” So we have to be stable, strong trees if we are toraise good offspring.
I know that some of my conservative friends would say that we should be teaching young adults to abstain from sex, which I agree with to a certain extent. We also have to be realistic and teach them the importance of contraception.
Parenting specialist Dr. Robert Johnson once said, “African American children in this country are growing up under the weight of the pressures that are created by racism and it has an effect in schools and commercial settings everywhere and parents need to strengthen their children with the abilities and skills to overcome that.”
His comments also get to the root of the problem in our communities – if a teenage mother who probably has not been motivated to achieve despite obstacles then how will she properly raise her child to overcome life’s challenges?
How can a 15 or 16 year old young woman teach her baby the importance of self-empowerment if she has not had the opportunity to learn how to motivate herself. How can she teach her child the importance of black sustainability?
And while I am speaking in broad terms, I certainly don’t believe that all teenage mothers are doomed. There aremany teen parents that go on and succeed in life, both parents and children.
African American families are clearly still very strong and viable; but we have to focus on how our children are being raised. From the images they see on television – to the things they see when walking down a neighborhood street, it is important that they fully understand the path to success versus the path to destruction.
Walking down the street with your shirt of holding up your pants with one hand while your underwear is showing doesn’t send a message that you want to succeed. And just because Lil Wayne has a hundred tattoos and piercingsdoesn’t mean that it’s a good move for you.
It is no secret that strong parents can shape their children’s character and ability. For the most part, good parents equate to good children, with those exceptions I mentioned earlier.It is also no secret that by and large, adult conduct insociety is learned as a child. Again, getting back to the root issue – properly raising our children is critical.
As parents we have to lead and inspire our children, and be tough when we have to. There is an old saying that goes: We raise our daughters and love our sons. This may upset some folks, but too many mothers, especially single mothers are babying their sons.
I will close with a quote from President Lyndon B. Johnson who said these words while speaking at Howard University in the 60s. He said, “When the family collapses, it is thechildren that are usually damaged. When it happens on a massive scale, the community itself is crippled.”
Signing off from the Duval County Courthouse speaking as a character witness for a young black male being sentenced;