Parenting has to be one of life’s toughest jobs. Although there are plenty of books on the subject, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution because every child is different. Today, there are many African-American children growing up in single parent homes. In 2009, Kids Count, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, reported that 69% of Black children grow up in single parent homes. Ideally, the best scenario is for children to grow up in a healthy two parent home. However, whether you’re a single parent or you’re sharing parenting responsibilities, there are things that you can do to ensure that your children grow up to be productive and successful human beings.
Recently, Black Enterprise interviewed Michelle Obama on parenting values. Most parents want to provide the best that they can for their children, but how do you define your best? Sometimes we relate our best to material possessions. This is often the case for parents that grew up without a lot of their needs and wants being met. No matter how you define your best, I think there are a few key parenting tips that we can learn from the First Family. The following are a few practices that we can all implement to help improve the chances of success for our children:
Limit TV Time – The Obamas do not allow their daughters to watch television during the week. My husband and I implemented this rule at the beginning of the school year for our son. In the beginning, it was a hard transition for him, but now he spends time reading and working in enrichment workbooks. As a parent that works outside of the home, I’ll readily admit that I am guilty of allowing the television to ‘babysit’ my child. Limiting television time often requires more engagement on your part; you have to plan additional activities for your children. However, given the statistics on the Achievement Gap for African American students, the only way that we can begin to eliminate it is to establish some boundaries with the television and video games. This is simply a good parenting move that we should all be willing to do. Most of us have to work to provide for our families, but we must never forget the lasting impact of our role as a parent.
Teach the Value of Money – Oftentimes, parents don’t discuss money with their children, or they buy expensive gadgets and their kids have no idea of the sacrifices that were made to purchase them. In our communities we have parents that will forego paying a bill to purchase the wants of their children. Now let’s have a heart to heart – what are we really teaching our children when we do this? Children should understand that their wants cost money. We may not want to admit it, but many of the habits that our children develop when it comes to money, we are responsible for creating. Children are taught to be appreciative; if you feel that your children show tendencies of being ungrateful, it’s time to look in the mirror. Above all, instead of buying extravagant gadgets and clothing for your children, give them experiences (i.e., participation in sports, music lessons, etc.) These opportunities will enrich their lives and create life-long memories.
Model Responsible Behavior – As parents, we will often take the stance ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ News flash – children model what they see, not what we say. That being said, if you want your children to be responsible, you must display responsible behaviors and require the same from them. Children are perceptive and they are always observing their parents. I am often amazed when I hear parents talk about their children being lazy. In reading the interview with Michelle Obama, I noted that even though the White House has a full staff, the President and First Lady have assigned chores to their daughters. The biblical verse, 2nd Thessalonians 3:10 states that a man that doesn’t work won’t eat. This is a principle that should be taught early. The assignment of chores assists in teaching responsibility. If you’ve heard yourself say that your child is lazy, it’s time to adjust your parenting approach.
Parenting is hard work. There are a lot of sacrifices that must be made on a daily basis but it’s worth it. As parents, we will make mistakes along the way. However, with prayer and active engagement in the lives of our children, we can set them on the path to success. The Bible states that children are a gift from God. It is our job to love them unconditionally, and teach them how to be productive citizens of the world.