The Truth About Your Kids

10 Nov

For a while now I have internally debated about whether or not I should blog about parenting. Being a former mental health counselor and teacher of parenting skills, I am passionate about the way we raise our children. I have both professionally and personally witnessed the results of parents (and grandparents) attempting to rear children with major misconceptions and unproductive practices, so often the outcomes being children who are completely unprepared to succeed in the adult world. Despite this truth, people often do not want to receive parenting advice.

But yesterday, I read an article in the New York Times which outlined the results of a new study suggesting that the educational gap between Black students (especially Black boys) and other races is widening. It reported that Black males are so far behind their White counterparts that even the poor White students are doing just as well as Black children who come from middle and upper class families, providing evidence to support the notion that poverty may not be a factor deterring success. I shared the article with a friend of mine who engaged me in interesting discussion about schools systems, teachers, and parents. Although I concur with her that schools system are in desperate need of reform, I ultimately point the finger of blame at parents.

So today, ignoring my reservations and conflict that I may cause, I choose to discuss parenting.

I am an African-American female who grew up in a two-parent, middle class home. Based on this, I had advantages that many Black children do not have. However, my parents only had high school educations and opposing of the failed attempts of my siblings, I was the first and only person in my nuclear family to obtain a four-year college degree (Sidenote: Earlier this year my mom received her Associate’s Degree -Yea Mom!). Of course, I have accomplished many goals that we don’t often get to see in our community including earning a Ph.D., but what is so amazing and perplexing is that during my conversation last night with my good friend, I admitted something that is truly sad: I have absolutely no memories of anyone in my family including my parents ever sitting down with me and checking my homework or helping me with school work. None. For me, questions I had about school, I had to resolve for myself by either figuring it out on my own, asking a friend for help, or going to the teacher. My parents worked full-time at their “good jobs” and only seemed to pay attention to my schooling when reports cards came out. I don’t recall my parents ever attending PTA meetings, Open Houses, Awards Ceremonies at school, nothing. I played sports all through middle school, they never came to games, didn’t even know when I had one. The only time I ever remember my mother coming to school was in the 5th grade when I was doing so poorly that the teacher suggested that I be retained in 5th grade for another year (That was enough motivation for me to get my act together!).

The point is this: I had good parents who loved me and showed me their love by working hard to pay the bills, but in the process forgot to get involved. We have to get involved with our children. Yes, I turned out great, but so many others do not have my resume or even close to it. We cannot send our children to school daily and expect the teachers and school system to give them what they need to be successful in life. We must take back our power as parents, stop fighting the school system, and start the war with our kids, ensuring that they receive a quality education whether it happens on school grounds or at home. As I told my friend, I don’t expect schools to teach my kids, that is my responsibility. The only thing I can guarantee public schools will do is prepare my children for the mandatory state standardized test. These days, testing is really all schools are concerned with.

I am a solution-oriented person, so I will not present a problem without offering some practical solutions and advice. If you are a parent concerned about the educational attainment of your child and open to suggestions, here are 10:

  1. Educational Christmas gifts. This Christmas, when your child wants the new Wii game or whatever new toy exists, consider buying them some educational toys/games. Yeah, they may grumble, but you must supplement their education.
  2. Summer education. Over the summer consider doing refresher education assignments with your child. The first month or so when school returns is often a review of the prior year because so many students forget everything over the summer. It is okay to allow your children to enjoy summer break, but having them spend a few hours a week doing educational assignments and activities could give them a head start for the next school year.
  3. Check homework. If they say they don’t have any, they are probably lying. Go through their book bag, email their teacher, make sure you know what they are supposed to be doing and that they are doing it. Before you allow them to watch TV and play outside, make them prioritize their education by completing and understanding their school work.
  4. Review graded work. When you child brings home graded assignments, especially if the grade is not 100%, go over what answers they had wrong and make sure they understand the material.
  5. Attend school meetings. Join the PTA, go to Open House, meet monthly with the teachers, get to know the administration at your child’s school. Most teachers love when a parent is active and supports the teacher’s efforts. Let the school know with your presence that you intend to be involved and will not allow your child to fall between the cracks!
  6. Get tutoring help! Often we simply do not know how to help our children because we are not good at a certain subject. When this happens, reach outside of yourself and seek out tutoring services for your child. Many schools offer free tutoring, there are free grant funding tutoring programs, or you may even know a teacher, college student, or another older child who is willing to tutor your child for a little spare cash. Make the investment in your child and get tutoring. You would spend a bunch of money on name brand clothes; spend the money on their education instead.
  7. Get mental health help! If your child has a mental health disorder (ADHD, Depression, Learning Disability, Anxiety Disorder, Self-Esteem or Body Image Issues, Anger Issues, etc.) seeking professional help. There are zillions of services that insurance providers will pay for or that will offer sliding scale rates. Do not be embarrassed or try to handle it yourself. Get help for the sake of your child.
  8. Exposure, exposure, exposure! I believe one of the main reasons that I have experienced educational advancement is because of exposure. My family often went on out-of-town trips, exposing me to the lifestyles of others outside of my city. Although I didn’t know any Black doctors, I knew their were some out there and I wanted to be one. I was exposed to things that showed me that there was more to life than my little neighborhood and friends. It is amazing how many children I’ve met that have never been to another state or city, that have never eaten at a restaurant that wasn’t McDonald’s, that have never met someone “successful” who owns a business, wrote a book, climbed the corporate ladder, etc. The only thing they know is that people who look like them that have money are rappers, athletes, singers, or model in videos, half-naked.
  9. Speak in proper English. I am a college professor and I have adult students who cannot write well or speak well. These people have children and they are teaching their children that lacking verbal communication skills is acceptable. Hip Hop music teaches our children that we don’t have to learn correct English. And no disrespect to my Urban Fiction Authors, but even these books teach our children and youth that they do not have to learn to speak English well. The problem is this: When they are in school, proper English is required. When they go out to get a job: Proper English is required. The real world requires good communication skills! I even saw an interview with Jay Z recently and he speaks proper English! We have to learn how to speak well so that we can model this for our children. Enforce communication skills with your children, correct them when they say something ignorant like, “What yo name is?” like a neighborhood child asked me several months ago. Although they may be at home and not in school at that moment, what they practice is what they will do. The more they practice speaking well, the more likely they will be able to speak appropriately when necessary.
  10. Read! My final suggestion (for today) is to read to your children and get them to read a book. Turn off the TV and read! Yes, they may complain, but reading will get them so much further than TV ever will. Reading increases comprehension and vocabulary skills. I truly believe another factor connected to my success was that I loved to read. There are more and more books coming out for and about Black children (If they are a teen/preteen, I suggest my novel Ready and ABLE Teens: Ebony’s Bad Habit – Sorry for the plug!).

The truth about your kids is that they need you as a parent to step up and get involved in every aspect of their life including their education. What good is a nice house and car if your kids have a dismal or bleak future?

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5 Responses to “The Truth About Your Kids”

  1. Kevin PERRY November 10, 2010 at 9:06 am #

    I have raised 6 children and have 13 grandchildren , I make it a point to be in their lives whenever i can . five out of the six work for me in a family buisness. and I agree with you about this matter. Please tell others to be parent not a friend.

    • drawilson November 10, 2010 at 9:13 am #

      Thanks for your feedback, Kevin. I completely agree; parents have to play the parenting role and not the role of a friend. I actually mentioned that same idea in my blog “Why You Should Be The Bad Guy” that I wrote a couple weeks ago. There are a million parenting ideas and advice I could give out, but I am starting slow and trying to to cause too much controversy (if that is possible). Maybe next week I will do a Part 2….

  2. abigail-madison chase November 10, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    An’drea, I am skeptical of those figures I always think a lot of them are bad just to bring down african america. You want make me belive a kid in the Mountians are smarter than black men in the city!

    I grew up in a two party household also. My mom was a teacher and my dad a construction worker. My mom came to as many PTA meeting as she could and when it counted she came to a special program if you ask. I can still remember in 4th grade I won a writing contest and looking up to see my mom ease in the classroom. So, I was determined to be that mom that did it all. I go to PTA, all school fuction and you know what my kids as bad as the parents who never attend. Do they appreciate my comeing to school? Nope! I am an embrassement.

    Rule 8 is the reason I spend every summer on the road with my kids going from state to state to explose them to any and everything the world has to offer. I also think it is importnat for kids to go out to eat at a restaurant if only once. We go all the time and it is a lesson they need to learn.

    I love the library and have passed that on to my kids. We have computers at home but we still vist to use the computers and when they are full the kids pic up books to read while they wait. I can’t say enough about the book store. Take kids to book stores just to read. it is soo much fun!

    I agree it begins in the home. When my mom decided to get an advanced degree I was starting 7th grade and she dragged my sibling and I with her to the very same college that I now work at everynight for 4 years. My face when I started work was not new to people here they knew me because I grew up on the halls of this university. One of the most important things parents can do is to expose thier kids to speaking well and other people who are doing well in life. We need to point out doctors, lawyers and not just focus on sports.

    I have been fortune to work at a college and have access to tutors for my kids. Math is a sore subject with me and with my kids. I had to pay when I have to but there knowledge is truly priceless!

    • drawilson November 10, 2010 at 10:46 am #

      I can always count on you Abby to offer some insight on the week’s topic. LOL@you being an embarrassment to your kids! Yeah, we all felt that way when our parents showed up (maybe that is why my parents didn’t know I have sport games-lol), but in the long run, they will look back and be grateful. They will have memories of your doing all these things just as you have memories of your mom doing all that she did for you. And that is when they will get it and appreciate it. You keep doing a good job, instilling in them the things you know that they need to know and when the time comes for them to fly, they will soar!

  3. Rachel Blaze November 20, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

    These are great tips for parents, especially African American parents. Please take advantage of the FREE afterschool and/or tutoring programs that are available to everyone.

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