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Earlier this week, I had to coax my son into toning down something he had written for one of his classes. What he had written down made a lot of sense, but because his words
seemed to paint whole groups of people with one brush, I knew such language wouldn’t go over well with his teacher and classmates. Some of them would have been offended. My son argued that he had done his research, that he knew what he was writing about. But I told him that he couldn’t believe every video he saw on YouTube. When he started pulling Old Testament verses from the Christian bible, my first instinct was to faint. I almost had the urge to change course. He was making what initially seemed insensible make sense.
My son is a child of African descent. But he also knows that Native American blood flows through his veins and his last name – Faulkerson – is a Jewish one, albeit one originating from White slaveowners. And I get it; he wants to get in touch with his roots. As his parent, though, I can’t let him go out like that. We live in an era where even grown adults will not respond well to the hyper-sensitivity of youth, or adults.
He did indeed tone down his language in this one paragraph, and it reads much better. I still cringed at the sight of that one word, but what he wrote was the truth as he sees it. I commended him for his scholarly focus, for that is one of the things children, youths and adults need to go from BETTER2GREAT. But it got me to thinking about our adolescents’ quest to discover their self-identity and self-worth.
I tell my son all the time that he is an African king who will one day find an African queen. But my son is quick to allude to the fact that he doesn’t want to limit his matrimonial prospects to the African Diaspora. He wants to go international. Nothing wrong with that. I just want him to never lose sight of who he is as a descendant of African kings and queens, their enslaved descendants’ struggle and emancipation. I want him to know Black is beautiful. But I am heartened by the fact that he doesn’t view people through a color-coded prism. In his eyes, every female has an equal chance of becoming his future bride, and I’m alright with that.
As human beings, we know the concept of race was constructed to divide rather than unite us. By wanting to go international with his dating and marital relationships, my son is letting me know the sting of racial politics has almost become obsolete in his mind. Yes, he may get riled up about what he sees on YouTube and the 6 o’clock news, but being able to hold in his sensitivities (i.e., bite his tongue) is often the best course of action when you’re dealing with diverse groups.
Offended people do not want to cooperate.
Offended people do not want to collaborate.
Offended people just want to get as far away from you as they can because it’s not your race/ethnicity that disturbs them; it’s the audacious insensitivity of your words.
I once told my son that I can see him becoming a lawyer. When he takes a position, he stands firm, backing his points up with cultivated facts. That’s a good thing, but his unwillingness to always be open to hearing the other side can be perceived as stubbornness. The challenge for us parents then is to make sure we help our children overcome this stubbornness by facilitating processes that enable them to get in touch with their selfless selves. Only then can they display the sensitivity that builds bridges instead of walls.
“Going from BETTER2GREAT”
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In 2007, I decided to invest in myself. But I did it with the intention of investing in others. At the time, my family and I were living in Wake Forest, North Carolina, about 17 miles north of Raleigh. It didn’t matter that I had to pay for the training out of my personal savings. My desire to help adults be better parents ran deep, so when I heard about the offered training, I didn’t hesitate to drive the 70 miles from Wake Forest to Greensboro to claim my seat at the table.
This training would give me the knowledge I needed to facilitate the organization’s evidence-based Active Parenting Now (for parents of children between the ages of 5 and 12) and Active Parenting of Teens (for parents with children between the ages of 12 and 19) workshops. As a Master’s level Social Worker with about 18 years of professional experience at the time, I had counseled adolescents whose parents did not know how to nurture them. The emotional detachment of their parents resulted in these adolescents being placed in state custody and transported to group homes or residential treatment centers. Ultimately, they learned how to be independent young adults under the tutelage of trained, human service professionals, not their biological parents.
In an age where so many children and youths are losing their motivation, it is imperative that we adults develop nurturing hearts. That doesn’t mean we go out of our way to be our children’s best friend; it just means we have to possess a better understanding for how our words affect their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The words that we should be communicating to our children should be heartfelt and instructional. We should also operate as fallible beings who display integrity and decency during our interactions with them, and others.
I didn’t tell you this, but in 2007, the year I decided to become an Active Parenting leader, I was in the third year of my stint as a stay-at-home dad. Yes, I was giving my son baths and changing his soiled diapers while my wife was at work bringing home the bacon. And even though I initially balked at the fact that I no longer had a job that gave me a sense of purpose, I knew the time I was spending with my son would give him the impetus he needed to lead an independently fearless and empowered life.
It all begins with nurturing, the art of selflessly providing parental warmth.
“Going from BETTER2GREAT”
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