Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A New book and post...Mother To Son: Words of Wisdom, Inspiration and Hope for Today's Young African American Men

Author of: Mother To Son: Words of Wisdom, Inspiration and Hope for Today's Young African American Men


By Kimberley R. Crouch

My eight year old son Julius’s confidence is quite remarkable. At 8, he believes he can do anything he sets his mind to. I sometimes sit in awe of the belief he has in himself. If you ask him, he will tell you he thinks he can do everything from fly an airplane to build a spaceship. The truth is most children my son’s age belief in their abilities are truly boundless. Most think they can do anything because they exhibit very little fear and trust themselves completely.

Unfortunately, much of this confidence dissipates as they progress towards adulthood because they begin to experience failure and setback and parents, teachers, and other meaningful adults in a quest to protect children from life’s failures unknowingly teach them cautious boundaries. The result is that children start to doubt themselves and never strive to strengthen their capabilities, which comes from making mistakes. In the end, these once confident children become cautious, predictable, risk averse adults. As an African-American mother, I think it’s particularly important that African-American parents do everything we can to ensure that our children feel empowered and confident because it provides the validation necessary to deal with challenges they will face as adults in a racist society.

There are three steps I think parents can take to ensure their children remain confident and empowered.

1. Recognize Failures as Opportunities To Learn. As adults, we should teach our children that mistakes are an acceptable part of life and that they provide the greatest opportunity to learn. As such, they are a key ingredient of success. Therefore, children should be encouraged to take appropriate risks even if they flounder because mistakes should be seen as opportunities to learn and not as signs of incompetence. The problem is that many well intentioned parents in an effort to protect their children encourage them to head in a different direction once a mistake is made and they never learn to strengthen their abilities and confidence. After all, the ability to persevere in the face of a mistake is a great confidence booster for children. The truth is mistakes define the event and not the person. It's not coincidence that the fine print of every stock advertisement states that past performance is not a predictor of future performance. Parents should instill this same sort of thinking with their children. This allows their children the freedom to move forward, strengthening their abilities and building their confidence without stifling their development.

2. Encourage Individuality. Too often in this day and age, parents, teachers and other
adults crave structure and order so much that they fail to recognize the uniqueness of each child and discourage their individuality. Successful kids, however, are often kids who understand their unique strengths and who are willing to step outside their comfort zone and challenge the status quo. They have minimal fear that their choice or decision is the most popular one. They listen to their own heart and they follow their beliefs. It’s very easy for parents and other adult caretakers to stifle this individuality because these types of independent minded children may be difficult as youngsters, and adults may view them as rebellious and disrespectful rather than as critical, free thinkers. But as parents, our job is to harness this individuality and channel it to create successful adults who have absolute comfort in who they are and their abilities. It is also our job to preserve their individuality and to fight for it even if other adults find it troublesome. As parents, we should always focus on our child’s unique strengths and successes and praise their talent and make them aware of their own worth.

3. Foster problem solving skills. As parents, we want to minimize any hurt or disappointment that our children may endure so we often interfere with their ability to fight their own battles. What we need to realize is that if our children do not learn to deal with their own problems when they are younger, then they won’t develop the problem solving skills or the confidence necessary to deal with tougher issues that may arise later in life. Allowing children to stand on their own and fight their own battles fosters problem solving skills that can build confidence in a way that nothing else can.

In the end, following these three steps will go a long way to helping raise, healthy confident kids.

Kimberley R. Crouch is the mother of two sons and the author of Mother To Son: Words of Wisdom, Inspiration and Hope for Today’s Young African-American Men.

1 comment:

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