As I child, I always dreamt of becoming a mother and having children. While my thoughts on having children were very present, somewhere in my subconscious I knew that my future children would all be daughters. The reality of my path as a parent wasn’t revealed until I was 26 when the twins first arrived. I would be a mother of boys!
Time to rewind! All of the planning I had done in my mind in preparation for daughters went out of the window. I had to re-evaluate and revise my parenting plan. My daughter didn’t arrive until 2013, so for the first 12 years of my life as a parent I only knew what it was like to mother a boy child.
Until the age of 3 or so, boys and girls seem to be very similar in behavior, needs, wants, and expectations of us as parents. And then, something happens. Boys start to become…boys. They toughen up, and knock their trucks around. They want to emulate daddy and pee standing up. They get dirty and eat bugs and mud! Well, at least my boys did. But you get my drift. At some point boys begin to become boys and their needs start to change.
Growing up as an only child with a host of female cousins, I was always surrounded by female energy. There wasn’t much male energy around then, so as a result relating to my boys now has been a struggle for me. I’m working on this daily. What I have discovered is that young black boys need so much more than discipline and tough love. They are fragile beyond belief and what we do with and for them in their formative years shapes the men they will become as husband and fathers.
In an effort to share with you all some of the things that we do within our household, I have compiled this list of 10 ways to uplift, encourage, and inspire your Black son.
Yep! Smile! In Islam we believe that a smile is charity. Smiling warms the soul and softens the heart. Smile at your sons. Let them know that you are happy with them. When you smile it shows them that you are human and that they can come to you with their woes. It gives them a sense of security and belonging. Smile at them often, even when you don’t feel like being bothered. Even when you are upset with them. Smile!
2. Go on Dates
Find time (I don’t want to hear how busy you are) for each boy and head out to do something fun and creative with them. Just the two of you. Catch a movie, grab a bite to eat, go shopping or for a walk in the park. Sit on a park bench and people watch. My point here is to spend time with your son. Put your phone down, turn off the TV and do something with your child. These are the times that your son will remember. If you’re looking for a great place to eat in NYC, here is a great post on kid friendly restaurants by MommyPoppins.com
3. Take an Interest in His Activities
I know how easy it is to drop him off and grab a few moments to yourself. And yes, this is ok sometimes. Stick around during that karate class or music lesson. Show up and surprise him at school during rehearsal for the upcoming play. Read a book that he has read and have a discussion about it. Sit down at the computer with him and see what he spends his time doing. Send a text message that says, “Hey, just checking in to see how your (insert activity here) is going. I’m proud of you for sticking with it!” Show genuine interest. He will love you for it.
4. Schedule a Regular Game Night
Family fun time is the perfect way to spend time with your sons and daughters collectively. Let the children take turns picking the game, pop some popcorn (we like to add coconut oil and this nutritional yeast to ours), make a pitcher of fruit infused water, and have a blast. Kick bedtimes to the curb and allow yourself to have a great time. When your children make a great move or win the game, smile and tell them that they did a great job. This helps with their ability to feel confident in their decisions.
5. Kiss Your Son Goodnight
Every night! No matter how old he gets, or if you are a mother or father, kiss him goodnight. Take 2 seconds to kiss him goodnight and tell him that you love him. If he did something extra special that day be sure to tell him how proud you are of him again before he goes to bed for the night. He will fall asleep feeling loved.
6. Teach Him How to Cook
Show him how to prepare some of your most prized recipes. If you’re not a cook, pick a new quick and easy recipe and work on it together. Let him get in there with you and prepare a meal. Throw on your favorite songs and dance around while doing so. Not only are you having a great time with him but you are teaching him a valuable life skill, and creating wonderful memories.
7. Praise Him!
Often! Tell him how great he is. Show him how proud you are of him when he does something wonderful. Smile and tell him how pleased you are with his choices. Even in the moments of strife, follow up any chastisement with encouraging words. Say, “I’m not happy that you chose to do “xyz” and the outcome was (fill in the blank). However I know that you are capable of making better decisions and that you are going to fix this by making a great effort to shine again.” This not only shows him your disappointment but also shows him that you haven’t lost sight of all his greatness even in the midst of his bad decision.
Yes travel! Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. Nor does it have to be an extended commitment to being away from home. Weekend getaways are great ways to explore, experience new cultures, and a different way of life. Traveling allows your son to see the world beyond himself. He’ll meet new people and develop a vast perception of the world outside of what he sees and hears daily. Save up that pizza money and plan for something quick and close, and then for something big and far away. We’re working on a trip to Japan this year for my 17 year old son’s 18th birthday. He is beyond excited!
9. Hold Back on the Criticism
Constructive criticism is fine. We all need a reality check every now and again but don’t make a habit of criticizing your son. Use your words to encourage and build his self esteem, not to break him down. There is enough of that in society.
10. Teach Him Our History
I saved this one for last because it is so very important! How can he move forward without knowing where he comes from? Teach him the truth of African American history. Stay away from the watered down version they push in some schools and through the media. There are plenty of books, workshops, and videos that you can use as resources for instilling #BlackBoyMagic into your son. Here is an amazing list of 50 Books Every Black Teen Should Read. If you speak to him about his greatness and the greatness of our ancestors, it will be hard for society to tell him different. Speak from a place of love and pride, he’ll absorb every bit of it!
Alright now. I have to run and prepare for dinner. Let me know how you all uplift, encourage, and inspire your sons.