“Young Man, Pull Your Pants Up!”

BY: - 9 Mar '11 | Home

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By Tiya Cunningham-Sumter

My husband nearly gave me a panic attack when he came home and shared how he had just told a young man to pull up his pants, which had been sagging well beneath his behind. My first reaction was to search for bruises on my husband as I just knew this could not have gone well.

I wondered how the young man responded and whether or not he had cursed my poor husband out. I am not sure if this is a problem all over the country, but in Chicago, sagging pants, along with a host of other negative behaviors  from teens have created a division among us. It has become an unfortunate fad that doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.   My concern for my husband’s safety stems from my unfortunate fear of today’s youth. When I was growing up we had respect for the adults in our communities. It never crossed our minds to be disrespectful, swear in front of an adult or do anything that could somehow get back to our parents. It was a healthy fear of adults we had back then. Today, I often see teens being loud, rude and having no regard for what they say or how they conduct themselves in front of adults. So when my husband tells me what he said, naturally I panic.

Fortunately, the young man responded in kind, by saying “okay.” Of course not pulling his pants up right away, but the “okay” was much better than the alternative.  My husband regretted not saying more. He felt as though he should have had a conversation with the young man. Maybe to get a better understanding and to explain the perception adults have with this trend; and just the overall importance of looking respectable. Knowing my husband, that will be his next step.

However, it’s not just the sagging pants. It feels like it’s us against them (adults against teens). It feels as though we are losing them; there is an absolute disconnect. What is often heard in various circles, amongst other parents and in work environments are complaints about our young people.

“Look how they dress.”

“These kids today have no respect for themselves or others.”

“They just don’t care about life.”

Yes, of course we have our own lives and our own children to take care of, but we are losing a generation and all most of us are doing is just talking about it.  I rarely hear solutions. I am also speaking for myself. I have allowed my fear to hold me back from sharing wisdom with the young people in my community. I have been so concerned with their reaction that I have not taken action.   There are situations where teens today don’t live in ideal situations and are not being taught properly in the home. So while we may be ready to place all the blame on the teen, we have to also consider the parent, who   just might need our help. Can we do well while our brothers and sisters suffer? We must be a blessing to others.   Quincy Jones said it best: “My piece of bread only belongs to me when everyone else has a piece. ”

It is not enough to gripe about it amongst our friends, it is time to take action and save our teens.

Movements you can join:

Movements you can start:

  • Invite a young person to your church.
  • Start a corner ministry. Every day I pass by this corner in a neighborhood nearby where there is quite often a group their praying for their neighborhood.
  • Mentor to a single parent child. If there is a fatherless or motherless child that you know,  take an opportunity to encourage him/her. You never know how your teachings could benefit their future.
  • Motivate your circle to get involved. Maybe together you can create a scholarship fund, or plan a trip for disadvantaged teens in your area.
  • Host a workshop for teens. Provide information that encourages planning for the future. College bound workshops, along with financial planning and preparing for professional success can all be great workshops for children who haven’t thought about their future. It allows them to see what is possible.
  • Use your career. Whatever career you have, I am sure it is one that can benefit a young person.
  • Share your story. There are plenty of us who come from humble beginnings, why not share your story of success with others who may be unable to see light at the end of the tunnel.

BMWK, what are your thoughts on how we can reach our young people?

Tiya Cunningham-Sumter is a Certified Life & Relationship Coach, Founder of Life Editing. Tiya was featured in Ebony Magazine in the October 2008 and November 2010 issues. Tiya recently created and launched (Tuesdays with Tiya) Life Editing Radio show on blogtalkradio.com. She resides in Chicago with her husband and two children.

About the author

Tiya Cunningham-Sumter wrote 630 articles on this blog.

Tiya Cunningham-Sumter is a Certified Life & Relationship Coach, founder of Life Editing and Author of A Conversation Piece: 32 Bold Relationship Lessons for Discussing Marriage, Sex and Conflict Available on Amazon . She helps couples and individuals rewrite their life to reflect their dreams. Tiya has been featured in Essence and Ebony Magazines, and named one of the top blogs to read now by Refinery29. She resides in Chicago with her husband and two daughters. To find out more about Tiya, and her coaching, visit www.thelifeandlovecoach.com and www.theboldersister.com.


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35 WordPress comments on ““Young Man, Pull Your Pants Up!”

  1. Ashley

    Great article Tiya! As a young adult it saddens me to know what has become acceptable as societal norms amongst teenagers. I agree that we must reach out and do it quickly because we are losing them quickly to the Nikki Minajs, Rihannas, Lil Waynes and other “characters” they hold in high esteem. I applaud your husband for feeling it was his duty to speak up and make the young guy listen. Many of our teens are confused and hurting and I have found that if we approach them with genuine intentions they are receptive. I am willing to do all I can to help today’s youth and hope that many others will follow suit.

    1. Tiya

      Thanks Ashley. It is great to hear from a young adult on this topic. You mentioned something so key for me, and that was the approach. The genuine intentions, it truly has to be out of genuine concern for their well being that we approach them. It will be better received if they are not feeling like they are being judged. Thanks for your comment.

  2. EPayne

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to say this to random kids I see waddling down the sidewalks because they can barely walk thanks to the pants waist being at the top of their thighs. One day I watched a security guard instructing every young man that walked into his building to “pull his pants up”. I approached him to ask him why he was doing this and his answer was simple: “because these black boys need to know someone cares about them even if it means they are told something they don’t want to hear.”

    You’re absolutely right, it’s not enough to just gripe. As Seth Godin states in his newest book, you’ve got to be more of an initiator to effect real change.

    I’m glad your husband took it upon himself and step up to instruct and care.

  3. Discussion King

    I’ve given up on my mentee several times.. and then always ‘given down’ again and stayed in there. It’s tough work folks… and just as the sagging pants is a small indication of an issue.. many times it feels like it’s no use b/c it can only help so much.. and how do you rid a bathtub of dirty water using one teaspoon at a time… with the faucet filling it back up?

    Thanks for the article. I think it’s always been teens against parents… we had, or rather, I had struggles with adults. I think it HAS gotten worse, however. Peace

    1. Tiya

      Unfortunately it has gotten worse. I’m so happy that you hang in their with your mentee, I know it must be challenging, but you are needed. Keep doing what you’re doing! And prayerfully more will start to join you!

  4. smooth

    Ditto for your husbands remarks. This also goes for the older boys (men) who should be setting the example but want to be cool, instead of following a trend. Maybe if we ask each sagger how much money are they making for the free advertisement of someones underwear, maybe this could wake up a new generation an inspire them to become business minded.

    1. J Jones

      I was with my 13yr old son the other day, and we saw a grown man leaving the medical bldg. Normally I would not have noticed, but his pants looked weird to me, and  I realized that his belt was just under his behind and I had a full eye view of his striped underwear!! It’s bad enough that these young boys think that it’s cute to wear their pants like that, then you have an adult who should KNOW better doing the same thing!!   I explained to my son, why this was not the appropriate way to dress, and I asked him, “With the field your Dad is in, can he go to work with his pants like that?” Of course, the answer was no, but I have seen these kids go onto job interviews with their pants like that and with a shirt and tie on! It’s just crazy!

  5. Rubygriffin36

    I’m a strong believer in stepping out in my community,and i’m alway speaking on the parents,that my main focus…Is getting the parents,to introduce themselves back into their children’s life…As it should have been,and stay” from the beginning”.Growing up is a learning process for our children’s,as well, as ourselves but,as parents,we must give our young peoples healing time,so they can grow into mature young ladies and men’s…so they can make they own choices in life, Of,course,life are grasping at our young people from every direction,with so much peer-pressure that they have to deal with on a regular…but,I fear.As a parent,we’ll will fail, unless we reach out,and hold on,to what’s happened to our young people now…Cause there’s so much evil that’re going on in society,that noone really care about…What injustice that happen in our young peoples surrounding,or even in their life…We “As Parents” must take a stand so,our young peoples,can have a fighting chance to life…They do not have to end up in lockdown,or slaughter,on the street of our black community.Listen World,If our young peoples,don’t wake up,and parents,don’t step up,and grasp this opportunity,that out there,for the picking”NOW”.It may not be there tomorrow…I’m just saying…cause time is running out,with every tick of the clock…Parents,you must stop saying,What your children’s want say or do,quoting somes…I rise my babies,better then that,or They know better…Well i guess,All parents say search words,until our young peoples start vanishing,by their own kin…Just because someone live on otherside of town,that walking on the wrong side of the neighbor…Then i heard the cry of a mother,”Why,Why my child”?But everyday,you washing one of the ganger member T”Shirt,with they names,and signs on it ,applaud to whom they’re…As Parents,y’all see your children’s leaving home,with they pants beneath their butt,bandanna on their head….hanging on the street corner,Hmm,y’all are still blind to the fact..It’s not my child…but if not,it’s somebody child…If you see,call somebody,If you hear,speak up,loud enough to be heard,If you care,please step up,and be seen…Our young peoples can be help if we as parent start listening,and focus,on what they got to say…My voice is,It’s not over until we as parents,put on our crown…so,let’s go,and nip this in the bud,and take our young peoples back up under our wings…All i’m saying is parents,clean up you act,and the children’s will follow…

  6. Reggie Williams

    Tiya love your article and love the advice and BIG uP 2 your hubby. I have been involved with mentoring black males from teens to mid-sixties (and I ain’t joking about the age disparity) far longer than I’ve been involved in marriage mentoring, and there are two things that has to happen:

    1) We as men must come out of the churches and our corporate offices and re-engage in our communities. A community without the presences of “MEN” will be a community that is rob of it’s precious resources (young boys to drugs and prisons and young girls to pregnancies and abusive angry boys). God gave every man a garden to be “fruitful and multiply” and it’s time that we begin to cultivate our community garden so that we have a fruitful harvest.

    2) We men must demonstrate to these young males that we care about them through engaging in nothing more than real talk. When you have these conversations, men sharing honestly and transparently with them and they with us, you’ll be surprise – you won’t have to tell them to pull their pants up – your time and engaging thought will provide them a different prism in which to view life and then they’ll understand why and pull their pants up on their on accord.


  7. Spenseravery

    I hover around #3. I have circled out from with my son’s circle. We go to sporting events. Book signings (3-1). I usually give them 3 authors (that they like) to my one.
    I explain to them. That I am their own personal booster club. As long ass there doing positive things and moving forward with things that we have spoken about them accomplishing.
    I’ve noticed that NOT being held ‘Accountable’ for there actions seems to do them much more harm. Than the short punishments that some of them are subjected to.
    I had a young Man on my block ask me “why do you pick up the garbage up and down the block, they just keep throwing things in the street anyway?”
    My reply “I dont like how it looks, so instead of just complaining about it. I DO something about it.”
    *The Streets are Watching*

  8. letjusticerolldown

    My 8,9 and 11 yr old girls see this every day and do not understand. I believe it frightens them.

    The behavior is symbolic. It is the presenting illness. But the disease does not just belong to these young men. They are just the ones displaying (literally and figuratively).

    I think my girls intuitively understand it represents a world where the adults yielded moral authority. I watched a public family oriented parade. A rap group walked and rode in the parade. They took turns climbing on the hood of the car simulating having intercourse.

    Although offensive–the real problem was later. A boy scout troop had a float. One of the boys was jumping off the float, standing in front of the crowd, and simulating intercourse. He was about 9. The adult on the float watched passively.

    And it is not even the passivity that is the problem. There is reason for the passivity.

    We have insisted that everyone be able to do whatever they damn well please–and what we end up with is a world with no responsibility towards each other, towards children, towards ourselves or towards God. It is a world that opens itself to tyrannical rule.

    There is no point in being angry at these young men. They are sticking their behinds out at the world and saying “wake up.”

    I agree with prior commenter that men have to stand back up and put on a spiritual garment of love and courage and go back out and love these children, love their mothers….. Yes the broader culture is as broke and as wrong as can be. The reality is that culture might not right itself until we walk this truth, love and courage back out through these young men who in turn will raise a standard of justice, love and righteousness in this nation.

    And none of that happens if those whom God has called and placed these burdens on their hearts do not submit to God, lay down their lives, put aside our own sexual and familial irresponsibilities and be God’s warriors.

    1. Tiya

      There is a bigger problem. And unfortunately I have to admit it frightens me too. I can not believe what you experienced at the parade and that the adults in charge allowed this behavior. I agree we all have become just too passive.

  9. Ruby Griffin

    Our children’s,is the mirror that reflected back on ourself,but,we’re the images of what they should be …Back in the days,mother was mother,father was father,they wasn’t being bestfriend,with their children’s….Our young peoples of today,have to much free time,on hand to do nothing…know discipline,know chores,know rules,know requirement,know standard of themselves,just running loose,if though,their parents are afraid of them…

  10. Aja Dorsey Jackson

    Great article Tiya. I think the first thing we need to do to reconnect with our youth is to stop glamorizing the past. In every generation there have been differences in style of dress and music, whether it was high top fades and rap music or afros and bell bottoms, the “older” generation has always tended to demonize the youth. I think the surefire way not to get through to young people is to constantly talk about how much they suck because of their style of dress and the music they listen to. I do think its important to teach them how to look presentable, but I think it’s even more important to realize that there is a person beyond the clothes and the music that is worth guidance and not focus solely on the superficial. If we begin to focus on the other aspects, like educational and spiritual guidance, they will be able to make better decisions in all areas, including their style of dress.

  11. Pingback: The Power of No (Part 3) « Growing Up Well

  12. Novelleh

    I agree that the real problem is the adult/s in the child’s life because none of these children fell from the sky. Somewhere there is an adult or two who was and is not doing what they are supposed to. Our men look at fatherhood as some anchor around their neck and run as far away as possible. Then you have the parents who could not wait for Jr. to be able to walk and talk so they can get back to their vices and “doing them” They only make sure they give him enough to eat to survive if even that. I am sick of hearing black american parents count the years”till he 18 and can move out of my house” It’s as if what happens after that does not matter, so they don’t bother to prepare these kids for the real world. Too many parents show and tell kids that they are burdensome and just being tolerated. These same parents don’t show up to parents teacher conferences and provide the school with bogus telephone numbers. The truth is alot of parents don’t care. Some care more about their drugs, their man/woman and just about anything else but the children they probably never wanted in the first place. This is a hot topic for me. Every other race is busy preparing their kids to take over the future, while we are stuck in the past.

    1. Tiya

      That is the unfortunate sad reality. A lot of the parents don’t care and they are not providing their children with the tools they need to be successful adults. That would be another great solution too, to be a parent mentor.

  13. Jabari

    Very good, Tiya….Speaking from the generation in question, I’m still trying to understand this fad of having your pants sagging uncomfortably past the waistline. Ever since my father and brothers explained the origins of the fad, I make sure to have a belt on @ all times in public. This fad makes a man look gay and idiotic and I was done when I saw sagging skinny jeans.

  14. Ruby Griffin

    I strictly direct,when it come to our young peoples in my small communities,when they see me coming,they start running,like i’m robot cop,cause i’m checking up on them,for reason i care,i attend juvenile court days…i take note,i ,goes by their house and remind them, don’t forget you got to be in court in the morning for 9.don’t get me wrong,i’m not putting noone down,know lower then myself,the young peoples in my small town,are very intellgent,cause the things they do wrong ,don’t make sense,i see them as screaming for attend,that why i focus so hard on the parents,to step up,and show love,communicate with your chidren’s,get involve with their activities,,their friend,monitor their phone call,check they backpack for homework,give, after school chores,wake up early enough,to clean they room,before leaving for school, give gifts,when they earn it.teach them a value of a dollar,give curfew,all i’m saying is,be a parents, to your children’s…yes,i’m old school,that why i believe love started at home,and go abroad,and when you teach them love,you will get love,and respect in return.

  15. MamaChef

    I am a mom for true. I absolutely abhor seeing young men (and women) disrespecting themselves in this manner. I tell young men and women all of the time to pull up their pants. I am respectful, but I say it as a parent/ Like it, don’t like it…I’m old school and I still believe that someone should be the community. Everyone can’t be afraid. I find that when you say things in a manner where people really do see that you are not trying to offend, they tend to respond well. And I live in Philadelphia. My teen daughter just laughs like, “You can tell that you are a mom”. Love for others without condition causes us to care more than we complain.

  16. Amber

    I’m fairly young, 27 to be exact, and I think it needs to start with people my age. We can bridge the gap between older adults and teens. I must admit that sometimes I get so hung up in my own situation to find time to truly mentor those coming behind me. It’s imperative that I do better so thanks for posting this.

  17. Anna

    Sorry did not read all the comments. Kids are not dumb, they just play dumb in real life. I tell kids the truth that I’ve seen on tv. “Sagging started in jail for easy access”. Kids still don’t care, they think they are making a fashion statement because of JayZ, Usher and little Beiber. I can only smh and say “why”? I don’t have a problem telling anyone to pull up their pants. My motto is, I see your underwear in the laundy room, why do I have to see them when you are wearing them???. LOL. I have the same feelling about a “thong”. Why do I watch shows with a woman wearing hip huggers and her thong strap is showing??? I blame it on Madonna, she wore underwear on the outside of her clothing. LOL.

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About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2227 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.


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