Last time, I shared with y’all my fears and frustrations about raising a black son in America. On the one hand, I’m excited about the possibility of being a parent. But, on the other hand, I wonder how my children will navigate a society that sometimes views them with an air of suspicion. So I decided to do some research.
From a basic Google search, I only found one study on this topic.
Researchers at Sam Houston State University interviewed black fathers raising sons to learn what factors affected them most growing up. The idea was that black men raising sons have probably reflected on their own childhood—their own parents, family structure and society—in an effort to create a better life for their sons. One of the questions asked was:
“Based on your own experience, knowledge and insight, what do you believe it takes to raise a successful black male in America today?”
Fathers Share Their Experience…
From those interviews, several themes on raising black sons emerged:
- Exposure to different experiences —for example, sports, music, family vacations and their parent’s work environment —helps boys see a positive future for themselves.
- During the transition from boy to man, he’ll decide to either do right or wrong.
- The village (of church, grandparents and extended family) is critical.
- Getting your education is not optional.
- Sons model their fathers.
My interview with mother Laquita Stribling pretty much echoed the same sentiments.
A Mom Shares Her Experience
In part one of this series, Laquita shared her 10 Rules for Raising Black Boys. She and her husband, Finis Stribling III, have been married 21 years and are raising three boys—two of which are Eagle Scouts. Not to mention their eldest son, was one of the Mizzou football players to boycott last year.
One of the things that stuck with me, is how Laquita helped her children choose friends. She once had to fire one of her son’s friend, because his behavior contradicted their families values. She says it’s critical to help your children with decision-making early on because it shapes their future.
Practical Advice on Teaching Life Skills
“There is nothing sexy about a man that can’t change a flat or tie a tie.”
I burst out laughing when Laquita said this, but it’s straight truth. She went on to explain that parenting a child is an awesome responsibility. You are raising someone’s future father and husband, and you must give them the tools to be successful in life.
She started teaching her kids about money early on. When they were small, Laquita got each of them tackle boxes, decorated it and labeled three slots:
On Sundays, they took their tithes to church; and when their savings built up, she took them to the bank to make deposits. The Striblings two eldest sons are now a part of the family’s investment club, and she’s instilling in them the importance of leaving college debt-free. Because it’s how other people build wealth.
Set High Standards, but Be Realistic
Both the fathers involved in the research study and Laquita mentioned the importance of getting a good education. The same was true in my family: going to college was not even up for discussion. It was always a question of where not if.
So the idea of “being realistic” was a hard pill for me to swallow. I mean, I’m trying to raise an astronaut or another POTUS. Accepting weakness wasn’t even on my radar. But Laquita explained that:
“As a Christian, I believe that everything happens on purpose and with purpose. Each one of my kids has brought a unique experience to my life.”
She gave me this example: Her eldest son miraculously recovered from an infant case of meningitis; it was a scary time. But it enabled her to help another young mother going through the same thing. So she counts it as a blessing.
Most Importantly, Be Present
In today’s hustle-bustle culture, it’s important to note there is no substitute for quality time. The fathers in the study explained that, even though their mothers handled the child rearing, they learned the most about being a man from what their fathers said and did.
If you want to hear another black man talk about his fatherhood experience, check out this TED Talk by poet and activist Clint Smith.
BMWK: Apparently, there is not much research on this topic. Do you think there are some factors this study missed?
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