Faith Y. Cole is thankful for the excellent education her oldest son, Antonio, is receiving at Brooklyn’s Public School 270. However, this Bedford-Stuyvesant resident isn’t completely leaving it up to the teachers to educate, guide and prepare Antonio, as well as her youngest son, Asha, for success in life. Cole, a single mom, is doing her part by spending one-on-one time with her boys, exposing them to cultural activities, and like many other moms and dads, participating in parenting workshops such as the ones conducted at this past July’s first- ever Bedford-Stuyvesant Children’s Book and Reading Awareness Fair at the Magnolia Tree Earth Center.
Cole, who frequently attends role-play parenting workshops offered by Willa F. Jones, one of the workshop presenters and executive director of the Association of Black Social Workers, says she does so because she’s still learning how to be an effective parent and desires for her boys to have an upper hand in life. That’s why she was able to get so much out of Jones’ workshop on “Instilling Self-Esteem in Children,” with a focus on encouraging children to love to read.
“We need to be in tune to teaching our kids about books early on,” says Jones, also the president and CEO of Crojon, Inc., which facilitates seminars, speaking engagements, dramatic presentations, promotion of self- esteem- building materials, supplies, and products. “It’s a process, though.
Jones kicked off her workshop with a skit in which a mom reacts negatively and then positively to a child who wants to read when she gets in from work. “Our children will approach us even when we’re tired, but we have to give them the respect and explain to them why we can’t read to them at that [present] time,” says Jones. “Communication is key.”
The hour-long workshop wrapped up with Jones putting parents into groups of five where they had to use a list of words and creatively come up with a method of getting a child to want to read. This was exactly the type of activity Janice Peterson needed to participate in. Peterson has been struggling with how to get her eighth-grade daughter, who’s an excellent reader, to want to read. “She’s an advanced reader, but she just doesn’t enjoy reading,” she shares.
In Peterson’s group, it was discovered that her daughter likes the Cheetah Girls (they focus on “girl power” through books, music and movies). With this information, her group decided to channel their energies on creating a catchy rhyme with a musical influence, using the words they were given, to show her daughter that reading is cool and fun; that it’s the “in” thing to do. The results of their labor, which an appointed group member had to perform!
I am fast
In the house
I eat well because fish in greens is good
I look happy
Me look like a little flower with my hat
It is hot
But I will finish
Both Peterson and Cole came away from the workshop with a newfound way to encourage literacy on their kids’ learning and interest level.
“It showed me that you can get around doing stuff with your kids and [still] be there for them,” Cole notes. “Mrs. Jones is doing an excellent job and I try to support her any way I can.”
In the workshop, “Are We Raising Winners or Losers,” Dr. Marceline Watler, director of community education for the Satterwhite Academy (a division of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services), implored parents like Peterson and Cole to understand the difference between discipline and punishment in dealing with their kids. The distinction, she says, helps determine what children become in life.
“Discipline involves guiding and directing children; to show them how to handle conflict,” Watler says. “We have to take time to listen to our children, and by doing so we are teaching them how to communicate.”
“You want to discipline your children with love, not by scolding them,” she adds. “Let them know it’s okay to make a mistake. Children aren’t perfect, and neither are you.”
Cole understands this parenting concept and is clear about the actions she takes if and when her sons misbehave. “When they are wrong, they are wrong,” Cole says. “I let them know that mommy is going to be there for them as much as I can, but if they do something wrong, they have to face the consequences.”
Watler says that if you want to raise a winner, you must be an active parent. Cole prides herself on this, as well as being a role model and speaking positive affirmations on a regular basis. She advises her fellow parents to do the same.
“You have to be there for your kids,” Cole stresses. “You need to take at least 15 minutes a day and focus on your children, and you’re going to see a major improvement and they will be successful in life. Forget about the cell phone and [other things]¼” And, of course, it doesn’t hurt to participate in parenting workshops!
Want to be the best parent you can be? Start flipping through the pages of these recommended reads: 1. The Black Parenting Book by Anne C. Beal, M.D., M.P.H., Linda Villarosa, and Allison Abner (Broadway Books, $20)
2. Overcoming the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African-American Young Women by Freeman A. Hrabowski, Kenneth I. Maton, Monica L. Greene and Geoffrey L. Grief (Oxford University Press, $25)
3. Raising Confident Girls: 100 Tips for Parents and Teachers by Elizabeh Hartley-Brewer (Fisher Books, $12.50)
4. As For Me and My House: 50 Easy-to-Use Devotionals for Families edited by Tomand Lori Ziegler (Discipleship Publications International, $11.95)
5. The Trouble I See: Motivational Storyline Poetry for Teens and Parents by
Vickie Lynn Wilson (Butterfly Loves Publishing, $15)
Feona Sharhran Huff is the editorial director of SingleMomzMag.com and an active parent in her children’s educational and social environment.E-mail her at email@example.com.
Special to Our Time Press