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The Parent's Notebook: Parents Should Allow Children To Exercise Their Power And Experience Success Within Boundaries

Is the access to power in our hands?  Are we ready to explore the possibility that when we  blame others for our circumstances, we also give them the power to change them?  Certain that the home is truly the training camp for change, PN has been asking parents for their perspective.  Kojo Black , father of three daughters and a Middle School Math Coach, shares the following.
Spike Lee offers up another authentic Brooklyn tale, Red Hook Summer.  Lee challenges viewers to examine their beliefs on issues such as gentrification, gang violence, adolescent development, self- identity, cultural perspectives, religion and intergenerational relationships.  During the premier, it was the development of the relationship between a young man and his grandfather that jumped out at me.
Red Hook Summer tells the tale of a preadolescent from Georgia visiting his grandfather in Red Hook for the summer.  Their relationship demonstrated that when adults stop talking at kids and talk with them, the respect is reciprocated.  When adults dictate and spew commands, we expect kids to understand that we have their best interest in mind.  Many times they don’t. Most often, adults are defending a distorted role of parents – “Do as I say” — insisting on what is of utmost important to us.  How many times have you seen a parent in the street embarrassed by their child’s behavior commence to chastising or beating the child?  Is this in the child’s best interest or is this an attempt by the parent to demonstrate power over the child to onlookers.  The child understands this situation as a struggle for power, and not an act of nurturing for their best interest.  Because of this power struggle, children can often formulate conclusions that are often wrong and misleading, such as thinking an adult does not love or like them.
Many parents are able to forge loving relationships with their children by setting clear boundaries and explaining to them why those boundaries are in place, abandoning the age-old “Because I said so”. Allowing questions and discussion about alternative ways to achieve the goal arms the child with a much-needed skill in this age of violence – the ability to define the problem and establishing a goal which benefits all concerned.  When our children are able to exercise their power and experience success within those boundaries, their need for power is satisfied and adults are free to interact with children in a tension-free space.
Some parents empower children by allowing them to act in a space with little to no boundaries.  This does not prepare children to exert their power and influence in a society with rules and regulations.  Even if the rules and regulations are unfair, children should learn how to negotiate and diplomatically lobby for change of the rules.  Teenagers are transitioning from young adults to adults and should see parental boundaries constantly expanding until they cease to exist.   Without boundaries children feel so empowered, they don’t respect the existing rules and don’t have the tools to negotiate the changing of the structure.  Some parents go as far as to listen to the music, use the language and watch the TV shows of their children, not for the purpose of monitoring, but to forge a relationship with their child.  While it may yield reduced tension in the relationship, it’s done at the expense of adapting whatever values that are being perpetuated by society through these mediums.
We must respect the research and scholarly works and give up our need for domination over our children.  Dr. Joy DeGruy theorizes about the challenges African-Americans face as a result of the trauma from slavery.   Parents adopted “Be seen but not heard” to protect their children from inhuman slave masters.  Now, one and a half centuries later, African-Americans are disempowered and a need to satisfy the need for power ensues. Thus, we often try to satisfy that need by dominating children.  African-Americans should know best about the resistance that is triggered as a result of being a victim of others exerting control and influence.     We should understand the type of resistance we are sure to face unless boundaries have been discussed and understood to be helpful.  Then parents can feel powerful, knowing they are influencing their children to become empowered critical thinkers, and children will feel confident and trustful the adult has their best interest in mind.
Next time we’ll look at the other areas where parents can create powerful youngsters to prevent their contributing  to or falling victim to rampant violence. Comments: parentsnotebook@yahoo.com

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