Like so many of my friends and family, our household subscribed to all sorts of leading magazines and newspapers such as InStyle, Time, The Wall Street Journal and even Cigar Afficionado. One of my favorites is Essence Magazine. I enjoy Essence because they so eloquently capture the beauty, elegance and yes essence of Today’s Black Woman.
I remember I was getting ready for work one day and I came across an interesting article in an Essence issue entitled, “Raising really smart kids.” and to top it all off, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES, MICHELLE OBAMA was on the cover. So of course having a three year old, it caught my attention immediately. The Author, Jeannine Amber interviewed some of the Nation’s top experts on this subject. I just knew I was in for a good read.
As I continued to read, not only were the statistics resonating with me, but I started to consider how my very own child rearing had shaped how I started to raise my daughter from birth.
So bear with me for a moment. I promise this will all make sense in the end. See, I was raised by a Grandmother who had a 9th grade education. She knew from the time she took legal custody of me at age 6 that unless I was given the “opportunity” to excel in education and the advantage to experience opportunities, I might become one of those leading statistics of disproportionately poor underachieving black kids. However, she had a plan.
I can recall early on how this disadvantaged Grandmother who lived on an annual invome of $12,500 took an interest in starting early in my learning development. For instance, rarely in the summers did I just stay home and watch television. I was involved in the arts, theatre, gymnastics, book clubs and many many outdoor activities. When I disobeyed my grandmother the punishment was to go to my room, read a book and write a report on it.
How could a women who bearly had an education herself understand the importance of what she was providing to me. Well, one thing I know for sure is that she was a praying, spiritual woman who constantly looked for ways to better my life. Everything I am today, I owe it to her for shaping me into a woman of faith with courage, tenacity and a willing attitude of hard work and hope.
This of course brings me some 30 something years later to my parenting style. One thing I know for sure is that there is a direct link between being born into a poverty-stricken environment and one’s ability to succeed. From my personal experience I know that even a child who has every disadvantage in the world can still achieve greatness and overcome those barriers. I am living proof! And as a child of those barriers, I personally have consciously taken steps to improve and better the life of my own children.
As I look back on the first few with my daughter, I had to take inventory of how my husband and I have started on the journey of parenthood, shaping her character and forging her learning experiences. I believe that the sucess of our children begins with the accountability of the parents and commitment to fostering high achieving and socially balanced children.
So what’s my style?…I don’t have a name or solution for you. All I can do is share what’s worked for us and how we feel we will foster a really bright child. My only piece a advice is to follow your own path. What might have worked for people before may not be your path. Follow the plan you’ve set up and be careful not to always be influenced by others.
We began with fostering the success of our daughters life from the moment we found out we were pregnant. Like my grandmother, she knew that reversing historical behaviors in the family will have to begin with her. So, we made a plan to change bad habits and foster new ones. Invest in her future and make some sacrifices in order for her to have the best possible future. Some of the things we did to prepare were
- Changed our eating habits and moved to more healthy/clean green eating. We’re not perfect and sometimes we as the parents eat poorly, but we make conscious decisions for her.
- I started making all her foods from scratch to eliminate GMO’s, preservatives, high sodium and other unhealthy additives.
- I committed to breastfeeding for at least 6 months. She breastfed for 7.
- We took parenting classes, cpr, wellness, baby proofing and other courses to get ready for our new bundle of joy.
- We took time for us to reconnect and get on the same page as much as possible.
In addition: as she got older we involved her in age appropriate activities, introduced her to different languages (she is currently speaking mandarin) and made sure we engage her with cultural activities reflected in the African American tradition.
In our culture many things are just assumed or folks utilize old-wives tales, but we didn’t want to necessarily take that chance. While we appreciate all the advice and help from others however, at the end of the day you have to do what’s best for you and your family. Again, we wanted to give her the best start possible.
I am a life long learner. I recently finished my Master’s degree and have plans to hopefully complete a Doctorate. Learning expands your mind, intellect and broadens your horizon. It was obvious that we would encourage those same habits in her.
- At 2 months I began taking her to the local library for weekly story time readings. Some might ask why? Well, I believe in planting the right seeds.
- We got her a library card and also purchased her books for each developmental stage.
- I have two degrees, but I wasn’t formally trained in education. So I researched and familiarized myself with developmental stages of a growing baby. I think this is great knowledge to have for any parent.
Focus on learned behaviors
Simply put, you are your child’s first teacher. If you remember that you will realize how serious this is and do everything in your power focus on the character traits you want your child to know, remember and never loose sight of. For example, prayer and faith is important in our home. Not just religion, but spiritual reflection. At 4 months I began teaching our daughter how to pray. Now at 12 months when I say, ” it’s time for prayer, or did you say your prayers?” She immediately, puts her hands together for prayer time.
Whatever your learned behaviors you want to focus on, start early. Your baby will learn it.
This by far can be the happiest and most fun time for most parents. I know for me it has been a blast. If you take a look at my calender on my phone, you wouldn’t believe the amount of activities I have listed for us to participate with.
There isn’t a day that goes by where we litterly don’t have a million activities you can participate in. The key is deciding the most important and then shaping everything around that. For instance, reading, social play time, puppet shows and outdoor activities were on our list for the summer. So I built a calender that reflected those activities.
Now i realize every family doesn’t have the luxury to have days of free time. Well if that’s your case then focus on the weekend or afternoon programs. Either way, make time for your little one to gain a sense of culture and experience through something other than television. It’s a whole big world out there. Make sure your child gets to experience as much of it as possible.
Lastly, this is a fun learning time. These developmental years you can never get back. When you realize you are setting the foundation for success for your childre, you will do what is necessary to ensure that success.
Give your child the future he or she deserves!