Friday, May 30, 2014

Fathers-There’s An Urgent Call from Your Children: How Will You Answer?

It was July 19, 1910, in Spokane, Washington, when Sonora Smart Dodd decided that her father, a single parent, should be honored on a special day, as mothers were honored on Mother’s Day. At the Spokane YMCA celebration for her father, came Father’s Day. However, it was not officially designated as a holiday until1972.

Father’s Day has always been a day designated to celebrate the contributions that fathers, father figures, and mentors have made or are making in the lives of children. When we think of fathers, we often think of a sturdy foundation, a provider, a man of strength, a supportive individual, someone who cares immensely about his children, someone who provides unconditional love, guidance, protection, correction, shelter, etc. 

Although men have been expected to fulfill many roles within our society, one of the greatest, most important, and most challenging role is the role of father. However, many of the men who become fathers in our society have no role models to teach them about fatherhood. In the African-American community, this issue is even more prevalent. Over seventy-percent of African-American households are headed by single mothers; many have no contact with the fathers of their children. And still, many African-American men have multiple children by multiple women, rendering them incapable of being able to fulfill their fatherly obligations to their children.

Often, when children seem to lack identity, it is because they have no father or father figure serving as a model and role model. They will many times seek their identity from and in others and other external factors, situations and events. On too many occasions, this quest to find identity rests in negative external influences, resulting in negative outcomes.
In 2014, a constant and chronic alarm is being echoed from children to their fathers, especially from boys and young men. This alarm is a desperate cry for them to be rescued from the spiritual warfare, which plagues our children, our families, and our societies as a whole. Because of economic deprivation, political powerlessness, racial segregation and isolation, as well as inferior education, this spiritual warfare is even greater in the African-American community.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘when a fire is raging, the emergency vehicles race at great speed, ignoring all traffic laws…’ Today, our children are engaged in raging fires all across the United States. It is time for our men and our fathers to move at great speed, ignoring any boundaries, as well as any traffic signals, and reach their children by any means necessary. It is time for you to recognize that fatherhood is more than the fertilization of an egg; it is the care, the love, the spiritual and moral guidance, quality time, and the protection children need after the birth process.

Fathers, your very being is an insurance policy of fatherhood for the children in your life. However, if there is no value in the policy of fatherhood you issued, your children will not be able to cash in the policy and receive a return. This return is not a monetary return, but one of assurance that you have their back. 
Too many of our children are in a quandary as to how they should or can deal with life’s daily state of confusion. With the increase of homicides, robberies, and other aberrant and violent behaviors, as well as the increased use of guns being put forth by too many of our male children, it is not only time for you, as a father, to ignore all traffic signals and run through the red lights of life with great speed, but to also take the face value of your fatherhood insurance policy and rescue your children, your friends’ children, your neighbors’ children…and rescue America’s children. Recognize fathers, either you stand for something or you will fall for anything!

In order for you, as a father, to hear the cries and calls of your child(ren), and answer them, below are some of the critical areas needing your attention. FATHERS, YOUR CHILDREN NEED YOU; YOUR FAMILUES NEED YOU; AMERICA NEEDS YOU!!!  PLEASE HEAR THE CRIES AND CALLS OF YOUR CHILDREN…AND ANSWER THEM!!!!

Children Need Guidance From Their Fathers to Rally Against:

1.     Violence-Fathers you must help your children to rally against violence in their homes and in their communities. Teach your children effective ways of communicating, problem management, and anger management. Teach your children that hands are made for holding and touching, not for hitting and hurting; guns are never an answer to solving problems  

2.     Hatred (Self & Others)-Fathers you must teach your children to recognize that self-hatred and hatred for others is never an option. Teach them how to use love for self and love for others in order to increase self-esteem, self-worth, self-respect, self-acceptance, as well as respect and acceptance of others.

3.    Gangs of Negativity-Fathers rally with your children to establish the first and only gang that they should be involved in…the family gang. Fathers spend quality time with your children and provide emotional support and love for your children, so that they will not have to look on the outside to fix the inside.

4.     Misrepresentation of the truth-Fathers you must teach the importance and power of truth to your children. Teach them that no matter how great or how grave a situation, a lie is never acceptable, but accountability is expected.

5.     Sexual Perversion, Exploitation, & Temptation-Fathers you must model for your children (especially your sons) respect for girls and women, which starts with their mother. Sexual misconduct and inappropriate touching of others is unacceptable. Fathers you must teach your children that they must fight against sexual temptations until they are emotionally, spiritually, and physically mature to handle such. Sexual misconduct and sexual exploitation of women are never options. Help your sons to see the importance of them thinking with their heads, feeling with their hearts, and not with their penises. Model this for them!

6.     Laziness & a Sense of Entitlement—Fathers you must model for your children (especially your sons) the importance of having a work ethic. Work is important and essential, and education is a requirement, not an option. Stop allowing your children to not have life plans; don’t allow them to not have life goals and live off of you and/or their mother. Instead of buying everything your children want, buy them what they need and teach them how to earn the things they want.  Also, teach quality and not quantity; plan pockets is just as great as name brand ones…and less expensive!

Children Need their Fathers to Serve as a Mentor & Guide to Provide:

1.    Positive Role Model—Practice what you teach your children. Model respect, morality, ethical behaviors, love, honesty, responsibility, and accountability for your children.

2.    A Strong Presence—Even if you live outside the home, you can still have a strong presence in the life of your child. If you can’t be there in person, show your children how much you love them by calling them on the phone, sending emails, Skyping, texting, sending greeting cards, etc. Whatever it takes, find a way to spend time with your child(ren). Forgive yourself for what you have not done in the lives of your children and make the connection!

3.    Discipline-Fathers, children need discipline and direction. They must recognize that there are always consequences for behaviors. They also need to learn about rewards and punishments. Always ensure that there is a conversation about their actions, including the impact on them, as well as on others. Ensure the punishment fits the offense.

4.    Models (Boundaries)-Fathers children need boundaries and guidance from you. No should mean no, and yes should mean yes. You must also model the importance of having clear and consistent boundaries in life.

5.    Unconditional Love-Fathers it is imperative that you model and provide unconditional love for your children. No matter how disappointing you might be with their behaviors, let love guide the way for you to handle the situation.

6.    A Listening Ear-Your children need someone to just listen sometimes; not be their friends, and to not have all the answers. Allow them to learn from their mistakes. As you listen, allow them to talk and give them permission to freely express themselves within reason and with respect.
7.    Spiritual Direction & Guidance-Your children should see that worship services and daily spiritual rituals are the norm, rather than the exception in your household…and they don’t have a choice in the matter.  Teach them that there is a power greater than them and that they have to fear that power and believe that they are spiritual beings with internal power to overcome anything in life. 

8.     Respect for self, others, & ESPECIALLY FEMALES-As a father, the greatest love you can show your children is the love and respect you have for their mother; no matter how you feel about your relationship with her, even if you all are no longer together. When you respect women, your male children will respect women.

9.    Positive & Practical Coping Mechanisms-Teach your children how to use effective communication, reasoning, analytical thinking, and patience. Also, teach your children that if there was a way into a situation, there is always a way out of a situation. Teach them effective decision-making skills and allow them to see that they always have a choice in any situation.

10. Quality time—Fathers it’s not the amount of time that you spend with your children; it’s the quality of the time that you spend with them. Remember, they are only children for a short time in life. Before you know it, your children will be adults. Cherish your children while you have them!

Don’t be afraid to let your children see that you are human, with emotions. And if it is difficult for you to handle this task, seek professional or spiritual guidance in doing so. Don’t be afraid to take your children to therapy with you. As a matter of fact, lead your family and all of you can benefit from family therapy with a professional.

I challenge ALL fathers to reclaim your place as a father and to reclaim your place and your role in the lives of your child(ren). Do it today!! Yes, You Can!!!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Type of Mother You are is Determined By the Type of Woman You Are!

Happy Mother’s Day! Mother’s Day is one of the most celebrated days in our country. The fact is, everyone exists because of a woman who is often referred to by many names…Mama, Mom, Mommy, and the most recognized of all, Mother

Motherhood is a tough job! However, with each child, the job becomes a little easier. Isn’t it amazing that just because you are a woman, it is expected hat you should automatically know how to be a mother? Not only do most men believe this myth, many women also believe it.  Motherhood is one of the things in life that requires constant assembly and reassembly. However, unlike many other things in life that require assembly (except for the things you learned from your own mother and other women you are socialized around), there are no directions to help guide the process of you being a mother.

And it’s okay if you don’t know what you are doing in your role as mother, especially the first time around! The good thing is that you can learn. You must be willing to listen and learn. Also, you can’t be afraid to take some guidance from your own mother, even if you thought she was not the best mother or she wasn’t like the mothers of your friends. I am sure there were some positive characteristics that she passed on to you. Just take a few minutes and look at yourself. You did not make yourself…your mother had a hand in making you be you! And in all actuality, you didn’t turn out too bad; did you?

Even if the woman who reared you was not your biological (birth) mother, she was the woman who assumed the role of mother in your life, which was and has been a paramount role. She may have many names…Grandma, Big Mama, Auntie, etc. But, no matter what name was attributed to this woman who wiped your nose, wiped your tears, fed you, clothed you, disciplined you (when you didn’t want it), hugged you, showed you unconditional love, taught you respect, taught you how to care, provided understanding, direction, and guidance. Your mother has always been worthy of having her role celebrated on Mother’s Day.  In order to see the mother in the woman who served as mother in your life, you must first see the woman of this person. Seeing the woman of this wonderful person makes it much more easier to see the mother in her.

Although, your life journey and your life story might not have all of the bells and whistles associated with other mothers; there is still that woman who performed the role of your birth mother. It is time for you to forgive your birth mother, let go of the angst, embrace those who love you and embrace you.

I am sure that you placed your mother into many slots, based on how you saw her, as well as your experiences with her. Here is your opportunity to take a more lighthearted approach to seeing the woman in your mother, as well as the woman in you, by assessing ‘What Type of Mother You Are.’  I have provided twelve (12) types of mothers for you to choose from.

As you explore the twelve (12) types of mothers, take your lenses off your mother and turn them on yourself. The choice(s) you make are not done to help you to diminish your role as a woman and a mother, but to help you to look at yourself, have a sense of humor and see the positive, as well as the challenges that might be associated with each type of mother.  Don’t be afraid to take the opportunity to correct areas in need of development.

1.     Old School Mother
You still practice many of the behaviors and rituals you gained from your mother. You believe in ‘back in the day,’ ‘back in my day,’ and separating childhood from adulthood. You also believe, ‘a child should stay in a child’s place,’ as well as, ‘this is my house!’ You parent with strict rules and you will not bend to pressure and you won’t ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’ As an ‘old school mother,’ you don’t play! You tell it like it is and you accept nothing less than respect from your children. You might not always listen as intently as you should, but you love your children unconditionally.

2.     Hip Hop Mother
You are ‘hipped’ to the times. You still like to party and you sometimes have problem being the parent. On many occasions, you become confused and lost, by trying to hang with your teenage children and their friends, believing ‘it’s one big party!’  You give your children freedom and choices, and sometimes not enough boundaries. You like rap music (of any kind) and you probably watch rap videos. You also probably watch most of the hip hop shows and the reality shows. Many times, in the words of Prince, you sometimes ‘act your shoe size and not your age.’ After all, you are a ‘hipped’ mom!

3.     New Age Mother
You can’t or don’t want to identify with anything from the past…especially your past. You will often negate what you were taught and many times abandon your foundation when rearing your children, in exchange for a modern perspective of child rearing and life in general.  You are all about the here and now, what’s happening now, and you treat your children as if you all are equals. Except for your age, you don’t make too many distinctions between you and your children. You see your children as having rights, and rarely are they wrong. You will many times purchase items for your children (cars, clothes, etc.) that they might not have necessarily earned, but because you believe they deserve them, and because it is fashionable.  You may also try to be the woman and the mother who tries to keep up with the Joneses.  

4.     Conservative Mother
You are the type of mother who is very traditional and you want to preserve everything. Your children are many times faced with tradition, instead of exploring new things, new ideas, and new people. Your children usually engage in basic approaches to life and might not be encouraged to take risks, but to remain ‘safe.’  Trust is often an issue for you, and can many times not only negatively impact your children, but can also have them stymied and fearful of moving forward, moving out, and moving on. However, as a mother, you have taught your children how to hold on to their values and beliefs. 

5.     Friend Mother
As the ‘friend mother,’ you and your children are generally inseparable. You all share everything, including your clothes, your shoes, your secrets, and also your activities. You and your children do most things together and you often have difficulty being you, because you are too busy trying to be friends with your children and trying to be like them. As a ‘fiend mother,’ it is often difficult to differentiate who is the adult and who is the child. There is nothing wrong with being a friend to your child, but there must be clear and consistent boundaries. Remember, your child needs his/her mother more than they need an older friend.

6.     Matter of Fact Mother
The ‘matter of fact mother’ leaves little room for gray areas. Things and situations are almost always black or white. This mother seems to carry a chip on her shoulder and often seems to have a bad attitude. Hence, her children will often take on these characteristics, especially female children. This mother often leaves no room for errors or mistakes; things must be in order at all times. At times, this mother might seem obsessive compulsive.  The ‘matter of fact mother’ and her children might clash quite often, because she is not wiling to bend or to see the other side of an argument.

7.     Hands off Mother
The ‘hands off mother’ is just that; she doesn’t take an active role in the discipline and parenting of her children. If there is a father in the home, she will defer any and all discipline and decisions to him. She often just does not want to be bothered. Too often, the children of this mother have little or no boundaries and can develop conduct disorders. They often have disciplinary issues and this mother does not try to correct her children, even when visiting others. As a matter of fact, she sees nothing wrong with what her children do; they are often rearing themselves, unless there is another adult in the home.

8.     Party Mother
The “party mother’ does just that…she is a party animal! She hangs out during the week and has a party to attend almost each and every weekend. She has not caught up with her age and is many times running away from her own reality. Her children don’t have good feelings about this ageless woman and are generally embarrassed with her behaviors.  This mother might even dress inappropriately for her age, in order for her to fit into the patty. However, the children are often neglected, because this mother is so busy trying to enjoy herself, at the expense of her children, who are often left unsupervised or in the hands of other caretakers.

9.     Perfect Mother
The ‘perfect mother’ never does anything wrong and her children are just as perfect. These children are often isolated because of this mother’s fear of them ‘getting with the wrong people’ or the fear of them being influenced by a ‘bad group.’ The children of this mother are often overly protected and not allowed to explore people and situations different from themselves. This mother often displays behaviors of obsession.  As a result, the children find it difficult to deal with their humanness and have difficulty dealing with losses or making mistakes.

10.   I Don’t Want to be a Mother—Mother
This mother never really wanted to be a mother in the first place. And she was probably not prepared to be a mother. She will often say that her children were mistakes; the condom broke or she didn’t think she could get pregnant. She blames everyone, except her self, for her unwanted child, as well as for being thrust into motherhood.  Too often, the child becomes the brunt of this mother’s anger and self-disappointment. Although this mother does not want to be a mother, it does not mean that she doesn’t love her children. They just seem to have arrived at the wrong time, and she feels trapped.

11.   I can’t believe I’m a Mother—Mother
This mother wakes up everyday, having difficulty believing she is a mother. Her surprise can either be positive or negative. From a positive perspective, she probably never thought that she could have children. She marvels when she sees her children and revels in the rays of motherhood. On the other hand, the negative aspect of this mother has more to do with her low self-esteem and lack of self-worth. She often doesn’t see herself as deserving of motherhood and unworthy of children. Either way, this mother can be a great mother with a solid support system and psychotherapy.

12.   I Don’t Want to be Like My Mother—Mother
There are so many women who become mothers, but they spend a lifetime running away from their own mothers; all because of their fears (real or imagined) of being like their mothers.  There is a chasm between the two mothers; so much so, that the mother who is trying not to be like her mother misses seeing her own inner beauty. And because this type of mother is so concentrated on rearing her children in ways different from her mother, she becomes more like her mother than not being like her. It is always good to take a realistic and panoramic view of yourself. Look in the mirror. Did you turn out to be a bad person because of the woman you try to avoid being like—your mother? If you were to be honest with yourself, you are probably a great woman, a great mother, and all around great person! Give your mother a break and you will be giving yourself a break!

Recognize that you can also fit into more than one of these “mother types” at the same time.  There are no ‘bad’ mothers or ‘good’ mothers; it’s all relative. Motherhood is a process and not an event.  No matter how many children you have or might have, remember, children don’t come with a ‘how to be a mother’ book and there is no magic formula for motherhood.

The best mother that you can be is the mother who allows herself to be who she is, with flaws and all. There are no perfect mothers. When you can accept who you are, love who you are, respect who you are, and be who you are, it will not be as difficult for you to be the mother you are.  Your first child makes it easy for you to fit into any of the twelve types above. However, with each child and with maturity, you might find yourself becoming a different type of mother.

What ever your situation, just be your best self, allowing you to be your best woman and your best mother. Everyone makes mistakes. And when your mistakes and your problems get to be too big for you to handle, reach out to family, a true friend, or seek help from a licensed mental health professional. Remember, “The Type of Mother You are is Determined By the Type of Woman You Are!” Be your best woman and the best mother will follow!