On the day before I wrote this column, I received a very disturbing phone call from one of my congregants.
From the very sad and somber tone of her voice, I sensed it was bad or troublesome news. When you have dealt with people as long as I have, you develop a feel for certain things that they are expressing in their voice from the onset (even before they tell you the specifics and details of the matter).
So, as I prepared myself for what I sensed would be something bad, she proceeded to tell me that her niece had been murdered (shot in her own home). To make matters worse, she said that by all initial evidence her niece’s own son was the perpetrator of this horrendous act.
As she continued to share the pain that she was feeling, she revealed some information that became the inspiration to my article today. She said, and I quote, “I saw it coming. She spoiled him and raised him to be like he is. He has been in and out of trouble. She would always go out of her way to get him out ever since he was a little boy.”
Since this is no isolated situation, but is occurring too frequently, especially in many African American families, I feel a sense of urgency to address the issue, but not from a critical or negative perspective. My aim is to add truth to power and provoke thought and discussion; whether you can believe it or not, we are in this together. Therefore, each of us should use whatever means or platform we may have to help alleviate the ills that are challenging our very sanity and survival. The following are just a few points to consider that might help a parent or guardian, who is rearing children in this very difficult time, to avoid becoming a Frankenstein parent.
Do not fail to discipline
Dr. James Dobson, Christian psychologist and radio commentator, is one of the most prolific writers on the importance of parents using corporal punishment and discipline in raising their children. In his book that I highly recommend, “Dare to Discipline,” he shared many important lessons on the practice of disciplining as it relates to raising children.
As the fifth born of ten siblings (eight boys and two girls), I was certainly the most problematic and rebellious. I learned by being on the receiving end of my father’s belt and my mama’s switches, which were plaited together, to fall in line and be obedient. Many times, I avoided trouble not because I was afraid of the mischief, but afraid of getting caught and being whipped with the belt or switches.
Do not fail to instill respect for authority and the elderly
I learned to respect authority at school, at church, or anywhere, as well as the elderly by first respecting my parents at home. Sassing or talking back was something my siblings and I dared not do. For to do it would invoke the wrath or corporal punishment of my parents, especially my father. This principle of respect was so deeply instilled in me from my upbringing that until this day, I still say, “Yes, sir or no, ma’am” to elderly and authority figures. I believe that many parents who fail to instill respect to those to whom respect is due, could be potentially raising monsters and setting their children up to fail in life.
Do not defend or endorse your children when they are wrong
Having a wife and daughter who are educators in the public school system, I naturally have been made aware of the misguided way that some parents take up for their children when they are wrong. In many cases, when the truth finally surfaces, they have had to eat crow’ and apologize.
Again, when I was growing up, contrary to the rule of being innocent until proven guilty, when it came to elders, teachers, policemen, etc., we were guilty until proven innocent, when we acted out in an outburst of anger or disrespect. Perhaps my parents were not always right in their method, but it proved to be effective in raising us.
It is the primary reason why my siblings and I are law-abiding citizens today. Parents, please do not endorse or take up for your children when they are wrong. For certain, if you do, you are guilty of planting the seeds that will grow into monsters.
Do not fail to instill the work ethic in your children
If an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, as the adage asserts, it is absolutely indispensable that parents instill the work ethic in their children. I am from the old school and truly believe that if one does not work, then he or she should not eat.
Far too many parents, grandparents, other relatives, and friends are making matters worse for many of our young people. They are allowing them to stay in their homes and eat three meals a day without working. It is one thing if they have been laid off and is presently looking for a job. Regrettably, this is not the case for many who just refuse to work.
Such people are lazy, trifling, and will not work in a pie factory. The best way you can help them is to stop feeding them and put them out, if they refuse to work.
Do not put being your children’s friend above being their parent
It is very important that you establish with your children that you have been given the responsibility to be their parent first and not their friend. They may not like you for that, but they will understand it better by and by, especially when they have their own children. Also, parents, please do not think that someone else (like a teacher, coach, pastor, or youth pastor) can take your place. They can only serve in a supplemental way. Your influence and oversight must be fundamental.
Michael Goings is the senior pastor of Outreach Family Fellowship in Dillon and Florence.