Category Archives: Family

8 Unhealthy Habits You May Be Teaching Your Son

Sad

As parents, there are times when we are so busy trying to raise a good kid we lose sight of the power of our daily interactions with our kids. We forget that they watch us and learn by our example.

1.Nagging– If you’re nagging someone, you know it. I know when I’m being a nag and I even annoy myself. Nagging doesn’t motivate, empower or encourage anyone to do what you want. It’s a waste of energy and it creates more conflict.

2. Pessimism-If you focus on the negative events in your life, you are not in the position to embrace what’s good in your life. Being a negative person damages relationships and is detrimental to your emotional and physical well-being.

3. Worrying-Of course you are, you’re a mom! However, worrying about every little detail, sniffle and scrape will make your son an anxious child. Constant worrying only leads to fear filled thoughts.

4. Anger-Do you blow up for any little minor infraction? Deal with your anger issues. Your son shouldn’t have to be on the receiving end of your anger.

5. Passive-Aggressiveness-You’re still an angry person, you just manage to pretend you’re not angry. Being passive-aggressive is a weak excuse for not addressing challenges or conflicts in your relationships. Giving your son the silent treatment doesn’t teach him how to properly deal with conflicts.

6. Being Over-Indulgent– Whether it’s overspending or overeating,anything in excess is not good for you. Kids need structure. Too much of a good thing can be bad. Set limits and enforce rules.

7. Distress-There is good and bad stress. Good stress intrinsically motivates us to persevere. Bad stress robs us of our health. Kids pick up on their parents stress levels. Do your best to find techniques to deal with the stress in your life.

8. Ignoring Depression-Depression is a debilitating disease. Unfortunately, too many moms don’t address or properly deal with depression. We choose to ignore or dismiss our depression as “the blues” or occasional sadness. Break the cycle of depression by getting the help you need.

Sometimes we allow the situations in our lives to control or dictate how we behave. Making a conscious decision to be aware of your actions and behavior will help you to be the example of social and emotional wellness for your son.

Image Courtesy of Flickr

5 Free Tools To Keep Your Son Focused This School Year

Back to school can be an exciting yet stressful time of the year. If your son is starting a new school or transitioning from elementary to middle or middle to high school, he’ll need tools to help him stay focused, organized and calm.  The following tools are great for giving your son an extra edge for the start of the school year.

Photo courtesy of Mrehan(Flickr)

Photo courtesy of Mrehan(Flickr)

1. Does Your Home Encourage Learning Questionnaire

Does your home reflect an environment conducive to learning? Depending on your son’s age, you can create a learning environment by providing resources  that support what your son learns in school as well as his specific interests. For example, if your son is interested in astronomy, there are low cost ways you can encourage his learning through DIY kits. Our kids spend many hours at school, so at home we want them to relax and unwind. This questionnaire helps you identify areas in which you may need to improve your child’s learning environment.  Does Your Home Encourage Learning

 

2. How Many Ways Are You Smart and Learning Styles Quiz

People are smart in various ways. We don’t need to get bogged down by what society defines as gifted or intelligent. Also, emotional intelligence is equally important as IQ.  Even if you know your son’s learning style, he needs to know how he learns best and his strengths. Knowing his learning style gives your son an advantage to learning faster.  How Many Ways Are You Smart and Learning Style Inventory Survey

 

3. School Year Vision Board

I do this with my oldest son every year  before back to school. It’s a great visual for boys to look at the year ahead. This is not a wish list but rather a visual plan for your son’s personal and academic success. Think of it as a visual reminder of his goals for the school year. There are online vision boards but I like the the old fashion way with a large poster board and pictures from magazines. I never tell my son what he can’t put on a board, I just give him tools on how to use the vision board.

 

4. Goal Setting Toolkit for Boys

Research shows that written goals have a 80% higher chance of being achieved. Goal setting for kids should be simple and short term. I’ve created this simple tool for boys because it gives them the steps they need to take to achieve their goals. Use this tool just for the year and have your son review it daily or weekly to ensure he is on track. When you sign up for my newsletter, you get the goal setting kit for free.  Raising Great Men Newsletter Signup and Free Goal Setting Toolkit

 

5. Stress Style Inventory

One of the many complaints I hear from parents and students is that they are overwhelmed and stressed.  The problem isn’t the stress but the how to properly manage the stress. Most kids and adults are not aware of their stress style. It is helpful to know if you experience stress through your mind or body. This inventory form helps you identify your stress style as well as offer tools for managing your stress.  Stress Style Quiz

These tools are a great way to get a jump start on the school year.  If you have other tools to share, please comment below.

The Legacy of Black Father’s Love

Father_and_Son_(Imagicity_282)

The best part of my childhood was knowing how much I was loved. It wasn’t the “be a good kid and we’ll show you love” conditional kind of love. As for my father, he loved me with a fierceness that made me believe that I was infallible. I wish I could say that that I loved my father in the same way. Unfortunately, I held him up to unrealistic expectations and made unfair demands of him to prove his love. I had high standards for my dad. I wanted him to be the perfect husband, father, and man. Anytime he made a mistake, I voiced my disapproval. I wanted him to be more than he could be without taking in to consideration that my father did not have an example or a role model of fatherhood. He created his own fatherhood blueprint. I loved my father yet I didn’t give him a chance to be human. I took his love for granted.

The Black father is expected to be near perfect. We want him to have the strength of James Evans, the patience and wisdom of Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the lightheartedness of Carl Winslow and intelligence of Uncle Phil. We want the black father to embody superhuman qualities and be more than he may be able to live up to.

Even our society polarizes black fathers. We either hear about the black dads that are doing exemplary things or dysfunctional, irresponsible dead beat dad. Black fathers are often reduced to caricatures. But what about the loving yet unassuming black fathers who are overlooked almost daily? These humble giants do not look for fanfare or adulation for being a dad. Why have we forgotten these unsung heroes who do so much for their families and ask for so little in return?

I think of men like my brother and husband who don’t think twice about making sacrifices for their families, especially their children. I think of the black fathers who pack the classroom of PS 153 every year for Dads Take Your Child to School Day. I think of the black father who stands on line in frigid weather in hopes of securing a spot for their child in a high performing school. I think of the black father who forfeits his work lunch hour to volunteer in his child’s school. I think of the black fathers I see in the park, eagerly engaging with their children. I also think of the black fathers highlighted in Zun Lee’s photo book: “Father Figure: Exploring Alternate Notions of Black Fatherhood”. These are not perfect men, they are men doing their best to show their children that they are loved and valued.

This is my ode to those unsung heroes, the loving black father who we pass by daily without giving a second thought to his life, his love or his experiences. We may even dismiss him or make assumptions about his character. These are the black fathers who are not an enigma to their children. They are physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally present in their children’s lives. They are the black fathers who don’t shy away from being the most important male to their children. These black fathers aren’t overly concerned with accolades for loving and caring for their children. Nurturing, guiding and supporting their children comes to them naturally. We don’t see these black fathers because they get lost in the shuffle of fatherlessness. We bring out the torches and pitchforks for dead beat black fathers but we don’t bring compassion and gratitude to the loving black fathers.

To you, black fathers, I say “Thank you”. Thank you for not allowing society to taint your vision of fatherhood. Thank you for caring more about your children than “showing that you’re a good dad.” Thank you for showing your children the power of unconditional love. Thank you for showing your sons that true leaders lead with love. Thank you for being a blessing for your children. Thank you for leaving a legacy of love for generations to come.

Originally posted at The Good Men Project.com

5 Healthy Habits to Teach Your Son

Imagine it is 15 years from now, what do you see your son doing with his life? To answer that question, you need to think about what your son is learning about life now.

1) Be of Service to Others

What will be your son’s legacy? His life defines who he is and the choices he makes will impact his the lives of others. Teach him to understand the power of his words and actions. Remind him that he was uniquely created to make a contribution to the world. Surround him with people who are supportive, positive and encouraging. Staying small and thinking small will not get him where he needs to be in life. Starting today, show him how to have a new perspective on life. He has to believe in his abilities and discover what he has to offer the world.

2) Love Unconditionally

When was the last time you loved without hesitation or caution? Withholding love is a means of control that only leads to distrust and resentment. Loving unconditionally means loving without judgment. Teach the following by being an example:

  • Allow yourself to love and be loved
  • Do not expect your needs and wants to be fulfilled by someone else.
  • Allow those you love to express themselves without fear of rejection.
  • Do not punish yourself or loved ones for past mistakes.
  • Be responsible in how you show love.

3) Do the Impossible

Think it can’t happen; then it won’t. Tell your son the following:

  • Learn from failures and take responsibility for your life.
  • Listening to your inner critic can sabotage your dreams.
  • Dream big and be excited about your future.

4) Be Grateful for Opportunities

Everyday your son is given many opportunities. Some may go unnoticed. Help him to recognize the simple little blessings that come his way daily. Give him a strong foundation on which to build his faith. His life will be more rewarding when he is aware of how much he has to be grateful.

5) Take Healthy Risks

Don’t allow fear of failure to dictate your son’s life. Fear inhibits success. Everything in life involves a risk. Your son will limit himself if he doesn’t step out of what is safe, comfortable and familiar. It is important that he is curious about life. Help him to develop strategies to deal with rejection and disappointment..

By encouraging your son to develop healthy habits, you are giving him the tools he needs to have positive experiences in life.

 

 

Your Son is Not Broken, Stop Trying to Fix Him

“Mom, I’m not broken.”  That’s what my son told me when he was younger. I was overly concerned with how he was not being social and he wanted to let me know that he didn’t need me to fix him. He needed me to accept him.  As much as you want your son to “be himself”, there are times you don’t accept him.  I know there have been times when I’ve focused on how what’s wrong with my son instead of being grateful for what’s right with him.

Mom, Stop Trying to Fix Me

Your son is not a DIY project or piece of equipment that requires professional servicing. As parents, sometimes our view of our sons are limited and narrow, that we focus on the areas that need improvement instead of looking at the whole child.

Yes, children need discipline and guidance but it shouldn’t be our focal point. We see the minor imperfections and before you know it, we’re embarking on a mission to fix what we think needs to be corrected. We look so closely at his weaknesses, that we neglect his strengths.  Your son is not going to live his life exactly as you wish. He’s going to take risks and make mistakes. Our job as a parent is to pick him up when he falls and lead him in the right direction.

Your son doesn’t need you to point out his limitations, he needs you to guide him to make the right choices in life.  He needs you to see his possibilities. He needs you to encourage him as he faces daily struggles, pressures and criticism from society. He needs your comfort and help. He needs you to have realistic expectations and allow for mistakes. He needs your reassurance that you believe in him and love him unconditionally.

Take some time today to see your son as capable and complete. I’m learning to do the same every day.

Brilliant But Lazy: Helping Your Underachieving Son to Succeed in the 21st Century

Relaxing on the sofa

One of my favorite lines from Spiderman 2 is when Peter Parker’s professor describes him- “He’s brilliant, but lazy. He’s always late to class, or absent entirely. He must stay out all night partying or something, because when he is here, he’s always exhausted, too worn out to take much initiative. He doesn’t do his homework.”

How many of us can relate to that when it comes to our sons? We nag, we threaten and we yell, but nothing seems to phase our sloth-like genius.What’s most frustrating is that we know they are capable of doing the work. It’s one thing if your son is struggling because of lack of knowledge or skill, it’s another when he’s just not motivated to do it. If you want your son to be intrinsically motivated, you have to explore the source of his underachievement.

I’ve watched my son set lofty academic goals and not meet them because he was not disciplined. We tried talking to him about studying habits and managing his time. All these suggestions were ignored.  At what point, do you step back and let your son be accountable for his grades and his future? When dealing with your brilliant but lazy son, ask yourself: Who owns the problem? Is this your son’s problem or your problem? You’re probably thinking, ‘If he fails, it becomes my problem because I’ll be blamed”. Well first, you take your son’s age and mental and emotional development.  If he’s at a stage where he can be accountable for his actions, then it’s time to redefine your role as a parent.  As your son grows, you parenting responsibilities move from directing/managing to collaborating/delegating. We equip our sons with the tools they need to move from the cycle of underachievement to achievement.

Your son needs to be committed to his own personal success. We may want our sons to be intrinsically motivated  but he needs to identify his attitudes and beliefs about himself. Does he see himself as a failure in some areas of his life? Why?  What are his limiting beliefs?  Are his beliefs turning into a self fulfilling prophecy?

One of the mistakes we made with our son was not identifying the underlying reason for his lack of motivation.  We made assumptions, we blamed social media and social change, but we didn’t acknowledge our contribution to the problem.

Here’s what we learned:

1. Create a safe space for your son to share and feel heard.  There may be hidden feelings that he does not feel comfortable sharing with you.

2 . Set guidelines and show him how to balance “work and play time”.  Be consistent with helping him manage his time. This is something we struggle with as adults.  Think about how much time do you spend on social media.

3. Show him how to problem solve. Teach your son to be resourceful.  As he grows, life will become more complicated and challenging. He needs to be able to confront adversity and focus on solutions. Let him see problems as learning opportunities rather than setbacks.

4. Help him to recognize his abilities. He needs to know his own potential. If you are constantly praising him, he may become addicted to praise instead of recognizing his own strengths.

5.  Build his self-awareness.  Self-reflection gives  your son insight into his goals and his plans for the future.

6.  Help your son to see the lessons in failure.  Let him know mistakes are part of life. Be an example of resiliency by showing him how you rebound from your mistakes.

7.  Teach him self management skills. He will need these skills when he is dealing with a frustrating or challenging situation. If he falters under pressure, it will require more effort to get him to get back up.

8.  Be flexible in your approach. Your frustration will not be a catalyst for your his transformation.

9. Don’t project your unfulfilled dreams on your son. Help him to blaze his own trails.

10. Don’t use shame to motivate your son. Shaming just produces feelings of inadequacies and resentment.

Keep in mind, that your son needs your guidance in order to achieve success in life. He also needs you to model the behavior. Therefore, you need to address your own underachievement in order to help your son.

Be sure to check out my free GoalSetting Toolkit for Boys

 

The 5 Friends Every Woman Should Have

Female friendships

I wished we saw more friendships on tv like Lucy and Ethel’s friendship. Unfortunately, we are bombarded with so many reality shows that depict women as catty and friendships as fake as their breast and bank accounts. How did this become the norm?  As someone with very few female friends, I cherish the ones that are in my life. These friends have seen me at my best and my worst. They don’t judge me or criticize the choices I make in life. These relationships mean the world to me and my life is enriched by my experiences with them.

You may have one friend who embodies all the characteristics of the friends below or may see yourself on the list. Whatever the case, as women, it’s important that we surround ourselves with friends that support, inspire and cheer us.

1. The Big Ang

The Big Ang is the mother hen. She gives you a dose of tough love with a hug. She listens to your drama without getting emotionally involved. She dispenses advice with love and candor. She’ll never say behind your back what she wouldn’t say to your face. Don’t look to her for a pity party. She’s there to pick you up and dust you off. She doesn’t judge your marriage, parenting or lifestyle. Although she doesn’t hold back when it comes to letting you know what you need to do, she doesn’t insist that you follow her advice. Big Ang is as warm and relaxing as hot chocolate with Kahlua. Just a warning: Don’t get on her bad side.

2. The Gayle

She’s the friend who knows you the best. She knows what you’re about to say before you even open your mouth. She knows just what to say and when to say it. She’s the friend who will be there through your divorce, family illness, bad relationships,  etc. She lets you cry on her shoulder and doesn’t flinch when you share your darkest secret with her. She could write a tell-all book about you but would never do it. You trust her with your life, your money, your husband and your kids. She is the sister you’ve always wanted and she means the world to you.

3. The Ethel

She’s your partner in crime. She’s your sidekick. You have coffee or lunch with mischief and mayhem. She is always ready to get into some kind of trouble with you. Although she’ll try to talk you out of a scheme, she’ll go along with the plan to help you out. She’s there for a good laugh and she always knows how to get out of a situation. If you had to rob a bank, she’d be the perfect accomplice.

4. The Liz Lemon

If you and Ethel did rob a bank, you’d call Liz to bail you out. She’s the friend who is always giving you sound advice. She helps you to strategize and plan.  She’s your voice of reason and your conscious. She’s good for borrowing money but not for fashion advice.

5. The Carrie Bradshaw

She’s the friend who lives and breathes fashion. She wears heels to the park with her preschooler and she makes no apologies for being a MILF. She’s the friend who convinced you to get rid of your “Mom” jeans. She knows the best places to shop, at, party, etc. She is generous with her fashion advice, her clothes and accessories. She’s the first one you call when you’re planning an event and she’s there to help you plan and organize birthday parties, anniversaries and more.

Who are the friends in your life?

Is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream Part of Your Legacy?

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I Have a Dream Speech

I Have a Dream Speech

Fifty years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, we have a black president but are we really less segregated than we were back then? In New York City, we have numerous black men being stopped for Stop and Frisk, and the George Zimmerman trial reminded us that race still plays a big role in our society. I can appreciate that for my son’s generation, race is not as big as an issue than it is for past generations. This is partly due to the fact that they are still young and haven’t yet really experienced life.

If you want to see if much has changed since that march on Washington, tweet something about race on social media, and see the responses. Yes, we’ve made some strides in improving race relations but recent events show us that we have more than 50 years to go before Dr. King’s dream is realized.

In the meantime, what we can do is reinforce to the next generation the importance of acceptance as it applies to culture, race, class and gender. We can start to model empathy and compassion for those who are different from us. We can start to walk our talk and be mindful of the times we are being intolerant, judgmental and bigoted.

It takes being open and honest about our own intolerance and how we contribute to our children’s narrow-minded views. We are all part of Dr. King’s dream but how many of us will make the effort to make it a reality.

Like Dr. King, I dream of the day when my sons will not be judge by the “color of their skin but the content of their character.”

 

 

 

 

Wordless Wednesday: Thank You For Caring

My husband in Iraq.

My husband in Iraq.

Sometimes the little things we do can mean so much to someone. Show someone you care.

Are You Raising a Real Superhero?

“One of the saddest days of my life was when my mother told me ‘Superman’ did not exist…she thought I was crying because it’s like Santa Claus is not real. I was crying because no one was coming with enough power to save us.”-Geoffrey Canada

Raising a Real Superhero

Image Courtesy of Flickr

Last night my son and I watched Waiting for “Superman, a documentary that examines how our public school system is failing students and their families. The movie was able to impress upon my son what I have been saying to him for years: “A quality education is something worth fighting for.”

I understand that challenge the families in the movie faced quite well. I spent last year trying to make sense of the high school process of New York  City Department of Education. I live in NYC, one of the largest cities in the country. We have an abundance of resources, activities and cultural events, yet we do not have enough good schools to meet the needs of all the families living here.

After the tedious and complicated high school process (in which we listed our 12 school choices), the computer matched my son to a random school on the list.  Although there are options for specialized high schools and charter schools, the number of seats available are so , that you have thousands of students scrambling to get one of the 100s of spots available. We then made the decision to put him in private school. I rather sacrifice something for myself than deny my son a quality education. Last night, he thanked me for making that decision.

My son grew frustrated as he watched the movie, so I asked him “If you’re so angry, what are you going to do about it?”  It’s a question I often ask him when he complains to me about injustices in the world. I tell him that he has the power to make a change. When he has taken action, he’s seen change in action. He knows that he can “be a change in the world”.  What I want him to keep in mind that every hero’s feat is not always met with fanfare and recognition. It’s important to do the right things in life because you have integrity and morals, not because you want to be lauded as a hero.

Little boys love superheroes but somehow when they lose their innocence and realize superheroes are not real, they  may also lose their desire to make a difference in the world. We need to remind our sons that real superheroes are everyday people who want to make the world a better place.  The real heroes often go unnoticed and they rarely have alter egos. They are humble and unassuming. They are empathetic and live life with a purpose rather than a superficial motivation.   They aren’t complainers and whiners, they are doers.

I’m not raising my sons to sit idly and wait for someone else to do it. My sons will not be waiting for Superman.

What are you doing to raise a real superhero?