Category Archives: Fathers

The Legacy of Black Father’s Love

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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.

 

 

Does it Matter if Your Son is Happy?

“I just want you to be happy”. How many times have we either uttered these words or heard other parents say this to their children? Why are we so consumed with the happiness of our children?

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I used to say this to my sons until I realized that happiness is rather subjective. I also realized that for children who are loved unconditionally, nurtured and cared for, happiness is just a state of being.  Happiness became a focal point in our lives a couple of years ago during my son’s turbulent middle school years and my husband’s deployment.   I became obsessed with making sure everyone around me was happy. Looking back, I was just consumed by the superficial happiness of my family.   As long as they looked and sounded happy, that’s all that mattered to me.

This continued until the day my dad passed away.  It was what one would call a “happy day”.  The weather was perfect and I was enjoying quality time with my family. Still basking in the glory of all that happiness, when I got home, I received the call that my father had just died.

I was a wreck for a long time. I began to refer to everything as B.D., “Before Death”. I felt that no one around me had the right to be happy.  I wanted others to feel as miserable as I did and when they didn’t, I resented them.  I was a walking contradiction to my sons. On one hand, I was making cliche comments about living life to its fullest and on the other hand I was reprimanded them for simply being happy. Instead of being resilient, I had become rigid.  I couldn’t understand how one can be happy when grieving. The problem was that for so many years, happiness dominated my life. I allowed my life to be dictated by what did or did not make me happy.

I neglected to see the messages I was sending my sons about happiness:

  1. As long as they’re happy, nothing else matters in life.
  2. My happiness and emotional well being is contingent upon their happiness.
  3. Happiness is the most important value in life.
  4. If they’re not happy, then there’s something wrong with them.

I’m a bit more mature about the emotional needs of my sons.I don’t want my sons to live their lives chained to the the quest for happiness.  I don’t want my sons to think they’re entitled to be happy. I want them to understand that life is full of peaks and valleys. I want them to appreciate the good and bad days in life. I want them to be able to regulate their emotions and understand that happiness is a choice.  I want my sons to make their emotional and mental health a priority and recognize when it’s not just the blues or stress. I want my sons not to hide behind a happy face to avoid the stigma of depression.

Instead of focusing on raising happy kids, we should focus on raising compassionate, empathetic and resilient people.  Happiness should not be such a powerful force in their lives that it can change the course of their day because of disappointment, rejection, or failure.

Constantly, telling your son “I just want you to be happy” will not make him happy. Stop trying to give him everything he wants to make him happy. It’s only a temporary fix. The more your try to make him happy, the more he will demand of you to be happy. If you keep it up, he will never appreciate anything or anyone in his life.  Life will be full of frustrations and how your son manages his emotions will determine how he handles life.

 

 

Getting Dads Involved in Schools with National PTA President Otha Thornton

I had the honor of interviewing, Otha Thornton, new president of the National PTA. Mr. Thornton shared his plans for the organization and resources for dads to get involved in their local PTA.

What Kind of Man Do You Want to Be: Image of a Real Man

This month’s What Kind of Man Do You Want to Be topic: The Image of a Real Man was a conversation about the image of a real man and how societal  and media masculine standards perpetuates male stereotyping.

Panelists  for Part I:  Enrique Pascal,  author of What Does A Real MAN Look Like? and host of Transformation Radio and Alan Bishop, founder of The 365 Effect, producer and creator several television shows .

Panelists for Part II: Edmund Adjapong, Rey Saint-Vil and Alex Hanse

Are You Feeding Your Son’s Inner Critic?

As parents, we sometimes aren’t mindful of how we speak to our children. Although we think we’re offering constructive criticism, we may be feeding our son’s inner critic.Children internalize the voices from their parents, teachers and other adults in their lives and start to criticize themselves.

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Who is the Inner Critic?

The inner critic is that nagging voice that  points out our failures, inadequacies, and our shortcomings. Although disguised as constructive criticism,  this inner critic sabotages our best interest. The inner critic undermines our belief in our abilities.

In children, the inner critic tells them that they are not smart enough, good enough, or talented enough to accomplish their goals.  Children start to use their inner dialog as a defense mechanism against the world. The truth is that criticism can never be constructive. According to Merriam -Webster dictionary, the definition of constructive is: promoting improvement or development, while the definition of criticize is: to find fault with: point out the faults of.

Since the inner critic is so powerful and convincing, how can we help our sons deal with their inner critic?

1. Help your son identify when his inner critic is attacking. Signs of the inner critic are fear, feeling powerless, feeling disappointed or discouraged, feeling tired or sick (such as a belly ache or headache), self blame and lack of motivation. Once your son senses when the inner critic is at play, help him to observe the underlying situation. What is the inner critic telling your son that he can not or should not do? Tell you son to observe what he is feeling physically and emotionally when the inner critic attacks. It might be helpful to have your son write down whatever he  is feeling. It could be just one sentence such as: “I am not a good at math.” “My hands get sweaty and my stomach hurts when I have to take a math test.” Have your son do this whenever he notices the inner critic. If your son is young, ask him to draw a picture about what it feels like.

2. Help your son to develop powerful self-talk. Developing powerful self -talk takes time and practice. This is a tool that is useful for parents too! It is very easy for us to name our weaknesses or to recognize our limiting beliefs. However, it takes time for us to identify our strengths and potential. Try this exercise: Ask your son to tell you 5 things he believes is a weakness or something he is not good at. Time how long it take for them to respond. Next, ask him to name his 5 strengths. Time how long it takes for a response again. Most boys who have a healthy self-esteem and practice powerful self talk are able to tell you their strengths much quicker than their weaknesses. You can help your son nurture his strengths by brainstorming on strengths and helping your son to use his strengths more often. Make a list of all the strengths and post it on the wall, where your son can see it on a daily basis.

3. Offer positive feedback. Listen to how your son explains what failure means to him. How does your son react when he fails a test or scores lower than expected? Find out what position your son takes on his accomplishments or failures? Don’t rush to solve the problem or tell your son why he failed. Let him use critical thinking skills to identify what is going on. If you notice your son making excuses or self criticizing, make your son aware of it.

4. Be a role model. Do you have a grasp on your inner critic? Your son notices how you behave when your inner critic attacks. When you are disappointed or have failed at something, talk to your son about it. Be honest with your son about your own inner critic. Notice how you behave when your inner critic attacks and set the example for your son. Let your son see you demonstrating healthy ways of dealing with disappointment.

Have Faith in Dad

This week, I am dedicating a post a day to a word the exemplifies a “real dad”.  Unfortunately, our society had taken a polarized stand when it comes to fatherhood. Basically, you’re either Cliff Huxtable or Darth Vader.

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We tend to neglect or forget the men in between. The dads who despite not having a great role model, dis their best to provide for their children, love them and instill strong family values. These men are rarely talked about because we have this unfair expectations of fathers. We laud fathers who make supreme sacrifices but we demonize those who fall short of being “Dad of the Year”.

We forget that these men are human  and not without fault. Yes, its not enough for them to provide for their children, they must be emotionally, mentally and spiritually present in their lives. Before a man can do all this, he must have faith in himself as a father. He has to believe that he is the man for this job. He has to know that parenting is a futile attempt to make order out of chaos.

Yes, there will be days when you disappoint your kids and yourself, yet this does not mean that you are a bad father.  It is a learning experience.  Just as there are no perfect moms, there are no perfect dads.

So today, I urge all fathers who feel they are threading closely to parenting failure to take heart. For every dad that thinks he’s screwing up, there’s a kid proving him wrong.

Moms, let’s do our part to be supportive and encouraging instead of critical when dad is doing his best. We can not control and dictate every situation.  If we want our sons to become responsible fathers, we have to let them see their dad in action.

I used to think that I did things better than my husband and would micromanage almost everything.  Looking back, I was afraid that if he could handle it,  he would take over my role as mom.  It sounds silly now, but the insecurities we have as parents manifest in our actions.

Learning to share the responsibilities gave me more freedom to do the things I wanted to do and gave my husband a chance to bond with his sons.

Where’s Daddy?

On Sunday, May 5 on Life Class on the OWN Network, Oprah Winfrey and Iyanla Vanzant are addressing a sensitive topic that needs more awareness: Fatherless Sons. This two part show is a must watch for families. We need to start the healing process for men who grew up without fathers, we need to set the example for our sons to be better men and fathers.

First Look: Oprah’s Lifeclass on Fatherless Sons

What if America’s sons didn’t have to grow up without their fathers? What difference could it make? It’s a problem that’s been going on for too long and at too great a cost. And it’s time to talk about it.

Tune in Sunday, May 5, at 9/8c for a special two-hour Oprah’s Lifeclass with Iyanla Vanzant.

As moms of boys, our role is to support the needs of the boys and men in our lives. Whether we’re married or single, we need to ensure that our sons understand the importance of a father in a boy’s life. We need to teach our sons to be accountable and responsible for their decisions and actions.   Let’s build a strong foundation for our sons to  leave a legacy of compassion, respect and responsibility.

Fathers, don’t be an invisible or silent force in your son’s life. You are the  man he aspires or does not aspire to be. Your actions and behavior dictate to him all he needs to know about manhood. He needs you to teach him how to be a man. He needs you to guide him through his rites of passage from boyhood to manhood.  Be a visible and powerful force in your son’s life.  Show him how to be man of character by living your life with integrity, honor, respect.  Every day in every way, you are becoming a better man.

Let’s teach our sons that fatherhood is not a casual choice.

Iron Man 3: How Fathers Create Their Sons In Their Own Image

He was cold, calculating, never told me he loved me, didn’t even tell me that he liked me, so it’s a bit hard for me to digest that he said the whole future is riding on me thing, you’re talking about a man who’s happiest day of his life was shipping me off to boarding school.
  ~Tony Stark, Iron Man 2

There is one thing that can reduce a powerful man to a little boy. It’s the need to gain his father’s favor or approval. We see it with powerful men who work tirelessly to live up to a father’s legacy of fulfill a father’s unfulfilled dreams. Whether his father is living or deceased, these men yearn for an  “Attaboy” or a pat on the back.

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Maybe the dad withholds praise from his son to keep him motivated or he disapproves of his son’s choices in life.  Unfortunately, what the father perceives as motivation, the son sees as criticism.  Howard Stark wants his son to excel but he pushes  Tony to his breaking point.  Instead of seeing his son for the brilliant young man he is, Howard sets exceptionally high expectations for Tony.  In father’s eyes: Son is not living up to his potential. In son’s mind: Dad will never be satisfied with me.

They say every superhero is complicated.  Tony Stark is no exception. Behind the “iron mask” Tony Stark has managed to suppress the pain and disappointment in not having a better relationship with his father.   He becomes a man of contradictions wanting to save the world but incapable of saving himself from his anger and pain. Despite being wealthy, successful and intelligent, Tony Stark can not live up to his father’s expectations. He creates a double life for himself and tries desperately to balance the dysfunction in his life.  He seeks security through women and expensive toys.  The money and the sex does little to bring him any real satisfaction.

An internal war rages inside Tony because he feels he will never receive what he wants: His father’s approval.  While Howard Stark focuses on his legacy and Stark Industries, Tony focuses on winning his dad’s love. The “Cat in the Cradle” relationship between father and son proves to be damaging to Tony’s self-esteem despite his attempts to cover it up with self-glorification. His drive for becoming a superhero is more about proving his father wrong and proving himself worthy.

This need to win over his father keeps Tony in a perpetual state of boyhood, no matter how accomplished or successful he is in life.  The connection between father and son is powerful and a father must keep in mind that his son defers to him as he transitions into manhood. A father’s approval or disapproval of his son can make his son feel unworthy and insignificant. His son may spend his life chasing success, fame, wealth or power just to prove to his dad that he is just like him or better.

The father/son relationship is the least nurtured in a family.  In the Stark family, the message is clear: Achievement takes precedence over emotional connection.  The result of a broken father/son relationship is that the son never fully develops as a man. He longs for praise and adoration.  What Tony Stark fails to realize is that as much as he wants to set himself apart from his father, he is very much like his father.  While his father built an emotional armor, Tony built a real armor.  Until a father hands his son his ” spiritual birthright”, a son spends years in the “waiting place”, waiting for dad to give him a wink and say, “Attaboy!” Fathers need to understand that withholding approval from their sons creates feeling of resentment, shame or inferiority. Our goal in raising boys is to help them become happy, healthy, confident, and successful men. This starts with fathers and sons connecting, communicating and breaking the cycle of  unhealthy relationships.

This post is part of the Building A Better Man: Iron Man 3 The Upgrade Yourself Review Series

Please read:

Part I:  Who Does She Really Love: The Man or the Machine by  Victory Unlimited Show

Part II: The Blueprint of a Man by The Style Gent

Part IV: How to Dismantle an Iron Man by Victory Unlimited Show

Part V:  May 9: Live Discussion of The Upgrade Yourself Series on the Dr. Vibe Show- 9pm Est

Is Your Man Living Up to His Potential?

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The other day I asked my husband: “Do you think you’re being the best man you could be?” He thought about it for awhile and responded “No”.  I appreciated his honesty and it opened up a discussion in which we both were able to share without judgment or shame.  It gave me the opportunity to express how I was feeling and to let go of any resentment I felt towards him.  I was more sympathetic to his adjust to civilian life following his recent deployment.

I know that getting angry and being critical (a sad attempt to motivate him) was causing us to have more arguments and creating an unbalance in our marriage and family.  Asking him this simple question (and giving him time to respond) gave him a safe space to be honest about what he needed to do in his life. It also brought an awareness to what I can and can not control.

We need the men in our lives to flourish because they are the role models for our sons. It is important to me that my husband sees himself through God’s eyes. If he loses hope and faith, our sons lose hope and faith.

As women, sometimes we see that the men in lives have either lost their way or are discouraged and we feel the need to steer them in the right
direction.  It’s not our job to make our men be their best, they have to  want to do it on their own. We have to be sensitive to their vulnerability but we can’t be responsible for their actions and  behavior. Your partner needs to have his own purpose in life. What we can do is address our concerns and have realistic expectations of them.  When we start dictating to them how they should think, behave and feel, we stop being partners and start becoming mothers.

I know and understand my role as wife . I’m here to hold my husband accountable and to support him when he is not thriving.