Category Archives: Mothers and Sons

8 Unhealthy Habits You May Be Teaching Your Son

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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

The Seasons of Your Son’s Life

As we get ready for the summer season, I think about how we go through various seasons in life. We are reminded in Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. As  we watch our kids finish the school year and prepare for the summer,  their physical transformation during  these brief months can leave us baffled by the brevity of childhood.  Just as the seasons change, our sons go through their seasons of emotional, mental, spiritual and physical change. Whether your son is in kindergarten, middle/high school or college, the season of his life will be filled with hope and challenges. While we wish we could easily prepare our sons for these transitions, we can’t predict with accuracy what will happen in each season of our son’s life.

Seasons of Your Son's Life

A few years ago, middle school felt like the coldest winter ever. Like a harsh winter season, my son’s school year was unpredictable and arduous. As a parent, sometimes all I could do was offer support and encouragement while feeling helpless and unproductive.  There were days the more I tried to help, the more he resisted. I learned to adapt to my son’s changes by being consistent with my presence without being overbearing. As my son grew older and learned how to manage his emotions, I also learned how to manage our mother-son relationship. I learned to be present when he was talking and when he needed me to guide, coach or direct him.

I learned to appreciate the seasons of my son’s life. Parenting doesn’t prepare you for unexpected power struggles, the moments of uncertainty, or the quiet emotional storms. Someone once told me, “Raising boys is deceptively simple”, and I agree that sometimes we make assumptions about the emotional lives of boys.

You may not notice the season of your son’s life until he reaches puberty. Then you may notice the varying degrees of emotions and behavior. Like rain on a sunny summer day or snow in the spring, be prepared  be caught off guard with unexpected changes. What’s most interesting about boys is that most of them are intricate, sensitive, and fragile, yet they mask this by being flippant, apathetic and indifferent.  Be patient with the passing storms and be grateful for the mild days. On days when you’re tempted to let the circumstances take over, remember like every season, this too shall pass.

 

7 Mini Pep Talks to Have With Your Son

Everyone needs a pep talk from time to time. It’s easy for kids to get discouraged when they can’t do something and want to give up. More than giving support and cheering our sons on, we need to help them overcome the challenge and stay on track.

Motivation

1. Change Your Approach

Step out of your point of view and look at things objectively.  It will help you gain a new perspective.
“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”-Mario Andretti

2. Step Away From the Situation

Take a break from the challenge or obstacle that is blocking you. Don’t try to dominate or overpower it.
“Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.” -Brian Adams

3. Be Still

Quiet your mind so that you can get the answer that you need. Just take a few minutes to clear your mind.
“An inability to stay quiet is one of the conspicuous failings of mankind. -Walter Bagehot

4. Keep Your Enthusiasm

Don’t lose the energy and spirit that you need to keep you going. Start each day with a positive outlook.
Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm. -Winston Churchill

5. Use Your Imagination

See yourself accomplishing your goals.
“Live out of your imagination, not your history.” -Stephen Covey

6. Write Out Your Dreams/Goals

Write out exactly what you are striving for until it becomes real to you.
“Motivation is like food for the brain. You cannot get enough in one sitting. It needs continual and regular top up’s.” -Peter Davies

7. Have Faith

Faith is the greatest motivator of all times, without it you can get nowhere, with it you are a powerful force.
“Walking your talk is a great way to motivate yourself. No one likes to live a lie. Be honest with yourself, and you will find the motivation to do what you advise others to do.
-Vince Poscente

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

Lions Do Raise Lambs: Embracing Your Child’s Personality

Lions Do Raise Lambs

Years ago, I adopted a phrase that a friend’s mother used to say “Lions don’t raise lambs.” I thought it was a powerful statement to make and soon made it my parenting motto. That is until I decided to take a look at myself. Who was I kidding? The only lion I was like was the Cowardly Lion or Alex the Lion from the movie Madagascar. After all, I’m the one who had to sleep with the lights on after watching The Sixth Sense (it’s not even a horror film).
The more I thought about it, I realized that this statement reflected my relationship with my mother. My mom is one tough cookie who is sweet and loving at the same time. She’s the kind of lion that would hug you and warn you that you’re about to be mauled.
As a kid, my mom tried for years to mold me into, well.. her. I was a skinny tomboy who enjoyed doing everything she wished I wouldn’t do. I hated dresses, the color pink, dolls and anything remotely girly. I was also a quirky and wildly imaginative introvert. Yet, my mother prevailed. She was determined to make this square peg fit into a round hole. What she got instead was an octagon, the confused offspring of a circle.

I can understand how why mother felt the need to mold me into something else. It wasn’t that she didn’t appreciate my strengths and my interesting character, she feared that if she didn’t refine some of my rough edges, I would be a walking mess. Even though secretly she appreciated all my antics, she worried that I would be a wild card. As her only daughter, she wanted to ensure that she gave me the proper tools to become a woman of substance. She longed for me to be ladylike and proper. The one thing she didn’t consider is that I’m not like her. Although she wanted to create a clone of herself, my mom never made me feel that her love was conditional or that I was good enough. My moms loves fashion, makeup, gardening and baking. My mom is cardigan, skirt and heels and I’m Converse, jeans and a t-shirt. Funny thing is that my mom was never critical, she was just hopeful. For all her lioness efforts to not raise a lamb, she got an alpaca, which is much worse. Have you seen an alpaca?

It took years of power struggles for my mom to understand that I wasn’t going to change. While she admired my independence and self-reliance, she was annoyed by my non-compliance. Although some of her refining methods work, deep down I remained that quirky girl who rather hang out with the guys. I remember thinking as a young woman, “I hope I don’t have a daughter, because I would screw her up.” Pretty dramatic but it was how I felt.

Which leads me to why I abandoned the “lions don’t raise lambs” way of thinking. What would that have meant for my son? It wouldn’t have been fair to him to try to make him someone he is not. I’ll be honest that since I was raising a child of the opposite sex, it was easier to let it go. The truth is lions can raise lambs or whatever animal they choose to raise. The beauty of having a child who is different from you is that you can appreciate the world through his eyes. As parents, we are the strong force in the development of our children’s confidence and self-esteem. When we start to lean towards creating clones, we deprive our children of their self-discovery and self-awareness. Character building is about working with the child you have, not changing him to the child you want him to be. I knew that I wouldn’t want to do anything that would negatively influence my son’s perception of himself.

Whenever I was worried about whether I’m doing things in the best interest of my son, I would allow him to show me the way. Now that we have two sons, it’s interesting to see the difference in character and personalities. So this alpaca takes it all in stride and enjoys the journey of raising a badger and a eagle with her bear, which makes our home an interesting place.
If you’re ever in doubt if your parenting expectations are clouding your ability to see your child as whole and self-reliant, remember the words of Kahlil Gibran:
On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

Repost from The Good Men Project

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.

 

 

Could You be Raising a Misogynist?

I know a mom who frequently says how much she doesn’t like women or girls. She believes that her way of thinking is fine because she has raised boys. Unfortunately, she has also raised misogynists. What she failed to realize is that in all her years of making negative comments about women and creating an environment of distrust and disrespect for women, she has conditioned her sons to share in her belief.

Raising a Misogynist

A misogynist is a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts, or mistreats women. Despite your best efforts to teach your son to respect, like and trust women, you may inadvertently be conditioning him to have misogynistic views of women. We often forget that children don’t remember so much what we say, but what we do.  Boys learn as much from their mothers as they do their fathers. As moms, we are as responsible as fathers for influencing our son’s views on the opposite sex. If you’re thinking, “There’s no way, I’m raising my son to be a misogynist”,  see if you behave in the following ways:

1- You use derogatory terms in reference to other women. Before you say, “I’m just joking when I say that” or “All women say that”, let me correct you, not all women do it. If the word “bitch” seems to fly off your tongue for any minor infraction from another women, you are showing your son that it is fine to disrespect women when they piss you off. Don’t be surprised when your 7 year old calls his sister a “bitch” for breaking his toy.

2-You send him mixed messages about respect. You reprimand your son about respecting you but he witnesses men disrespecting you and you accepting it. If you’re being unauthentic in how you present yourself to your son, he will see through it. You are your son’s teacher and mentor. How you conduct yourself teaches him what he should think about women. By giving men permission to disrespect or mistreat you, you’re also giving your son permission to do the same to women. If you want your son to respect women, he needs to see mutual respect in the relationships with other males in your life.

3-You don’t value your own and other women’s contribution-There’s nothing noble or honorable about playing small in the world. When your son sees you downplaying your greatness or your hard work, he learns to believe that what women contribute is insignificant or unimportant. Expose him to nontraditional activities so that he has a better understanding of the different roles we have in the world as women.

4-You teach him to have an overinflated sense of entitlement-You can’t teach your son that he is entitled to respect and love without having to be respectful or loving. As moms, we are often consumed by the need to provide our sons with “perfect love”. What we fail to realize is that in offering “perfect love”, we are conditioning our sons to believe they are entitled to this kind of love. He has to learn that in life what he puts out into the world, he gets back. He won’t be able to engage in meaningful, loving and mutually respectful relationship with women, if he is so self-centered, that he can not give of himself.

5-You’re intolerant of other women-If you dismiss women who do not behave or think like you, you are presently a narrow view of women to your son. If you’re highly critical of other women, your son will be too. I’m not saying that you have to surround yourself with women who you clearly have nothing in common with, but do not feed into the negative stereotype of women as being conniving, superficial, emotionally unstable or fragile.  We have different experiences in life, so it’s important to not be quick to judge other women based on a limited perspective.

Your son will be exposed to various messages about women through media, music and other boys and men in his community. It is imperative that we as mothers do our best to dispel many of the myths about women our sons are learning. Instead of teaching gender differences at an early age, we need to teach gender acceptance and tolerance.

Ten Things Your Son Wants to Hear From You

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1. I Love You, No Matter What

Let your son know you love him unconditionally. Emphasize that he does not need to be good, successful, or smart for you to love him.

2. I Respect You

Your son deserves respect too. You will teach your son a lot about respecting other people’s values and boundaries, when you show him respect. Mutual respect is key to a strong relationship with your son.

3. I’m Here For You

Be supportive in his decisions, as long as it is not something that will cause him harm. There are many adults living with resentment and regret because their parents did not support their dreams and goals.

4. I Am Listening

Listen without judgement or criticism. Listen with out self-referencing.  You don’t need to relate or like what he is saying. Just listen.

5. You Brighten My Day!

Let your son know how much joy he brings into your life. Show him that he is a blessing.

6. I Believe in You

Tell him what unique qualities you admire. Support his strengths, dreams and goals.

7. Tell Me More

Be inquisitive in a good way. Show enthusiasm when he is speaking. Use your tone and body language to show you are paying attention. Be curious about what he is saying.

8. I Want To Understand

Let your son know when you do not understand what he is going through. Ask him to explain and elaborate. Don’t jump to conclusions and attack his character.

9. Thank You!

Show gratitude for the little things. Thank him for helping out.

10. Let Me Help You

Your son may not always ask for help, even if he needs it. If your son needs help, be there with your love and encouragement.

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?

Happiness

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.

 

 

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.