10 Habits for Raising Academically Successful Kids

10 Habits for Raising Academically Successful Kids



Courtesy of PCG


I enjoy the summer. It is a good time for family outings, more relaxed schedules (relatively speaking), and no homework. As summer winds down and Fall approaches, it’s time to turn our attention to school matters again. It’s fun—full of hustle and bustle. There is the excitement of new school clothes, getting those school supplies, and making sure all the school-assigned summer reading has been completed. And, then its finally here, the first day of school.

I have a routine with my daughter, Kyrsten, now a high school senior. The first day of school is always a picture in front of the house.  It’s a fun few days with the feeling of another “new beginning.” But, preparing your children to return to school is more than a new hairstyle, shiny new boots, and a backpack. Too often in our zest to check items off the “Back to school” list we miss the one most important element—attitude. We need our children to return to school with a success mindset. The mindset is the difference between excellence and average. Though it can be difficult with our harried lifestyles and often disinterested kids, every parent has the responsibility to fully invest in the child’s success mindset for school. What grade would you give yourself?

I have two children. I’m proud of them. My kids are very different in personality, extracurricular interests, academic strengths, and study habits. I play around with them a lot—acting silly. But, they both know when it comes to education I’m a dictator. They think I’m crazy. They’re right. But, the right kind of craziness pays dividends.

My son, Quilan, is a graduate student at Ohio State University. During his secondary school years, my son was the athlete with a penchant for science and math. He was selected by Concerned Black Men as their Student of the Year during his senior year. He graduated high school with a 3.8 GPA and a full merit-based scholarship to Penn State University. Now he is on a graduate assistantship at Ohio State University that pays his tuition and gives him a monthly stipend.

My daughter, Kyrsten, is artistic (writing, photography) with a more liberal arts bent. She has a 4.1 GPA. She’s ranked in the top 11% of her class in a highly competitive class in a Philadelphia suburban high school. With one year of high school left, she has already been captain of the dance team and active in several other extracurricular clubs. She’s been selected twice to represent the Philadelphia chapter for National Black MBA Leader’s of Tomorrow business case competitions held in Boston and Houston. She has already identified her preferred college (Bentley University) and has been cultivating a relationship with the admissions representative. She will get a full academic scholarship somewhere (hopefully Bentley).

I give you this background on my kids to make a single point—academic excellence is a priority in our home. My wife and I have worked since they started elementary school to instill a success mindset in our children—particularly as it applies to school performance.

So, as we start another school year, I encourage all parents to reinforce these 10 habits into your own home. I believe that most of these habits are important for all homes. But, they are particularly important for those parents who have college aspirations for their children.

#1: Set academic expectations

Education studies clearly show that children tend to rise to the level of expectations set for them. The same principle is at play in the home. Parents are responsible for setting the academic expectations. Many parents errantly assume that children know what is expected of them at school. This isn’t true. I’ve talked to many students who believe that being at or above average is success. They believe that as long as they aren’t below average that they are doing their job. My son said this to me when he was in elementary school. Parents have to debunk this mindset as early as possible in the child’s academic journey.

I encourage all parents to communicate an expectation of academic excellence. In our home, the expectation every single year is that my child will get an “A” final grade in every subject. But, in order to do this, I insist on an “A” grade in every subject in every marking period. See why my kids think I’m crazy?

Here is the reality. My kids, especially my son, often did not get straight A’s. But, then they have to explain to me in terms that I accept why an ‘A’ was not achieved. With my daughter, math and science classes are not her strength. But, I still expect her to get an ‘A’. Therefore, I insist on seeing an ‘A’ effort. If she puts forth an ‘A’ effort but ends up with a lower grade, then I accept that. What I will not accept is less than an ‘A’ effort.

For most students, an ‘A’ effort requires good study habits.

Do your children know what grade you expect them to achieve this marking period? Do they clearly know the level of effort you expect of them?

#2: Communicate directly with the teachers

Do you trust your children? I trust mine—most of the time. But, you can’t believe everything that they tell you. I know you want to. But, you can’t. Sometimes they are intentionally trying to deceive you. Other times they just don’t know. You have to have an effective channel of communication directly with the teachers. I encourage parents to have direct contact information for every teacher.

I go to Back to School Night every year. I don’t just go. I make sure that I introduce myself to every teacher. And, I make sure that they know that I expect them to reach out to me if there is an issue with my child. I obtain the phone number and email address for each teacher.

It is not only important to get the information. But, you have to let your child know that you have the information. And, your child needs to know that you have no problem using it.

My children know that I will contact their teacher in a minute. Sometimes, you have to just contact the teacher so that your child understands that “the threat” is real. Most kids are less likely to try to pull the wool over your eyes if they know you will contact the teacher directly yourself.

#3: Escalate issues above the teacher, when necessary

This may be a controversial point. But, I give teachers the benefit of the doubt. When experience difference of opinion between my child and the teacher, I assume the teacher knows what he/she is doing. But, then I follow up with the teacher and try to understand why my child is having the issue. If I believe that this teacher is indeed wrong and unwilling to remedy the situation, I will escalate the issue immediately. I’ll go to the principal or the superintendent of the school district if I really had to.

The key point is that I hold my child, the teacher, and the principal accountable. I want answers that make sense to me. I can be objective. But, don’t try to fool me.

#4: Regularly monitor academic performance

Parents have to monitor kids’ grades. You can’t just take their word for it. Here are a few tips:

Ask direct questions and keep probing (yes it can be difficult during some of those adolescent years to get more than one-word answers)

Watch for and question any changes in their demeanor, behavior, and grades (if something really feels wrong for more than a few weeks, something is probably wrong)

Ask for confirmation that homework is being done

Keep a sense of when tests are taking place and inquire about preparation beforehand and performance afterward

Vigilantly monitor grades at the beginning, midterms, and two weeks before final grades (if your school district has a “Home Access System” that you can access online to monitor grades, sign up immediately)

The monitoring will change depending on the grade of the child. But, I access our Home Access account for my daughter every few weeks. I ask questions about any grade that isn’t an ‘A’, and any homework that is missing. My daughter knows that I’m watching. When the child knows you are paying attention, they are more likely to pay attention too. This goes for social engagement also.

Even if you have a very busy schedule, it is important to pay particular attention at three time points. First, check in early in the marking period to make sure that things are getting off to a good start. Then you look again midway through the marking period because it will be easy to discern patterns, and then check in a few weeks before the end of the period so that there is some time to remedy any situation before the marking period is over.

I am focusing a lot on grades in this post because this is the most quantifiable and empirical measure of performance. But, it is important to understand that academic performance isn’t just about grades. It is about being a well-rounded student. My experience, however, is that when kids are performing poorly academically they tend to struggle in many other areas as well.

#5: Scrutinize core subjects

While your child, particularly in junior/high school, may have six or seven classes, they are not all created equal. Your state knows this. They have state assessments to monitor performance in the core subjects. The school district knows this. They have multiple tracks to account for these core subjects.

Too often, parents are not aware that Math, Science, English, and Social Studies are the core competencies. Your child’s performance in these classes matters more to the state, the school district, and the school. They have tutoring and other incentives to encourage performance in these subjects.

As a parent, you have to pay attention to all of your child’s classes. But, here is the reality, you have to scrutinize these three core subjects. You have to make sure that your child is in the right track for him or her. When they are in junior and senior high school they go into what are called tracks. Depending on the transparency of your school, these tracks may be hidden or obvious. But, believe me. They are there. You need to know which track your child is in.

Once in senior high school, there are generally four tracks for each core subject. There is a vocational track (for those who are not necessarily college-bound), a college prep track, an Honor’s track, and an Advanced Placement (AP) track (in most schools these days). This is important because the Honor’s and AP tracks are what they call “weighted”. They are more demanding of the student. But, they also offer higher credit. This is how many students obtain GPAs that are higher than 4.0.

It is important to make sure that your child is in the highest track that they can handle. Don’t let this become an ego thing. But, fight for your child to be in the highest track that he/she can manage. An “A” in a College Prep class is not as impactful on GPA or as impressive to college admissions officers as an “A” in an AP class. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

This is especially important for minority kids because honestly our children are often placed underneath their capability. However, I have to stress the importance of knowing your child. In senior high school, my son had Honor’s or AP classes in nearly all his Math and Science classes because he was naturally gifted and had interest that way. My daughter, however, dislikes Math and Science and struggles with them to some degree. So, we have to be more selective in which Math and Science classes in which she does Honor’s or AP. However, she excels in advanced History and English classes.

#6: Understand it’s a Competition

Yes, I know this is a controversial way to look at it. But, I believe it is important for our children to understand that once they are in senior high school, it is a clear competition. They are competing for high school leadership opportunities, college admission, and scholarships.

Since my children were in primary school, I’ve reinforced the point to them that they have one job—to obtain a full college scholarship.

Obtaining this scholarship requires four pillars: academic excellence, extracurricular leadership, outstanding recommendations, and great scores on standardized achievement tests (e.g, SAT, ACT). Their job from junior to senior high is to maximize each of these three areas. They don’t have to work any other job. By doing chores, they earn a very modest allowance so that they have a little spending money. They can do whatever extracurricular activities they want. But, it cannot compromise any of the pillars.

We live in an increasingly global culture where the competition isn’t even just in the U.S. International students are attending our U.S. institutions at an increasing pace. These students are submitting excellent applications with outstanding credentials and academic achievements.

Our kids need to understand that life is a competition. Yes, we pray for favor. But, we also prepare with rigor. And, it starts in school.

As parents, we have to take the time to support our children in each of the four pillars. Don’t compromise on any of them. Give them options. But, insist that they participate in extracurricular. Don’t be cheap either. A full college scholarship can save you or the child in excess of one hundred thousand dollars. If you have to spend one thousand on an SAT course, then you’ll likely get a great return on that investment (ROI).

#7: Create a positive, stable atmosphere

One of the most important things that you can do as a parent to encourage your child’s academic success is to create a home atmosphere that is positive and encouraging. Many children have so many socioeconomic challenges at home that it is practically impossible to focus on being positive at school. Sadly, so many kids are in survival mode.

I think it is sad when school districts are celebrating that half of their students are graduating. Call me crazy (my kids do) but I don’t think this is as much a problem with the school system as it is with the home system.

Children are part of a system. Home, community, school engagement are all part of the system. They each influence the other. Helping your child at school requires a healthy community and a healthy home.

Help them develop responsible habits in the home and community. In an age-appropriate fashion, monitor the media that they consume. Show them things that enrich their core personality and interests.

You may be going through life challenges. But, to the extent possible, protect your children from the full brunt of it. Be positive with them. Tell them that they can do it. Make them feel like champions at home. If done authentically and consistently, I have no doubt that you’ll see an impact on their academics.

#8: Monitor with whom they spend their time

As your child gets older, it becomes increasingly difficult if not impossible to control with whom they will become friends. But, do your best to monitor it. Try to embrace their friends. Invite them over. Yes, part of the goal is so that you can get to know the friend. As you better understand them, you can better anticipate how your child and the friend will influence each other—positively or negatively.

Socialization is a huge issue in school. Your child will look to fit in. You don’t want to establish an adversarial relationship with your child. But, try and offer helpful suggestions.

You can’t control who they choose as friends. But, you can usually control the time that they spend with them.

People tend to gravitate to the level of those with whom they spend the most time. If your child spends a lot of time among kids who shun school responsibilities, your child is likely to trend in that direction. Conversely, if the child hangs with good students, he is also likely to be a good student.

#9: Reward performance

Well, this may be another controversial point. But, my wife and I reward academic performance. In our case, we give financial incentive. When the report card comes, we give $5 for every “A” and an extra bonus if there are straight A’s.

Some parents think that the child should be self-motivated to perform academically. Maybe they should be. But, most aren’t as motivated as we parents would like them to be. There is an adage, “What gets rewarded, gets repeated”. I expect “A” grades. When they come, I put my money where my mouth is.

While some kids are more motivated by money than others, every kid likes some kind of rewards. In fact, my daughter is much more motivated by money than is my son. But, I’m convinced that this incentive plays an important role in their performance. For me, I believe it is a good investment.

Figure out what motivates your child and tie that to their school performance (academically and socially). Remember, you have to be willing to withhold the reward if they don’t perform.

#10: Be Consistent and Prayerful

The final two things I’ll say may in fact be the most important. Parenting is really about consistency in encouraging the desired behavior. I see many parents start off with zeal and good intentions. But, as life gets busy it just becomes too difficult to keep up with everything. Children see inconsistency a mile away. Many of them will get away with whatever they think they can get away with. We have to be consistent.

The most important thing that we as parents can consistently do is pray. All of the other things that I’ve mentioned are only optimized in the context of prayer.

We pray for our children every weekday morning. We pray for favor for them. We pray that they are wise in their selection of friends and their decisions. We pray that God protects their mind, heart, and body.

Even though my son is hundreds of miles away, we pray for him. When we have a Skype call with him, we pray over him. When I take my daughter to the bus stop, I hold her hand and pray.

Ultimately, we want to place all of our parenting in the Lord’s hands because that is ultimately that is what we want our children to do—regardless of grades, scholarships, or anything else.

I hope that these 10 habits are helpful to you as we embark on yet another school year. Please let me know what other habits you’ve found successful or if any of these don’t make sense for you. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Single black fathers fight ‘deadbeat Dad’ stereotype

Single black fathers fight ‘deadbeat Dad’ stereotype

Video Courtesy of AJ+


Every Tuesday and Thursday, Jay Hinson Sr. wakes his 16-year-old son, Jay Jr., and gets ready for work while his son prepares for school.

Depending on the day, Hinson will take his son to either Amateur Athletic Union basketball practice or to his personal trainer for strength and conditioning training. Work is never far from his mind as he makes sure he finishes his projects so he can be ready for his son. His schedule is tight.

“We are always on the move. But wherever he goes, I always travel with him,” said Hinson, who has had sole custody of his son since he was 6.

Helping fathers play a role in their children’s lives has emerged as a local and national concern over the years. The number of single-father households has increased from less than 300,000 in 1960, to over 2.6 million in 2011, according to a report by the Pew Research Center. Black fathers are the most likely to be the heads of single father households, edging out both white and Hispanic fathers, the report says.

As the parent with sole custody, Hinson is responsible for his son’s physical needs as well as making any legal decisions on his behalf. The younger Hinson spends time with his mother Mondays and Wednesdays and every other weekend at her residence in Greenfield.

Growing up without a two-parent household presents many challenges, some that the elder Hinson has personal experience with.

“We have a problem in our community,” Hinson said. “My parents were divorced. My father has always been in my life, but I have a lot of friends whose fathers weren’t in their lives.

“They grew up with single mothers. I always knew when I had a child, whether I was married or not married, there wasn’t going to be an instance of this generational situation of being a deadbeat black father.”

As an African American man raising a son in Milwaukee, Hinson makes sure his son understands how to navigate the roadblocks he may face in Milwaukee.

“Young black men have to be raised with a little more structure,” he said. “There has to be a little more discipline, just in the matter of what they expect, because a lot of times we have to work twice as hard to levy up to our counterparts.”

Hinson says fathering one child is a separate job in itself, and being a dad to multiple children might be even harder.

About 24 million children in America live without their biological father, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And there have been numerous local and national efforts to improve these statistics.

For example, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD, has a national initiative to keep biological fathers in the home. HUD has acknowledged what is called “the father factor,” which shows the negative effects of absent fathers.

Children without fathers in the home have a greater risk of poverty, are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, are more likely to drop out of high school and more likely to go to prison, according to HUD officials.

Nkozi Knight currently supports six children. Now in a relationship, Knight has spent time as a single black father raising children in Milwaukee.

“I was a single parent at one time, so I know what it’s like,” Knight said. “I see the value of having another person there to help you. When you have a son, a lot of times he is going to look for his mother.”

Knight learned how to parent through the ups and downs of supporting a family.

“I put their needs before my own, and I make sure they have everything they need in order to be successful,” Knight said. “It’s about growing up as a parent and realizing that your actions have consequences good or bad. I want to make sure that everything I do is for the betterment of my family and my children.”

In 2005, the City of Milwaukee created the Fatherhood Initiative to help fathers with the different challenges they may face.

Dennis Walton, former executive director of the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative, left the organization because he felt there was a stigma surrounding the poor quality of fatherhood in the black community.

“The Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative has done a lot of great work,” Walton said. “In my capacity, I was able to help thousands of men. The challenges were that we were primarily focusing on black men. And that’s fine because a lot of black men have challenges with the issue of fatherhood. But as I started to go deeper, I realized that it wasn’t just black fathers.”

During his tenure as executive director, Walton helped Hispanic, Arab, Caucasian as well as African American men in their quest to be good fathers.

Walton said many men are working to overcome different barriers, including help with employment, child support, financial literacy, re-entering civilian life after a stint in prison and obtaining driver’s licenses.

He quickly realized that issues of fatherhood were not solely in the black community.

“It became unfair to stigmatize black men as being the only men having challenges as fathers,” Walton said.

Walton recently created his own organization, Made Men Worldwide, to continue the work he started with the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative.

“Our work is to help uplift men and improve their circumstances so they can become the strength they want and need to be for their families,” Walton says. “We decided to go beyond the local community, both nationally and internationally, to mobilize fathers, but to also restore communities through the restoration of fathers.”

Hinson routinely receives admiration for the time and effort he puts into raising his son, something that has always made him uncomfortable.

“The proof is in my engagement with my son,” he said. “I don’t do that for anyone to pat me on the back. People feel like they have to champion you. Like no! I am his father. What else should I be doing?”

Outside labels mean little to Hinson. He knows who he is.

“I don’t want people to have to say I’m a good dad. I’m just a Dad. Period.”


The nonprofit news outlet Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service provided this article to The Associated Press through a collaboration with Institute for Nonprofit News.

Reading by Example: Promoting Literacy in America

Reading by Example: Promoting Literacy in America

March is Reading Awareness Month and a fitting time to discuss literacy in the United States, particularly among urban and minority families.

The impacts of literacy begin at a very young age—reading to children increases their vocabulary skills and improves reading comprehension. Faltering literacy rates among youth have a dramatic impact on where we end up later in our lifetimes.

Statistics provided by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, say that two-thirds of kids who aren’t reading well in fourth grade will end up on welfare or in jail and have a 78% chance of not catching up to their reading benchmarks. Sixty percent of juvenile delinquents and 80% of adult inmates are illiterate.

The Value of Education

Mother reading to daughterAlthough learning disabilities (such as Dyslexia and ADHD) can impair one’s ability to read fluently or at a higher grade level, Clark Atlanta University professor Torrance Stephens says poverty often leads to illiterate youth and adults. “[One of the] main misconceptions is that these people don’t value education,” says Stephens, who has worked in public health and education and with minority literacy in the US and Africa for 30 years.

“What I have found is that from the elderly black and white women I worked with in my earlier years, to the women of child-bearing age I worked with in Nigeria, to the ex-felons, they all valued education and knew its importance. But in each case, economic factors led them to leave their formal education.”

Stephens, who has published several books including The Legacy of the Bush-Obama Keynesian Dialect and Income Inequality in America, remembers an elderly African American woman explaining how she left school in fourth grade to sharecrop and help her family. Her story is similar to that of many ex-convicts he has worked with who indicate, “they had to assist in providing for their families, thus school would have to be a loss and they hit the streets hustling.”

The National Commission on Adult Literacy says that reading from a young age is one way to keep our society from losing the important skill of reading. A report published in March 2015 by the Pew Research Center on Hispanic Trends showed that 80% of blacks had visited a library or bookmobile in their lifetime compared to 83% of whites. But with high school graduation rates topping out at roughly 50% in urban areas, it’s clear that frequency among racial and economic groups are not the same.

Money Matters

Getting a head start on our studiesCollege graduates and those with household incomes over $100,000 are most likely to frequent a public library. Children who don’t have examples of avid readers in their life are less likely to become literate on their own.

It may appear strange that literacy is still inaccessible to some Americans in an age where the Internet has brought so much content to our fingertips—content which usually must be read. The vast majority of Americans from the poorest urban areas to high-scale suburbs have cell phones, granting them access to a gold mine of information, but Stephens suggests that real-world examples are still missing.

“In this instant culture dominated by emoji’s and 140-character thought spaces, reading—real reading—that requires thinking and comprehension takes a back seat. The challenge of getting people to read in an increasingly television-dominated culture is a major difficulty,” he says.

“I saw everybody around me reading daily; everyone had a library card and we were in the library weekly. I know parents tell their kids to read, but I don’t know if we as African Americans really encourage our kids to read, or even set the example. I suspect if you tell your kids to read, and watch the NBA or some music awards show, they will replicate your behavior and learn by example, especially if they never see you pick up a book.”

Making a Difference

Male Teacher and StudentThe Read Aloud campaign challenges parents to read to their kids for 15 minutes every night before bed, something that 13 million children won’t experience on a daily basis. The 10-year campaign challenges families to “Read Aloud for 15 Minutes. Every Child. Every Parent. Every day.”

It’s an important task that sounds simple but can be incredibly difficult in an urban home where one or both parents may not be present and problems in the surrounding area can negatively affect the learning environment. There are also countless programs geared toward reading awareness and combating illiteracy, including AmeriCorps, Literacy Partners, The Wallace Foundation, and local programs run by state and city governments.

Over 2 million New Yorkers alone cannot read, which limits employment opportunities, quality of life, and makes it virtually impossible to pass good reading habits to children. Stephens says that many people believe literacy programs are daunting, but taking classes at a local program is a great way to overcome the challenge of illiteracy. Many programs are volunteer-run, and always in need of more hands.

Now What?

This March, contact your local library or government and ask about ways to get involved with your community’s literacy efforts. Help promote a literacy campaign, give to a reading organization, or become a tutor. The Literacy Information and Communication System has an online directory that lists reading advocacy programs in your area.

Why is reading awareness so important? “A country’s wealth is almost directly related to a country’s literacy rate,” Stephens explains. “Literacy is the ability to read and write, which are strong predictors of individual monetary worth and future lifelong earning potential. Two, literacy is a very strong protective factor against getting arrested and/or involved with the criminal justice system. On an individual level, greater literacy is positively associated with increased cognitive development such as better problem-solving ability which means the more reading exposure the longer brain activity will remain robust.”

For more information about Reading Awareness Month and literacy programs in the US visit www.readaloud.org or www.national-coalition-literacy.org.

Hey Mama, you don’t have to be Supermom

Hey Mama, you don’t have to be Supermom

Video Courtesy of Towanna Burrous


Back in the day, I used to watch this show called, Scrubs. Do you remember it? You know, Donald Faison and some other people? To be honest, I just watched the show for Donald Faison because he was from Clueless, and I loved the movie Clueless when I was younger. There was one thing I loved most about the show — the theme song. I love theme songs in general. Perhaps that makes me weird, but, whatever. Anyway, the theme song for Scrubs went like this:

I can’t do this all on my own. No, I’m no, I’m no superman.

I’m no superman.

I loved the song so much that I looked it up and put the full version on my iPod Nano. Remember those? I’m taking you back down memory lane, aren’t I? The song is by a band called Laslo Bane. I think I played that song at least 25 times a day when I was in high school. It really resonated with me because I was that girl who always felt like she needed to be superwoman. I thought that I needed to do it all, be it all, and do everything perfectly.

I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way.

I think part of the reason we tend to have this mentality is because our society tells us that we have to be perfect. Our society tells us that the key to success is to be “busy” and to run ourselves into the ground and to live off of coffee and little sleep. Our society makes us feel like we should be able to do everything perfectly and without help.

This is especially true in the Black community and even more true for us Black moms. This is especially, especially true for Black, Christian mamas. We strive to be the perfect Proverbs 31 woman, so we hold ourselves up to the highest standards and then pride ourselves into achieving those standards with absolutely no help. We are the keepers of the household, we are the makers of the meals, we are the cleaners of the spills, and we do it all without showing an ounce of our exhaustion. If we ask for help, we are viewed as weak and, of course, that is a no-no.

I became a mom 3 months ago, and now that I’m a mom, I have had many moments being trapped inside the “supermom mentality.” I was convinced I didn’t need help when my daughter was first born. I felt like I needed to do it all and I needed to be perfect while doing so.

It took me crying out to God in a state of exhaustion to realize that we put this mentality on ourselves. Who is telling us that we have to be supermom? Besides society and pressure from social media, there is no written document that states that we have to conform to this “supermom mentality.”

I’m here to tell you today that you don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to be supermom. That’s what the Holy Spirit is for! Our God is the One who wants to do it all and be it all for us.

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT)

Do you see that? We GET to be weak. Holy Spirit wants us to! No more of this strong front, dear friend. Lean into Christ. Be weak. And let His grace be sufficient for you.

You may be thinking, I hear what you’re saying, but how? I just can’t let myself be weak, or I don’t know where to start!

Girl, I hear you. Let’s talk about it.

Ask the Lord for help

It sounds simple, but of course it isn’t. Hear me out. It can be hard to ask someone else for help. Personally, I don’t want to impose or inconvenience someone, so I just try to do everything by myself. When I had my daughter, I didn’t ask anyone for help except my husband. But, The Lord knew that I needed so much help as a sleep deprived, postpartum mama. He sent me help that I could not refuse. I would receive text messages from faithful friends telling me that they were on the way over to drop off some food. I didn’t have to ask them for the very thing I needed. Holy Spirit guided them to help me when I needed it the most. All I had to do was receive it with open arms and be thankful. When you ask God for help, He will meet you where you are and send you help just as you need it.

Lean on your spouse and loved ones

Mamas, your spouse and loved ones are there for you. They WANT to help and your partner NEEDS bonding time with his child, too. And, of course, your family and friends enjoy spending time with the little ones as well. I know it can be hard to not be the overbearing, overprotective mama bear. Trust me. I’m guilty of this, myself. I have a tendency to hover over my husband instead of just letting him have his time with our little one. Hello? I should be napping as soon as he gets home and takes her! Why do I feel the need to keep hovering? Better yet, why do I feel the need to ask myself, “What needs to be done now?” instead of taking the opportunity to rest. Now, I’m not discouraging productivity, but there is nothing wrong with saying, “no” to those dishes and taking time to recharge when you can.

Also, just talk to your spouse about how you’re feeling. Don’t keep it in. He doesn’t expect you to be supermom, I promise.

Say yes to what matters

Everything is not created equal. As women, and especially as moms, we often say yes to everything. We try to do everything and do it all well. Then, when we get burned out and realize that our efforts created mediocre results. We need to learn to only tackle things that truly matter on a daily basis. For me, that sometimes means putting aside working on the budget to help my stepson with homework. Or, that might mean saying yes to quality time with my spouse and saving that phone call for tomorrow. When we choose just a few things to focus on and do well instead of loading our plates with all of the things, we won’t feel so stretched thin and the “supermom mentality” will fade.

Mamas, we need to realize that our spouse and kids are who’s important. Not what society expects of us, not what we see other moms posting on social media, not what our friends are doing with their kids, etc. Our kids don’t care if our hair is messy or if the house is clean. Our spouse doesn’t care if our kids are perfectly dressed or if we were able to finish that load of laundry today. Our spouses love us and our kids just need us. They beautifully accept us as we are. In their eyes, we are their supermoms. And I know that I don’t have to finish all of the chores for my husband to see me as a “superwife.”

Jesus loves us the same way. He meets us right where we are and gives us grace. We have nothing to prove. Nothing.

Now, go take a deep breath and hug your kiddos. They love you.

 

Do you have additional tips for today’s busy moms? Share them below.

Kids with cellphones more likely to be bullies – or get bullied

Kids with cellphones more likely to be bullies – or get bullied

Video Courtesy of Good Morning America


Each year, more parents send their young child to elementary school equipped with a smartphone.

For instance, the percentage of third-graders who reported having their own cellphone more than doubled from 19 percent in 2013 to 45 percent in 2017. Similar increases took place for fourth-graders and fifth-graders. About half of fourth-graders and 70 percent of fifth-graders went to school with a phone in 2017.

Parents often cite the ability to easily reach their child as the major advantage of giving them a device, which they view as a safety issue. “Stranger danger” and sexual predators are often the first risks that occur to parents. Some public schools are adopting policies that limit personal contact between students and teachers. But bullying and cyberbullying are more common concerns, and in my 2017 research, I found that that giving a young child a cellphone increases the likelihood that the child will either become a victim of bullying or a bully themselves. This study of approximately 4,500 elementary school children in the U.S. found that having a cellphone in elementary school was associated with being involved with both bullying and cyberbullying, both as a bully and as a bully/victim. A “bully/victim” is a child who is, at different times, both a bully and a victim of bullying.

The research found that while more than half of third-grade bullies carried cellphones, only 35 percent of children who were uninvolved in bullying did. Even more dramatically, three-quarters of third-grade cyberbullies carried cellphones, compared to only 37 percent of third-graders uninvolved in cyberbullying. Results were similar, but a little weaker, for fourth- and fifth-graders.

It may be that results were strongest among the youngest children because of their relatively more limited ability to understand how communications works in a digital setting. For example, in my field work at the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, I’ve learned that teenagers are wary of emotions escalating quickly online, realizing that such emotions can lead to fights and bullying. However, younger children typically haven’t yet learned this lesson. It was this gulf that motivated me, with a colleague, to create a children’s guide to getting their first cellphone.

Kids can learn to use cellphones safely, and there are practical steps that parents can take to minimize their young child’s odds of involvement in bullying and cyberbullying, along with cellphone practices that can help ensure the overall well-being of their child.

Here are a few tips:

1. Establish ownership

The phone is not your child’s – it’s yours. Thus, you always have the right to look at it. By checking your child’s phone, you may detect messages or posts that can suggest involvement in bullying or cyberbullying. A 2012 MacAfee study found that half of kids changed their online behavior if they believed their parents were checking.

2. Take cellphones out of dinnertime

A 2014 study from researchers at McGill University found that family dinners helped protect kids from bullying. Dinnertime can be a time to connect emotionally, even when no conversations of deep importance take place. It can also be a time to discuss challenges and difficulties, and to debate solutions and strategies, with input from the people who love you. Unfortunately, family dinners can be easily interrupted by notifications or messaging from cellphones. For that reason, a “no devices” rule at the dinner table can help promote family connections that are protective against bullying.

3. Limit use during homework

Listening to music can be OK, but watching videos and TV shows or playing games shouldn’t happen while homework is being completed. Studies that look at multi-tasking agree that it degrades memory, learning and cognitive performance.

4. Don’t allow use before bedtime

It’s been well documented that bright screens right before bed can delay or interrupt sleep patterns. Sleep problems, in turn, have been linked to becoming involved in bullying. To promote healthy sleep and reduce the odds of bullying, help your child practice good sleep preparation habits by putting away digital devices an hour before bedtime. If they want to read from their device, use an app that has a UVB filter or dim and “flip” the screen to a black background.

To help your child stay asleep, devices should be kept outside the bedroom overnight. Even if your child intends to sleep, a buzzing sound or vibration can wake him or her up. It can represent a strong temptation to send messages, chat or play games.

5. Set a good example as a driver

Encouraging kids to put down the phone when they are in a car can literally be a lifesaving habit that can begin in elementary school. A review of statistics noted that cellphone use is the second-leading cause of distracted driving. Each day, 11 teenagers are killed as a result of texting and driving. To lessen the risks of this happening in the future, parents can teach young children to not use their device in the front seat of the car; it can be a place to talk, instead of a place to text.

6. Instill responsibility

Carrying a cellphone isn’t a right – it’s a privilege. As a parent, encourage responsible cellphone use by linking digital privileges with responsibilities. Show children how to budget internet time with apps like unGlue. Teach your kids that discussing social problems is part of being mature enough to carry a cellphone. And consider having your kids pitch in around the house to “earn” their digital privileges.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

The Single Parent Trap

The Single Parent Trap

As a single mother of two boys, we have serious work to do in the Black community and there are some very deep wounds festering among us. I sense hurt, resignation, resentment, anger, confusion, and emotional fatigue.

Though we may disagree on root causes and solutions, I believe there’s one thing we should all be able to admit: single parenting and the attendant and antecedent dynamics are longstanding and complex, especially as they relate to relational issues between Black men and women. I certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do think I have at least some level of understanding of these issues, and a degree of empathy for both sides. So in that spirit I offer some words to us all.

It’s futile to attempt to dialogue on the issue of single mothers, their children, and the men who fathered those children, without speaking truth into the situation. So from that point I begin.

Some Hard Truths

1. Strictly speaking, mothers are not fathers. This is true whether the parents are married and raising a child together, or separated. The truth of this statement lies not only in function, but in form. To insist that somehow mothers can be fathers is to ignore some very basic realities.

Fatherhood, like motherhood, originates and is defined not just by what a parent does, but also by who the parent is. So then, gender is a foundational underpinning of parenthood. Men are fathers; women are mothers. Acknowledging this truth in no way minimizes or detracts from the unavoidable reality that there are some women who do things that we would traditionally associate with a male role in a child’s life, just as there are some men who perform some of the actions associated with a female role.

But there’s more to parenthood roles than what we do; indeed what we do, and how we do it, is bound to be influenced by who we are. For example, I can teach my son to shave or tie a tie. I can show him a razor, explain how to put the shaving cream on his face, what to do if he nicks himself, etc. I can cover all the technicalities of the process. His father can explain those same things to him, using exactly the same words I use. But it’s not just about the mechanical process; it’s equally about the nuances that come out while father and son are going through this ritual. His father can tell him about the first time he shaved, who helped him learn how to do it, how it feels to get razor bumps. As a man, his father can help our son identify as a man who now does things that other men do. These are things that as a woman, and by virtue of the fact that I am a woman, I simply cannot do. We desperately need to come to terms with this because as long as we resist this truth, we perpetuate a number of undesirable consequences. These are just a few of those consequences:

• We short-circuit the identity formation and development of our children. It’s important for kids to understand how men and women function differently in families and in society.

• We potentially rob fathers of the opportunity to fully grow and develop in their role. Sometimes all a man needs to step up is for the mother to step back … even just a bit will often be enough.

• As women, we overtax ourselves trying to fill roles we weren’t designed to operate in. If we are indeed the only parent in our child’s life, then of course there are actions we must do. But we can do them while acknowledging that as a woman, there will be something missing because we are not a man.

• Sometimes people and resources that could fill some gaps in our child’s life go untapped because we believe that we are indeed mother and father. Simply put, we don’t look for what we feel we haven’t lost.

2. Mothers and fathers both need to determine if they’re really putting the needs of their children first. I know this one is challenging. So much hurt and pain often passes between parents that our emotional baggage piles up on our sons and daughters, and we often don’t realize what’s happening. When fathers are absent or uninvolved, it causes an incredible strain on everyone involved, including grandparents, siblings, and other extended family members.

But the strain is equally damaging when mothers are hostile, resistant, or overstressed. Let’s commit to being better parents. We must ask ourselves some tough questions, for example:

• Am I willing to let the other parent perform his/her role in the way he/she wants to and is able to? Or do I insist that my child’s father/mother parent like I do?

• Do I pray for my child’s mother/father, that they will be the parent my child needs? Or have I made it difficult to pray because I have unresolved issues that I can’t let go of?

• Do I consistently support the other parent’s efforts, no matter how small I think they are? Or do I instead focus on what I believe the other parent leaves undone?

• Do I make every reasonable effort to overcome obstacles that challenge me as I try to be a good parent? Or am I making excuses for why I’m not taking care of business?

• Do I accept constructive criticism and feedback from the other parent on how I could make our relationship and interactions as parents healthier, and then work diligently, and without resentment, to address those issues? Or am I more interested in being right and winning arguments?

• Do I have a martyr complex? Do I find reasons to refuse help so that my child will see me as the better, more committed parent, and therefore shower more love on me? Or am I actively seeking the other parent’s input and suggestions with a true intention to work with him/her?

Pray, Think, Talk

There are, of course, many more questions that will give us insight on the position of our hearts. But the ones shared here can at least get us started on a road that leads to more transparent, effective parenting. In a future column, I’ll outline some additional ideas to keep the conversation going.

So, what do you think?

Do me a favor. Read this article all the way through, and then put it aside for 24 hours. During that time, pray about what you’ve read and how you feel about it. Ask the Lord to give you insight on what applies to you and what He wants you to do about it. Then read the article again. Please share your thoughts by commenting at any point in this process.

I love our community and I’m praying for us all.