As a relatively new parent I often reflect on my upbring, how I was raised, and my parent’s parenting styles. My parents, while different in their approach, strived to make sure that I felt supported and loved. And although I didn’t receive “whoopings” as a child, my parents were authoritative and utilized their authority to demand an environment of respect. Comparatively as a parent to a 6-year-old, I have chosen to embrace certain aspects of how I was reared, and change others that I feel do not suit my or my child’s needs.
African Americans are not a monolith, in that we have had different life experiences and have different family customs. However, a commonality between us all is the enslavement of our ancestors, and the impact of historical and present-day racism. When interviewing my friends about their childhood experiences, 7/8 of them said that their parents and family whooped them as children when they made mistakes, were told to “stop crying” when sad or upset about something, and were told a variation of the saying, “You have to learn the lesson now before you go out into the world and they kill you”. The idea of giving a child a physical or verbal “beating” so that they learn a lesson is rooted in survival and the hope that a Black child will not have to face a much harsher punishment from the authority figures in our larger society.
While rooted in well intention, what else happens in the process? Many of the friends I interviewed, and many of my clients, report feeling as though they were not allowed to make mistakes, as children usually do. They also report feeling invisible and unseen, unallowed a to have emotions, and unworthy of being treated with respect. A adults this has resulted in difficulty in their ability to assert themselves as adults, neglecting their emotional needs, and difficulty expressing their emotions outside of happiness or anger.
Within the last 10 years or so, new parenting styles such as “Gentle parenting” and “Conscious Parenting” have become more popularized and favored by parents and educators all over the word. Gentle parenting upholds the idea that parenting should include and reciprocate empathy, understanding, and respect. It states that to raise well-adjusted, empathetic, assertive, and emotionally intelligent adults, children should be allowed to express and experience the spectrum of emotions, have respected and healthy boundaries, and should be given empathy or understanding. Gentle parenting may feel uncomfortable and impossible in a world that is harsh, and harsher on Black children. However, could it be an opportunity to examine and evaluate your parenting style so that it is both effective and healthy.
What are your thought? Would you like to hear more about the gentle and conscious parenting revolution? Let me know!
[Ife is a Pasadena Native, currently working as a mental health therapist providing therapy to individuals, ages 17-elder adults. She works from a holistic perspective and is passionate about supporting people with their health through food, nutrition, and sound healing.]