If you haven’t seen it by now, there is a popular hashtag circulating on the Internet and it is #BlackExcellence. This hashtag is used whenever a Black person is doing something positive and rewarding. It’s like #BlackGirlMagic or #BlackBoyJoy. All are a celebration of awesomeness. But how do we as parents ensure our children embody Black excellence?
Nothing is really guaranteed but we must do everything we can to lean toward success when raising our children. And it starts early. Raising successful Black children begins in the womb.
It Starts In The Womb
Eat Pure Food
You’ve heard that everything that you do as a mother affects your baby. It is true. It begins with what you consume when you are pregnant. This is especially important today more than years ago because so many chemicals and agents are used in our foods that all food is not good food. While you are pregnant try to purchase fruits and vegetables that are certified organic, especially items you eat that you can’t peel. Wash everything with a vegetable brush to remove the chemicals on the skin.
Check your water for lead and mercury or instead purchase bottled water. Again, all bottled water is not the same. Read the reviews. Alkaline water is now recommended to reduce disease and inflammation. The point here is that you want to give your baby the best foods that are as pure as possible for healthy cell development, especially for brain development. You’re literally building a baby cell-by-cell.
Read To Your Baby
At 18 weeks a fetus can hear. At this point in your pregnancy, purchase a few of your favorite children’s stories and read them every day to your child. Make it a routine to do this before bedtime each night. Your baby will get used to hearing your voice as you read and you will stimulate his or her brain by giving the baby something positive to listen to. It also develops a long-term habit for you to begin a nightly routine of reading to your child. This one habit creates a cornerstone for #BlackExcellence in children.
Stay Away From Negativity
Did you know that how you feel can affect your unborn baby? It also affects your children who have are outside of the womb. They feel what you feel. Do what you can to separate yourself from negative emotions. If you can’t figure out a way, ask someone you trust for help.
Stimulate Your Baby’s Senses
Decorating your nursery doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking. I’ve seen some beautiful nursery themes. It’s not necessary to go all out. At the minimum, put your baby’s name on the wall even if you cut out the letters in cardboard. As they grow older, they will recognize those letters as names. Hang black and white objects above their crib for them to stare at. The idea at this stage is to gently stimulate your child’s senses.
Keep reading to your baby. Board books are a great investment that can last for years if they are well taken care of. Get a couple of board books to read to your baby. You can read the same one every night, variety doesn’t really matter at this point.
Explore Your Environment
Small babies are stimulated by sight and sounds. Using their senses helps their brain development. Your baby will need age-appropriate toys at this stage. Putting a toy on the floor and doing tummy-time is one way of stimulating your baby’s brain. Taking your baby outside to discover new things is important for babies and young children. The more they see, the faster they begin to understand the world around them.
Never underestimate a toddler. They are capable of learning more than we often give them credit for. Toddlers can learn colors, numbers from 1-to-10 and higher, shapes, and more. Don’t ever talk to them in baby talk, even when they say the most adorable things that you want to repeat. Explain everything to them, even if you don’t think they can comprehend it.
Tell them the official name of everything they encounter whether it is a microwave or a pickup truck. Your goal is for your child to be able to speak to anyone by the age of 36 months. Use flashcards, age-appropriate cartoons, and toddler apps to help your child to understand these concepts, but keep screen time to a maximum of 30-minutes-a-day. Screen time also requires parent participation. It should never be used as a babysitter.
If you are sending your child to school, remember that the teachers are there only to supplement your child’s learning. You are your child’s first teacher. The best preschools will teach your child through hands-on learning — not worksheets or on paper but by doing things with their hands while teaching them in the process. Like what better way for a child to learn about basic fractions than by cooking? This method is the best practice for teaching children who are concrete learners, meaning they learn by doing.
The preschool where you enroll your child should have weekly themes and lesson plans for each week. They should be communicating with you about what your child is learning through a newsletter, app, or website. Enhance the school’s lesson plans on the weekends by taking field trips, even if only to the library to read picture books about what they’ve learned that week. Do crafts like making puppets out of paper bags and more. Pinterest is great for finding themed activities for children at no cost. Signup and create an account on Pinterest.
Throughout your child’s school career, don’t ever give up your headteacher role to anyone. That valuable role is yours solely. Know that parents are the only ones that can foster #BlackExcellence in their children.
Start Positive Affirmations
This is the age to start teaching your child positive affirmations to reinforce their self-esteem. Successful Black Parenting has positive affirmations for families and teens on our YouTube channel. This is also the age to begin teaching them all of the positive lessons about Black history that they won’t learn in school. Make your weekends a fun time but include lessons about their culture. Doing this gives children a positive sense of self that others can’t easily take from them. Build them up, so no one else can break them down.
Fun Family Field Trips
Taking your child on trips or field trips helps to grow their vocabulary. Free staycations work well too. Many museums offer a free day for families. Become familiar with your local African and African-American museums, and plan to explore your city together as if you’re are new tourists.
Reading is Now Critical
Did you know that your child’s third-grade teacher is pivotal in determining whether or not your child will love or hate school? By the time your child reaches third grade, he or she should know how to read. Up until third grade, they are learning to read and after third grade, they are reading to learn. It is your duty and responsibility to ensure that your child can read well before third grade.
“Up until third-grade, they are learning to read and after third-grade, they are reading to learn.”
Partner with Your Child’s Teacher
Doing these two things throughout your child’s school career will guarantee their excellence in school. First, connect with each of your child’s teachers via email. Schedule a recurring email with a service like Boomerang to send a weekly email asking how your child is doing in class both behavior-wise and with grades. Ask what assignments are due and what can he or she do to improve? Ask if there is any extra-credit work that your child can do as well? Even if your school has an app to track grades and assignments, still send personalized emails.
The second thing you should do is schedule a parent conference every quarter at the minimum, if not in person then via Facetime or Skype with each teacher. Do this with your child present. Just check in and find out what your child can do better.
At the same time be aware of the teacher who uses negative labels to describe your child, especially if you know the same negative labels the teacher is using are the same qualities that make adults succeed in life. For instance, I had a student who was a people person but he loved to wander the school to say hello to his favorite teachers. He will do great in sales one day because he is very charming.
He should have a leadership role in the school but instead, some white teachers only saw him as a trouble-maker who would not conform. This same behavior would be praised in children that were not Black. Be aware and able to determine legitimate criticism versus labeling that could lead your child down the wrong life path. You and your child’s teachers should be partners who want the best for your child.
Register Every Summer For Enrichment
In early spring, begin to research enrichment programs for your child that encourage learning and memorable experiences. Many of these programs offer discounts, scholarships, and early-bird specials. For instance, most zoos and museums offer summer programs for children where they can experience behind-the-scenes activities. These experiences might help them decide on a career.
Another way to keep your child involved in the summer is to research activities using Groupon. Groupon is a great way to not have to commit long-term to an activity but to sample different experiences inexpensively. This is especially important if you have a kid that starts an activity and then decides he or she doesn’t like it and wants to quit. The key here is to keep your child busy in the summer but to make learning fun.
To whom much is given, much is expected – Along with any extracurricular activities in which your child chooses to participate, be sure to include working with those who are less fortunate. Working at a food bank or with the Marines in a Toys for Tots program instills empathy and caring in your child. This is important for their socio-emotional development. Schedule a charitable activity at least once quarterly or less, and do it together. Continue this effort throughout their high school years.
Earn As They Go
Allowing your children to earn things they want goes a long way too. This is a good age to help them to find a way to make their own money so they will value it later on. If you show them how to make it, show them also how to save and also how to invest part of it too. These are lessons that will influence your child for a lifetime.
Be Your Child’s Guidance Counselor
At this time of your child’s life, you are not only his or her parent but her guidance counselor too. You are there to guide your child to succeed. Become best friends with your teen’s guidance counselor and meet with them on a regular basis. Make it clear that any opportunities for success that come through their office that you want your child to be considered.
I remember a high school girl who was an assistant in the guidance office and a summer job came along for her to work at a finance company. After graduation, she went to work for them making a high five-figure salary. She was recommended by her guidance counselor only because they knew her! The same thing happens with scholarships and other opportunities. These things come through the guidance office and sometimes even the principal’s office. Make your intentions clear. If there are opportunities, you want to know about them.
Keep up with what is going on with your child’s school by frequenting the school’s website on your days off and reading the school’s newsletter. Don’t miss out on any chance for success. Some school districts allow for a student to sit on the school board as a student member. Check to see if this is a possibility. It will teach your teen about politics and perhaps guide him or her toward a possible career.
Take Every Opportunity
Many high schools offer dual-enrollment opportunities. This is an offer you should never refuse. Work with your child to qualify for dual-enrollment years ahead of registering and make it clear to your child’s counselor that you want your child to participate. Completing dual enrollment means your child will graduate with a two-year college degree at their high school graduation — for FREE! Your child will also be ahead of his or her peers and will not experience the full debt of a four-year undergraduate degree.
It is a lot of work being a parent. Don’t pass on this responsibility to anyone else, no matter how challenging it can become. Giving your child a strong foundation early in life is essential to their development. Always remind your children of their #BlackExcellence.