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Commentary: Raise Your Daughter, Love Your Son?

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A few days ago, a friend approached me and asked, "Do you believe that African-American mothers raise their daughters and love their sons?" Sorry to say, I'd never heard this clich before. My immediate response was, "No, I don't believe that." To which my friend said, "Raise your daughter, love your son has been associated over the years with African-American women who seemingly favor their sons over their daughters. It suggests that African-American mothers are harder on their daughters than they are on their sons and that African-American mothers spoil and favor their sons simply because they are males." This clich has traveled throughout many generations and has become a myth that is believed to be true within our community, even to this day. It is seemingly the normal practice among African American women who have at least two children of the opposite sex.     Learning of this myth led me to examine my own treatment of my children. When my daughter was born, I was so fulfilled. I could not think of anything more precious than giving birth. I set out to be the best mother I could be. I thought about all the girlie things we would do together as mother and daughter. I even went as far as to dream up plans for her wedding and envisioned the kind of husband she would select. I knew I had work to do if I wanted to help her become a strong woman who would be capable of taking care of herself and able to help her mate if needed. Twenty-three months later, I had a son; I thanked God for blessing me with the pleasure of having both a girl and a boy.  With my son, I took one look at him and decided that I was going to prepare him to withstand all the odds that he would face in life. "You will be a contributor to society rather than a detriment," I said early in his life. It was my goal to help him become a leader, the head of his house and ultimately, the man who would build his own family. I wanted to ensure that he would be prepared and would understand his responsibility as a male in this society.     I always wanted to be a mother, well before my children were born, I sketched out a map on parenting skills, and I took notes from friends and other families, including my own parents and where I couldn't find those I wanted, I created my own.  From the day my children were born, I was prepared to be their mother. Although I had heard clichs such as mama's boy and daddy's girl, I never allowed any of them to dictate how I would raise my children. I never favored either child based on gender.    I believe that today's mothers should reassess how society has forced us to act and treat our children based on gender. I believe we should reevaluate our parenting skills and begin to rule out using such expressions as raise our daughters and love our sons. We should avoid saying, daddy's girl or mama's boy and we should definitely avoid calling our children the B word -- "Bad."  In the 31 years of my parenting, I have never once called my children bad. The usage of such expressions automatically show favoritism and create dissension between children, contributing to lower self-esteem and causes sibling rivalries. The love we have for our children should unite rather than divide and our parenting techniques must be based on each individual child's personality, not their gender.    As a mother of a 31-year-old daughter and a 29-year-old son, I can honestly say I am not guilty of raising my daughter and loving my son. I am, however, guilty of raising my daughter and son and loving them the same. I must admit that I do show favoritism based on behavior and attitude, but not on gender.   Favoritism is showing partiality toward something or someone, which does not have to stem from any specific set of reasons other than how it or they cause you to feel: I love cars but I favor a black car; I love flowers but I favor a pink rose; I love my co-workers but I favor being around those who are not controversial, histrionic or troublemakers; I love people but I favor those with a positive spirit; I love Los Angeles, California, but I favor McComb, Mississippi. It is okay to have favorites in life, but we should not allow gender to prejudice our parenting in any way.   Every person has his or her own unique set of DNA defining character traits. We are individuals regardless of who our parents are. Therefore, to expect our children to be the same as any other member of our family is a mistake and virtually always is a setup for failure. What works for one child may not work for another and when each family member's personalities are respected, the family structure can respect each individual, working toward solutions to maintain a healthy family unit.    For example, if your daughter makes A's and B's in school and your son does not, when talking to your son about improving his grades, do not bring up the daughter's good grades. Maybe your son needs a different motivation than your daughter does and the key is to find out what will motivate him. Work with each child based on his or her own individual needs. It is important to understand that comparing the behavior of one child to another, will almost certainly put that child into a defensive mode. Doing so creates dissension among siblings. All children need nurturing, understanding, counseling, attention, love, communication, discipline and the opportunity to be heard, and the mother must tailor her parenting style to the personality of each child.    Regardless of gender, it is moms responsibility to set rules, guide and institute disciplinary actions when any child over steps his or her bounds. The minute you detect that, your child has strayed from your family's moral values and rules, you need to take action, even where it means showing "tough love" that we all dread. Yes, it can be hard to practice touch love but if you do not your children will pay the price. It may, as mama said, "hurt you more than it hurts them", but you must give them every advantage, even when it is hard.    As parents, we must prepare our children for life. That means that from birth, we must introduce them to God's love for us and instill in them the Six Pillars of Character - (Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship). We must praise them in their accomplishments and discipline them when they step out of line, all the while keeping an open mind to their many questions refraining from judgment of their questions or the topics they choose to discuss, assuring them that we will always support them.    It is equally important that we teach them the necessity of being independent and the importance of gaining their own individuality. As mom, I must be available for their stressful calls, their troubles, and the times that life presents them with difficulties, allowing and encouraging them to make decisions on their own, so that they will learn from their own mistakes. It is my duty to help them find confidence and know how to maneuver through the financial world and overcome adversity. If I can follow through on all of these motherly responsibilities, I will not have time to spoil a child.   Today, it is imperative that mothers become more involved in our children's lives to help them prepare for their future. The world is changing and growing faster than ever before and mothers have increasingly gotten younger. Age is no excuse when choosing to become a mother, the parenting of the child must be there and so must the mother. You only have 17 years to help shape the character of your children thereby shaping their future.
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