The Plan: What Black Moms Need to Raise Healthy Sons

Whether married or single, African-American mothers are responsible for the vast majority of education, training, personal skills, ethical development, and discipline of young Black boys in our society. Thus, it is not a question of “can” or “should” African-American mothers raise boys. Rather, because they are already responsible for a substantial amount of the rearing of Black boys, and in urban areas this happens at a disproportionately high rate without a father in the home, sustained community support, and ongoing systematic racism and classism, the question becomes: What is The Plan?

African-American mothers are perhaps the most essential and important element that determines the future of Black boys. It is from this foundation and viewpoint that I, together with my co-authors, Rev. Dr. Edward C. Bush, Dr. Kennon Mitchell, A. Majadi and Rev. Dr. Salim Faraji share the following tips with mothers raising Black sons:

Your son should have a “healthy fear” of you
Any emotion or feeling that is out of balance is potentially harmful. However, you must create what we are calling a “healthy fear” within him. You do not want a son that fears nothing nor one that fears everything. Thus, a certain amount of fear is healthy. If your son fears you so much that he is barely able to hold his head high, look you in the eyes, and speak to you this is unhealthy; conversely, if he is cautious about saying the wrong thing in the wrong way or tone around or to you directly, that is healthy fear.

Consciously stretch your son’s horizons and possibilities
Boys around age five begin to talk about what they want to be when they grow up and many will already say that they want to be a pro athlete.  As your son talks about being a pro basketball player, for example, you ask him: “What kind of basketball player are you going to be? Are you going to be the kind that uses his money and fame to build Black schools and to own Black businesses?” When you are reading a book, ask him what his book will be about when he writes it. When you drive past a construction site, tell him that one day he is going to own trucks and land and have people building buildings for him. When you see a president of a country, ask him how he would run a nation.

Do not make your son the man in your life
As your son begins to look, sound, and act like an adult it is sometimes tempting for a mother to assign to their son, who is still a boy, the role of “the man in their life,” and/or “the man of the house.” This is dangerous ground. He cannot handle the responsibility and power that comes with the position. Thus, making your son the man in your life will only backfire as he will treat you as a peer rather than his mother making it particularly hard for you to set rules and limits.

Mothers can, and should, teach their sons about sexually related issues
There is some evidence that suggests that when mothers do teach their sons about sex that they have been better at communicating it than many men in that they have included issues beyond “protect yourself.” These mothers deal with such issues as romance, responsibility, “being ready,” and their feelings for the girl. When we think about it, what individual would better to teach about all the aspects of sex, other than a woman, in this case a boy from his mother?

Do not be misled to believe that raising a boy is a man’s job
Some women choose to excuse themselves of the responsibility of raising their sons to become men because they think it is a man’s job to do it. Thus, they wait for a man that may or may not show while they possess much of what it takes to raise a man. Whether there is a father/man involved in your son’s life or not, your son cannot be raised into a man without you.

Pray for yourself, and your son. It is never too early or too late, whether he is in your womb or in college, to pray for his protection, his friends, his teachers, his mate, and his purpose and destiny.

Dr. Lawson Bush, V is the author—together with Rev. Dr. Edward C. Bush, Dr. Kennon Mitchell, A. Majadi, and Rev. Dr. Salim Faraji—of The Plan: A Guide for Women Raising African American Boys from Conception to College and The Plan Workbook.