Black Parents Be Like..

“Black parents never help you with your homework, they just repeat the question louder then say go get the belt if you get the answer wrong.”

“A lot of black parents feel that a child having their own opinion or feeling differently about something than they do equates to disrespect.”

“Black parents don’t believe in mental illness or depression- those are white people problems, you need to pray more.”

I’m sure we have all heard these expressions before. In fact, it’s even become a hashtag on various social media outlets.  Many African Americans can relate in one way or another to the above statements.  Is it possible that this upbringing brings about more harm than good?

Parenting is not an easy job, and there is no handbook that gives anyone the perfect layout on how to be the ideal parent. There are some universal issues that have come to the forefront in recent studies, especially within the African American community which may have caused many individuals to look more closely at the parent and child dynamic.

It is no secret that black and white parents raise their children very differently, and that the idea of such upbringing has even become a social norm to delineate the differences in the way a child behaves. The relationship between a parent and a child is one of the most important relationships a person can have.  It essentially dictates the progress of every other relationship that a child will have in their lives, whether that is friendship, romantic, or professional.

There are several parenting styles to name- a few being authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, or detached. The authoritarian parent believes in having a set of strict rules to be followed by the child, a large and almost obsessive focus on respect and discipline, and less communication and discussion on rules and guidelines. Unfortunately, this is the parenting style that many African American children are exposed to, with their parents not realizing how much of a negative impact this has on their child’s development.

A child is often expected to behave as an adult.  They have to meet adult set standards, maintain what their parents believe to be responsibility and proper behavior, all while being told to “stay in a child’s place”. This notion is even perpetuated into adolescence.

Upon coming of age, a child is often expected to work and contribute to the household.  They are confined to the “my house my rules” mantra by the authoritarian parent. The means of controlling children by force or by punishment is believed to ensure that the children will be well behaved out of fear, instead of ensuring that they understand the importance of refraining from breaking rules and being non compliant. This often leads to parental resentment and the need to disobey even the smallest of instruction.

While most parents believe that this strict and forceful style of parenting will lead to more “well behaved” children; convincing themselves that instant obedience represents good virtue and therefore begets a “good child”, recent studies have shown that children raised under this parenting style suffer lower self esteem and border line depression from as early as the age of seven.

With this in mind, things like depression and mental illness are often dismissed, or not even recognized by black parents. Parents attempt to invalidate these things by reassuring that the basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter is actually all that should matter when determining if a person is happy or not.

Religion also plays an important role in why black parents feel depression should not exist in their children. Many link the reason behind their childrens sadness to not having a strong enough religious tie.  Religion is also used as a form of control to be held over children. Quoting Bible scriptures about obeying the mother and father places an even deeper fear within the child for their own salvation.

After taking all of this into consideration, one can conclude that the effects of the authoritarian parent overtly does more harm than good in the long run. Developing children thrive on balance, which is why the authoritative parenting style has been proven to attain much higher success levels in the proper development and integration of children as individuals in society.

Authoritative parenting is characterized by reasonable demands with high responsiveness. Although the expectations from the parent may be high, they also provide their child the resources and the support to achieve and want to achieve these expectations. Instead of aiming for total control and obedience over their children, the authoritative parent sets limits and guidelines through fair discipline and explicit understanding.

Studies have proven that children as a result of authoritative parenting come out with happier dispositions, healthy emotional regulations, and well above par social skills.

Although the needs and methods for every child and parent will no doubt be different based on circumstance, it is important to pay attention to the specific needs of the child and be willing to be flexible in your methods to ensure maximum success for both parent and child.