A Letter to Black Parents by Princess Byers
Dear Black Parents,
I am not writing this letter to judge or look down upon anyone. I have simply had one too many discussions with other Black children where we have laughed off or talked out the toxic behaviors of our parents. Furthermore, I know one too many people who have gotten to adulthood and completely cut all ties with their parents because of these toxic behaviors.
As a community, we have normalized these behaviors and physical violence as “good parenting.” But decades of empirical international research that crosses economic and racial lines, all have the same conclusion. That conclusion, according to an article published on the website of the American Psychological Association titled, “The Case Against Spanking”: hitting children as a form of discipline is an ineffective parenting method that creates more long term behavioral/ mental health issues than it solves in the short term. In addition- use of physical violence as a primary means of discipline is most common in socioeconomically impoverished and under/uneducated communities.”
The point of this letter is to inform Black parents of some of their toxic behaviors in hopes of preventing the creation of more broken Black families because of those behaviors. Let’s start, shall we?…
Parents, if what you are doing is not appropriate for your child to say or do to you, it’s probably not appropriate for you to say or do it to them. I know you’re grown and you pay the bills, but that’s not an excuse to do unto someone what you don’t want done to you. You are a parent, not a dictator.
While we are on the topic of parental dictatorships, parents: please stop hanging your responsibilities as a parent over your child’s head. Your child knows you feed them! It became your job to feed them when you became a parent! They know you provide shelter! It became your job to provide shelter when you became a parent! They know you go to work every day to provide for them! It became your job when you became a parent! Your parental responsibilities are not you doing your child a favor. It’s you doing what you are supposed to be doing since you decided to procreate. Moving on…
Please parents. I beg you. Stop undermining your child’s traumas and negative experiences because they’re not—you believe—as bad as the traumas you experienced growing up. Traumas are different for everyone. Just because you don’t think something your child has or is currently going through isn’t all that traumatic, doesn’t mean it wasn’t traumatic for your child.
According to an online article from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network titled: “Complex Trauma In Urban African-American Youth and Families”: “African American children and youth, who are among the most likely members of our society to be exposed to trauma, are also among the least likely to receive the services that could prevent the development of trauma-related emotional and behavioral difficulties.” Listen to your children.
Be mindful that you don’t put off onto your children the frustrations you experience daily. Bad days happen. They get that. However, a bad day at work, bills, relationship issues are not your child’s fault. According to Tru Parenting.com, a website where parents network and talk about parenting issues, this is not an uncommon issue. Often your children are the closest and easiest “target” to take out your frustrations on. Don’t do it!
Please remember you chose to have children, your children didn’t. It’s understood that you get tired and busy and you need help sometimes. But your older children have no obligation to your younger children. It is your job to help with homework, go to parent/teacher conferences, and discipline your own child.
Your children can have questions. They are humans just like you. Sometimes they need or want clarification. There is nothing wrong with that. Your children are not dogs; they aren’t programed to sit-down, shut-up, and take directions, sorry! According to pro-Black, pro-woman, and pro-child blogger Cleopatra Jones in her article: “The Accidental Toxicity of Black Mothers:” “being aggressive, abrupt, and dismissive of this natural childhood curiosity and natural childhood desires is denying Black children of their innocence and right to childhood.”
Last, and most importantly: “check on yourself.” Your children can see when you are not okay, and it wears on them. Take the time out to make sure you are mentally and physically okay.
Your children know and understand you were raised in an era where it was okay (when it really wasn’t) to be treated and looked upon as lesser because you were a child.
However, we also know and understand it is not okay; and should not be considered okay. Your children are human beings, just like you are! They have feelings, questions, and the ability to understand and comprehend things just like you. You do not need to scream at, nor beat your children for them to understand you. Again, they are humans capable of “communicating,” just like you.
A concerned “former” child.
Princess Byers is a student at Marquette University majoring in journalism, with a minor in African Studies. She is interning at the MCJ and has already produced several videos for the newspaper that can be seen on the MCJ website, milwaukeecommunityjournal.com