Parents, with our decision to have children came the responsibility to nurture their innate genius while modeling behavior that fosters community. The goal is to have them grow up taking responsibility for their performance, knowing they play an integral role in shaping their personal environment as well as their community at large. As parents, we are perpetually teaching. Our lives become models to be patterned by our children, rejected or rebelled against by them. What are you modeling?
Our egos don’t allow for much self-assessment. But if we are to empower our children to make the changes necessary for them to thrive (notice I didn’t say survive) in this country, it requires us to look at the practices that have prevented us from effecting change thus far.
Does your child see you taking on challenges, solving problems and overcoming obstacles or complaining, pointing the finger of blame at others, resigned and hopeless about situations?
There is a cloud of resignation hanging over our communities that show up as lack of participation across the board: political elections, involvement in schools, block and tenant associations. In these areas, only a few people make the decisions because only a few participate. But we all complain and the decisions made by the few affect us all.
The last few days leading up to the upcoming election can serve as an opportunity to include your child in the process and examining ways of modeling involvement. Some suggestions.
· Resolve issues arising in the family by convening meetings where all sides of the issue are heard and family members vote. It’s really important that the youngsters are free to express their point of view. It’s also important that the parents understand that others, including our children, may see things differently than we do. I think that conflicts ranging from family fights to wars stem from the inability to tolerate differences. If in our families we can acknowledge and appreciate different perspectives, we not only teach conflict management but we teach community building because the more perspectives shared on an issue leads to a better solution.
· Register to vote and then vote in every election. There are no unimportant elections. Make the election a family project. Gather biographical information on the candidates. Discuss their positions on issues. Watch televised debates. And by all means, take your children to the polls. Let them pull the lever. I took my children to the polls from the age of four or five and they could hardly wait until they turned 18 to register to vote. The habit of voting continues as adults are now residing in five different states.
· Take it a step further. Show a commitment to have all residents on your block know they make a difference. Let them know that when a total community actually cast votes (not merely register), they get the attention of the decision-makers. Don’t get bogged down in who your neighbors vote for. Remember, individuals have different points of view. The goal is to have a large number of folks in our communities showing up and pulling the levers. Some years back, voter registration was a major activity of candidates running for office. Today, the focus is on the voters who actually show up at the polls.
Parents, since you are shaping tomorrow anyway, why not do it with purpose and experiencing satisfaction? In the Ujima Circle parents are sharing ways to make Home Work to develop Self-directed, Motivated, Achieving, Responsible, Team-working families. Call 718-783-0059 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.