WBLS’ Hour of Power with Rev. Al Sharpton followed by the Open Line Team began a new crusade to end the violence in our communities. While gun violence has plagued our communities for decades, current statistics show a dramatic rise in gang-related shootings, police on civilian or frequent random shootings, We now cringe when we hear stories of toddlers being shot in playgrounds and players and spectators being shot at basketball tournaments. Places reserved for recreation, fun and community are being turned into battlefields, for often senseless reasons that merely boil down to the search for power by those who at some point suffered pangs of inferiority and powerlessness and guns, readily supplied for dollars, became a symbol of power.
While most of us will never understand the blatant disregard for human life that is shown during these shootings, we are familiar with the frustration and rage that is felt when you feel powerless in a situation. Such situations may include your home being robbed, or someone is physically aggressive toward you. In addition to these types of encounters, we render ourselves powerless when we as citizens, relinquish the search for self-empowerment – blaming external factors when things aren’t the way we envision it. In too many families and communities, adults are not only living examples of powerlessness themselves but transmitting the disease to future generations.
Why are people so willing to accept lack of power? Wikipedia defines power as the ability to control or influence the behavior of others while I.C. MacMillan defines it simply as the capacity to restructure actual situations. Using I.C. MacMillan’s definition one can exercise power without a coercive act over another individual. Because we have been conditioned to believe we are powerless attempts to exert power over each other abound, in relationships where partners try to get leverage over one another; family members unable to work together. Among young people, peers are exercising dominion over each other to advance their own agendas. Lastly, parents and children try to exercise power to control the actions of each other.
The power struggle in the home between parent and child is often accepted as unavoidable with guaranteed turbulence, especially between parents and teenagers. Because parents want the best for their children, they often are too afraid to have them make decisions for themselves and have them experience failure. Eliminating “failure” as a label for the individual and categorizing the action as an attempt will create an opening to attempt another method; after all, if a goal is to be reached (and there should be a clearly understood goal for desired actions, delete “because I said so”), there should be a few ways created to reach it. Children will never come to the realization that “Knowledge is Power” if they are not allowed to restructure the actual situations they are faced with.
Home is the ideal place where children can connect with self-worth and value if parents and caretakers are not tyrants demanding certain behaviors “or else,” and if you have been or currently are being a tyrant, we invite you to turn your life over to a way that will contribute to your child’s survival because the streets are filled with angry victims of tyrants taking the lives of innocent children and adults.
The first lesson for parents – Teach Choice – It’s easy to assume the position of being the boss and giving orders without including the child. Find at least three times per day to give your child from the age of two the power of choice. Which cereal, clothing, games, meal/menu, family outing, extra-curricular activity. In all cases, parents set parameters by excluding from available choice activities that are harmful and remember you set the parameters. The idea is to give them the power to choose while teaching that choices are not limited.
We must have our children believe they are powerful from birth. Giving them every chance to choose and exercise their decision-making skills within the boundaries we set. We allow them access to feeling capable by acknowledging their strengths regularly and challenging them to use their abilities to affect change, however small. Home is the place to challenge the ludicrous messages on television, where power is sought through the barrel of a gun; our children will learn the true meaning of power.
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**MoCADA’s 13th Annual KIDflix Film Fest of Bed-Stuy! — Fulton Park at Stuyvesant. This year’s festival features newly released films of the African Diaspora, live performances every Friday in August. Free. www.MoCADA.org for film listings, time, etc.