First things first, let me tell you where the idea for this post came from. It was a combination of things; a sermon I recently heard (yes, a sermon!), a radio show’s “Question of the Day,” FB posts from people on my timeline, what I have told countless children I’ve worked with, and what I’ve even told my own child.
Until recently the thought NEVER crossed my mind that there are opposing views on telling children they can be whatever they want to be. Imagine my surprise when I heard a preacher direct his youth conference message to the adults saying we should not tell children they can be just anything. We should, instead, pay attention to what they show passion and skill in and hone their energies in that direction. Huh?! Thanks Pastor YPJ for messing up my whole way of thinking! So, me telling a young girl she can be the next Marion Anderson, Sonya Sotomayor, or Beverly Bond is wrong? And what about the times I affirmed a young man on being as skilled as Steph Curry or as Presidential as President Obama because they share the same ethnic background…was I wrong then too? After talking this idea over with some folks and the smartest man I know…the hubs…I may be leaning to agree with the good Pastor.
In 2002 Nas released a song entitled “I Can” where young voices belted out the chorus loud and proud in a call and response rap style singing: “I know I can…be what I want to be…if I work hard at it…I’ll be where I want to be…”. Go ahead…take a moment to click on the link and sing along! He told kids to “…listen up you can be anything in the world…,” urging them to first think their options, then decide on one of them to pursue. He listed off different careers they could choose from along with explicitly telling them the pitfalls to avoid in the process. I loved this song and can vividly remember hearing kids of all ages children sing it out. But, was Nas even wrong? Should he have rapped about following a dream or sharpening the skills kids already have? Now don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly believe it was a great idea to create a song that inspires children to think more about their future and the possibilities that lie ahead of them. This song changed the tune of what kids were hearing on the radio at that time and became somewhat of an anthem. Hell- it had me singing!
After my eyes were opened to the idea that adults shouldn’t give kids an open pass to be just anything, I, of course, started to think about my own child. Keep in mind that the kid is only 5, but, from very early on (meaning a few years ago!), he gravitated to toys that expanded his right brain. If you aren’t up on brain research and the idea that one of the sides of your brain is more dominant in how you see the world, approach life, and select interests- here is a link.
Researchers claim that we will know which side of our brain is more dominant based on our skill set and what we have a natural proclivity to do. It doesn’t mean that the opposite side is inactive, it just means that one side is more dominant. For instance, I am more right-brain dominant while the hubs is left-brained. Our closets is one of the best ways to test this theory! Not only are the items in his closet organized by type (dress shirts in one area and suits in another), they are also grouped by color! Meanwhile my closet looks like a combination of shoe boxes + intermittent dry clean plastic + things hung in accordance with my mood at the moment! It’s okay if you cringe and giggle…I did and do every day!
I am not a fan of analyzing anything, crunching stats, looking at trends, organization (to an extent) and processes whereas the hubs thrives off of these things and cannot function in a space where they are absent. My right-brain dominance helps me see the world through more of an artistic, people and feelings-based lense, whereas his allows him to see the world as a system of interconnected parts that he can apply logic to. Ok- I was straying to far from the point…see my right-brain take me there! The point of all of this is that your child’s more dominant side will begin to reveal itself early on. Don’t ignore the signs. Pay attention to what they show you about who they are and what they like to do.
Being aware of brain research on its most simplistic level is not only helpful for teachers, it can also help us as parents know how to best parent and approach our children. It is a fact: the way our brains function has a direct impact on how we learn. It colors the lense through which we see the world and it shapes our likes, dislikes, and ultimately what we do well.
I am convinced that Tre’s right brain is more dominant. The hubs and I see it in his love for being all things artistic. If he can use a marker, crayon, glue (glitter glue is the best!),
scissors, paint, or play doh he is all over it. And he’s getting pretty good too. He is also tapping into his musical side. One of his Christmas gifts was a karaoke machine and a new keyboard. Lately he’s working on perfecting the do, re, mi, fa, so la te do and all that good stuff…loudly! The kid has a connection to all things that result in creation; artistically, musically, with Lego’s and more. I say all of this to say while he has a gifted mind to read and comprehend at an early age, I do not necessarily see pro-athlete contract down the line and I am fine with that. Someone might read this and think I am eliminating possibilities for him based on what may develop in him. Welp…I’m not! He has shown us clearly what he’s into and I careful to pay close attention and not try and put other things on him just because he’s male, Black, or is a solid 55-lb little boy. While there is a difference between exposure and force, he will be exposed to a variety of activities for exploration and to see if anything sticks.
Bottom line- pay attention to who your child(ren) is and help them develop themselves in whatever that thing is. Parents are entrusted to lead and guide, so let’s do just that. Be careful not to force your own stuff on them or it could get messy. Help them be their best authentic selves. –krystal
Issa Rae (2017 Black Girls Rock award acceptance speech): “For a long time, I defined myself by what I wasn’t,” she said. “My life changed when I focused on what I was, what I was good at, what I liked most about myself and what made me stand out. Once I learned to like me more than others did, then I didn’t have to worry about being the funniest or the most popular or the prettiest. I was the best me and I only ever tried to be that.”