many parents I was working with were having
trouble communicating with their kids. Why weren't
we training parents?" he said.
also realized the intense challenge for parents in
Watts--the challenge of "raising black kids in a
racist society." Those two ideas combined helped
Alvy, along with a team of other psychologists and
professionals, to develop the Effective Black Parenting
Program, a training course for black parents
to better learn how to work with their children.
and his colleagues have just released a book,
The Soulful Parent: Raising
Healthy, Happy and Successful African American
Children, sharing decades of wisdom
gleaned by parents and trainers in the
nearly 40 years after it was developed, the name
of the program often raises eyebrows. Why do black
parents need someone to tell them how to parent
effectively? The answer, Alvy said, is the
continued racism and difficulty that black
children still face in the society.
white folks have programs that help them put their
kids at an advantage in the society, by rearing in
positive ways, then, dammit, black folks deserve
the same opportunities," Alvy said.
said he and his colleagues discovered that many
parenting techniques that black parents tend to
use are holdovers from slavery, a time where very
specific practices were used to keep children
safe. Alvy said these notions don't come from
African ideas about child rearing, where children
are viewed as an extension of the parent, but out
of situations where parents are raising children
under duress. Corporal punishment is one
value, however, was almost impossible to maintain
when hundreds of thousands of Africans were forced
into slavery," Alvy writes. "Once they were sold
to slave masters, they continued to be beaten if
they did not obey their masters." And parents used
this same kind of punishment to keep their
children from getting beaten.
the origins of Traditional Black Discipline, which
emphasizes whipping and punishment and which gets
expressed in the idea that, 'I must protect my
child from white harm, even if it means I must
beat the black off of him,'" he writes.
parents realize the origins of their behavior,
many of them are shocked and convinced never to
use corporal punishment again and to instead try
alternative means of discipline.
said his black colleagues have pointed out to him
a similar tendency when it comes to praise.
when a slave master or overseer was saying a child
was coming along, the parent would quickly point
out bad qualities, playing down the child's
goodness because they didn't want their child to
be sold," Alvy said.
sort of thing can get perpetuated--we don't want
to let the kids know that they're doing well."
history and even modern attitudes playing against
them, Alvy said black children need a particular
emphasis on the beauty and power of their own
very important to bring their attention to how
much hardship black folks have overcome just to
survive in the society, and what they've
contributed," Alvy said.
a glorious history of blackness. It's real
important that the parents convey this and
doesn't mean always shielding their children from
racism or pretending it doesn't exist, Alvy said.
In the Effective Black Parenting program, parents
role play scenarios in which their child
encounters racism and helps them learn to deal
also means learning to speak positively about
one's own heritage and making sure derogatory
comments don't slip in.
are phrases like, 'Act your age, not your
color,'--self-disparaging comments that some black
parents have used with their kids," he said. "It's
a lousy thing to do with your kids, to demean your
recent research points to parenting strategies
like corporal punishment to be more about the
stress parents are under, rather than the race,
Alvy said these ideas overlap in a society where
your race has so much to do with your economic
are disproportionately poor in this society, and
poverty is the biggest stressor of all," Alvy
said. "There are more stressors when raising kids
with diminished resources. It is a matter of
stress, but there's more stress in certain
organization, the Center for Improvement of
Child Caring, has been training parents and
community members how to be more effective parents
for more than 38 years, even adapting the
curriculum for Latino parents as well.
to continue on, he said the center needs some angel donors to help them
continue with its innovative work.
Cosby quotes this program in his work. He should
chip in. He's chipped in to African-American
colleges," Alvy said.
are some African-American folks who do have a lot
of resources, and it'd be great if they'd help us
bring this program to more and more
limited resources Alvy said his group is still
dedicated to getting the program out there,
including in Chicago.
trying to train more people. We can put on
workshops in Chicago again. We can organize," Alvy
said. "We want more communities to have training
programs so that more people can run the
Community Renewal Society