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Three Things Black Dads Can Do Today to Build Your Child

Jun 08, 2021

"It is easier to build a strong child than to repair a broken adult."

-Frederick Douglass

At Black Dad University, our goal is to help you build your child and leave a legacy.
To get you started, here are three things that you can do right now to build up your child. For those Black dads who want more, a fuller treatment of each topic is available, and each of these topics will be fleshed out with a video course, a researched article (blog), and a live webinar for members.

But for now, let's keep it short and sweet. We will discuss practical ways that you as a Black dad can build your child by:

1. Building your child's self-image.
2. Using positive words.
3. Unleashing the power of active listening.


1. Build Your Child's Self-Image

Children will live up (or down) to the picture that your words paint for them. As a dad, and a Black dad, in particular, your words will help shape your child's image and self-worth.

What is a healthy self-image?

A healthy self-image reflects positive thoughts and opinions about themselves, and a poor self-image is when they hold a lot of negative views and opinions about themselves.

Psychologists tell us that if you ask a person to write down their weaknesses and strengths, the average person will list five times as many flaws as strengths. Using that criteria: Seventy percent of teenagers have a low self-image. But as a Black dad, you can help to ensure that your child has a positive self-image. Keep reading to find out why that is so important.

Positive Self-Image is Foundational to Success

One of the clearest separators between successful and unsuccessful people is how they perceive themselves (their self-image). To put it another way, a person (including our children) will never outperform the image of themselves.

To put it still another way, Self-image is the most significant determining factor to success in your child's life. As a Black dad, you want to make sure that you are the one helping to define their self-image. If you do not, someone else will.

Who is Presently Defining Your Child's Self-Image?

A major airline had canceled a jam-packed flight, and alone check-in agent is busy trying to sort out all the displaced passengers. A man barges his way to the front of the line, says that he is flying first class, and demands to go on the flight.

The agent politely explains the situation and asks that people take their place in the line. The man yells angrily at her, "Do you know who I am?" at which the agent calmly picks up the microphone for the PA system and announces to the airport, "This is US Flies Airlines, Desk 64. We have a gentleman here who does not know who he is. If anyone can come and identify him, please do so."

Is your child like that man in line? Is your child continually looking for someone to recognize who they are and validate their self-image? If so, then just as the stewardess suggests, someone will be all too happy to force their distorted image onto your child.

Not good.

When your child's image is distorted, they will spend too much time seeking approval from others and needing constant affirmation, all of which stunts their personal growth, negatively affects their relationship with others, and limits their potential. But here is where you, Black dad, can come in all hero-like and...

You Can Save the Day!

As a Black dad, you, along with your parenting partner, are the critical elements in establishing your child's self-image. The village (teachers, coaches, friends, and other family members) positively affects your child as well. But make no doubt about it, Black dad, your voice has a much greater potential to shape your child's image and esteem than anyone else. What a fantastic opportunity!

So, let's take that job seriously because developing a positive self-image is the foundation for everything else in your child's life. One of the ways to build that self-esteem is to use positive words.


2. Use Positive Words

Many of us grew up in environments where there were not many positive words were spoken. You might have even grown up in an environment where somebody said harmful and hurtful words to you. If so, you know the pain of being torn down or at least not built up. You know that sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can break your heart and spirit.

And here is where you as a Black dad can begin a new legacy of building up your child and making a difference in their lives. Because just as hurtful, limiting words can break you're your positive, encouraging, authentic words can heal, repair, and uplift your child!

But wait, is negative feedback always a bad thing?

Correction is a necessary and beneficial part of growth, parenting, and life, for that matter. Research suggests that sometimes a little negative feedback goes a long way.

Children have to learn what's right and what's wrong, and sometimes that includes correction and negative feedback. However, it's also critical that parents be clear and encouraging when communicating that.

The issue is how often you speak positive words that build up your child so that when they do receive correction or negative feedback, it does not destroy their image.

6 to 1 (Let's Science it up)

But wait, is negative feedback always a bad thing?

Now for the good news! We know from the research into successful relationships that the ratio for the highest-performing children was nearly six positive comments for every negative one!

The medium-performance children averaged almost twice as many positive comments as negative ones. The average for the low-performing children was nearly three negative comments for every positive one.

Can you see how powerful your positive words can be to your child's performance and every day with every conversation, you, Black dad, can input life and build their esteem daily if you so choose!

Good Morning!

Psychologists say that the first significant input of your day is more critical and has more effect than the next five inputs of your day. Wow! That is good to know! So, make sure that your child's first input of the day is positive for your children.

Here are a just few ideas of positive words that you can say to your child:

  • "I love you."

  • "Don't be so hard on yourself...everybody makes mistakes, including me!"

  • "You are great at _________ (fill in the blank with something that your child does well)"

  • "You are a cool person. I am so glad that you are my son/daughter."

  • "You are very important to me. No matter how big or small your problem, I will always listen to you."

Remember to give it time. Sometimes you see the benefits of positive words happen immediately; other times, your child might wonder if this is just a passing phase.

If you have been pretty negative with your child to this point, do not give up. Start from today. Give yourself a new start. You can turn things around! Keep at it, and in time you will see your child inflate like a balloon!

Building your child includes your mouth (words) but also includes your ears (listening). And since someone said that we have one mouth but two ears and therefore should listen twice as much as we speak, let's learn the power of listening. But not just listening; let's unleash the power of active listening.


3. Unleash the Power of Active Listening

Think about someone in your life who does not listen to you when you are talking to them. They are continually interrupting, devaluing what you say, always talking over you to get their point across, and generally making you feel that you do not matter much to them.

Quick question: Do you look forward to talking with them? Are you open and honest with them, or do you dread it and try to avoid them? Probably not.

Conversely, think about someone who hangs on your every word, thoroughly involved in what you say, leaning forward, reflecting your emotions (laughing, excitement, sadness, etc.), and asking questions. How do they make you feel? Valued? Important? Do you look forward to that person? Probably so!

Which of those people do you want to be? More importantly, which of those Black dads do you want to be?

Listening does much more than just give you needed information; it adds value to your child. It shows them that they are more important than anything else for those few moments. When your child feels valued, it raises their self-esteem and self-confidence. And to really get your child to feel valued and open to you, then start by closing the distance between you and your child when talking to them.

Removing Social Distance

COVID-19 has required us to adopt certain precautions to stop the spread of this deadly virus. One of the protocols is social distancing, staying at least 6 ft. apart. As you can see below, 6 ft falls within the "social space," so it is perfect for staying safe.

25 - 12 feet = Public space

12 - 4 feet = Social space

4 ft. - 18 inches = Personal space

18 in. to Contact = Intimate space

However, if you really want to connect with your child, you need to invite them into your personal space. Getting up close (or bending down to close the distance if they are young) and focusing on the child will ensure that they feel safe and be more open with you. Thus, you hear not only their words, but their heart...and become the best listener ever.

How to be the Best Listener Ever! (Active Listening)

So here is a bit more science, our brains process faster than our mouths can produce words. So to listen well, we need to employ techniques that slow the brain's process down and cause us to lock into what our child is saying. The process is called active listening.

Active listening is fully devoting all your attention to whoever is talking and purposely not thinking ahead to formulate your response or thinking about your own ideas at that time.

You are fully present in the moment with your child, focusing on their words and emotions, paying attention to subtleties in body language and other non-verbal cues.

Let's Science it Up! (Your Tools for Active Listening)

Research gives us several tools for active listening:

(1) Empathy – try to put yourself in your child's shoes, listen to understand first before responding.

(2) Transparency – share your struggles and failures (within age-appropriate boundaries), model openness, and in most cases, your child will respond in kind.

(3) Reflecting feelings – regardless of how you feel about what your child is saying, try to reflect what they are feeling: happy, sad, excited, etc.

(4) Paraphrasing – periodically repeat back to your child what you heard them say. It keeps you connected to the conversation and clarifies any misunderstandings along the way.

(5) Eye contact – get on the same level as your child when listening. It gives value to your child and allows them to feel less intimidated.

(6) Encouragement – respond with head nods, ask questions, and anything else to encourage your child to keep talking.

(7) Pay attention to your child's nonverbal cues -- (over 90% of communication is non- verbal). Your child will also talk to you with posture, facial expressions, eye contact (or lack thereof), and gestures.

Most Importantly, Get Started Today!

Knowledge is power, but action brings about change. The longer you wait, the less likely you will be to do it.

How about choosing one of the principles and using it with your child today? As Nike says, "just do it." Put one of these principles into practice and watch how it builds your child!

Reach Out

I would love to hear from you! Your voice matters to me. You matter to me. Let me know if this is helping with you or how else BDU can be of service.

You can schedule a call here.

Or, if you prefer, you can text to set up a call on my personal cell (Dr. Alfred Smith) at 336.706.3329 (EST)

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